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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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BBB Tip of the Week: Be aware of ‘pop-up’ shop risks

By Tyler Russell BBB Northwest and Pacific

Shopping is as much a part of the holiday tradition as eggnog, tinsel and mistletoe. “Pop-up” shops have been a part of the holiday shopping landscape almost as long. During the holiday season, owners of vacant retail locations look to fill vacant retail space in downtown areas and suburban malls with temporary businesses, or “pop-ups.”

Better Business Bureaus across the country have received hundreds of complaints over the years about temporary retail locations, reporting everything from poor-quality merchandise to difficulty obtaining refunds after temporary businesses have closed shop after the holidays. 

“Pop-up” shops can be fun, but keep the following tips from Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific in mind if you choose to use them to complete your shopping list: 

Research store headquarters. If you are interested in trying a new or unfamiliar online merchant, ask the company for its physical location (address and phone number) so you can check its BBB Business Profile at

Ask how long a store will operate. If you are buying from a seasonal store, ask whether it will be open after the holidays and whether it will accept returns when the season is over. If not, consider buying elsewhere or taking more time to ensure the item is exactly what you want before making the purchase. 

Review purchase policies. Determine the company’s refund and return policies before you buy. If pop-up shops cannot offer concrete commitments on how they will handle any potential problems you may have with their products or services, reconsider doing business with them. 

Shop around. Pop-ups often focus on unique or high-quality gifts that you may not find elsewhere, but some are simply mini versions of discount retailers, offering holiday-themed goods that may be available for less at a traditional retailer. 

Pay attention to quality. Occasionally, pop-ups sell counterfeit products, so be cautious when purchasing designer goods or that latest “must have” gifts. Prices that are dramatically lower than regular retail stores may be a red flag that the items are either stolen or counterfeit. 

Know the terms of any product or service guarantees. If you are purchasing anything that comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, ask how you will be able to get the product serviced if needed. 

Guard your personal information. For small items, you might be better off paying in cash so you don’t have to share any personal information. Just be sure you understand that you probably won’t have any recourse if something is not right. For larger items, paying with a credit card can provide additional protections if there are problems and the retailer disappears. Make sure you hang on to the receipt to match it against your credit card statement.

Consider whether the gift is for a hard-to-please recipient. If you are planning a gift for someone who might need or want to return it, consider buying from a retailer with a long-standing business, strong reputation and well-established return policies instead of a pop-up shop.  Whenever possible, ask for a gift receipt that would make a return or exchange easier.

For general information on how to shop wisely this holiday season use If you’ve spotted an online scam, report it to BBB ScamTracker.

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