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BBB provides tips for economical, safe Halloween

By Maria-Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Halloween is about three weeks away, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) wants to make sure consumers spend their money wisely, and use safety precautions, according to a spokesman for the BBB Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia, Inc.

Mike Boynton said that, over the years, this celebration has escalated beyond just a children's event -- adults have also joined in on the festivities. The average person will spend nearly $200 on costumes, candy, cards and decorations, he said.

According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween should net stores nationwide about $6 billion this year, said Boynton.

"Big spenders can pick up a [life-size] animatronic Michael Myers, complete with knife-slashing action and a blaring snippet of the 'Halloween' theme for about $300 online," said the spokesman, in a prepared statement. "More budget-conscious frighteners can scoop up a plastic knife and a cheap rubber mask for under $10. No matter what you plan on spending, though, it's important to keep a few basic safety tips in mind, not only to protect the trick-or-treaters haunting your lawn, but to guard your homeowner's policy."

Boynton said consumers should respect sales tags that read, "Indoor Use Only," when purchasing electronic items. These instructions are common with electronic items that activate when an individual walks through its motion detector's beam. Most of these items consume a lot of electricity, are controlled by delicate electronics and are expensive, he said.

This is the reason why it wouldn't be logical to expose these items outdoors, and risk shocking a curious child, because he or she touched the item on wet ground, said Boynton.

"Even if you make every effort to duct tape the connections and ground the plugs, your liability is huge if you ignore such a simple direction," he said. Furthermore, Boynton said, individuals should make their yards accident-free, for trick-or-treaters and visitors. Even if individuals have a spooky lawn display, paths to, and from, the candy-distribution area should be clear, or visitors may trip on power cords, and tie-lines used for inflatable props, he said.

"Kids lugging around buckets of candy in ill-fitting costumes, often peeking through eyeholes in masks that give them the focal powers of a bleary groundhog, are notoriously clumsy," said Boynton.

Boynton stressed that individuals should protect and keep expensive and delicate items far away from the curious hands of visitors.

"They're going to wonder if that $500 fog-spewing, bigger-than-life, fully-lit, dancing Grim Reaper is a robot or just you in a suit, and there's nothing that spoils a circuit board faster than a steep fall off a couple of hay bails onto your neighbor's driveway or the front stoop of your house," he said.

As far as costumes go, said Boynton, people should make sure their costumes fit appropriately for full mobility. Individuals should do costume fittings before the spooky celebration, on Oct. 31. Parents should make sure their child isn't overloaded with costume accessories, because it may make it difficult to carry a candy bag, or receptacle.

"If they can circumnavigate the house without bowling over a lamp or smashing the big screen, they can probably make it along the sidewalk in safety," said Boynton.

Parents should also make sure their child is able to see through the peep holes on their mask, he said. If the child is not able to see clearly, parents can adjust the problem by making the hole bigger with scissors, he said.

In addition, parents need to make sure their child's costume is visible at night, he added. "No rules are broken, and you won't get any less candy if you blow another five or ten bucks on a flashlight or other costume-appropriate device, to make sure your goblin can be seen by motorists, haunted-house owners and other trick-or-treaters after dark," advised Boynton.

Because children will be walking a lot while trick-or-treating, they should be practical and wear comfortable-walkable shoes with their costumes, to avoid tripping and falling, he said.

"I can't tell you the number of trick-or-treaters, who have gone splat in the middle of even the-most-level sidewalk, because they've tripped over their own feet," he added.