Ocean County Press Release
With the holiday season fast approaching and holiday shopping already underway Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari is urging residents to buy locally.

Launching his annual "Buy in Ocean County" campaign, Vicari is encouraging Ocean County citizens to bolster local businesses during the year's busiest shopping time by buying locally.

"No matter what is on your wish list this year, the place to find that holiday treasure is right here in Ocean County," Vicari said. "From the latest electronics to unique crafts and household items, our local shops offer everything a holiday shopper could ever want."

While malls, such as the Ocean County Mall, Toms River and the Jackson Outlets, Jackson Township, remain premier destinations for holiday shoppers, Vicari said the county's many local downtowns offer unique shops and boutiques.

"From Point Pleasant Beach to Tuckerton, across the county, downtowns offer some of the best choices for holiday shopping," Vicari said. "Many of these stores are owned by long-time residents that continue to be a staple in our communities. Make a day out of it – shop, have lunch and just enjoy the area. There is plenty to see and do in all of our municipalities."

Ocean County Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines said many local chambers of commerce work with businesses in supporting special shopping events throughout the holiday season.

"Our chambers and business associations work hand in hand to offer residents and visitors great shopping experiences right here in Ocean County," she said. "Many gifts that you buy in Ocean County are produced locally. They are unique and made with care."

Buying in Ocean County also offers additional protection for consumers.

Each year the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs receives complaints about orders not filled or other concerns residents have when dealing with out-of-state mail order companies.

"We see the same problems year after year," said Vicari, who is chairman of the Consumer Affairs Department. "Merchandise is not received in time for the holidays, there are problems with backorders and some received items barely resembling their online or catalog photos and descriptions."

To make matters worse, it is often difficult to pursue a consumer affairs case against an out-of-state company that does not fall under the jurisdiction of New Jersey's consumer fraud laws.

"When you buy local, you are protected against fraud," Vicari said. "Our County and state agencies have more authority when dealing with a local business complaint."

It's also easier to return an item purchased locally.
"You can drive down the street and visit the store rather than pack and ship a package across country," he said.

If you're having trouble finding the perfect gift, Vicari suggested purchasing a gift card from a small business in Ocean County.

"What better present to give than a gift card for a great meal at one of our many local restaurants," he said. "Or how about a gift certificate for a haircut or a home cleaning service? Our Ocean County small businesses truly offer something for everyone."

If you need consumer help, the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs is located at 1027 Hooper Ave., Building 2, Toms River or can be reached by calling 732-929-2105.

"It's our goal to promote our local businesses and to make certain the consumer is protected," Vicari said. "The ‘Buy in Ocean County' campaign comes with a host of benefits and helps to make the holiday season bright for our retailers and our residents."

The following is a list of helpful consumer hints when it comes to holiday shopping and seasonal giving:
• To avoid a holiday "spending hangover," make a list and a budget to stick to when you are out shopping.
• When you see an ad for a sale or special deal make sure to bring it with you to the store. If a store advertises an item at a certain price and then refuses to honor that price, it is considered deceptive advertising which is illegal in New Jersey. Also be sure to read the fine print on advertising.
• If you do decide to shop online, shop smart and be certain the website is secure or uses encryption before entering personal and credit card information.
• Ask about the return and refund policies at the stores, keep all your receipts and store tags on purchased items.
• Be aware of credit card skimming, make sure you try to keep an eye on your credit card at all times, and review your account statements carefully. Notify your bank immediately about any discrepancies you discover.
• Watch out for credit card shimming, the shim reader cards are incredibly thin and can be difficult to notice. Consumers can become aware of the presence of shims if they have difficulty inserting their cards into an ATM.
• Before putting items on layaway ask about the store's policy.
• Under New Jersey's Gift Card Act the expiration date and the dormancy fee, if any, associated with a gift card, must be disclosed. And, while gift cards may expire after five years from issuance, the funds on the card never expire.
• Check to see if charities are legitimate before you donate. Contact the Consumer Affairs department to see whether the charity you are considering donating to is registered, learn about specific charities, and get detailed financial information to find out how the charity has used donations in the past.

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