The summer is winding down, and soon students will be headed back to school. Chances are, you still have some major "back-to-school shopping" to do.
Whether your child is headed to high school or college, the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan, which serves the Upper Peninsula, has some back-to-school basics.
When shopping for anything from new attire to electronic items, BBB has these tips to help you be a savvy back-to-school shopper:
- Sort through last year's school supplies and clothes - see what can be reused. It's OK to use notebooks that show a bit of wear around the corners or pencils that have barely been touched. And it's definitely OK to wear last year's jeans.
- Comparison shop. You may be surprised how prices vary on school supplies. Also, watch for sales and start saving coupons.
- Ask about returns and refunds. Shopping for new clothes, accessories and gadgets is one of the highlights of going back to school. When buying new gear, ask the store about their return policy and always keep the receipts. Stores are not legally required to exchange an item or give a refund.
- Keep the item in its original box. Many retailers will not accept returns on opened video games, CDs, software or DVDs. And health regulations prohibit returns of hats and other intimate apparel.
- Ask about restocking fees. Some merchants charge a restocking or "open box" fee sometimes as high as 20 percent of the original cost - for returns of electronics products or large-ticket items. Ask if that is the policy so that you know before you buy.
- Shop smart. If shopping online, find out the physical location and phone number of the merchant. Read the refund and return policy, have in writing any warranty or guaranty details, be familiar with delivery/shipping costs and time schedules, feel comfortable that the merchant is reliable and not the subject of consumer complaints, and be able to trust that any information you submit to complete the sale transaction (credit card number, etc.) will be treated with the proper care.
- Carefully check out businesses and deals before signing anything, before paying any money up front, and before releasing any personal or financial information (this includes your Social Security number, mother's maiden name, credit card, banking account number and other personal data).
If your child is in the market for a computer, BBB recommends doing your research:
- Decide what your child's needs will be.
- What is the computer going to be used for? Word processing, graphic/web design, gaming?
- Determine what type of hardware and software that will be required.
- Find out what you have to do if the computer breaks down.
- Check out the warranty on the computer.
- Call your school or university and ask what other students in the class use.
Compare prices, and check out the companies with the BBB at www.bbb.org.
If you are thinking about allowing your college-bound student to sign up for a credit card, do your homework.
- Shop around for the plan that best fits your student's needs. There are often special offers for students.
- Compare terms and fees before you agree to open a credit card for your student.
- Find out the interest rate on the card, are they introductory rates, and if so, long do they apply?
- Are there annual fees?
- Check into the transaction fees and any other charges that could be incurred.
For more consumer information, call 1-248-223-9400.