Christmas is fast approaching, and you may be thinking about saving money by doing some of your shopping online. But there’s something holding you back… fear and uncertainty. You hear horror stories about people who used their credit card online and got their identity stolen, or people who paid for an item and never received it, or even of people who purchased something and were unhappy with it, and could not return it. Shopping online can be stressful if you’re uncertain of what you’re doing, but with a few helpful tips, you can turn that experience into a sigh of relief instead.
1) The number one important rule for shopping online is to know who you’re buying from. You want to be sure that the site you’re buying from is legitimate and has good reviews. Sites like amazon.com or buy.com are online superstores that have been running for years with high quality customer service and few complaints. If you’re unsure of a site’s legitimacy, check with the Better Business Bureau online for complaints. If you’re uncomfortable buying from somewhere then don’t take the chance. Ask friends and family where they’ve had good online shopping experiences, and where they avoid.
2) Setting up a Paypal account can save you a headache and save your identity from being stolen. Services like paypal allow you to pay for things online without using your debit card, therefore keeping your identity hidden. Paypal accounts are free and are accepted at most online stores. Paypal is reliable and can be linked with your bank account, and used just like an online debit card.
3) Do research. The best sites to buy from are sites like Amazon which offer users a chance to review items they’ve purchased. Most people who are dissatisfied with online purchases are people who didn’t research the product they were buying and ended up with something they didn’t want and weren’t able to return. When reading product reviews, be sure to read one star reviews and five star reviews. You want to know if a product is likely to break, or if there will be a problem with customer service after a product is purchased. Weigh the good reviews with the bad ones and decide if defects or other downfalls are something you can live with. If the site you’re buying from doesn’t have a review for the product you’re looking at, look elsewhere online.
4) Order in time to receive the product. If you’re going to purchase a product as a Christmas or birthday present, don’t wait until the week or even two weeks before to buy it. You can’t always count on next day delivery, especially during holiday shipping seasons. When ordering a Christmas present, start in early November to ensure the gift will arrive before Christmas. It’s a big disappointment to order something and have it arrive after new years when you had planned on giving it to somebody Christmas day.
5) Read the product description. Don’t assume you’re buying what’s in the picture. Read the product description to be sure of exactly what you’re purchasing. You don’t want to be disappointed to open the box you just got in the mail to find an iPod case instead of the iPod iteself.
6) If it seems to good to be true, it might be. There are many sites out there that will offer you a big screen TV for $50. If it seems too good to be true, check out the site with the Better Business Bureau, or check on Google to see if the site is a scam.
7) Compare prices. Sites like Amazon.com give you the option of buying new or used from Amazon itself or from other companies. Some items like books are worth buying used for less than half of what they are new. When buying used items read the product description carefully, and look at the seller’s rating. A seller with bad ratings is likely sending out bad products.
8) Beware of scammers. Sometimes there are scammers on legitimate websites like craigslist.org. You can often buy new and used things in your area on craigslist.org for a decent price, and most people selling on these sites are legitimate. There are however scammers who will ask you to send them money before they give you the product. Avoid scammers on these sites by buying locally, where you can meet the person selling the item in a public place, view the item for yourself, and then exchange money for the item. Use common sense when dealing with these types of websites.
You can have a happy, stress-free online shopping experience by using common sense and by following the above tips. Don’t become one of those unhappy online shoppers by not knowing what product you’re buying, or by getting scammed. Instead sit back and relax while your new discount purchase makes its way towards you, knowing that you purchased from a legitimate company at a great price!