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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > October 2023 > Holiday shopping: Research prices early, and save when you’re ready to buy

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Holiday shopping: Research prices early, and save when you’re ready to buy

Retail stores’ holiday decorations – and store sales – seem to pop up earlier every year. Before the holiday season begins in earnest, why not do price comparisons now for items you want to buy – so you can save when you’re ready to buy them?
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost offers the following seasonal shopping tips:
  • Plan before you shop. Carefully review ads and compare deals. Keep an eye out for important exclusions and limitations that must be disclosed in ads, even online. Check the details to see whether limited quantities of an item are available for sale, the sale price is valid during certain hours only, or other terms and conditions apply.
  • Research online reviews. Be cautious about reviews posted with generic names and profiles without photos; they might be impersonating legitimate shoppers. Cross-reference customer reviews of the same products on different websites. Consistent reviews on several online stores can add validity to the feedback.
  • Check return policies. In Ohio, sellers can set their own return policies, including policies of “no returns.” But if a policy limits your ability to obtain a refund, a seller must clearly notify you of that policy before you complete the purchase. Also, be sure to check return policies, as they might change during the holidays.
  • Be aware of third-party sellers. Many companies allow multiple vendors to sell products on their website. When purchasing an item from a company website, verify whether you’re buying the item from that company or a third-party seller. The company’s refund polices and warranties might differ from those of a third-party seller.
  • Watch for “free” offers: Before signing up for a free trial of a product or service, scrutinize the details, especially if you’re asked to provide a credit-card number or pay for shipping and handling. In many cases, signing up for the offer automatically enrolls you in a program that includes recurring charges.
  • Compare gift cards. Not all gift cards are alike, so review the terms and conditions before you buy. In general, most gift cards must last at least five years, but fees might vary depending on the type of card, such as a single-store card or a prepaid network-branded card that can be used almost anywhere. Also, promotional cards such as those included free with a purchase might not have the same protections.
  • Keep all receipts. Having a complete record of a sale can help you handle problems that arise after the purchase. Keep copies of receipts, sales agreements, advertisements, photos of products and other documentation until the transaction and billing process are complete.
  • Check delivery dates and fees. Carefully review the expected delivery date and shipping costs before making a purchase. Find out whether you’ll be charged return-shipping or restocking fees if you return the product. Also, pick up delivered packages promptly to prevent theft or damage outside your door.
  • Beware of package tracking scams. A package tracking scam might involve an email alert, which informs you of a “delay” in the shipping of a package. The email either asks you to provide personal information or click on a link for additional information. Providing personal information, however, could lead to financial harm or infect your computer with malware. In addition to keeping your shipping confirmation email, keep track of the retailers you’ve ordered from. And don’t click on links if you’re unsure whether the sender is legitimate.
  • Monitor your accounts. Regularly check your credit-card and bank accounts for unauthorized charges or unexpected activity. If you find problems, immediately notify your credit-card provider or bank. The sooner you identify a problem, the sooner you can work to correct it.

Consumers who suspect an unfair business practice or want help addressing a consumer
problem should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.