The Benefits of Online Shopping Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular for a variety of reasons. There are certainly outside factors such as increasing gas prices, difficulty getting to traditional stores and the hassles often associated with shopping in malls and other traditional stores may contribute to the increased interest in online shopping. However, there are also many benefits which make online shopping an excellent option for many busy shoppers. Some of these benefits include convenience, comparison shopping capabilities and express shipping options and this article will discuss each of these benefits in further detail. The Convenience of Online Shopping One of the most obvious benefits of online shopping which cannot be overlooked is convenience. One of the most enjoyable conveniences of online shopping which is enjoyed by many is the ability to shop for products or services at a time which is convenient for the consumer. Online retailers accept orders twenty four hours a day while consumers who wish to shop at traditional stores have to be available to visit the store during normal business hours. This can be a major inconvenience especially for shoppers who work long hours or shoppers who work odd hours. Online shopping eliminates this concern because shoppers can simply access online stores from their computer whenever they have free time available. Another convenience of online shopping is the ability to order products from around the world. Shoppers are no longer limited to products offered by local retailers because the vast majority of online retailers offer shipping to many different locations. This can make it easy for online shoppers to acquire hard to find items or items which are a regional specialty of a particular area. Comparison Shopping when Online Shopping Another great benefit of online shopping is the ability to comparison shop easily. Instead of running around to several different traditional stores and trying to remember or write down details such as prices and features, the shopper can simply open two or more browsers to easily compare more than one item. Additionally, there are several websites and online retailers which make comparison shopping even easier. These websites may even provide charts which compare features for similar products to enable the online shopper to make an accurate comparison of two or more items before making a purchase. Another advantage to comparison shopping online is it gives the consumer the ability to compare items which may not be available in his location. This is important because some items may only be available in certain parts of the country. This can make comparing items difficult for traditional shoppers. However, online shoppers are easily able to make these comparisons and learn more about similar products which helps them to make the best possible decision. Using Express Shipping Options when Shopping Online One of the distinct advantages of online shopping is the shipping methods which are available. These options are especially beneficial to online shoppers who are guilty of often waiting until the last minute to purchase items as gifts or items that are necessary for other reasons. For these online shoppers express shipping is one of the most beneficial features. Although the shopper will pay significantly more for express shipping options the shopper will have the advantage of being able to purchase an item the day before it is necessary and have the item delivered directly to the necessary party. Other beneficial shipping options often include the inclusion of gift receipts as well as gift wrapping options. This is especially important for online shoppers who are interested in sending gifts to friends and family members. This can save the online shopper a great deal of time because they can have the gift shipped directly to the friend or family member as opposed to having the gift shipped to themselves first and then having to wrap the gift and re-ship it to the recipient. The ability to send gift receipts are also important because it enables the recipient of the gift to return or exchange the item but does not divulge the price paid for the gift. Comparison Shopping when Online Shopping One of the conveniences of online shopping which is enjoyed by many is the ease of comparison shopping. The ability to compare items quickly and accurate is ideal to shoppers who are looking to purchase items which offer the best features as well as to shoppers who are looking to find the best bargain on a particular item. This article will discuss a few of the ways in which comparison shopping takes place during online shopping including manual comparisons by the consumer and using comparison charts. This article will also discuss how items which are not readily available in traditional stores can be compared quickly and accurately when shopping for these items online. Conducting Your Own Comparisons Online shoppers often perform comparisons of items online in much the same way they would compare items available in traditional stores. However, the comparison process is greatly simplified when the consumer is doing the comparison online. When comparing two items a consumer may look at a variety of different aspects. Some of these aspects may include available features, durability, aesthetic appearance and even price. However, when comparing these items in traditional stores the process can be rather difficult. Consumers can often compare similar items in one store to determine which model of the item they prefer. However, once this comparison is complete the consumer also typically wishes to compare this chosen item with others available in terms of the cost of the item. This financial comparison typically involves traveling from one store to another and comparing the price of the item at each store to determine which store is offering the item at the most favorable price. Online shoppers may also be interested in comparing the features and prices associated with a particular item but they have the advantage of being able to conduct these comparisons from the convenience of their home. Consumers can simply sit at their home computer and visit