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BBB: Tips on buying/renting Halloween costumes

Those looking to buy or rent a fun or frightful Halloween costume this season are not alone. The National Retail Federation expects a record number of consumers will buy costumes this year, spending roughly $7.4 billion on candy, pumpkins, decora...

Those looking to buy or rent a fun or frightful Halloween costume this season are not alone. The National Retail Federation expects a record number of consumers will buy costumes this year, spending roughly $7.4 billion on candy, pumpkins, decorations and costumes. It's a holiday many love, and retailers respond to that with specialty "boo"-tiques which set up shop in October and are gone by the time the calendar flips over into November. When shopping for a costume this year, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) advises consumers to read the fine print to ensure their night is a treat.

"Halloween offers something for almost everyone, even if you just like candy," said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota, in a news release. "But for those buying or renting costumes, it's important to be clear on all of the terms and conditions."

Here are some BBB tips it says can make sure people won't be haunted by impulse purchases this Halloween:

• Look for a brick and mortar store. Though not extremely commonplace, some costume shops are open year-round. For more elaborate costumes or simply for peace of mind, consumers may want to consider transacting with a shop that has a permanent address. Even so, they'll still want to be clear on store rental and return policies.

• Do the 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." While it's always a good idea to research BBB Business Reviews at bbb.org, it may also beneficial to read customer reviews to learn more about costume stores in the area.

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Read the fine print. Even seasonal stores have the same responsibilities as a year-round operation. 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 on Halloween costumes you've purchased.

Know what to expect before renting a costume. Many rental costumes tend to be sturdier than the average Halloween costume, 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? Is there a penalty in addition to the price of the costume? Be sure everything is spelled out clearly in the rental agreement.

If renting, return the costume on time. Most stores rent costumes on a daily/nightly basis, meaning people pick up their costume the day of the event and return it the following day. Failure to do so may mean being charged with 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.

For more consumer tips, visit bbb.org.

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