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Better Business Bureau: Don't wait to long to place online holiday orders

Nov. 4, 2010 at 6:04 a.m.
Updated Nov. 6, 2010 at 6:06 a.m.


By Alan Bligh

A new month and the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Already, you say?. It's not even Thanksgiving, yet. Well, it's not too early to begin making plans.

The biggest mistake many online and catalog shoppers make is waiting too long to place their orders.

Just think about it. Most orders take 30 days for delivery. That's what the government believes is reasonable.

Also, make sure you understand shipping charges. That item you think is such a bargain may not be as inexpensive as you think.

If possible, give our local merchants an opportunity if possible. When you buy local, you are supporting your community.

Another problem that consumers run into is refund and exchange issues. Consumers should not wait until they want to return something to find out what a business's refund policy is.

Also, lay-a-ways are back, bigger than ever. Learn about lay-a-ways and how they work. What happens if you change your mind? Is there a restocking fee?

ORGANIZED RETAIL CRIME

Have you ever heard of Organized Retail Crime? It is a term used to describe organized criminal efforts to steal merchandise from retailers. It's not the same as shoplifting in which individuals steal items for their own use.

The Organized Retail Crime operations involve professionals who steal for the purpose of fencing or selling their ill-gotten goods at flea markets, online, at pawn shops, etc.

According to the Texas Retailers Association, it is very costly to our society. Retail loses from ORC equals or surpasses the total retail losses due to robbery, larceny, burglary and auto theft combined, equaling nearly $30 billion. And who pays? We all do. About 2 percent of the purchase price of the things you buy goes to making up this terrible loss.

You can help fight OCR by reporting suspicious behavior if you see anything out of the ordinary while you are shopping.

WATCH PHONE BILLS

The amount of inaccurate telephone bill charges is on the rise, according to recent investigations by the Federal Communications Commission. The billing of hidden or unexpected charges is called bill "cramming" or bill "shock."

Victims often face a tough battle identifying the source and getting the money returned. Unexpected charges can come directly from the mobile phone service provider or a wide variety of other sources. These sources include subscription services where victims may inadvertently sign up for a "free" ringtone or a daily joke, not realizing they'll be billed every month.

Without careful examination of each monthly phone bill, it is easy to miss the charges and continue to pay by mistake. So be careful and closely examine each statement.

DISPUTE MEDIATION

As you know, BBB issues reports on companies and also mediates disputes between businesses and customers. Since Jan. 1, the BBB has received 94 complaints concerning Victoria businesses. Of those complaints, 85 were resolved. Used car dealers led the list with eight cases, all of which were resolved.

Next with four were jewelers, followed by new car dealers and apartments with three each.

Unfortunately, at this point I cannot report on the number of inquiries we have received from consumers asking about companies. The ratio is usually somewhere around 50 inquiries for every complaint. One of the problems in reporting inquiries is that for privacy reasons, we do not capture information about callers.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact himat abligh@corpus christi.bbb.org.

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