The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to use caution and know the risks of doing business with transient kiosk vendors.
“It is that wonderful time of year when a wide range of markets and festivals are taking place,” said Rosalind Scott, president and CEO of BBB serving Vancouver Island.
“Many of these events showcase small vendors selling a variety of products and services. While the majority of these vendors are reputable and trustworthy, some are not. It is unfortunate, but some situations do occur in which consumers find themselves with a faulty product that they cannot easily return. Either that or some other issue arises that cannot be addressed by the vendor, mainly because they have moved on and cannot be readily found.”
Transient kiosk vendors can be found at markets, festivals, fairs and in malls or shopping plazas. Kiosk vendors represent a wide range of large and small businesses, many with excellent customer service and outstanding reputations.
“The most common complaint related to kiosk vendors is their failure to provide a receipt or contact information to consumers,” said Scott. “And similarly to brick and mortar businesses, we occasionally hear about vendors that are outright scam artists.”
BBB recently received reports about a kiosk vendor operating in a number of Vancouver Island malls that was fraudulently using the name of a legitimate business and pretending to offer the opportunity to enter a contest to win a prize package. The fake vendor then used the contact information from the entry forms to trick people into believing they had won a prize package or upgrade for a fee. Once the fees were paid the vendor disappeared without ever providing the consumers with their prize, or the upgrade.
BBB recommends consumers consider the following tips before making a transaction with a kiosk vendor:
• Know who you are doing business with. Take the time to chat with kiosk vendors to find out more about them and their business. Ask them for brochures, business cards or contact information about their company. Find out how long they have been in business and if they will be returning to this location. Ask them where else you can find their products or services. Watch for any red flags that may suggest they will not be easy to find again, should you need to.
• Ask about refund and exchange policies. Before you make a purchase be sure to ask about the vendors return and exchange policies. Many vendors will be very accommodating. For others, all sales may be final.
• Get a receipt. If a vendor is operating a legitimate business they should be tracking their sales. Ask them for a receipt for your purchase and make sure the receipt clearly outlines the product you are purchasing and the vendor’s contact information. While technically illegal, many kiosk vendors are operating “under the table.” Recognize that if a vendor operates in cash only and cannot provide you with a receipt, that your options may be limited should you have an issue in the future.
• Understand and accept the risks associated with shopping from a kiosk vendor. The unique thing about markets and festivals are that they allow start up businesses and individuals testing consumer interest in their products a unique, affordable opportunity to showcase their wares. Recognize that a vendor who is there today may simply not be tomorrow. Once you make a purchase there may be little you can do about it if you are dissatisfied.
• When possible, do your research. Some kiosk vendors have BBB business reviews. If you can, check out a vendor’s report before you do business with them. This can easily be done online at bbb.org. Many kiosk vendors are too small, or too new to have BBB business review. Often you can still do a quick Google search to see if they have an online presence and if they seem reputable.
• Avoid impulse buys when possible. Markets, fairs and festival vendors rely on impulse buying. You see a cool one-of-a-kind item and feel inclined to buy it before someone else does. When possible try to assess if the product is of a reasonable market value and quality before you buy it. Recognize that the majority of impulse buys end in disappointment at some point in the future.
• Beware contest entry and draws. You rarely get something for nothing. Most contests and draws for prizes have an ulterior motive. Usually they are so the vendor can collect consumer contact information. Be very cautious about the private information that you put on an entry form. Ask how the information collected will be used and if it will be sold to a third party.
If you run into a situation in which you need to find a transient kiosk vendor you may want to contact the organizers of the event or host location. If you believe you are a victim of fraud be sure to report it to your local police and inform the BBB of the situation so they can warn others.
For more consumer tips go to: bbb.org/Vancouver-island.