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Use Caution with Pop-Up Shops During the Holidays

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some retailers started turning to outdoor pop-up shops and, while in-store shopping is back, the pop-ups are not likely to go away yet. These temporary storefronts allow property owners with a way to fill vacant retail space and provide shoppers with a fun way to browse in-person in an open area. 


“We receive hundreds of complaints about temporary retail locations every year,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “Reporting everything from poor quality merchandise to difficulty obtaining refunds, unfortunately, consumers have little recourse after temporary shops have closed their doors.”


While it is wonderful to support a small local vendor, it is important to consider the following when purchasing from pop-up shops: 


Research the company. BBB reviews all businesses, even seasonal ones. Perform a quick check of the company’s BBB Profile by going to, review the company’s rating and customer experience history.


Question the store’s stability. If you are purchasing from a seasonal store, ask whether it will be open after the holiday and whether it will accept returns when the season is over. If not, consider buying elsewhere or taking more time to be sure the item is exactly what you want before making the purchase. 


Purchase in-stock items only. BBB often receives complaints about items purchased in a temporary shop which are personalized. When the consumer returns to pick up the item, the shop is no where to be found. If you are considering a personalized item, never make the full payment until you have the item in hand and it is to your satisfaction.


Review purchase policies. Determine the company’s refund and return policies before you buy. If pop-up shops cannot offer concrete commitments on how they will handle any potential problems you may have with their products or services, reconsider doing business with them. 


Shop around. While Pop-ups often focus on unique or high-quality gifts which you may not find elsewhere, some are simply mini versions of discount retailers, offering holiday-themed goods which may be available for less at a traditional retailer. 


Pay attention to quality. Occasionally, pop-ups sell counterfeit products, so be cautious when purchasing designer goods or the latest “must have” gift. Prices that are dramatically lower than regular retail stores may be a red flag that the items are either stolen or counterfeit. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Understand the terms and service guarantees. If you are purchasing anything which comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, inquire about how the product will be serviced if needed and what the cost, if any, might be. 


Pay with a credit card.  paying with a credit card can provide additional protections if there are problems and the retailer disappears. Make sure you hang on to the receipt to match it against your credit card statement.


Consider whether the gift is for a hard-to-please recipient. If you are planning a gift for someone who might need or want to return it, consider buying from a retailer with a long-standing business, strong reputation, and well-established return policies, instead of a pop-up shop.  Whenever possible, ask for a gift receipt that would make a return or exchange easier, if necessary.


For more holiday tips, visit the BBB Holiday Tips page. For other tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.


About BBB: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit for more information. BBB Serving Central East Texas was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.

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