Consumers seeking high-tech gadgets, specialty products and remodeling services at tradeshows and expositions should walk with caution to avoid tripping on bad buys.
"Tradeshows are a valuable tool for buyers and sellers," says Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. "But consumers should recognize that exhibitors are there primarily to attract potential customers. Shoppers should avoid high-pressure sales stunts, dicey drawings and post-purchase problems."
Tradeshows and expos offer an ideal venue for gathering ideas and networking with businesses, but BBB reminds attendees to exhibit care at local events:
Work out a plan. Visit the show's website in advance to learn the layout of the venue, locate appealing vendors and check for coupons or discounts. Research sellers on bbb.org; or at the show, use BBB's iPhone app to check out companies.
Apply sparingly. Before signing up for drawings, contests or services, find out how contact information will be used and carefully review privacy policies. Beware: Direct mail, email offers and telemarketing phone calls may increase. Some consumers create email addresses specifically for tradeshow correspondence.
Learn the facts. Interact with booth owners and ask questions; if interested, collect pamphlets, brochures, business cards and samples. Make sure pricing, return policies and full contact details are listed.
Know the goal. If casually perusing, determine that early to avoid excessive impulse spending. If searching for specific businesses or products, come prepared with clear objectives and budgets. Pay for expensive merchandise with credit cards; monitor accounts in case unauthorized charges need to be contested.
Remember, do not feel pressured to buy expensive items or services right away, as returns and refunds can be challenging. Save receipts and other purchase paperwork. Review the FTC's Cooling-Off Rule to see which purchases may be protected.
For more advice on tradeshows, expos and fairs, visit bbb.org