Drool on the Frog

Monday, December 01, 2008

Shopping Online Part 1

My sister asked me this week where MyGeek and I shop online. She was so thrilled with the information I thought I'd post it for everyone here.

We've done a lot of shopping on-line for years and we've had pretty good luck. This is because we either buy from reliable stores (referrals) or we buy from brand name stores. And that's it. You can always find a better price but you don't always know what you're getting. If you get a bad product, this is where the ease of online shopping ends. There's no store front, and as we recently learned, sometimes a customer service number is just connected to a dead-end answering machine.

Since CyberMonday has already passed and this post topic came to me late, this week I’ll post my general rules of thumb for shopping online. Next week I’ll give a very brief list of our most trusted online stores, and, finally, discuss why you would even want to shop online.

Here are my general rules of thumb:
  1. Buy brands that you've heard of. This is especially true for high dollar items and/or electronics. Even if you buy from warehouse sites like Woot.com, try to stick with brands you know. This way you at least know you're getting a reliable product. If the product turns out to be a dud and the company you bought it from is also, the brand name company might be easier to work with and more likely to want to keep it's good reputation by making you a happy customer.

  2. Avoid buying refurbished products. You will see this mostly with electronics, especially on sites that don't specialize but carry everything from cameras to bean bag chairs. Be sure to read the product description. There may be a tag that says "Condition" and will list whether it's “New” or “Refurbished”. The problem with these sites is that you don't know who refurbished the item and it's not likely there's any technical support if the product doesn't work. Usually these companies only have sales reps. I don't recommend buying refurbished electronics unless you're buying them directly from the manufacturer. For example, Apple. I bought my MacBook Pro refurbed but I bought it directly from Apple. It came with the same warranty as a new MacBook Pro and Apple has good customer service.

  3. Buy from reputable on-line stores or from brand name stores. Find out where your friends, family, and co-workers buy online. If you have a local store that you like, look them up online. More than likely, they have an online store. The same is true for your trusted mail order companies. For example, if you have a brand of clothes you love like Land's End, buy online. They have great customer service.

  4. Buy if you know they have a storefront somewhere. A storefront means they have a physical location you can either visit or call if you have problems with their product or online ordering. More than likely, if they have a store front they also have well established customer service for their online store as well, but at least you have a backup plan and a little confidence that they exist somewhere besides their mother's basement. An online store does not have to have a storefront to be considered reliable. There are plenty of reputable online stores, like Buy.com, that started out online and have stayed there.

  5. Buy on sites with secure shopping. If you follow the general rules I have outlined here, you're going to end up on a site with secure shopping. But, if you're not sure, check the bottom right hand corner of your window when you go to checkout. There should be a little padlock image there. If the padlock is in the locked position, the site is secure. If it is unlocked, the site is not secure. This icon only appears once you get to the checkout process.
Can’t wait until next week for my online shopping list? I have one word for you.
Amazon.

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