Americans are expected to spend $6.4 billion on Halloween costumes, candy and merchandise this year, and much of it will be at "pop up" stores that vanish like ghosts when the season is over.

So what happens if consumers purchase goods that need to be returned or exchanged once these seasonal stores disappear?

With the holiday just a couple weeks away, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs is offering some advice to Halloween enthusiasts who plan to shop for creepy costumes and ghoulish goods at these temporary retail stores that are open for several weeks and then close just as quickly.

"The stores are a frenzy of pre-Halloween activity," the DCA said in a statement. "But they often pack up and clear out of their rented space long before the last piece of Halloween candy has been eaten."

Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said consumers should be extra careful when shopping at these pop-up stores and “know what questions to ask to avoid getting shortchanged.”

Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said there's little recourse for shoppers who want to return merchandise after a store has already shut down.

“When a consumer returns to a store to complain about a defective item and finds the merchant has packed up and left without a trace, there is not much hope of getting a refund," Lee said.

The DCA has inspected 23 Halloween stores in New Jersey to ensure compliance with laws regarding refund policy postings and pricing. The agency says stores in the state are required to clearly label all items with a price and post their refund policy someplace visible. No violations were found during the inspections, the DCA said in a statement.

The DCA has offered several tips for consumers who plan to shop at a Halloween pop-up store:

  • Find out how long the store plans to occupy the space before they close;
  • Ask store employees of there's an alternate way of reaching them once the store closes such as a website, email address or alternate location;
  • Ask specific questions about the store's return policy, such as what type of merchandise the store will take back and how to redeem credit after the store closes;
  • When shopping, be sure to try on costumes and check packages before leaving the store;
  • Whenever possible, shop at stores that have a successful reputation and tend to return to the same location annually; and
  • Save receipts and pay with a credit card so that unsatisfactory purchases can be disputed through the credit card company if needed.

Shoppers who believe they have been scammed by a business can file an online complaint with the DCA by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846.

Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.

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