Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Before you Buy

Have you been bombarded enough yet?  The holiday season is here and the ads, catalogues, e-mails and store displays are out in full force!  My husband, who comes from a business perspective, would say that that’s good marketing.  Companies need to make money or they go out of business.

I, however, get overwhelmed by all of this sometimes…all of the choices and information.  And then many times my initial reaction is that “yes, I want to buy that”—for my kids, friends or family or even for myself.  And then I stop to think, “Do I really want to spend my money on this?  Do we really need more stuff?  What else could I use the money for?”  Or depending on the source of the ad, my thoughts may be more like, “Is this a ‘real’ company? Is this offer legitimate?”

Adults, youth, and children see and hear media and marketing information every day. Although estimates vary, the average American has 600-625 chances to be exposed to ads each day (including TV, radio, internet, etc.)[1].

So how do consumers make sense of all of the information and decide what is a good deal and what is not?  You do not have to make a purchase at that moment.  Take time to ask questions and get the information you need to make a good choice for yourself and your family.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Consumer Tips


         If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

         Do not be pressured by salespeople into buying NOW. Investigate before you buy or take time to decide if you even want to buy.

         Do not pay for something that is supposedly "free." If you pay shipping or other fees, that’s not free!

         Do not give your credit card, bank account numbers or calling card to strangers by phone, mail or e-mail unless you placed an order for goods or services.

         Before contributing to charities you are unfamiliar with, check them out with your state charity regulator, such as the Attorney General's office.

         A contract worth signing can wait until you’ve taken the time to understand it.

         Always ask for information about the company and clarification in writing about the product or service and prices.

         Hang up when you receive a call offering a fabulous deal over the phone (this is more than likely a scam).

         Guard your social security number. Avoid using it as your driver’s license number and do not carry your card with you in your purse or wallet.

         Con artists look like you and me. Even if they sound like they are your friends, take the time to investigate an offer carefully.


Source: Adapted from Hang Up On Fraud prepared by National Institute for Consumer Education, Eastern Michigan University, 207 Rackham Building, Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197, and Procter, B. and Schuh, W. (2000). University of Missouri Extension Building Strong Families Program, Consumer Beware module.


Tips for Shopping On-line

To determine if an online merchant is reputable and to have a successful shopping experience, look for Web sites that clearly disclose the following information:

         the type of business (e.g., retailer, online auction)

         where it is physically located (address)

         how you can contact the business (e.g., 800 number)

         the cost of products and services

         safeguards for protecting payment information

         the availability of warranties or guarantees

         an estimate of when you will receive an order and a clear explanation of all shipping charges

         a return policy that includes an explanation of how to return an item, get a refund, or make an exchange

Online shoppers can also look for retailers that carry the Better Business Bureau Online Seal. This seal is carried by merchants who follow specific advertising guidelines and agree to submit to binding arbitration to resolve consumer disputes.

Source: Downloaded on December 13, 2010 from


Tips for helping teens be wise consumers


Lucy Schrader
HES Associate State Specialist and
Building Strong Families Program Coordinator
University of Missouri Extension
162 Stanley Hall
Columbia, MO  65211


[1] n.a. (2007). Our rising ad dosage: It’s not as oppressive as some think. Media Matters, 21(3). Retrieved July 25, 2009 from

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