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Arkansas State University

Consumer Information: Buying

The best way to protect yourself is to be educated on your rights and know how to avoid scams.

BUYING & SELLING

Buying     |     Buying  Guides   |     Buying Online     |     Holiday Shopping Tips

BUYING

When shopping, make sure you know your rights!
 

Cooling Off Rule - If you buy something $25 or more from somewhere other than at the seller's permanent place of business (i.e. online), you have three days to change your mind and cancel the order.  
 
Unavailability Rule - The Retail Food Store Advertising and Marketing Practices Rule, more commonly known as the Unavailability Rule, was written to help protect consumers against grocery stores that advertise bargains to lure customers into the store but fail to maintain an adequate stock to meet the demand.  Under this rule, grocery stores may offer rain checks or substitute an item for the advertised price.  Items that are advertised as being in limited quantity are usually exempt from this rule.

 
Electronic Check Conversion - Explains how electronic check conversion works. Offers tips on keeping close tabs on your accounts.
 
Substitute Checks and Check 21 - Check 21 allows banks to process check electronically, making your check process faster.  Banks can capture a picture of the front and back of the check along with the associated payment information and transmit this information electronically. If a receiving bank or its customer requires a paper check, the bank can use the electronic picture and payment information to create a paper “substitute check.”

BUYING ONLINE

Comparing Products Online - Use these tips to help get the best deal – and to avoid a bogus offer posted by a scam artist.

Electronic Banking - Discusses a variety of electronic fund transfer (EFT) services: automated teller machines, direct deposit, pay-by-phone systems, personal computer banking, and point-of-sale transfers.  

Online Penny Auctions - Penny auctions might be a fun way to try to get big ticket items at reduced prices. But before you know it, you could spend far more than you intended, with no guarantee that you'll get anything in return.

Online Shopping - Follow these tips for hassle-free online shopping: get the details, pay by credit card, keep records, and protect your personal and financial information.

Using Money Transfer Servcies - Wire transfers for internet auctions are often a sign of a scam.  Learn how to spot potential scams.

HOLIDAY SHOPPING TIPS

Make a list and set a budget. List the people you plan to buy gifts for, the type of gifts you plan to buy, and how much you plan to spend. Include the cost of cash gifts, holiday travel, extra food, wrappings, decorations, greeting cards, and postage. If it relates to the holiday season and it costs money, add it to your budget.

Shop around. A “sale” price isn’t always the “best” price. Some merchants may offer a sale price on the item you want for a limited time; other merchants may offer items at a discount everyday.

Look for price-matching policies. Some merchants will match, or even beat, a competitor’s prices.

Go online. Check out websites that compare prices. If you decide to buy from an online merchant, keep shipping costs and delivery time in mind.

If you use a mobile device to shop for deals, be aware that e-mails, texts or posts may lead to fraudulent sites claiming bargains on brand name products. 

Be stingy when it comes to sharing your personal information. Don’t give out your credit card or other financial information for a chance at the newest tech toy, free gift card, seasonal job or holiday vacation rental.

Carefully consider bargain offers that are based on purchases of additional merchandise. For example, “Buy One, Get One Free” or “Free Gift with Purchase.” If you don’t really want or need the item, it’s not a deal.

Clip coupons. Coupons are useful when they save you money on what you’re already planning to buy. Check coupons for any restrictions. For example, do expiration dates apply, or do you have to spend a certain amount before you can use the coupon? Some retailers will accept expired coupons, and even coupons from their competitors. Check with the retailer before you leave home to learn their policy.

Ask about sale adjustments. If you buy an item at regular price and it goes on sale the next week, can you get a credit or refund for the discounted amount?

Consider layaway. Layaway purchase plans are designed for people who want to buy merchandise without using credit or paying the full price immediately. When you use layaway, you typically make a deposit – usually a percentage of the purchase price – and pay over time until you have paid for the item in full. In exchange, the retailer holds the merchandise for you. To avoid problems, get the store’s layaway policy in writing.

Keep an eye on your wallet. Don’t flash cash. Keep an eye on your credit or debit card during transactions, and get them back as quickly as possible. If your cards are lost or stolen, report the loss or theft immediately to the card issuers.

Use credit and debit cards with care. Save your receipts. You need them for returns and exchanges. Check credit and debit card sales and return receipts against your monthly bills and statements, and report any problems to the credit card issuer promptly.

Treat a gift card like cash. If it’s lost or stolen, you may be out the whole amount. Report it to the issuer right away.

Ask about refund and return policies. Many merchants may have different refund and return policies for sale items. For example, clearance merchandise may be on final sale, meaning no refunds or exchanges.

Keep good records. Whether you’re ordering by mail, phone, or online, it’s important to keep detailed information about the transaction, including your order number, shipping costs and dates, warranties, and refund and return policies.

Ship early. If you’re sending gifts to out-of-towners, factor in extra time for shipping. If you wait until the last minute, you may pay a hefty price for express or overnight shipping.

For More Information
To learn more about money management and shopping wisely, visit www.ftc.gov/moneymatters.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.