Christmas is approaching fast, especially now Black Friday has reared its head. And that means we need to turn our attention to weaving through the festive maze of issues that could arise.
After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, from December 1 the Christmas shopping rush begins in earnest with car parks fuller than Santa’s belly, traffic jam-packed tighter than a mince pie filling, shops stuffed more than the December 25th turkey and spending soaring through the roof faster than Rudolph can take off from it.
But what happens when things go wrong? What pitfalls do we need to avoid and how on earth do we all get through it without collapsing in a heap and needing a mulled wine.
We hear from Resolver users more than ever at this time of year with complaints around festive problems. Christmas is a time for cheer but it can also see Scrooge-like misery in many areas.
On resolver.co.uk you can raise a case for free if there’s a problem and track its progress until you get a resolution. Even if one is not forthcoming you can escalate the case to the regulator or Ombudsman. That’s our present to you, not just at Christmas but all year round. In fact, it’s a tre-mendous way to get money back you’re entitled to or redress from more than 30,000 brands, companies or organisations.
But at Christmas there’s a few tips to adhere to in order to prevent problems before they arise. Here’s five of my favourites.
**WATCH OUT FOR SCAMS**
Cyber criminals love Christmas more than a little child. In fact, they love any time they can use an event to convince us to part with our credit card details. But always be careful of clicking on links in emails and on social media that are promising great and extra special deals around this time. Viruses or malware may also be disguised as e-cards or fun little dancing characters. These could download malicious code to your computer or take you to fake websites designed to capture your personal details and card details. Criminals use this for identity fraud and to steal money from your bank account or make purchases on your credit. Remember, if it looks or sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
**CHECK THE REFUND POLICY**
Purchases made for Christmas are no different to those made at other times of the year when it comes to a refund entitlement but they may come with better terms. In many stores, the refund period is extended to early January in case the recipient of your gift doesn’t like what you bought. Remember, always get a gift receipt so not to reveal how much you paid. If you’ve bought stuff online you normally get up to 14 days AFTER you receive the goods to return them but check if this is extended for the Christmas period to take into account the timelag for giving it to your friend or family member.
**DELIVERY WOES AREN’T ACCEPTABLE**
Christmas means there is huge additional pressure on delivery services and we know from Resolver users that this is one sector they have problems with all year round. So whether it’s a parcel left in a bin that was then emptied, a damaged package with the contents ruined or left outside in the rain, or an order that doesn’t arrive at all, you can raise a case via resolver.co.uk and track it all the way to resolution. Remember to take pictures of any damage, note down all your issues and complain to the store you bought it from. They have a contract with the courier, not you. The courier has a responsibility to make sure the goods arrive in your hands safe and sound.
**WAIT UNTIL THE BOXING DAY SALES**
Prices are heavily slashed after Christmas, more so than on Black Friday. So sometimes if you don’t need an item yourself straight away or can persuade a family member to wait a day or two, you can pick up the same gift with loads of money off. You’ll also be able to grab a bargain on old stock and models that may well work just as well but have a much lower price-tag. Many of the sales start online on Christmas Day, sometimes with extra special initial offers, so it may pay to take a moment out after dinner to have a look and size up the deals while watching that classic film, rather than falling asleep on the sofa.
**BE CAREFUL WITH GIFT VOUCHERS/CARDS**
Gift cards and vouchers bring so many problems. These include expiring quicker than you’d expect or may realise or being left with tiny amounts on a card you can’t easily spend. Of course they make a nice gift so someone can buy what they want and they are safer than sending cash in the post. Many can be delivered by email too, although that’s not very festive. But in the past we have seen companies go into administration or close down totally leaving real uncertainty over whether they can or will still accept these cards or vouchers. And with more and more shops under threat right now thanks to the economic downturn, this sort of present poses a real risk. Always read the small print and if you are buying one, then those that offer you the chance to purchase at many different stores are generally more useful for the recipient.
Written by James Walker Fighting For Your Rights! Consumer Champion – the man who helps you resolve your consumer complaints! James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution tool Resolver.co.uk Follow James via @resolvercouk, or email [email protected]