As the holidays draw nearer, we can expect even more consumers to hit the malls or online shops. In fact, recent data by Shops.org says that retail web sales will increase by 12% compared to last year’s holiday shopping season,and it’s expected to fetch between $92billion to $96 billion. Forrester Research also forecasts that online shopping spending in the US will reach a whopping $327 billion in 2016, up 62% from $202 billion in 2011. Given the increasing popularity of online shopping, here are some guidelines you might want to keep in mind when buying from your favorite e-stores.
Read the Fine Print
Items should generally have a detailed description. For example, if you’re buying second-hand books, you’d usually see if the book is in excellent, good, or fair condition. Each of these categories would usually have an accompanying description (such as “doodles on the page”, “missing dust jacket”, etc.). If you’re shopping for clothes, there would also usually be precise measurements and a note if the item is used or not. If no description exists, contact the seller and ask for a description of the item before you buy it. Sometimes, your definition of “good” is not the same as the seller’s definition.
In addition, you should also read about the merchant’s additional fees, like shipping fees and restocking fees. Shipping can be free or come with certain charges depending on whether it will be via express or regular shipping. If you’re going to have your item shipped instead of picked up, make sure that you ask for a tracking number so you can track your purchase through the courier. Restocking fees, meanwhile, are fees on returned items. Some are reasonable, but some can also be hard to swallow. Before checking out your item, read the store’s return policies.
Another item you should read is other customers’ feedback on the store. Be wise in checking this as some would post fake reviews of their products. Also, even though you see a 98% positive rating, it’s still best to read the actual reviews. Sometimes, because of the number of shoppers, the most negative reviews worthy of your consideration get buried online.
Shop only at secure websites
Secure sites use encryption technology to transfer information from your personal computer to the e-store’s computer. Symbols on the screen such as unbroken key or a closed padlock will tell you that the website is secure. Another way is to look at the address bar and check if it displays “https://” instead of “http://”. In addition, read the privacy and security policy of the merchant. This will determine which information is gathered and is shared (or not shared) with others. If the merchant does not have a privacy and security policy, consider taking your business elsewhere.
Use the card
The safest way to pay for your purchases is to use a credit card, because you’re protected by laws. The Fair Credit Billing Act protects you from fraud and identity theft if you decide to use plastic. Meanwhile, the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act makes it illegal for online sellers to give out your credit card number and any other financial account number to a third party for sales purposes, a practice called data passing. Also, unlike debit cards, which draw directly from your bank account, credit cards only represent an extension of your credit. Some banks also offer single-use credit cards, which expire after one transaction. You’re also given extra protection with a single-use credit card, since only the credit card company should know which account the card is linked to.
Be a safe online shopper and you’ll find your holiday shopping to be a convenient and pleasurable experience.