Consumer Handbook

Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. 

Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU. 

Better Business Bureau

Holiday returns aren’t easy! And we don’t mean the part where you explain to your mother why you returned the sweater she gave you. 

Stores are not legally required to accept exchanges or give refunds unless the merchandise was defective or misrepresented. While most retailers do offer refund and exchange programs as a courtesy to their customers, policies vary greatly from one store to another. Add to the mix warranties - which are usually fulfilled by the manufacturer - and holiday returns can get confusing. 

Better Business Bureau

This holiday season, BBB Scam Tracker has received many reports of a new trick scammers are using to steal from online shoppers. Con artists are exploiting a PayPal policy and deceiving shoppers into paying for goods that don’t exist. 

How the scam works: you’re shopping online and find a site with amazing deals, often brand name goods at a significant discount. The website and products look legitimate, so you decide to take a chance and make a purchase. The site instructs you to pay through PayPal, which should provide extra security. 

401(K) 2012/Flickr, License:

Are you short on time? Need a last-minute gift? The answer just might be the gift card hanging on the rack near the register or in the greeting card aisle. 

But, before grabbing a gift card for a favorite store or restaurant, know that thieves are just as eager to use these gift cards before they’re presented to the intended recipient. Also, some retailers have terms and conditions as to how the gift card can be redeemed. 

Better Business Bureau

When the temperature drops, the last thing anyone wants is for their furnace to stop working. But when it does, you need a reliable contractor – and fast. 

Good heating contractors are in high demand during the colder months, so you shouldn’t be surprised if you can’t get it fixed immediately. Rather than get overheated, you need to research companies before you sign a contract for repairs or replacement. 

Better Business Bureau

National retailers like Walmart, Kmart, Sears, and Burlington Coat Factory are

again offering layaway programs to help shoppers afford big purchases. 

Better Business Bureau advises consumers to read and understand a store’s layaway contract before agreeing to place items on layaway. Otherwise, they could be surprised by fees or other charges that could add to the cost of their purchases.