websites for retailers offering items of interest. With this information the consumer can determine which item they wish to purchase and which retailer they wish to patronize. The online shopper can also make this purchase from the convenience of his home rather than having to travel to the selected store to purchase a chosen item. Using Comparison Charts Available Online Another great advantage of shopping online is the ability to generate comparison charts of similar items almost instantly. Many online retailers who offer products from a number of different manufacturers also offer the ability to compare these items easily. In fact many online retailers will enable the online shopper to select several items they are interested in learning more about and then generates a chart outlining the essential features of each product as well as the price for which the product is being offered. Comparing Items Not Readily Available Another way in which online shopping is very convenient for comparison shopping is it gives the consumer the opportunity to compare items which are not readily available. This may include items which are new and popular as well as items which are older and rarer. Making these comparisons in traditional stores can be quite difficult because the consumer may not be able to find stores which are currently stocking a particular item. However, when shopping online it is far easier to find online retailers who offer products which are otherwise hard to fine. Therefore, it is much easier to compare these items online. This is because the comparison can take place even if the online retailer does not have the product available for sale. The online retailer likely has enough of a product description stored to provide readers with a wealth of information about the products which may not currently be available. Conversely shoppers who rely on traditional stores may spend days, weeks, months or even years waiting for a particular product to become available for comparison purposes. Easy Returns with Online Shopping One of the main concerns potential online shoppers have about the process of shopping online is whether or not it will be possible to return items which were purchased online. This is certainly a valid concern but fortunately for these wary shoppers making returns when online shopping is not very difficult. There are usually a few different options for making returns when online shopping. However, online shoppers should always be aware of return policies before they make an online purchase. This article will discuss a couple of the options for making returns when online shopping including returning the items to a traditional store and shipping the items back to the online retailer. Returning Online Purchases to a Traditional Store Online retailers who also have traditional stores often allow consumers to return items to the regular store instead of having to ship the item back to the online retailer. This is generally an option for large retailers who have a number of stores available. Consumers may want to purchase an item online for a number of reasons. The consumer may wish to make the purchase online because the item is not currently in stock at a local store, because the local store does not carry the item or simply because ordering the item online is more convenient for the consumer. Still other consumers may opt to purchase the item online because the online retailer does not have a traditional store located near the consumer. In these cases the consumer would likely opt to ship the item back to the online retailer. However, in the other cases, as long as it is convenient, the consumer may wish to simply return the item to a traditional store. The process of returning items purchased online to a traditional store is often as simple as making a return on an item that was not purchased online. The consumer may simply have to bring the item with its original packaging and the receipt to the store. The consumer may then be able to receive an exchange, store credit or a refund depending on the store's policy. As with any return there may be rules which apply to whether or not the store will take back the item. These rules may vary from store to store and even with different items purchased from the same store so the consumer should verify these policies before making the purchase. Other Options for Returning Online Purchases Consumers who make a purchase online and are dissatisfied with the purchase for any reason may have a number of options available to them for making returns. One of these options is shipping the items back to the online retailer directly. However, there are a number of ways in which this option can be accomplished. In some cases the consumer is responsible for shipping the item back to the online retailer and assumes the financial responsibility for the shipping. This is usually the case when the consumer wishes the return the item for reasons such as changing his mind about the purchase or purchasing the wrong item. However, in cases where the item purchased from an online retailer is defective or the retailer shipped the wrong item, the online retailer may assume the financial responsibility for having the item shipped. In some cases, the online retailer will mail the consumer a pre-paid packing slip while in other cases the online retailer will arrange to have the package picked up from the consumer's home. Understanding Return Policies when Online Shopping As previously mentioned the return policies can vary from one online retailer to the next and may even vary for different products purchased from the same online retailer. For this reason it is important for consumers to carefully review the return policies before making an online purchase. This is especially important if the consumer is unsure about the product and suspects it may be necessary to return the item. This may be the case with clothing items where the consumer may be unsure whether or not an item will fit. However, with any purchase there is the potential for the need to exchange the item so consumers should read the return policy carefully and inquire with the retailer if they have any questions about the policy