Halloween Costume Shopping: Trick or Treat?

It’s that time of the year when seemingly normal people can transform into absolute monsters looking for the perfect Halloween costume. Finding a large enough selection, with the right balance of unique and cost-effective costumes, has many would-be naughty nurses, peg-legged pirates and Jedis-in-training, navigating sites rather than streets. Scary, sexy, funny, original or just plain cheap, the internet can offer a spooktacular array of Halloween costumes for shoppers to choose from. Sitejabber reviewers have shared countless bone-chilling tales of shopping for costumes online gone wrong.

Here are some of the tricks you should watch out for while shopping this year:

1) Ghoulish Shipping — Many discount costume shops online source their inventory directly from Chinese suppliers and have less control over delivery dates than domestic shops which carry inventory. Ordering your costume early, having it miss the delivery date, and seeing it delivered after your party can lead to a truly nightmarish Halloween. Over 25% of Sitejabber reviewers had their costumes arrive too late to use despite promises of a pre-Halloween delivery. Make sure to check reviews before buying last minute to make sure shipping can be done on time and that you’re dealing with a reliable company. “We purchased our costumes online with a promised delivery date of 10/27. I received the tracking a few days later and it said it would not deliver until 10/31. We needed it sooner than 10/31 since we had a party.” – Nichole M

2) Ghostly Refund Policies — About 27% of costume-party-going reviewers had problems getting their refunds. Some online costume shops refuse to take October returns and other sites simply claim costumes have been worn and refuse refunds. Regardless of the refund policy stated on the website, make sure you check for reviews from previous customers to understand how returns and refunds are actually handled. “Costumes were never received and they won’t refund my money. DO NOT USE THIS COMPANY!!!” – Jennifer K

3) Zombie Customer Service — Another 32% of reviewers felt like they had been routed to the walking dead instead of a customer service department. Make sure to specifically look at the “service” rating of online costume stores while reading reviews. “What I received was not at all what I ordered, live chat disconnected when attempting to resolve the situation, then no response to email…” – Mike L

4) Mutated Costumes — Finally, another 12% of costume-seekers found that their costume had mutated into something other than what they had ordered, most often through the wrong size or a damaged costume arriving. Costume emergencies arising from poor packaging or careless attention to detail by online shops do happen so be prepared with a backup costume if the need should arise. “Four months ago I ordered some weapons and a cosplay. It took months for one of my items to arrive and it arrived broken. I emailed them various times asking for a refund and where my other items went. They insisted they refunded it but my bank statement tells another story. My other items never arrived. I spent $700 and I have nothing to show for it.” – Alyssah H

Despite our spooky warnings, you shouldn’t be afraid to buy your costume online this Halloween. Many reliable online costume shops exist allowing you to shop for the perfectly unique costume at a great price.

Etsy (reviews) — Etsy has delighted many Sitejabber members who were able to find everything from unique costumes to handmade crafts. The only caveat is to make certain to have good communication with the seller to ensure you get your costume in time. “I have made a number of purchases from this shop and been delighted with their service. The owner is highly professional and the merchandise is always accurately described. Not only that but the merchant is an academic writer and includes links to the many papers and books she has written on the subject of costume. Included too are contemporary pictures of many of the items being worn by Victorian and 1920s ladies.” – N.L.

Michaels (reviews) — One of the most cost-effective ways to have a unique costume is to make it yourself. Websites like Michaels offer all of the materials you need. They even have a special section for Halloween this time of year. “I never buy the traditional superhero costumes for my kids and instead head over to Michaels and for much less money you can put together a better costume than you could ever buy. Michaels even has some guides to help you buy the correct materials and assemble it yourself.” – Elizabeth Z

For children’s Halloween costumes don’t forget about Toys-R-Us (reviews) and The Disney Store (reviews) as both of those stores have great return policies and a wide selection of costumes online. You’re much less likely to run into sizing, shipping or quality issues when you shop with established companies.

PartyCity (reviews), Spirit Halloween (reviews), Spencer’s (reviews)  and Hot Topic (reviews) all have brick and mortar shops and online stores. You may find a better selection online and all of these stores are backed by large corporations. If you read the reviews about these stores on Sitejabber, you will see both positive and negative experiences, so just be cautious even when buying from major brands during this time of year.

Costume shopping needn’t be a hair-raising experience. Always be sure to pay close attention to sizing information, shipping time frames and return policies to ensure your quest for the perfect Halloween costume is a success.