BBB: Watch out for pop-up shops during holidays

Information provided by Better Business Bureau

Holiday shopping is expected to rise four percent this year, with consumers spending an average of just over $1,000 on holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation.

“Pop-up” shops have long been part of the holiday retail landscape as landlords look to fill of vacant retail space in downtown areas and suburban malls. Pop-ups are expected to increase this year as online retailers like Amazon and Facebook test out bricks-and-mortar locations, and celebrities like Kanye West and Kylie Jenner jump on the pop-up bandwagon.

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The Better Business Bureau receives hundreds of complaints a year about temporary retail locations, reporting everything from poor quality merchandise to difficulty obtaining refunds after temporary stores have closed their doors. Pop-up shops can be fun, but keep the following BBB tips in mind if you choose to buy from one of them:

Research store headquarters. If you are interested in trying a new or unfamiliar online merchant, ask the company for its physical location (address and phone number) so you can check its BBB Business Profile at BBB.org.

Ask how long a store will operate. If you are buying from a seasonal store, ask whether it will be open after the holiday and whether it will accept returns when the season is over. If not, consider buying elsewhere or taking more time to be sure the item is exactly what you want before making the purchase.

Review purchase policies. Determine the company's refund and return policies before you buy. If pop-up shops cannot offer concrete commitments on how they will handle any potential problems you may have with their products or services, reconsider doing business with them.

Shop around. Pop-ups often focus on unique or high-quality gifts that you may not find elsewhere, but some are simply mini versions of discount retailers, offering holiday-themed goods that may be available for less at a traditional retailer.

Pay attention to quality. Occasionally, pop-ups sell counterfeit products, so be cautious when purchasing designer goods or that latest “must have” gifts. Prices that are dramatically lower than regular retail stores may be a red flag that the items are either stolen or counterfeit.

Know the terms of any product or service guarantees. If you are purchasing anything that comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, ask how you will be able to get the product serviced if needed.

Guard your personal information. For small items, you might be better off paying in cash so you don’t have to share any personal information. Just be sure you understand that you probably won’t have any recourse if something is not right. For larger items, paying with a credit card can provide additional protections if there are problems and the retailer disappears. Make sure you hang on to the receipt to match it against your credit card statement.

Consider whether the gift is for a hard-to-please recipient. If you are planning a gift for someone who might need or want to return it, consider buying from a retailer with a long-standing business, strong reputation, and well-established return policies, instead of a pop-up shop. Whenever possible, ask for a gift receipt that would make a return or exchange easier, if necessary.

Thanks to BBB of Eastern North Carolina and BBB Metro New York for their contribution to this tip.