Olivia isn’t sure she will be able to enjoy her wedding day.
At least not to the extent the Burnaby woman would have if she hadn’t been scammed out of thousands of dollars after buying a wedding ring from an online retailer.
“I guess it was too good to be true,” said Olivia, who used an online retailer that charged her credit card but didn’t ship the ring. “It was my dream ring and at a price that was far less than I expected … I kept waiting and asking for confirmation but my dream wedding ring never arrived. Now we’ve had to cut back on other parts of the wedding to pay for a new ring.”
Olivia said she did more research and discovered other people duped by the same site.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says it can help people planning their weddings by providing valuable information on vendors, from caterers and florists to musicians and photographers.
BBB receives many complaints each year related to wedding vendors, including wedding supplies and services, cakes, venues, caterers, limo service, consultants, photographers and videographers.
“Many of the complaints about wedding services concern difficulty reaching the business, and late delivery of products or services,” explained Karla Laird, Senior Manager of Media & Communications at BBB serving Mainland BC. “Consumers tell BBB that they ordered products like wedding dresses and wedding favours with the expectation that the products would arrive in time for the wedding, but found there were delays in delivery, without an acceptable refund or other recourse.”
BBB also sees reports about wedding vendors closing their businesses with little or no notice to their customers. When the company is out of business, it can be very hard for consumers to get their money back, even though they will not receive purchased products and services.
BBB shares the following tips to avoid common wedding woes:
- Research businesses before hiring them. Before you fall in love with a vendor, read customer reviews and check business profiles on BBB.org. Ask the business ahead of time what their plan is for delivering their product or service on time. Do they have guarantees, and if so, what?
- Check how long a business has been operating. This will help to give an indication of their level of experience in the industry. Also find out how many people are still using their services, in order to avoid paying a business that might close before they can deliver your order.
- Double-check prices. If you've learned about a vendor at a bridal expo or other special event, make sure you ask if prices are the same after the event. Be careful of high-pressure sales tactics to make you commit to a product or service on the spot.
- Unexpected fees. Some caterers, hotels or reception venues may charge extra for “plate splitting,” “cake-cutting” or “corkage”. Ask whether any fees apply beyond the cost per person, gratuities or room rental, if applicable.
- Dresses that don’t measure up. Brides have complained to BBB about bridal shops ordering the wrong sizes and colours for gowns, as well as dresses that arrive too late for timely alterations. Make sure your order is sized to fit you and your bridesmaids. Remind the shop of your schedule in advance.
- Wedding transportation problems. Complaints about limousine companies include poor customer service and rigid cancellation policies. Get details in writing. Ask how the company handles problems if you are not satisfied and what they will charge if you need the vehicle longer on your wedding day.
- Musician switch. Couples should avoid relying solely on a website, demo tape or phone conversation when hiring a band or other music service. Find out where you can hear the musicians play live before you hire them. Ask who will actually perform at the reception and get a written commitment from the band or musician, including the amount of time they will play and costs to extend the time on the night of the event if necessary.
- Photographer issues. A common complaint is that the photographer does not show up for the wedding or fails to deliver pictures until months after the wedding. Find out when and how pictures will be delivered, whether you will have the option of getting digital copies of all the images, how much time you will have to choose the pictures and whether other members of your family or wedding party will have access to the pictures.
- Floral changes. Fresh flowers are a perishable commodity, and the final bouquet or arrangements may need to change depending on what is available on the wedding day. Make sure you spell out a minimum size or number of stems in each bouquet or arrangement. Ask how the florist will handle any last-minute substitutions and charges, especially if the value of the flowers actually used is markedly different from what was agreed.
- Get it in writing. Get all sales promises and oral agreements in writing, including specific dates, products, prices, and brands. Cancellation policies should also be included.
- Pay with a credit card. Avoid paying in cash up-front for products and services. If you pay by credit card, you have protection in the event of a problem.