before making a purchase. Comparing Online Retailers Just like traditional shoppers online shoppers should carefully compare online retailers before choosing to make purchases from one of these retailers. This is important because not all retailers are created equal. The same product offered from two different online retailers may be more expensive from one retailer, have a higher shipping cost from one retailer and may be subject to different return policies. All of these factors can contribute to the consumer's overall satisfaction with the product even when we are discussing identical products because these factors influence the purchasing experience. Additionally, the reputation of the online retailer can also help to influence the consumer's decision of whether or not to make a purchase from a particular consumer. This article will discuss comparing online retailers using factors such as price, shipping and return policies. Using Price to Make Comparisons Price is one of the obvious factors which consumers often use to compare retailers whether they are considering shopping online or in traditional stores. This is a very important consideration because not all retailers sell the same products for the same price. While, in general, the prices will often be similar simply because retailers are in direct competition with each other for a consumer's business there are occasions in which one particular retailer may be offering a product at a discounted price. These price deviations typically occur when a retailer is attempting to reduce inventory to either make room for new products or because the retailer is closing its operations. Regardless of the reason for the price reductions, consumers can benefit by purchasing items from this retailer and a lower price than they would pay with other retailers. Consumers who are relying on price to decide between two online retailers should also verify the reputation of the online retailer before making the purchase. This is usually not an issue when the consumer is making a purchase from a nationally known chain of stores. However, when the consumer does not know much about the online retailer it is wise to investigate the retailer to ensure it is a legitimate and reputable company. Consulting the Better Business Bureau is one way the consumer can learn more about the reputation of the company. Considering Shipping in the Comparison Although cost is often one of the first factors consumers consider when comparing online retailers or even traditional retailers, shipping must also be considered carefully when comparing two or more online retailers. This is because the cost of shipping as well as the shipping options can both influence the consumer's decision. Two retailers may offer products for the same price but the shipping prices may differ from one online retailer to the next. In some cases this difference may substantially change the total price of purchasing the item. Consumers in a traditional store do not have to worry about shipping because they simply drive to the store and leave with the item. However, online shoppers have items shipped directly to their home or another location so the cost of shipping is an important consideration. Online retailers also sometimes have to consider the shipping methods available. This is especially important if the consumer needs to have an item arrive quickly. In these cases a consumer may opt to choose one online retailer over another if only one of the retailers offers express shipping options such as overnight shipping or two day shipping. When the Return Policy is Important Online shoppers should also always be aware of the return policies when they are making purchases online. This is important because the cost of returning an item can be expensive in some cases especially if it is a large or a heavy item. While some online retailers will bear the cost of shipping when they make mistakes or items are defective, returns for other reasons may result in the consumer being responsible for shipping charges. For these reasons consumers should always carefully review the return policies when comparing two or more online retailers. Contacting Customer Service When Online Shopping Online shoppers often need to deal with customer service representatives from the online retailer they choose to patronize. From making purchases to dealing with problems with the order a customer service representative can be a great deal of assistance to online shoppers. This article will focus on some of the common interactions online shoppers have with a customer service representative. Some of these interactions include making a purchase, asking questions about products and making a complaint about an item purchased. This article will also discuss some of the common methods for contacting customer service including telephone, email and online forms. Common Problems with Online Shopping Despite the many advantages of online shopping there are also problems which may occur with this type of shopping. These problems such as ordering the wrong item, receiving the wrong item and the need to return an item can often be significant enough to make a potential online shopper reconsider the decision to purchase an item online. Although these problems are some of the most common which occur in online shopping they do not necessarily happen frequently. However, when these problems do occur they can cause a great deal of stress and frustration for the online shopper. This article will discuss some of these common problems in an attempt to help the reader make a wise decision about whether or not to purchase an item online. Ordering the Wrong Item When shopping in traditional stores it is quite difficult to accidentally purchase the wrong item because the sales process typically involves the consumer physically carrying the item up to the sales counter to make the purchase. However, in online shopping where the consumer never physically handles the item before the purchase is complete and the item delivered it is certainly possible to purchase the wrong item. This can occur when the shopper uses the website to make the purchase and clicks on the wrong item or when the