June 18, 2010

Buyer beware: Father’s Day shopping tips

If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a dad with more tools and yard equipment than he could use in a lifetime. That always makes shopping for your Father’s Day gift a little tricky.

Also like me, you’ll probably wimp out and charge up a Gander Mountain or Fleet Farm gift card and let the old man choose this year.

Before taking the low road on a gift card, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has some tips for the Dad’s Day weekend when consumers are expected to drop nearly $10 billion nationally.

“The National Retail Federation estimates three in 10 Americans will give gift cards this Father’s Day, but before picking out that piece of plastic it’s important to read the fine print,” the DATCP said in a release. “Some gift cards have expiration dates; some have associated fees — like activation fees, transaction fees or inactivity fees; others can only be redeemed at a store location and cannot be used online.”

The Federal Trade Commission also has some tips when looking at gift cards. They suggest you:

  • Buy from a trusted source
  • Read the fine print
  • Check for expiration dates and fees
  • Make sure the card is real, and not tampered with
  • Consider the financial stability of a company before you buy

Tickets to sporting events or concerts are also hot commodities for pops this summer. DATCP also warns that buyers need to be careful when purchasing tickets online since they can easily be reproduced.

They suggest double-checking similar ticket costs, seating charts and correct date/times before purchasing.

“When making a purchase, pay with a cashier’s check versus a personal check to protect your account information. If you make an online transaction, use PayPal — it protects you if the tickets never arrive or turn out to be fake,” the agency suggested in a release.

If you do end up getting bamboozled on a gift card or tickets you can file a complaint with the state agency at DATCPHotline@wi.gov or 1-800-422-7128.