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Holiday Advertising Guidelines for Retailers

Content provided by the Better Business Bureau
During the coming weeks, many businesses will advertise "specials" and "sales" to attract holiday shoppers. Although most ads are truthful and provide helpful information to customers, occasionally some stores will run misleading or deceptive advertising. The Better Business Bureau offers the following checklist for business owners and managers to make certain their advertisements adhere to BBB standards and the spirit of the holidays!
  • Are you making an impossible promise? To advertise that you offer the "lowest price in town" implies that you are constantly checking the price of every competitor every day.
  • When using the term "guarantee" you should include a statement that advises shoppers where to obtain complete details (at your store? on your Web site?).
  • A "sale" is defined as a significant reduction from the advertiser’s usual and customary price of the merchandise. Also, if the "sale" price is offered for more than 30 days, this becomes a regular price and the item should not be advertised as if it were "on sale."
  • If you advertise that you will "meet all competitors’ prices," make sure the terms are clear and easy to follow. If you create too many conditions, the claim becomes worthless and you could alienate your customers.
  • Do not participate in "bait and switch" tactics, which involve advertising a low-priced item to bring in customers, then persuading them to buy similar, but higher-priced items.
  • "Factory direct," "factory to you," and "factory outlet" claims are considered accurate only if the merchandise is actually manufactured in factories owned or controlled by the advertiser.
  • Do not advertise "wholesale" prices unless the prices are the same as what you the retailers paid when you bought the merchandise for resale.
  • Is your advertising easy to understand without asterisks and fine print? Asterisks should not be used as a means of contradicting or substantially changing the meaning of an advertising statement.
  • Do you believe your own comparative pricing claims? You should be able to substantiate all claims made in the ad.
  • Finally, make certain you have adequate supplies of merchandise on hand to meet expected demand.
The primary responsibility for truthful and non-deceptive advertising rests with you, the advertiser. For more information, refer to the BBB's Code of Advertising, available online at www.bbb.org/membership/codeofad.asp. Internet retailers may also want to consult the BBB Code of Online Business Practices at www.bbbonline.org/reliability/code/code.asp.
Content copyrighted by the Better Business Bureau
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