consumer contacts customer service to make the purchase and provides the wrong product number. Even if the consumer clicks on the correct product and provides an accurate product number he may still make a mistake in the ordering process if there are options such as size or color associated with the item. This problem can be rather troubling because the consumer will be disappointed when the incorrect item is received. Receiving the Wrong Item Even when online shoppers do not make mistakes during the ordering process it is still possible for the consumer to receive the wrong item. This often occurs when the orders are filled by hand and a mistake is made in the warehouse. A warehouse maker may ship the wrong item completely or may ship the correct item in the wrong size or color. Again the consumer will likely not know a mistake was made until the order arrives. The online retailer will likely take responsibility for returning the incorrect item and will ship the correct item as soon as possible. However, this may not completely correct the problem in all cases. For example a consumer who purchased an item for a specific event may not receive the replacement item in time for the event. The Need to Return an Item In situations where the online shopper orders the wrong item as well as situations where the online retailer mistakenly ships the wrong item there may be a need to make returns. Although this may not seem to be a huge problem it can be particularly troubling for some consumers. In particular online shoppers who opt to do their shopping online specifically because they work odd hours may have a great deal of difficulty making returns. This is because the process of shipping the item back to the online retailer will generally involve taking the item to a post office. Depending on the hours in which the consumer works, it may be difficult to get to a post office during regular business hours and may require the shopper to take time off from work to make the return. Online Shopping with Auction Websites In most cases online shopping is very similar to shopping in traditional stores with the need to have an item shipped after making a purchase instead of being able to walk out of the store with the item in your hand. However, there are times when online shopping is much different than shopping in a regular store. This difference occurs in cases in which the online shopping is being done on auction websites. Although using auction websites can be very similar to online shopping in some ways there are some differences which online shoppers should be aware of before making purchases through auction websites. Some of these differences will be discussed in this article and include the need to do research on appropriate prices before making a bid, understanding the bidding process and knowing the return policies. Doing Research before Making a Bid The need to do at least a minimal amount of research before making a bid when using auction websites for online shopping is quite common. Although online shoppers who utilize retailers to make a purchase should still do some research before making a purchase to ensure they are selecting the best deal on the item they truly want, the type of research when using auction websites is different. Online shoppers using auction websites should carefully research items such as the feedback for the seller and comparable items which have recently been sold on the auction website. Carefully investigating the sellers feedback is very important because it can help to prevent the buyer from purchasing poor quality items or items which differ from the description provided in the auction. Most online auction websites allow buyers and sellers to provide feedback for other users from whom they have purchased an item or to whom they have sold an item. Before bidding on an item at an auction website, the buyer should review this feedback to determine whether or not the seller is reputable. In general a reputable seller is one who has a substantial amount of feedback and the majority of the feedback is positive. Buyers should be wary of sellers with no feedback, very little feedback or a great deal of negative feedback. Online shoppers using auction websites should also spend some time researching recently sold items comparable to the one they wish to bid on before making a bid. This is important because it will give the buyer a good indication of a fair price for the item. This will help the buyer determine how much they are willing to spend on a particular item. It will also give them an indication of how many of these items are in circulation. This information may be useful because if there are many items available the buyer may tend to bid lower simply because they will likely have several opportunities to bid on a similar item while if the item is pretty rare the buyer may opt to bid higher because it may be his last opportunity purchase a particular item. Understanding the Bidding Process Online shoppers who use auction websites should acquaint themselves with the bidding process before starting to bid on items. This is important because it can help the buyer to avoid making mistakes in the bidding process which could result in them overpaying for an item or not winning an item because of a mistake in the bidding process. It is also important to understand the bidding process because it can help the buyer to develop a bidding strategy which can help them to win items they desire. The bidding process may be different for different auction websites so online shoppers should review this information for each new auction website they use. Returns When Online Shopping with Auction Websites The issue of returns when online shopping with auction websites is a very valid concern for online shoppers. Online shoppers who are concerned about whether or not it will be possible to return an item purchased through an auction website should carefully review the bid description for any information relevant to the seller's return policy. If no information about returns is provided the buyer should inquire with the seller. The buyer should also review the website's policy on returns to determine if the website will provide