Consumer Protection
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How to Protect Yourself: Holiday Buying
Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office

While the holiday season is traditionally a time to be with family and friends, it also tends to be a hectic time that can make any shopper feel harried. When shopping during the holidays, consider the following:

Don't wait until the last minute.
The smart consumer sits down well in advance to establish a realistic budget for holiday gifts. Last minute shoppers are often more susceptible to high-pressure sales tactics and impulse buying. Try comparison shopping by telephone before braving the crowds and know in advance exactly what you want to buy. Knowing what you want will make it less likely that you will be "switched" by a salesperson to an item that is not within your budget.

Be wary of too good to be true claims.
Be wary of anyone who offers an extremely low price that is far below the normal retail price of an item. Examine the item closely and make sure the seller will be around after the holidays, should the item need to be returned.

Deal only with established, reputable retailers.

Learn the store's refund policy.
Make sure that you understand the retailer's refund/exchange policy before buying that "perfect gift." If the policy is not prominently displayed, ask that it be explained. Refund and exchange policies can and do vary considerably. Save the sales receipt in case the merchandise must be returned.

Credit card purchases by telephone.
Be wary of giving out your credit card information over the telephone. Find out before purchasing an item by credit card over the telephone what you can do if it is not suitable.

Understand the warranties and guarantees.
Ask the retailer whether any warranties or guarantees will be honored by the manufacturer or retailer.

Give wisely.
The holiday season is also a time when we especially remember the less fortunate. Shoppers should use the same amount of caution and common sense when making charitable contributions as they do when shopping. Some unscrupulous operators use names that closely resemble well-known organizations, even down to similar logos. If you are not 100 percent sure of the legitimacy of a charity, ask for and read its financial statement. You may also request a copy of The Gift Giver's Guide published annually by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services by calling (850) 488-2221 or (800) 435-7352.