n November it is common for Costa Ricans to be doing their Christmas shopping, as retailers announce their deals and discounts for the shopping season, getting more aggressive by the end of the month with the “Aguinaldo” – annual bonus around the corner.

In Costa Rica the Christmas shopping season actually starts in September – yes, September – as retailers begin putting up Christmas holiday decorations and put out their stock, rather than keep it in the warehouse.

This early season approach to Christmas is not part of any marketing plan, rather a practical approach to the fact that stock for the holiday season arrives early in Costa Rica, for the container shipments will be focusing on the big markets to the north. Retailers also give shoppers and early start with lay-aways or “apartados” as they care called in Costa Rica.

According to Cynthia Zapata, head of the Office of Consumer Support (Oficina de Apoyo Consumidor) of the Ministery of Consumer Affairs, consumers should shop around to ensure the best price.

Footwork is the best guarantee to get the best price for this holiday season shopping.

Zapata also asks consumers to ask for warranty and return policies, making sure that they are getting a warranty for their purchase. In addition, Zapata says that retailers want to improve transperancy, but htat can only be achieved with a good consumer practice.

The consumer support office has these recommendations:

  • Have an established budget
  • Make a list of things you want to buy
  • Buy only what is needed and not only to spend money
  • Take into account that consumers are entited to be informed of the before and after price
  • Report any misleading practices, like offering a discount for cash and not with a credit card
  • Compare prices
  • And, ALWAYAS ask for a receipt for your purchases