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Hassle-free holiday shopping

by Sheryl Harris , Director, Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs
A picture containing a person holding a cell phone and a cup of coffee.One important thing to know before you start holiday shopping from home: Online shopping complaints have soared since the pandemic began.

One County resident told the Department of Consumer Affairs she ordered a jigsaw puzzle from an online store but received a mangled box with the wrong puzzle. The retailer agreed to a refund – on the condition she paid to ship her return to China.

Record numbers of online shoppers are telling Cuyahoga County Scam Squad partners that they never got the products they paid for, received shoddy merchandise or encountered return hassles that kept them from getting their money back.

Shoppers said they were lured to scam shopping sites by unbelievably low prices or sleek photos that made junk products look good. One in four online shoppers who were ripped off told the Federal Trade Commission they were steered to scam sites through social media ads or feeds.

These simple tips can help avoid holiday gift-buying hassles:

  • Use a credit card. Credit cards let you dispute the bill if a company sends shoddy merchandise or fails to ship at all.
  • If you’re considering buying from a site that’s new to you, check to see how other customers fared. Look up the Better Business Bureau’s report on the company or its URL. Or pop the company’s name in a search engine with words like “complain” or “scam” or “ripoff.”
  • Read the return policy before you place an order. Avoid sites that don’t allow returns or that indicate the company decides whether to accept returns on a case-by-case basis. If the policy doesn’t clearly state what you need to do to get a refund, shop elsewhere.
  • Make sure the checkout is secure before you enter account information. The URL should start with “https” and there should be a lock icon. If you don’t see them, shop elsewhere.
Find more online shopping tips on the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs’ website.

If you encounter deceptive ads or have trouble with a purchase, file a complaint with the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs. Call 216-443-7226 to report a scam.