Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate all we are thankful for and every year I am thankful for the memories of Thanksgiving itself. Growing up, we would alternate our celebrations between Pawtucket and Wakefield with lifelong friends of my parents who also had four children. Being the youngest of everyone, I was always relegated to the “kids’ table,” which is probably where I developed the habit of eating so quickly. Regardless, the smell of fresh turkey with all the fixings, watching the Macy’s parade and football games and playing outside whether it was snowing or clear are all memories that seem as fresh as if they just occurred yesterday.
I am sure these Thanksgiving memories are similar to many others. Unfortunately today these memories are being replaced by commercialism, overload and a mad dash to be the first in line at midnight, sometimes earlier, at the local superstore to get deeply discounted prices on electronics and hot ticket items. In some ways, gut-busting Thanksgiving meals have been replaced with door-busting midnight deals. It seems there is a push to move people toward Christmas without actually celebrating Thanksgiving.
While giant retailers offer deep discounts and massive, if not overwhelming, inventory, they lack familiarity and warmth. Growing up in Pawtucket, stores like Apex, Roberts, Saltzmans and Fanny Farmer were always musts for holiday shopping. We were greeted by shop owners by name and often asked about family and school.
While it may be impossible to avoid the superstores, I encourage you to make a special effort this holiday season to support small business by shopping local. Everyone will do some of their shopping at the mall. Everyone will do some of their shopping online. But, local shoppers should be sure to save some time and dollars for local stores. Spend time exploring and supporting the shops in your community.
Local retail and mom-and-pop stores make up the foundation of our economy and the fabric of our community. They continue to face tough economic times and stiff competition from big box stores and online retailers. Yet, despite tough economic times, these same locally-owned businesses continue to invest in their community, and we should invest in them.
This year if you do decide to head out into the night in search of a great deal, our Consumer Protection Unit has put together some tips to keep you merry and bright:
- Bring ads with you while shopping to be sure prices charged match advertised prices.
- Before making a purchase, ask if the store charges a restocking fee, and if so, how much.
- Some stores will charge a fee for “restocking” an item that you return for a refund or credit.
- Businesses that charge a restocking fee are supposed to disclose the fee. The notice should be clearly visible to consumers before purchases are made.
- Before making a purchase, ask what the return policy is. Return policies vary.
- Refund policies must be posted at the point of display, at the cash register or at the store entrance.
- When checking out, watch the cash register to be sure the scanned price matches the posted price.
- Check your receipt for accuracy before leaving the store.
- Ask for a refund right then if you have been overcharged.
- Check your credit card and bank statements often. By the time you receive your credit card bill or bank statement in January, a thief may have already made unauthorized charges.
I hope that before you head out that door armed with circulars and a game plan, you take a moment or two to reflect on this past year and all that you have to be thankful for. For me, I am thankful for my family, especially my loving wife and best friend Kristine, my brothers, who still remind me I am the youngest, and my entire extended family.
I am thankful for the opportunity the people of Rhode Island have given me to serve as their Attorney General. I am thankful for the hardworking men and women who work in the Office of Attorney General and who work hard for the people of Rhode Island. And, I am thankful to spend a quiet evening at home with family and friends after a delicious home-cooked meal, sharing stories of simpler times.
May God bless you and your family this Thanksgiving.