Holiday Shopping Podcast Transcript
Welcome to the Informed Consumer, providing the latest tips and tools to assist consumers in making informed decisions, from the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch.
Today’s topic: Holiday Shopping.
The holiday shopping season has begun, here are a few suggestions to help make shopping less frantic:
- Shop after 6:00 p.m. the evening before a sale is advertised to begin. Many retailers program the registers the night before, so the sale may already come up in the register even if they have not changed out signs on the selling floor. Ask the associate in advance for any possible upcoming sales, especially on big ticket items.
- Prepare a list to use while you are shopping. Make sure to include alternative selections in case you are unable to find some of the items on your list.
- Avoid crowds by shopping during stores’ early and late extended hours.
- If you are looking for specific advertised items, take the complete ad with you so that you don’t end up in the wrong store looking for a specific price.
- Remember when gift shopping you are buying for someone else’s wants and needs, not your own, but don’t be afraid to take full advantage of holiday promotions to treat yourself to something nice!
- Shop safely! Watch your personal belongings at all times including handbags and purchases. The stores are not responsible for any lost items so be careful, especially at the register when you can get easily distracted by the transaction.
- Save yourself the headache: let the charity group at the mall wrap your gifts for you. This will save you a lot of time and free you up to do other things on your holiday to-do lists.
- Make sure you have personal credit card information available at home in the event you lose a credit card while shopping. Important back up information includes customer service phone numbers, PIN numbers and account numbers.
- Be vigilant. Make sure to stash your cash in a safe place within a wallet while shopping. When paying with cash at the register, only pull out of your wallet what the amount totals, not the entire stash. This also applies to personal items you carry through the stores, including shopping bags and purses
- When walking through the mall or down Main Street, wear comfortable shoes! You’ll be walking on a lot of marble, concrete and tile.
- Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, "con-artists" may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.
While in Parking Lots
- Don’t leave valuables in plain sight through your car windows.
- Park in busy, well-lit areas.
- Lock all vehicle doors.
- Set an alarm or anti-theft device on your vehicle, if you have one. If you sense danger, use your remote key access “panic” button to sound the alarm.
- Request a security escort if necessary.
- Always have car keys in hand to ensure easy access to the vehicle.
If Shopping Online
- Staple a gift receipt to the merchandise tag in case it needs to be returned or exchanged. Keep your original receipts with any warranty paperwork for the life of the warranty.
- Only buy gift cards from reputable retailers, not through online auction sites. Gift cards sold through online auction sites may be counterfeit or may have been obtained illegally.
- While it may be really tempting to click on an email link that says, “Great Deal on iPads… 50% off!” Be careful! By clicking on that link, you could be taken to a compromised Website that downloads malware onto your computer. If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- If you discover an online store that’s offering unbelievable specials on holiday merchandise, do some digging to make sure it’s a legitimate store and not a false front that will disappear later that day along with your credit card information.
- Make sure your antivirus client is up-to-date, as well as intrusion prevention to help guard against exploits that often are hosted on compromised sites.
- Malicious links don’t always come from spam emails. They could come from your closest friend whose machine has been unknowingly compromised.
- If you’re a holiday shopper who likes to augment online shopping with actual store browsing and likes toting a notebook or iPad along for the ride for quick price comparisons, do not connect to an unknown unsecure hotspot.
Thanks for listening to the Informed Consumer. For more information on this topic or if you feel that you’ve been a victim of a scam, please contact the Consumer Affairs Branch at 703-222-8435 or visit our web site at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/consumer. Informed Consumer is produced by the Fairfax County, Virginia, government.