any protection if the items purchased are defective or do not match the description provided by the seller. Online Shopping For Appliances The Internet is an excellent option for consumers who are looking to purchase appliances. From small appliances like toasters to large appliances like refrigerators shoppers can find a variety of options available to them from online retailers. This article will discuss some aspects of shopping for appliances online including popular online retailers of appliances, tips for comparison shopping for appliances online and special considerations when shopping for appliances online. Popular Online Retailers of Appliances There are many retailers of appliances who sell appliances online. The majority of these retailers also have stores located in a variety of locations. However, the appliances are also offered online which makes shopping for these appliances even more convenient for the consumer. Some of the popular retailers of appliances include The Home Depot, Best Buy and Lowe's. Although all of these retailers have traditional stores where consumers can purchase appliances, the stores also offer a variety of appliances for sale online as well. Appliances for all parts of the home including refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, washers, dryers, air conditions and heating systems can all be found on these and other websites. Consumers who opt to purchase an appliance online may have a number of choices available to them including having the product delivered or picking up the product from a store. Comparison Shopping for Appliances Online Consumers can use websites provided by online retailers for comparison shopping purposes even if they intend to make their purchase from a traditional store. Traditional stores which also have an online store typically offer the same products in their online store which are available in the traditional store. As a result consumers can visit the online retailers for several different stores to browse the inventory available. Consumers can then print out information about the products available including the features and prices of the appliances and use these print outs to make comparisons of products. The alternative to this method of comparison shopping would be for the consumer to visit all of the local stores offering appliances and compile the information. The information obtained will likely be exactly the same but the consumer will spend considerably more time comparison shopping at traditional stores than they would online. This is especially true if the stores are spread out and the consumer has to travel a considerable distance to compile the information necessary for comparison shopping. Special Considerations when Shopping for Appliances Online There are some special considerations for consumers who wish to shop for appliances online. Typically one of the major advantages of online shopping is the ability to shop at retailers located around the world. However, when purchasing large appliances there may be considerable shipping or delivery charges applicable to the purchase. Another factor to carefully consider when purchasing appliances online is the measurements of the appliance. Most online retailers provide all of the necessary measurements in the product description. However, if all of these measurements are not provided the consumer should contact customer service for the additional information. This will help to ensure the appliance fits properly in the available space. It will also help to prevent the consumer from having to return the appliance. This can be a costly mistake because there will likely be a fee involved with either having the appliance picked up or shipping the appliance back to the online retailers. Dealing with Defective Items When Online Shopping One of the most frustrating aspects of online shopping is definitely dealing with receiving defective items. This is a rare problem which may happen regardless of whether the shopper patronizes an online retailer or a traditional store. However, dealing with the problem can be more difficult during online shopping endeavors. Dealing with this problem may be somewhat more difficult when the consumer purchases an item online but there are some useful tips which can make dealing with defective items significantly less stressful and failure to follow these tips can make it difficult for online shoppers to have a defective item replaced. This article will discuss some of these useful tips namely the importance of testing items immediately, contacting online retailers and dealing with unresponsiveness from online retailers to help online shoppers deal with this dilemma. Testing Items Immediately after They Arrive One very important tip for online shoppers is to always test items immediately after they arrive from the online retailer. This means the shopper should open and test the item as soon as possible after it is delivered. Doing this is important for a couple of very important reasons. One of these reasons is testing the item for functionality immediately will help to ensure the online shopper is able to return the item within the limitations of the online retailers return policy. Online retailers often have specific policies pertaining to returns and failure to adhere to these guidelines may result in the shopper not being able to return the item for a refund or exchange. These policies can vary significantly from one online retailer to the next and some policies may be more liberal than others. However, consumers who determine an item is defective within a couple of days after the item is received will likely still be within the period in which returns are still accepted even with online retailers who offer the stingiest return policies. Another reason why it is important to test an item purchased online for functionality immediately after receiving the item is it helps to ensure the consumer will not lose the original packaging or receipt. This is important because most online retailers will require the item be returned with an original receipt and in the original packaging. It is certainly still possibly for online shoppers to lose the receipt but they