Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and while consumers are pre-occupied planning a romantic evenings and finding the perfect gifts, they could be overlooking important Valentine’s Day pre-purchase information. Whether you’re buying something as simple as flowers or as serious as an engagement ring BBB encourages consumers to keep some important advice in mind to get the most for their money and impress that special someone.
“Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year,” said Warren Clark, Better Business Bureau President. “If consumers don’t think with their heads, along with their hearts, they could fall victim to Valentine’s Day trouble – spending more than they wanted on a poor quality item.”
Valentine’s Day advertising is pervasive, hoping consumers will buying ‘now’ and with the click of a button. But what if you’re not familiar with the retailer? BBB has processed hundreds of complaints from consumers who told us they either got the wrong item, didn’t receive their gifts on time or where very upset with the quality of the item. Since the National Retail Federation predicts over $18 billion will be spent this year, BBB is urging consumers to spend it wisely and start with trust. Consumers are encouraged to check out the company and all parties affiliated with the business first at bbb.org.
To ensure your Valentine’s Day isn’t filled with mishaps or worse, a scam, the BBB offers the following advice:
Read BBB Complaints and Company Responses – BBB now publishes the details of complaints filed online. Not familiar with the business? Not only can you view BBBs rating for the company, but read the text of the initial complaint from consumers as well as the company’s response. To date, BBB has published thousands of complaints.
Florists – According to aboutflowers.com, Valentine’s Day is the number one holiday for florists. Unfortunately, not all florists are created equal. Typical BBB complaints around Valentine’s Day state the flowers were not delivered as promised (wrong flowers or arrangements) or they were not delivered at all.
- BBB Tip: Place your flower order very soon allowing enough time for shipping and verify directly with the florist that the date/time is specified and guaranteed. Request a written receipt for the order and ask about the business’s refund policy if the delivery is late, never arrives or is in bad condition. Confirm that the florist you contact is actually the florist fulfilling the order too. At this time of year it’s not uncommon for a 3rd party to be involved. Make sure you know their actual street address and phone number just in case you need to adjust your order.
Jewelers – The National Retail Federation states that 19.7 percent of people will treat their special someone to jewelry, with total spending equaling more than $4.4 billion, the majority of which will be spent on the most precious gem of all – diamonds.
- BBB Tip: Do some research on the criteria jewelers use when selling a diamond so when you go to purchase a ring you will know exactly what the salesperson is talking about. Diamond scales are established by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and a diamond’s value is based on four criteria: color, cut, clarity and carat. BBB recommends you know how to buy a gem before you go and GIA can get you started with their ‘how to buy guide’. Ask your salesperson to write down any information you may rely on to make your purchase. Always ask for the stores refund and return policy before you buy.
Gift cards – The gift that keeps on giving will also be on the top of Valentine shoppers’ lists with 15 percent expected to buy gift cards for their loved ones, totaling to $1.5 billion.
- BBB Tip: If the card is scratched or damaged it is virtually useless. To be certain your card will carry its full value – purchase cards that have no value until the store clerk loads on your amount. Verify the protective stickers have not been removed and that the unique PIN number located on the back of the card is not exposed. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the cards.
Catfishing – Millions of Americans utilize online dating sites to search for that perfect match and it can be a very successful way to meet someone special. Scammers are also using the sites and targeting singles of any age and location, commonly now known as catfishing. This is accomplished through the creation of fake profiles designed to steal identity information, financial details or simply money.
- BBB Tip: Do not fall for someone who is quick to develop a relationship and claim instant feelings of love. Scammers use emotional ties to increase the chances of their success. If your “match” asks for money to cover travel expenses or has a sudden emergency requiring an extensive amount of money, there is a high probability that it is a scam.
Phishing E-mails and E-Card Viruses – As February 14th approaches, everyone expects the usual notes of love or e-cards to arrive via email. Cyber-crooks are well aware of this and use this time of year to trick many of us excited to get a love note into divulging personal and financial information through false alerts from fake greeting card websites, problems with your gift order or credit card that actually download viruses to steal personal information.
- BBB Tip: Only open emails, attachments, and links from people you know. Enhance email filters to block any such threats. Watch out for unsolicited emails with subject lines such as, “Someone just sent you an e-card” or “Send your loved one a Valentine’s Day card today.” If you ordered flowers and receive an email indicating a problem, directly contact the florist to ensure the e-mail is legitimate – chances are it is not.