Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


It’s that time of year again. Willing or not, you’re going to the mall. You’ll also buy a few things online. And, of course, you may be tempted to buy a few things for yourself along the way. But before you do, read this first: our annual list of holiday shopping tips. This year Attorney General McKenna asked our front-line consumer protection professionals to submit their ideas. Not all of their tips made the cut – more on that in a moment. But here are two tips that made the cut:

  •  Just say no to extended service plans: AGO Deputy Communications Director Dan Sytman likes to refer to himself in the third person. He also likes big box stores – especially ones that sell gadgets. But he’s tired of being pitched on extended service plans, so he checked to see what ConsumerReports.org has to say about them. Among their seven reasons not to buy extended warranties: “[S]tores keep 50 percent or more of what they charge for plans — more than they can make selling actual products.” Consumer Reports also finds that many products are reliable, making that extra warranty unnecessary.
  •  Keep receipts and packaging: “When shopping, don’t forget to ask for gift receipt and include it with the present,” says Elizabeth Williamson, Consumer Protection Public Records Coordinator. “And when you receive gifts, you can even scan the receipts into your computer for safe keeping. Having a receipt makes it much easier to return a gift – not that I ever do that.” For the tech-savvy, there are even smartphone apps that allow you to scan receipts and other items. Remember that many retailers only refund the lower price, or the after-holiday sale price, unless you can prove you paid more.

See the full list in our official news release, McKenna and his staff offer holiday shopping tips.

What tips didn’t make the cut? I’m glad you asked. One consumer protection staffer warned against online shopping while drinking. I was not able to confirm whether or not this particular person speaks from experience. I can confirm, however, that “enhanced eggnog” negatively affects judgment and inhibitions. That can’t be helpful if you’re trying to stay within a holiday shopping budget (see tip number one). Speaking of intoxicating substances, one of our attorneys suggested a tip related to the recent passage of Initiative 502. The advice is that marijuana is still illegal under federal law – even as a gift. So if you have your eye on that particular stocking-stuffer, we recommend against it. There’s still no better holiday greenery than mistletoe. And, in all seriousness, if you have questions about I-502, please check the Liquor Control Board’s website or the Seattle Police Department’s online FAQ. Don’t call us.

Happy Holidays from the AGO!

-Dan Sytman-


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