Don’t Get Spooked out of Your Savings This Halloween

Business
Photo Credit: Better Business Bureau
Photo Credit: Better Business Bureau

Rebecca Harpster
Golden Gate Better Business Bureau

Halloween is the second largest shopping holiday of the year, which means unscrupulous businesses have plenty of opportunity to cash in. In the rush to purchase a costume or decorate the house, consumers can miss red flags. This Halloween, watch out for pop-up store confusion, online shopping scams, haunted events, and other seasonal hazards.

Halloween is getting very popular with grown-ups, and there are numerous haunted theme events you can attend with your friends. Unfortunately, you may run in to trouble if an event is cancelled last minute and you want to get your money back. Keep these tips in mind when buying tickets to pop-up events:

  • Do your research. Be cautious of events that advertise only online or in social media, or that don’t provide information on how to contact the event organizers. Look up the business on bbb.org to see their complaint history and reviews from past customers.
  • Contact the venue. When in doubt, contact the venue and see if they have a paid booking for the date and time listed, or if they have heard of the organizer.
  • Check the return policy. One company that came to BBB’s attention has a stated “No Refund” policy… which applies even when they are the ones to cancel the event! Talk about scary!

Each fall, pop-up Halloween stores appear in empty storefronts across the United States. These shops can be a great way to purchase costumes, decorations, and other themed merchandise. But their temporary nature can leave consumers in the lurch. Here are some tips to for shopping at a seasonal Halloween store:

  • Know the return policy. Ask whether the store will be open after the holiday and whether it will accept returns when the season is over.
  • Use a credit card. Save your receipts and use a credit card. If there’s a problem with your purchase, your credit card company will help handle the dispute.
  • Check for contact information. Make sure the store has a website with contact information in case you need to reach them later. 
  • Check the shop’s BBB Business Profile. Search for the store on bbb.org to see business information and their BBB rating.


A popular alternative to pop-up shops is ordering Halloween costumes and decorations online. But be careful, consumers reported more than 2,700 online shopping scams to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker) in 2016. After you pay for your costume online, you either receive something that looks nothing like what you thought you ordered, or you receive nothing at all! When shopping online:

  • Verify security. Make sure the website is secure before entering your credit card information (look for URLs that start with “https://”).
  • Read the fine print. Understand the return policy and shipping times. Will your costume or supplies arrive in time?
  • Look for a phone number. Ensure the shop has working contact information, so you can follow up in case of problems. If the website only has a support email, and no phone number, it may be a red flag.

If you have an issue with a scary business, you can file a complaint with your BBB at bbb.org/complain. Make sure to report any scams at bbb.org/scamtracker.

You can reach your BBB at info@bbbemail.org or (510) 844-2000, or by visiting goldengate.bbb.org.

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