Guest Author - Vicky Talbot
With so many shops, arcades, malls, high streets, boutiques and department stores to choose from, why would you need to look online for new shoes, a raincoat or a beautiful wedding dress? If the cyber world of online shopping has passed you by, you will have been missing out on stress-free shopping of the highest calibre – no queues, no parking tickets, no rude sales assistants, no hassle!
The main lure of online shopping for most of us who have quickly become click-happy with our credit cards in one hand and the mouse in the other is that you can shop from the comfort of your home, from your sofa in your pyjamas if you want to. You can buy birthday presents online whilst at work to save a trip into town or simply shop around for something in particular with a wealth of fashion websites at your fingertips.
As wonderful as this sounds, it is vital that every online shopper follows a few golden rules for an enjoyable, safe online shopping experience. Buying items online is incredibly easy, can often save you money and will always save you time, but there are risks that every wise shopper should be wary of when surfing for a bargain.
The World Wide Web is incredibly expansive and it can be confusing knowing where to start when looking for something specific. If you’re new to buying online, start by searching high street store websites and ease yourself in gently – there is often more choice and more scope to order various sizes, so it’s still often better than heading out to the actual store. Also, be sure to listen to other people’s recommendations – the chances are, if they have had a good experience with an online boutique or retailer, you will too. Make time to visit online forums to hear the views of others - you’ll find honest reviews from real consumers just like you. If you’re after a bargain, take advantage of the many price comparison sites out there – you’ll be able to find what you want at the best price at the click of a button.
If you’ve found that gorgeous dress and are ready to get the credit card out, be 100% sure that you are connected to a secure exchange. Online retailers are obliged to set up merchant accounts with secure, trusted payment websites whose job it is to store and keep safe your credit card details so no third parties can find out your account information. Examples include WorldPay and PayPal. There are two ways you can check that you’ve been connected to one of these “safe sites” (as the retailer will often hide these details to avoid branding confusion). Firstly the padlock icon at the foot of the web page appears – this signals that the site is secure. Also look in the address bar – the web address should start: https//www, the extra “s” stands for “secure,” ensuring that you have been relocated to a suitable buying environment in which it is safe to give your credit card details.
For extra peace of mind, look for the retailers contact details before making a purchase. These will often appear in the “Contact Us” section of the site and should provide a full postal address, telephone number and email address so you can take comfort in the fact that they are a living, breathing business who will answer any questions you may have and be accountable for any overcharges/faulty goods.
If in doubt, don’t buy online – call them up instead to put your mind well and truly at rest.
Don’t Forget your Receipt!
Unlike shopping on the high street you can’t rely on the sales assistant to pop your receipt in the bag for you once you’ve paid! Always print your confirmation record once you’ve made your transaction, or save the page in a folder so you have it in case you need proof of payment. It’s also worth checking for any hidden extras like shipping or delivery charges. Many sites often add “useful” extras into your shopping basket e.g. shoe wax to go with your new boots, or ink to go with your printer – unless you actually want it, remember to get rid before you go to the check out. Also be sure to check what the returns policy is with the online store before clicking “Buy Now” and keep track of your payment by checking your bank statements for the transactions, making sure you haven’t been overcharged.
Don’t forget to make your own computer safe! Some sites may house harmful viruses – give your PC the anti-virus treatment with a full-system scan regularly before embarking on an e-shopping spree.
Follow all of these golden rules and you can enjoy the wonders of hassle-free e-shopping. When you’re next in need of a little retail therapy but don’t have the time or energy to brave the busy high street, get online and be a safe, savvy online shopper.