Present perfect

This time of year retailers look forward to the sweet harmony of silver bells, laughing voices, and the cha-ching of registers. Here are some steps you can take to ensure a happier holiday for your business — and your customers.

It’s all in the delivery. Claims you make about when people will get their stuff have to be backed up with more than warm wishes. If you make an express shipping promise like “next-day delivery” or “get it by December 22nd,” you have to have a reasonable basis for saying that and you need to live up to your claim. But what if you don’t say anything? Under the FTC’s Mail Order Rule — which covers online sales, too — you have to have a reasonable basis for believing you can ship within 30 days. Read A Business Guide to the FTC’s Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule for compliance tips. (By the way, as part of its ongoing review of rules and guides, the FTC is asking for your feedback on some proposed changes to the Rule. File your comment online by December 14th.)

Expect the unexpected. Every year one gotta-have-it gadget takes off. Here’s hoping you have that Beanie or Elmo or iSomething stockpiled, but what happens when the elves are overwhelmed and demand exceeds supply? If it’s a transaction covered by the Mail Order Rule, you have to contact buyers promptly to let them know about the delay.

No strings. For shoppers, the holidays are happiest when the only strings attached to their purchases are ribbons. But if the deal comes with material terms — like limitations on exchanges or a required additional purchase to make the product work — take care to spell them out clearly. Depending on the transaction, that could mean clear and prominent disclosures to the giver and the lucky recipient. And remember: The holidays come just once a year, but fineprint footnotes, obscure hyperlinks, and buried conditions are problematic no matter what the season.

The gift of plastic. If your business offers gift cards, are you up on rules from the Federal Reserve regarding disclosures and fees? Read It’s in the cards for compliance links.

Many happy returns. The bad news first: Customer service glitches this time of year can land a one-two punch if both the giver and the recipient end up unhappy. But savvy marketers know that handling adjustments graciously can lead to a double pay-off. You can lock in the loyalty of your regular customer and ensure future purchases by the friend or relative they’ve introduced to your brand.

You better watch out. ‘Tis the season for temps and part-timers in the office and on the sales floor. But even if an employee is slated for just a short-term stint, it’s important to remind them that ID thieves don’t take vacations. No need for a start-from-scratch data security training program though. Visit the BCP Business Center’s Privacy & Security portal for free time-saving tools — including a 20-minute interactive online tutorial produced with Main Street retailers in mind.
 

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