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Tips For Holiday Shopping In Stores And Online

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Howard Schwartz of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau talks about what you need to know when it comes to holiday shopping both in stores and on the Internet.

Below is a press release with some tips from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau. For more information, visit www.ct.bbb.org.

“The holiday buying season has never started so early and promised so much, according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau.

The internet has put consumers in the driver’s seat, regardless of whether they decide to make their purchases online or in a local store.  Retailers typically lure customers with great deals in the front of the store, hoping they will walk further into the store for more pricey items.  Retailers also know consumers are comparing prices on their smartphones in their store aisles.  Some businesses will match prices posted by retail outlets with an online presence, but not big name internet dealers.

Retailers explain that in some cases, they simply cannot match prices because it costs more to have a physical location, stockroom and employees than an online fulfillment center, such as the online powerhouse companies.

In a sense, many larger retailers compete against themselves by offering the same products online for less than you’d pay in their store.

Though online sales are expected to continue growing this year, this is not the death knell for brick and mortar businesses.  People still want to see items, feel them and compare.  Some consumers find that they prefer seeing the merchandise laid out in the store.

The best way to put yourself in the driver’s seat is to know what is the common price of an item.  You can easily research online.  However, remember to factor-in the cost of shipping and handling.  These charges can eat away at the low sticker price in some sites.

BBB offers more hints for holiday shopping:

Know return and exchange policies.  What happens if an item is marked down after you buy it? Can you obtain a full refund or only an in-store credit?

Use familiar websites.  Don’t click on an email link, social media coupon or another website that purports to link you to great deals on online sites.

Go to the sites directly by typing in the web address (URL) in your browser to get there directly.  Some links may take you to a look-alike site with the goal of getting you to divulge your credit card information for criminal purposes.

Use your credit card, not debit online.  Credit cards offer more protection, faster dispute resolution, rewards points and zero liability if you report your card stolen or  missing right away.

Check your statements. Keep all of your paperwork, and check your credit and bank statements after shopping.  This can reveal mistakes or outright fraud, and help determine a time frame for when the card was compromised.

Look for “HTTPS” in your browser address bar before typing in your credit card number.  The “S” means it is a secure form of payment, and is often accompanied by a logo of a small lock.

Avoid doing transactions on unsecured Wi-Fi in public places.  Hackers can snoop in your computer, follow you around the internet and capture the websites you visit, the login and passwords.

Finally, remember that more than 80 percent of identity theft and fraud is committed by low tech crimes of contact such as stealing a purse or pickpocketing your wallet.   Keep this in mind when you’re at the cashier or walking around with your arms filled with bags and boxes.

For more consumer tips you can trust, visit the “For Consumers” section at www.ct.bbb.org.”

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