Online Shopping: How to Be Safe and Enjoy It

Technology is making it easier and easier for us to complete various routine tasks from the comfort of our own homes. Now, we can even shop from our couch, provided we have access to an internet connection and a device to connect through.

Online shopping is amazingly convenient. You can browse through thousands of products at your own leisure, add whatever tickles your fancy to your cart, pay and expect a delivery to your door a few days later.  What could be better than that? Even food stores are catching on to the online shopping trends, and you can have your weeks’ worth of groceries delivered to your front door.

In among all the hype, there is still a lot of apprehension towards online shopping. Understandably so. Scams are rife on the internet, and there are plenty horror stories about stolen money and low quality or counterfeit products to fuel your shopping nightmares. Online shopping can sometimes be a gamble, but thankfully, there are a few ways to ensure your shopping experience remains positive. Let’s get right in!

  • Do your research

Never buy from an online store until you have thoroughly researched them. Read all the reviews available, not just on their website but on other sites and platforms as well. When a store is a sham, there will generally be multiple experiences shared by unhappy customers to warn you against them. Angry customers talk. A quick google search of the store name should pull up reviews. Facebook can also be a wonderful way of stalking a stores performance. Check what their star rating is, what previous buyers have shared about their experience with them and what their strengths and weaknesses are in order to be prepared.

If need be, inquire about them on a social media platform. A simple “has anyone used this store before?” is perfectly acceptable and could save you a lot of trouble and heart ache in the future.

  • Have realistic expectations

They say that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. This is an unfortunate fact that is all too apt for the world of online shopping. A site is claiming to be selling “genuine” Louis Vuitton bags for R500? You can bet your bottom dollar they are fake and will probably start peeling after a month or two.

Anything that is cheap in price is bound to be cheap in quality. Clothing included. It is vital to maintain realistic expectations to avoid serious disappointment. Also keep in mind that very often, photos advertising the products on the website are not the actual product which you will receive. This is especially true when shopping for clothing online. Unless it is a reputable brand name such as Sissy Boy or Nike, it is likely the clothing will differ greatly from the pictures shown. This may also be due simply to the fact that clothing can be extremely volatile in terms of the way it actually fits. Something can look amazing on the hanger, but droop and squeeze in all of the wrong places when you try it on.

  • Check the stores return/refund policies before hand

Before placing your order and making payment, check the return and refund policies. You don’t want to receive a dress you are desperately unhappy with, only to then be told they do not do refunds. If a store refuses refunds, it is probably best to walk away. They clearly have something to hide.

  • Use secure payment methods

This is extremely important. This goes hand in hand with making sure the store is legitimate and trustworthy. But no matter what store you are buying from, you should ensure you use a secure payment method. Mediums such as PayPal and PayFast help you to make secure payments as they keep your details 100% private. EFT is also a safer option in terms of keeping your details private, if the particular store allows this.

  • Do not give out any unnecessary personal information

No online store will ever require information such as your date of birth or ID number. And if they are requesting stuff such as this, RUN and do not look back. They are more than likely running a scam to steal people’s personal information. Leave the site immediately and report it to law enforcement.

  • Keep a record of your transaction and follow up on Bank Statements

Be sure to print out a receipt of your order, and save the order number as well as tracking number. This will allow you to track the progress of your order and make sure that nothing goes wrong. Also check your Bank Statements to make sure no extra money has been taken off that you have not authorized.

  • If shopping internationally, be aware of custom laws

Before you buy anything online from an international store, make sure that whatever you have purchased will be allowed through customs. Certain items, whereas seemingly harmless, may not be allowed to enter the country and you will have wasted both your time and money. There also may be taxes involved in importing certain items. Make sure you read up on the laws of customs so you are 100% sure of what you are doing. Keep in mind that the international store is not responsible for the laws in your country, and will more than likely not refund you for a product that is confiscated by customs or any taxes you were made to pay. It is your responsibility to know your laws.

  • If shopping internationally, fork out a little extra for product insurance and good quality courier service

This is another big one. Shipping costs can be daunting, especially when converting from Rands to Dollars. But paying a little extra for a private courier can mean the difference between being protected and losing your money.

Standard international postal services such as USPS are not renowned for good customer service, and tracking information is often inaccurate or not updated correctly. There will also be very little means by which to track your package once it has entered the country. You will be left at the mercy of customs delays and Post Office levels of poor, slow service. It can take anywhere from 1 month to 6 months to locate your package, and that is if you ever receive it at all. Being left in limbo and never knowing if or when you will receive your package is extremely frustrating.

Paying extra for a private courier will mean properly updated tracking information and best of all- insurance. If your package somehow goes missing, you will receive a full refund.

There you have it. 8 tips to ensure positive online shopping experiences! May the odds be ever in your favor.

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