Fourth of July is right around the corner, and if you’re lucky you’re preparing for a four-day weekend! This Fourth of July weekend is likely to be one of the biggest times of the year for sales. Consumers will be faced with a deluge of ads promoting all sorts of deals – and some of these may turn out to be misleading. In 2016, BBB reported more than 28,000 complaints regarding advertising issues nationwide. Common complaints include businesses not honoring ad prices and advertised items being out of stock.
When BBB notices or receives a report of possibly misleading advertising, we investigate. BBB will review the advertisement and, if an issue exists, attempt to work with the business to correct the problem. In 2016, BBBs nationwide opened more than 11,000 Ad Reviews, with 131 of those opened by BBB serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California.
BBB offers the following tips to further protect yourself from deceptive Fourth of July weekend ads:
- Do your research. The best way for a consumer to guard themselves against misleading ads is to read and understand the BBB Code of Advertising. Search retailers on org to see their rating, customer reviews, and whether they’ve had an advertising challenge in the last three years.
- Be wary of “anchor pricing”. When an inflated original price is established just for the purpose of enabling a large sale, the “reduced” price may be, in reality, just the seller’s regular price.
- Pay attention to details. Always read the fine print and understand all terms and conditions of the sale. This includes other charges, warranties, refund policies, delivery fees, time limits of the sale, what items/services it applies to and who can take advantage of it. If a warranty or guarantee is offered, the advertiser must clearly and conspicuously include a statement about how the complete details can be seen.
- Be careful online. Make sure you only visit trustworthy websites when shopping online. Don’t open any links, attachments or e-cards from unfamiliar email addresses. Make sure any site you’re on has secure, appropriate, and safe security/payment practices that protect your personal information. To read a full guide to safe online shopping, click here.
- Use a credit card. When making purchases, use a credit card and always get a receipt. Credit cards offer additional protections if you have issues with the product or delivery, if you have any other disputes or think the purchase was fraudulent. Be cautious if you’re asked to pay for anything via a prepaid card or wire transfer.
- Be leery of “bait-and-switch” tactics. It’s illegal for a company to insincerely offer to sell a product or service they don’t actually intend to sell (the bait), with the purpose of selling consumers something else (the switch). The latter item is usually sold at a higher price or with terms more advantageous to the advertiser.
- Don’t believe everything you hear! If a sale sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be skeptical of words and phrases like “free”, “save up to”, “lowest price in town”, “factory direct/wholesale price”, “trade in allowances”, “we’ll beat competitors’ prices”, subjective superlatives and comparisons, and deceptive asterisks. These claims can be difficult to substantiate and often have hidden qualifiers.
- Don’t automatically go with the lowest price. Other factors matter as well. Be sure to look at the company’s complaints, customer reviews and ad challenges at org to ensure you’re interacting with a trustworthy business, and be certain you’re purchasing the product, service and quality that you want.