8 tips for dealing with pop-up shops this holiday season


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While going to the mall this holiday season, odds are you are going to encounter a pop-up shop. While they may offer some enticing goods while looking for gifts, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says people should be careful before making an impulse purchase.

The BBB says it receives hundreds of complaints every year about these temporary retail locations. These complaints range from poor quality merchandise to difficulty getting a refund after they close their doors. That is why the agency recommends keeping the following tips in mind if you want to buy from one of these locations.

Research store headquarters. 

If you are interested in an unfamiliar online merchant, ask the company for its physical location so you can check its reputation. The BBB offers Business profiles online.

Ask how long a store will operate.

If you want to buy from a seasonal store, ask if it will be open after the holiday and whether it will accept returns when the season is over. If they will not, the BBB says you should consider buying elsewhere or taking more time to be sure the item is exactly what you want before making the purchase.

Review purchase policies.

The BBB says you should determine the company’s refund and return policies before buying. 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.

The BBB says pop-ups often focus on unique or high-quality gifts that you may not find elsewhere. However, 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. The BBB says 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 buying anything that comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, the BBB says you should ask how you will be able to get the product serviced if needed.

Guard your personal information.

For small items, the BBB says you might be better off paying in cash so you don’t have to share any personal information. Be sure you understand that you probably won’t have any recourse if something is not right. For larger items, the BBB suggests paying with a credit card, as they can provide additional protection 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, the BBB suggests people 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.

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