published Friday, June 14th, 2013

Biz Bulletin: Check fees, schedules with Father's Day gifts

By Jim Winsett
  • photo
    BBB Chief Exective Jim Winsett
    Photo by Leigh Shelle Hunt

Q: Father's Day is coming up, and this year I want to give my dad an "experience" gift, instead of the usual ties and barbeque tools. Are there any tips the BBB has to consider before I try to find him that perfect activity or class?

A: Is Dad an adventure seeker? Is he up for the thrill of skydiving, whitewater rafting or other exciting adventures? How about golf lessons, a fishing trip, or a wilderness experience? With Father's Day on Sunday, Better Business Bureau is recommending that shoppers consider the fine print before purchasing high adventure activities or gift certificates for Dad. BBB also recommends the following to consider before finding that perfect gift.

Ask around for recommendations. Ask friends, verify references, and be sure to check out the BBB Business Reviews at bbb.org before handing over any money.

Check for additional fees and limitations before purchasing. Make sure you know if any additional fees apply for things like equipment rental, meals and transportation. Check for other limitations; some high adventure activities restrict those with certain health issues.

Make sure Dad's schedule matches the times the activity can be done. Some outdoor thrills can only be done during a certain season or time of day; most require advanced reservations.

Check the refund policy and expiration date. When buying expensive items or gifts, get refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee policies in writing. Make sure you know the expiration date of the offer, and if a refund is available if Dad can't make it for any reason. Some gift certificates and discount coupons are transferable and some are not. Are there any cancellation penalties? What is considered a valid cancellation reason for the buyer or the operator? Under what conditions is a full refund available?

Read rental agreements carefully. Make sure you have a written contract for any recreational rentals (cabins, all-terrain vehicles, campers, kayaks, motorcycles, etc.). The agreement should spell out base rental cost, daily fees, insurance, and other details such as time restrictions. If at all possible, visually inspect the rental prior to committing.

Get the details in writing. For things like tours, classes, sightseeing and lessons, make sure you get all of the costs and features in writing. What services and equipment are included? Ensure taxes, service fees and other charges are clearly disclosed. Asterisks are commonly used to indicate restrictions, such as additional charges and time requirements. Look for a "conditions" clause. Read the small print to see if it alters the original offer. Get a gift receipt and enclose it with the present.

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.

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