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Shopping Safety Tips for the Holidays

The average American plans to spend $998 on gifts and other holiday items this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. While that’s not as high as pre-pandemic years, it will still be a busy time for both online and brick and mortar retailers.

However, all that hustle and bustle can create opportunities for real-life grinches. This time of year, thieves, pickpockets and porch pirates are on the prowl to pilfer your packages. But you can outsmart them!

Here’s how to stay aware – and keep your holiday haul safe.

‘Tis The Season For (Safe) Holiday Shopping

Though many of us still plan to shop online this year, you might still decide to make a quick trip to the mall or your favorite local shops.

Keep these quick safety tips in mind when you’re out and about.

  • Travel light. If you’re distracted, a bulky purse can be an easy target for pickpockets. Leave your purse at home if you can, and travel with only your most necessary credit card or cash. Keep all personal items, like your phone and keys, close to you in a tight pocket or small, zipped bag.
  • Be a picky parker. Shopping during daylight hours is probably safer, especially when you’re passing through the parking lot with bags full of gifts. But night shopping, especially with the season’s shorter daylight hours and hectic work schedules, is a necessity for many. To avoid making yourself a target, park your car in a well-lit area as close to the entrance as possible. If your car is broken into, here’s what you should do next. 
  • Stay aware and walk with a purpose. No matter how stressed or rushed you may feel, take a breath and pay attention to your surroundings. Before heading out to your car, have your keys ready. Then, you won’t need to set your purse or packages down to fumble around for them. If you feel unsafe walking alone in the parking facilities, request a security guard to escort you.
  • Drive with caution. Whether entering or exiting crowded parking lots or ramps, cars can pull out suddenly and people can appear from seemingly nowhere. Slow down and minimize distractions in the car to give your driving your full attention. This is one way you can avoid a fender bender in a parking lot. 
  • Keep gifts out of sight. It’s best to head straight home after your shopping trip, but that’s not always practical. If you have more errands on your list, be conscious of where you store your gifts in your vehicle. If possible, clear room in your trunk and don’t leave gifts or bags with valuables on your front seat.

Ship Your Holiday Packages With Care

Remember, this is the season for package deliveries — and package thefts. Here are some tips to keep in mind before shipping your holiday gifts:

  • Schedule accordingly. . Before you send, consider your recipient’s lifestyle and schedule. You certainly don’t want your gifts sitting outside unguarded for hours or days. Before you fill out the packing slip, give the recipient a heads up about their special delivery and get the OK to send it to their place.
  • Plan for delays. Since the pandemic began, mail and delivery services have been experiencing high volumes and schedule delays. Experts predict it’s likely to get worse over the holidays. To make sure your package arrives on time, avoid waiting until the last minute to ship it.
  • Pack carefully. Bubble wrap is always the trusted go-to in keeping just about everything in one piece. To keep smaller gifts from getting overlooked in the box, tape all the gifts together. Before you seal the shipping box with packing tape, close the lid and give the box a shake. If things are moving around too much, add more crunched-up newspaper or packing pellets.
  • Have a backup plan. Things can happen in transit. Just to be safe, put an extra mailing label inside the box. If the outer label gets wet, torn or otherwise illegible, this gives postal workers or shipping services a backup so they can get your box to the right place.
  • Get insured. Look into what your shipping carrier offers for insurance protection. Just remember that many parcels are already covered by the shipping carrier as long as they’re valued under a certain dollar amount. Check with your shipping carrier and consider purchasing additional shipping coverage for high-value items if needed. Read the fine print, take photographs of the items and hang on to the receipts until the package is safely delivered.

Looking After You… And Your Home, Too

For the holidays, you can’t beat home sweet home. From the rafters to the basement, a homeowners policy from ERIE has you covered.

Talk to your local agent for a free homeowners insurance quote, or schedule a policy review to make sure your coverage is up to date.