If you’re in the market for a fun Halloween costume or spooky decorations this year, you’re not alone. The National Retail Federation expects consumers will spend nearly $8.5 billion on Halloween costumes, decorations and treats this year – the highest in the history of their survey. It’s a holiday that many people love, and retailers roll out the red carpet to attract customers. Amidst all the ghoulish fun, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) reminds people to avoid getting tricked while treating themselves.
“Halloween allows people to lose themselves in a character or a costume,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “But at the end of the day, the same rules always apply: it’s important to be clear on return policies and understand rental agreements.”
Here are some BBB tips to make sure you won’t be haunted by your choice of a costume:
Go to the source. Though not extremely commonplace, some costume shops are open year-round. For more elaborate costumes or simply for peace of mind, you may want to consider renting your costume from a shop that has a permanent address.
Renting vs. Buying. Do you tend to pick the same costume every year? Most people like to mix it up, but if you have a ‘go to’ costume, it might make more sense to buy rather than rent.
Do your research. Many seasonal stores are run by reputable retailers who take advantage of short-term leases on vacant space to set up temporary stores. However, other shops may be “here today and gone tomorrow.” It’s always a good idea to research BBB Business Reviews at bbb.org. You may also want to read customer reviews to learn more about costume shops in your area.
Read the fine print. Seasonal stores have the same responsibilities as a year-round operation. Make sure to note the store’s refund and return policies; familiarize yourself with all of the terms and conditions – they have to be made available. Keep in mind that some stores may not accept returns or even offer exchanges on Halloween costumes you’ve purchased.
Know what to expect before renting a costume. Many rental costumes tend to be sturdier than Halloween costumes you can buy, but make sure you understand your responsibilities. What happens, for example, if the costume rips, or you get a stain on it or lose it altogether? Do you have to pay a penalty in addition to the price of the costume? Be sure everything is spelled out clearly in the rental agreement.
If you’re renting, return your costume on time. Most stores rent costumes on a daily/nightly basis, meaning you pick up your costume the day of your event and return it the following day. Failure to do so may mean you’ll be charged with additional fees.
Think outside the box. Secondhand stores often have the materials necessary to assemble your own costume – and the prices are often hard to beat. Even so, it’s still important to research track records with BBB.
When purchasing costumes online, do it securely. Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “https.” You also may see a small picture of a closed lock in the lower right corner of the screen.
Have fun. Halloween comes but once a year. If there’s a costume that’s always intrigued you, seek it out and wear it proudly. This is a holiday that gives people license to step outside their usual boundaries for a day. Take advantage of it!
For more helpful consumer tips, visit bbb.org.