Important tips for online shopping!

Question

I am interested in trying to purchase items online for this holiday season. What should I know before I get started?

-Patrick

Answer

This question was answered on November 22, 2000. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

An estimated 25 million Americans shopped online last Christmas season and the predictions are that more than $11 billion will be spent online this holiday season Virtually everyone that shopped online last year had complaints of one type or another, whether it was timely shipments, website functionality or product availability.

Online merchants claimed to have learned a lot from last years problems and have made improvements to their systems, but the fact remains that customer service is the single largest gap between traditional brick and mortar retailers and their online counterparts.

Understanding the basics of online shopping can save you lots of heartburn, so here are a few rules to follow when making purchases online:

- Always use a credit card for online purchases; never use a debit card Debit cards dont generally provide you with protection from fraud because the money comes directly out of your checking account when you make a purchase.

- Always review the privacy policy on a website before making a purchase Also look to see what their policies concerning returns and refunds are A recent survey showed that 72% o e-tailers provide unconditional money-back guarantees  look for those sites.

- Always make sure that you are on a secured web page before inputting any personal or credit card information Look for https:// at the beginning of the web address or the yellow lock that appears at the bottom right of the web browser.

- Always print a copy of an order in case of problems Without a printed copy of what you ordered and the details that you agreed upon, you will not have a leg to stand on when a problem arises.

- Place orders early! Try not to order anything online after December 14th if you want it to arrive before Christmas day This gives you some time in case the e-tailer is unable to ship the product on time (This happened to my wife last year!)

- Avoid purchasing hard to get items online (like last years GameBoy) if the item is listed as a back ordered item Paying a little more for the item from a traditional retail store is better than saving money on something that may not ever show up.

- Use ShopBots such as <a href="http://www.mysimon.com"><font color="#003399">www.mysimon.com</font></a> to comparison shop Be sure to sort by price by clicking on the word price since ShopBots allow retailers to buy positioning at the top of a list even if they dont have the lowest price.

- Online shopping provides a certain convenience, not necessarily the lowest price Be sure to check online prices against traditional merchants ads unless the convenience is all that matters to you.

- If you are not familiar with an e-tailer, check them out at sites like <a href="http://www.bizrate.com"><font color="#003399">www.bizrate.com</font></a> or <a href="http://www.gomez.com"><font color="#003399">www.gomez.com</font></a> These sites rate e-tailers based on various criteria such as shipping on-time, security and overall performance.

- A brand new service that monitors your personal data and credit report will alert you when an indication of fraud appears in your credit report For a limited time (until Dec 31st), you can sign up for free for this service that is powered by Equifax at <a href="http://www.privista.com"><font color="#003399">www.privista.com</font></a>.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on November 22, 2000