are less likely to do so if they realized immediately that the item was defective. Contacting the Online Retailer Once an online shopper realizes an item is defective, the first step he takes should be to contact the online retailers. This should be done immediately because the online retailer will likely document the claim of defectiveness during this initial call and this documentation will serve as evidence of when the item was reported to be defective. This proof will come in handy if the online retailer gives the customer problems with returning the item and there is a need to pursue legal actions. In most cases, the receipt will list a contact phone number which will put the consumer in contact with a customer service representative. However, if the receipt does not have this information the consumer may return to the website of the online retailer to find the necessary contact information. The consumer should then contact a customer service representative and describe the problem with the item as accurately as possible. In most cases the customer service representative will be able to provide the consumer with information on how to return the item for an exchange or a refund. When the Online Retailer is Unresponsive As with any retailer, it is always possible that the online shopper will not be satisfied with the response to the complaint offered by the online retailer. The buyer may be dissatisfied with the response offered by the online retailer or may be dissatisfied by a lack of a response from the online retailer. Regardless of the reason for the dissatisfaction the consumer will likely have to pursue other methods of obtaining a response to his complaint. The consumer may wish to elevate his complaint by asking to speak to a supervisor. If this does not rectify the situation it may be necessary to file a complaint with an agency such as the Better Business Bureau. They can than contact the retailer on behalf of the disgruntled consumer and attempt to rectify the situation. Online Shopping for Clothing There are a variety of online retailers selling clothing. This includes traditional stores that also have online stores as well as retailers who operate exclusively online. Shopping for clothing online is very popular especially for those consumers who do not have sufficient time to visit traditional stores and spend time browsing and trying on clothing. It is also a popular option for consumers seeking an outfit for a special occasion who have not been satisfied with the options they found available to them in local traditional stores. This article will supply information on some of the popular online retailers of clothing as well as information on selecting clothing items online and dealing with items that do not fit properly. Popular Online Retailers for Clothing The majority of major traditional stores that sell clothing also have an online version of their store where consumers can browse through the inventory, make purchases and have items shipped directly to them or to friends or family members. Examples of popular traditional stores who also offer online versions of their store include Old Navy, Banana Republic, Abercrombie and Fitch and Ann Taylor. Additionally, department stores such as Target, Macy's and JCPenny which do not exclusively sell clothing make their clothing, as well as other products, available through the online versions of their stores. Shoppers who opt to peruse the online stores for clothing may find a greater selection than there is available in traditional stores. The online stores may have items available which are only available online. Additionally, the online stores may have access to a greater inventory unlike traditional stores which may run out of popular sizes rather quickly. Choosing Online Clothing Options Carefully When purchasing clothing online, consumers have to be somewhat cautious. This is because it may be difficult to tell how well a clothing item will fit without trying it on first. Also, it can be difficult to assess the texture or color of clothing when shopping online. Online shoppers should read product descriptions carefully and pay particular attention to sizing charts when shopping online for clothing. This will help the consumer to make wise choices. Online shoppers should also pay attention to the description of the cut of clothing items and should carefully compare these descriptions to the photos displayed on the website of the online retailer. This is an important consideration because consumers may prefer certain cuts which are more flattering to them while other cuts may not look as appealing. Paying particular attention to this information will help the consumer make wise decisions when shopping for clothing online. When the Shoe Doesn't Fit Despite a consumer's best intentions, there may be times in which they purchase clothing items they have to return because they do not fit well or simply because the consumer changes his mind about the item after making the purchase. For this reason, all online shoppers should carefully review the return policies of online clothing retailers before making purchases. Most online retailers will take items back regardless of the reason for the return but some of them may only assume responsibility for the shipping fees associated with the return if the item is defective. However, there are some online retailers that will not accept returns on certain items and the consumer should be aware of these restrictions before making a purchase. Finding Product Reviews before Online Shopping The ability to find product reviews before online shopping is very useful for online shoppers. These reviews can be very helpful for consumers who are trying to decide whether or not to purchase a particular product or attempting to compare to similar products. Based on these product reviews the consumer may make a more informed decision about which products to purchase and which ones to avoid. However, there are different types of reviews available and some product reviews are more useful than others. This article will discuss product reviews which can be found directly on the online retailer's website as well as product reviews which can