7 Online Shopping Mistakes You’re Probably Making
The advantages of online shopping are many: the whole world is your "mall," you can find unusual items that brick-and-mortar stores do not usually carry, you can compare from your couch, and, of course, your purchases come right to your door, often within a few days.
Still, online shopping has its downsides, which can go beyond choosing the wrong color or size. If you are not careful, you can make costly purchasing mistakes and even put your bank account at risk. To protect yourself online and increase the likelihood that you'll be happy with your purchases, think before you buy, read all the information carefully, and avoid the following pitfalls. Here is how to shop safely online and get what you want, when you want it, and at the price you expect.
1. Not checking the return policy
Since online shopping typically means buying a product without touching or trying it on, it's not uncommon to receive your order and then find that it's not quite what you expected. That's why it's important to check a website's return policy before you click "Buy Now." You do not want to find out too late that you can not return that "pale pink" shirt if it turns out to be an unflattering shade of salmon.
2. Rely too much on reviews
On the other hand, while you should always read online reviews, do not rely solely on them for product information, and certainly do not focus only on the most positive reviews. Although most reputable online retailers take measures to prevent fake or paid reviews, there are still plenty of them. Be especially suspicious of gushing reviews, reviews whose wording sounds like a script, reviews that repeat the same phrases over and over, or vague reviews that praise the product without giving details.
3. Do not shop around
Just as you would make comparisons before making a major purchase in a brick-and-mortar shop, you should also make comparisons online, especially if you are buying an expensive item. And do not automatically assume you'll always find the best prices on Amazon; for many products, you may find the same or better deals elsewhere. Comparison websites like Google Shopping and Yahoo Shopping make it easy for you to find the best deals wherever they are found.
4. Shop personal information
While it's admittedly convenient to shop your credit card information on your favorite shopping websites, it's a dangerous habit. In this age of sophisticated hackers and information thieves, merchant databases are sometimes attacked, which means your credit card number and personal information could be stolen and sold to an unscrupulous buyer. Take a few seconds to enter your credit card number, address and email address every time you make a purchase, instead of storing the data online.
5. Ignore shipping costs
In some cases, shipping costs can be higher than the actual price of an item. Do not discover this after you have placed the order. Always check shipping costs and consider whether it's worth it to you - and your money - to increase your order until a "Free Shipping" benchmark is reached, or whether it would be better to shop elsewhere. Also pay attention to the retailer's shipping method and schedule. If you are in a hurry, you do not want to click "Buy" only to find that it takes a week for your item to be delivered.
6. Do not use coupon codes
Coupon codes or promo codes for major online retailers abound. They can often provide you with substantial savings, such as free shipping or a percentage off your order. It's worth receiving emails from your favorite websites to keep you up to date on special offers and sales. If you want to save but do not want to clutter your inbox, check sites like RetailMeNot.com or Coupons.com for current deals from a variety of online retailers.
7. Use public Wi-Fi
Relaxing at your favorite coffee shop, phone in hand and credit card in hand, may be pleasant, but that good feeling will quickly evaporate if you discover that your personal information - including your bank account - has been hacked. While most retail websites now encrypt your data for protection, it's still possible for a sophisticated hacker to exploit public Wi-Fi vulnerabilities to steal your credit card number and personal information. Instead, use your downtime to shop, but wait until you are back home to place your order.