WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Shopping for gifts this holiday season is stressful enough. There are a few steps you can take to avoid common problems such as unsafe toys and gifts that can't be returned.
Attorney General Roy Cooper is urging shoppers this holiday season to shop a little smarter through checking up on safety recalls, gift card rules and return policies.
"I think we have to be nowadays with the economy and all with the way it is we have to be smart shoppers or look into it, at least I do," holiday shopper Ruth Bridges said.
As you head to the store this holiday season, you're probably looking deals and not thinking much about the safety of what you're buying, but thousands of products are recalled each year for safety reasons. The Consumer Product Safety Commission keeps a list on its website. You can even check it on your smartphone while shopping.
Gift cards can also be a problem. They may seem like a convenient purchase, but it's important to check the expiration date and if extra fees are attached.
"Definitely I would check to see if there is an expiration date with gift cards. I mean there are numbers on the back that you can call," said Erica Rodgers, a team leader at Target in Wilmington. "Always check your balance to make sure that they have activated your gift card. I would say that's one of the biggest things to watch out for."
Also watch out for refund and return policies, which vary from store to store. Retailers may offer store credit instead of a cash refund or even charge a restocking fee for a return.
"Always definitely keep your receipts in case anything happens, but I definitely think the return policy is huge this season because we all know that people buy things, they don't want it, you know things like that happen," Rodgers said.
The Attorney General also advises shoppers to buy from well-established retailers. This increases the odds that you'll be able to return something if needed.
When shopping for computers, phones or other devices with internet access, Cooper says it is vital that you enable filtering software and parental monitoring.