How to Shop Securely this Holiday Season

Many people may be skeptical about spending this holiday season because of concerns about the security of their purchases.  After all, some major companies such as Circuit City, Linens N Things and Tweeter have either been taken over by liquidators or filed for Chapter 11, bankruptcy protection.

Kristen Herold, of Glastonbury, used to be a trusting consumer.  So trusting, in fact, when she received a flat screen HDTV for Christmas last year, she left it at the store while she prepared a place for it in her house.

"My mom actually wrote a cute little poem for me and my kids.  It was sort of a night before Christmas tale ending a big picture of this big screen TV and my kids were excited.  I was thrilled," Herold said.

The TV was purchased at Tweeter and paid in full.  A portion of the $3600 bill was $500 installation fee.  

Herold was renovating her family room in hopes of putting the TV over the fireplace. 

She says Tweeter told her it was no problem to hold the TV until the work was done.  She found out otherwise when she went to pick up her property a couple weeks ago.

"I called the store on Saturday and they said , yes, the TV was there but I couldn't have it because it belong now to the liquidators," she said.

Not so fast, says CT Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal.

"Legally, this TV is her property and we'll fight for her because she really owns it."

The question for many consumers now remains, where can you do your holiday shopping safely?

"My advice simply and bluntly is avoid gift cards," said Attorney General Blumenthal.

He warns many gift cards include restrictions and expiration dates.  There’s also no guarantee the company will still be in business when you want to use the card.

It may not be exemplary etiquette, but the Attorney General says if you can’t find a gift, give cash.

If you do pinpoint a present, read the fine print about returns.   There are time limits and many stores charge restocking fees for returned merchandise.

If you must get a gift card, your safest bet is a gift certificate from American Express, Mastercard or Visa.  These cards can present problems, however, are more flexible because they can be used in multiple stores.

Herold will also be shopping a little differently in the future.

"Moving forward it would be in the back of my car and in my house waiting for install,” she said.

An attorney, representing Tweeter, said a court order prohibits the company from distributing any merchandise.
He says at this point, everything must go through bankruptcy court.  To file a claim click here.

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