Schoolbells will be ringing before we know it. Now is the time to take advantage ofannual back-to-school specials on supplies and the newest fall lines. Whetheryou plan to shop at your favorite retail store or in the drawers and closets ofyour home, Better Business Bureau recommends sticking to a budget to avoid thecommon overspending on school supplies.
Accordingto the National Retail Federation, parents will be shopping carefully andmaking special efforts to save on supplies this school year. 31% of familiessay they will do comparative shopping online (compared to 29.8% last year), andthey will use more coupons (38.7% vs. 36.9%), and cut back on extracurricularactivities or sports (14.3% vs. 10.2%).
Retailerswill offer back-to-school deals to entice shoppers. Coupons, deals, andgiveaways are always nice, but make sure you actually need the items first andbeware of advertising that could steer you wrong or sounds too good to be true.
BBBrecommends considering the following when it comes to back-to-school shopping:
Takeinventory. There’salways that endless supply of makers, crayons and notebooks around the house.Reusing these items can save hundreds of dollars over the years. Considerrepackaging, sharpening, and cleaning out older, gently used items beforebuying new ones.
Set abudget. Decidehow much you are willing to spend per child, and include your children for a“teachable moment” on creating a budget. After taking inventory, create ashopping list and stick to it. This will help you avoid costly impulsepurchases and ensure nothing is forgotten.
Knowwhat your child's school allows. Schools usually provide parents with a list of requireditems for the school year, which can help determine what you need to purchase.These lists are also available at many retail stores and on school websites.Additionally, many schools have specific dress codes, so keep these restrictions in mind before spending money on clothes the school maynot allow.
Lookfor deals. Someretailers’ back-to-school specials will be advertised online with other itemssold for less online. Make sure to check out ads before you shop. Oftentimes,retailers will place ads showcasing special ‘buy-one-get-one’ free deals, andcouple items like lunchboxes with backpacks to lure in customers. BBBrecommends you shop with retailers you know and trust to avoid ‘out-of-stock’frustration or driving too far only to be left empty-handed. Shopping earlywith a strategy offers better selections and saving opportunities.
Checkfor refund and exchange policies. Be sure you can exchange or return items purchased duringthis time period. Keep in mind some items may be non-refundable or have restockingfees associated with a return.
Read through advertisementscarefully. If a store advertises greatback-to-school sales they generally have sufficient quantity of the advertisedmerchandise to meet the demands of the consumers, unless the advertisementstates that number of items available or “while supplies last.” If supplies areonly at certain branches, their specific locations should be disclosed. Reading throughadvertisements carefully can help you decide how soon you need to go shoppingand at what store you will find the supplies you need.
Since theprimary responsibility for truthful and non-deceptive advertising rests withthe advertiser, BBB recommends consumers know how to spot advertising trouble.
Check out some commonly usedphrases and tactics from advertisers that are often misleading when notutilized properly:
“Free” - Theword “free” can only be used in advertising when the advertiser is offering anunconditional gift. If there is a cost to receive the free gift, the advertisermust clearly and conspicuously disclose the conditions. If free becomes pay afee, walk away.
“Save up to…” - Price reduction claims that cover a range of products orservices should state both the minimum and maximum savings. Be careful if youonly see emphasis on the maximum savings, because you may end up sending morethan you planned.
“Price Claims…” - Prices for products and servicesfluctuate regularly and it can be extremely difficult for an advertiser toclaim with certainty that their prices are lower than their competitors.Advertisers that use such claims regularly should provide substantiation or bewilling to match a lower price.
“Best,” “Most,” “Unbeatable” – Advertising claims can be objective, based on fact,or subjective, based on opinion. Objective claims relate to tangible qualitiesand performance which can be measured against accepted standards. Objectiveclaims must be substantiated by an advertiser.
Obvious use of puffery, boasting or exaggerationsuch as “we offer the best customer service in town,” may not be subject totruth-in-advertising standards. However, since advertising is all about trustfrom the consumer’s perspective, be cautious if the business is makingsubjective superlative claims that are misleading.
*Use of Asterisks
Asterisks can be used in advertising, but only if they offer additionalinformation about a word or term that is not inherently deceptive. If you seean asterisk, BBB recommends consumers proceed with caution. An asterisk orsimilar reference symbol could be used as a means to contradict orsubstantially change the meaning of a statement. If the information referencedby the asterisk is not clearly and prominently disclosed, find anotherretailer.
“You can never plantoo much or ask too many questions before making a purchase,” said WarrenClark, Better Business Bureau President.
For more guidance on advertising, see BBBsCode of Advertising. Consumersare encouraged to file a complaint regarding questionable advertising claimswith the BBB at www.bbb.org.