As sure as the sun will come up, Monday, Dec. 2 – Cyber Monday this year – will be the busiest day of the year for online shopping. There are traps and pitfalls all over the place. Here are some ways to avoid them.
- If it’s too good to be true… You know that line: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” Have a healthy skepticism about prices, shipping costs, return policies and the rest of the “fine print.”
- Look for free shipping. There is a lot of competition for your business, and there are many ways for online retailers to put together a deal for you. Once you start to compare the prices, you’ll find some really low prices and prices that are lower than the average of all the places you’ve shopped. Free shipping can be a real deal maker with all things being equal. With all of the competition and all of the deals, you shouldn’t pay for shipping. Besides, shipping costs are one of those blind items when you buy. A retailer can offer you an unbelievably low price and make a ton of money on the shipping charge. So, look for a good price with free shipping, and you’ll likely get a better value.
- Check merchant reviews. I buy a lot of merchandise online and do a lot of research for clients, and reviews hold a lot of weight. I look for places in the middle of a price range, and I look for patterns in recent reviews. Is there a rant or a litany of problems? With the rise of social media, we find ourselves taking the advice of people we’ve never met, so you really need to read them carefully and see if there’s anything going on “between the lines,” so don’t be afraid to drill down to satisfy your good or bad impressions. There are severe penalties for fraudulent reviews. If a merchant has a lot of reviews, most of them should be positive – if not glowing. Major chains with a strong Internet presence and good reviews should be your most reliable source.
- Make sure the item is in stock or available in a reasonable time. If you need to have a product delivered by a specific date, make sure the merchant can make it happen.
- Read all of the website’s policies carefully. Every merchant should have clear policies about returns and any charges associated with returns. Make sure you understand them and they are acceptable to you. You don’t want to buy something – or give something as a gift – and then find that it’s impossible or next to impossible to return the item or exchange it. If you can’t understand a policy or set of conditions or can’t get straight answers to your questions, buy the product somewhere else.
- Use a credit card. Credit cards are the only way to have some recourse when you have a dispute with a merchant. When you use a credit card, the credit card company stays in the middle of the transaction. It gives the merchant faster access to the money from your purchase (for a fee) and collects the money from you, collecting interest on unpaid balances. If you have a legitimate complaint, the credit card company has the clout to reverse the transaction – and it also has a vested interest in making sure the merchant conducts business properly. When you use a debit card, the merchant draws the money directly out of your bank account – just like if you paid cash. If you have a dispute with the merchant, you’ll have to fight that battle by yourself.
- Think about what you’re buying. We discussed a number of points to consider to get the best deal online. You should also pay attention to what you’re buying. We’ll use cameras as an example. Some of you might be thinking about giving somebody a new DSLR. People who really get into the fine art of photography may really appreciate one, but they are likely to be very particular about the camera’s features and capabilities. You might be better off giving that person a point-and-shoot camera if they just want to take pictures and not make pictures bigger than 8 x 10. And, if they just want to take pictures to share immediately online, a better smartphone with built-in camera for stills and videos might do the trick. We’ll be seeing lots of tempting new gadgets, so run your own reality check to make sure whatever you buy is appropriate.
- Don’t feel pressured. Not sure about something? Wait a day. You might pay a few extra dollars over the Cyber Monday price if you wait a day or two, but you might find it’s worth the peace of mind to make sure that you bought the right product from the right merchant at the right price.
We can help you have a better shopping experience. We buy a lot of products online, and we love looking at all kinds of technology and gadgets. Email or call us – 973-433-6676 – with any questions you have for the holiday season. We want to keep the “happy” in the holiday season.
- 21 Nov, 2013
- Norman Rosenthal
- 0 Comments
- cyber monday, online safety, online shopping,