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BBB provides Halloween tips

If you're looking to pick up a fun Halloween costume or spooky decorations this year, you're not alone. The National Retail Federation expects consumers will spend nearly $7 billion on Halloween costumes, decorations and treats this year. It's a ...

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Know what to expect before renting a costume. Many rental costumes tend to be sturdier than Halloween costumes you can buy, but make sure you understand your responsibilities. What happens, for example, if the costume rips, or you get a stain on it or lose it altogether? Do you have to pay a penalty in addition to the price of the costume? Be sure everything is spelled out clearly in the rental agreement. BrainerdDispatch.com illustration

If you're looking to pick up a fun Halloween costume or spooky decorations this year, you're not alone.

The National Retail Federation expects consumers will spend nearly $7 billion on Halloween costumes, decorations and treats this year. It's a fun holiday, one many people love, and retailers pull out all the stops to cater to that crowd. If people are in the market for a costume this year, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota advises consumers to keep an eye on the bottom line.

"Halloween is a holiday that gives people an opportunity to shed their personas for something a little more outrageous or out of character," said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota, in a news release. "But long before the proverbial clock strikes midnight, you'll want to ensure you're clear on all the terms of any costume rental agreement."

Here are some BBB tips to make sure you won't be haunted by your choice of a costume:

Go to the source. Though not extremely commonplace, some costume shops are open year-round. For more elaborate costumes or simply for peace of mind, you may want to consider renting your costume from a shop that has a permanent address. Even so, you'll still want to be clear on their rental and return policies.

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Renting vs. Buying. Do you tend to pick the same costume every year? Most people like to mix it up, but if you have a 'go to' costume, it might make more sense to buy rather than rent.

Do your research. Many seasonal stores are run by reputable retailers who take advantage of short-term leases on vacant space to set up temporary stores. However, other shops may be "here today and gone tomorrow." It's always a good idea to research BBB Business Reviews at bbb.org. You may also want to read customer reviews to learn more about costume shops in your area.

Read the fine print. Seasonal stores have the same responsibilities as year-round operations. Make sure to note the store's refund and return policies; familiarize yourself with all of the terms and conditions - they have to be made available. Keep in mind that some stores may not accept returns or even offer exchanges on Halloween costumes you've purchased.

Know what to expect before renting a costume. Many rental costumes tend to be sturdier than Halloween costumes you can buy, but make sure you understand your responsibilities. What happens, for example, if the costume rips, or you get a stain on it or lose it altogether? Do you have to pay a penalty in addition to the price of the costume? Be sure everything is spelled out clearly in the rental agreement.

If you're renting, return your costume on time. Most stores rent costumes on a daily/nightly basis, meaning you pick up your costume the day of your event and return it the following day. Failure to do so may mean you'll be charged additional fees.

When purchasing costumes online, do it securely.Check a site's security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with "https." You also may see a small picture of a closed lock in the lower right corner of the screen.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action to inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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