Shopping and Shipping 2020 Style

If you ask us to pick one word to define the 2020 holiday shopping season, we’d say “paradoxical.” With the pressure on to buy early and ship early, there’s no doubt you need to move fast. But at the same time, you should take a step back and carefully consider everything you do.

First, why the rush? Why do you need to shop early? Two reasons come to mind: 1.) You want to make sure you can get the gifts you want, and 2.) you want to make sure it can be delivered on time.

Let’s look at that second point first. It’s no secret that our major delivery services are already overtaxed. Many retailers contract with major shippers, such as UPS and FedEx, to deliver a specific number of packages during the season. They have already told the retailers they may not be able to pick up everything that’s on the loading dock every day, so it’s likely not all packages from the retailers will be delivered on schedule. We’ve seen major delays all year long because of the pandemic, and now we’re entering a time of traditionally high shipping volume. We need to take this into account if we’re ordering products that will be sent directly to the recipient.

In a sense, the retailers are competing with anyone who sends a package for that increasingly precious space on the trucks. There will be many people who will want to buy a number of items and put them in a single box to send to a family member or friend. If you’re planning on doing that this year, it’s even more reason to shop early – just so you can ship early. UPS and FedEx, which normally boast a 97 percent on-time delivery success rate, and the Postal Service, which normally boasts a 95 percent success rate, have all moved up their deadlines for the holidays.

And in the chaotic rush to send packages on time and ensure they’re received, here’s a scam tactic to look out for -fake shipping notices. We referred to it in our email, and it’s worth repeating. Scammers can send notices with fake links for tracking information. If you receive a notice, look carefully at the email address it comes from. Scammers are really good at making them look real, and it’s easy to copy and paste a logo. The better idea – if you want someone to know you sent something – is to send them the tracking info directly without any links to a website. The recipient can go to the website from a browser and add the tracking info.

Now for the products.

Don’t be so bargain-obsessed that you get sucked into a trap. There are too many to describe out there. If you see a price that’s too good to be true, be wary. This is the time of year that fake stores pop up online, including those that claim to be Amazon stores. When you do your comparison shopping, look at more than just the price. Look into the retailer. Sellers get ratings and comments just like products, and you should go to independent rating sites for retailers just like you do for products.

Make sure that phone numbers and addresses on store sites are genuine, so you can contact the seller in case of problems. Also take a second look at URLs and app names. Misplaced or transposed letters are a scam giveaway but easy to miss. Finally, carefully read delivery, exchange, refund and privacy policies. If they are vague or nonexistent, take your business elsewhere.

If you see a really good price, make sure it’s for a current model of a product – or understand you’re getting a clearance price on an older, lesser or discontinued model. That can be especially true with electronics.

Once you’re satisfied, you’re buying a legit product from a legit seller, use a credit card to pay for it – and make sure the site has the proper security. That can be tough because it’s easy for a scammer to use a fake https:// in the URL and just as easy to throw up any kind of graphic. You can always pick up the phone to complete an order. Don’t pay by wire transfer, money order or gift card. You won’t have any way to effectively dispute any charges if you’re dissatisfied with the purchase or have been duped. Sellers that demand these types of payments are generally scammers.

If you’re giving a gift to someone in your household or nearby, ordering online and picking it up at the store may solve a number of potential problems. You’ll be able to verify you got what you ordered, and you won’t need to worry about shipping delays. We’ve been using curbside pickup more and more and highly recommend it if it’s a feasible option.

We’re here to help in many ways during this holiday season. If you think you may have accidentally compromised your online security in any way, call us – 973-433-6676 – immediately. If you need help with setting up electronic gifts, email us.