Business Columns & Blogs

Take a fair look before making big purchases

With summertime sunshine comes endless entertainment and loads of family fun, including plenty of fairs to attend. The annual events are filled with amusement rides, carnival games and deep-fried everything; there is so much to do and see.

After funnel cakes and farm animals, you may wander over to explore vendor booths full of gadgets, gizmos, and potentially great deals. Some fair-only specials could be a good opportunity, and you may want to make a purchase.

Even in all the excitement, don’t be pressured to buy. Vendors generally go through an application process to display at the fair, but you should still take your time to research independently. After listening to the sales pitch, walk away for a little while and do a quick search on your smartphone. Is the deal as good as it claims to be?

If you decide to move forward, ask the salesperson for the company’s physical location and phone number, as well as any refund and exchange policies. Will they honor the promotional price after the event? Are you able to ask for his or her business card and think about the purchase for a few days?

A buyer’s remorse rule, and whether there is one, can be confusing. The Federal Trade Commissions’ “Cooling Off Rule” gives consumers a 3-day right to cancel purchases only under special circumstances. These include: sales made at your house, workplace or a temporary location (which includes fairgrounds). As with most rules, there are exceptions. Here are a few situations that are not covered:

• Sales made at your home for under $25

• Sales made at temporary locations for under $130

• Transactions made entirely online, by mail or via telephone

• Motor vehicles sold at temporary locations if the seller has at least one permanent place of business

• Arts or crafts sold at fairs, shopping malls, civic centers, schools, etc.

If you wish to cancel your purchase, you can do so in writing, preferably using the Notice of Cancellation form provided by the seller at the time of purchase, within three days. Don’t forget to keep a copy for yourself. The seller then has 10 business days to refund your money, cancel any contracts and let you know the process of returning the product(s).

You can see how this can become quite cumbersome. Therefore, as a general rule, be proactive in your purchases- research before you buy: Check out the company on, read reviews and complaint history. Ask about the refund/return/exchange policy upfront and get it in writing at the time of purchase. Don’t let your fair experience get ruined by an unfair transaction.

Emily Valla,, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to or call (208) 342-4649.