be found on websites dedicated to compiling product reviews. Reviews on the Online Retailers Website Many online retailers provide reviews of products they offer for sale directly on their own website. These reviews typically fall into two categories and include consumer product reviews and product reviews offered in terms for compensation. Consumers who are using these reviews to gather information about a product should proceed with caution to ensure they understand what type of reviews are being offered on the website. Consumer reviews are typically the best resource for consumers who want to learn more about a product. This includes reviews which come from others who have purchased and used the product in question. These reviews are usually completely candid and offer great insight into the form and functionality of the product. Online shoppers who find the majority of consumers are satisfied with a particular product may be reassured they have selected a high quality product. Conversely online shoppers how consistently find negative reviews of a particular product may wish to consider purchasing a different item. Online retailers also sometimes feature reviews on their website from reviewers who have been compensated to provide a review. When a retailer compensates an individual to make a review it is usually necessary to divulge this information because the review may tend to rate the product more favorably than they would if they were not compensated to do so. Websites Provided for Consumers to Review Products There are also websites available which are dedicated to compiling product reviews. This includes websites such as epinions.com. Here consumers can browse through a variety of products to find additional information in the form of product reviews for products they are considering purchasing. The reviews they find may be incredibly detailed and useful or they may be brief and provide very little useful information. Consumers are advised to consider these opinions carefully especially when there are a large number of reviews available which seem to be in agreement regarding the quality of the product. However, when there are only a few reviews available it can be much more difficult for the consumer to formulate his own opinion of the product based on these reviews posted on the website. Consumers are also advised to ignore reviews which vary significantly from the majority of the other review posted. These reviews may be mistakenly referring to the wrong product or may demonstrate an anomaly. For example if the majority of reviews are overwhelmingly positive but one or two reviews are negative it is generally acceptable to ignore the negative reviews as long as the company selling the product is reputable and there are enough positive reviews available to convince the shopper the product is worthwhile. Online Shopping for Collectibles Online shopping for collectibles is a very popular option. This is especially true in the case of hard to find collectibles as well as collectibles which are no longer being manufactured. Finding these collectible items in traditional stores can be very time consuming but the use of the Internet enables the shopper to find items more easily and more quickly. However, the process of shopping for these items online is not simplified unless the shopper has a good strategy for finding these collectible items online. This article will provide useful information on finding collectibles online, purchasing collectibles from other collectors and verifying the authenticity of collector's items. Finding Collectibles Online The Internet is a great option for collectors who are looking for specific collector's items as long as the collector knows where to find these items. Popular options for purchasing collector's items of all types include auction websites, clubs for collectors and message boards for collectors. This section will focus on the use of auction websites to find collectibles while the following section will discuss the possibility of purchasing collectibles through membership in clubs and participation in message boards. Auction websites such as eBay are ideal for collectors who are seeking items to add to their collections. Whether they collect figurines, lunchboxes, war memorabilia or any other type of collectible item there is the potential to find items to add to a collection through an auction website. These websites enable online shoppers to search for items and place bids on the items. If the user is the highest bidder at the conclusion of the auction, he will be able to purchase the item. Purchasing Items from Other Collectors Other collectors are often one of the best resources for shoppers looking for collectible items. Most items which consumers enjoy collecting have clubs or message boards dedicated to the collection of these items. Clubs which are formed for members who enjoy collecting any type of item often have options for members who wish to buy, sell or trade collectibles. These options may include any combination of a market place on a member's only section of the website, a newsletter sent to all members or conventions or meetings where collectors can buy, sell or trade items. Collectors can also participate in online message boards where they can meet and converse with other collectors who share their interests. These message boards may have a section dedicated specifically to allowing members to buy and sell items. In this section the members can typically post photos and descriptions of items they are willing to sell for other members to view. Even if there is not a section dedicated to this purpose, members can still meet other members who are willing to sell or trade items and can make arrangements to acquire these items. Verifying the Authenticity of Collector's Items Consumers who opt to purchase collectible items online are often faced with the dilemma of determining whether or not the items offered for sale are authentic or not. Determining the authenticity of an item can be difficult enough when the shopper has the ability to examine the item in person and can be considerably more difficult to do this with online purchases. In these cases the use of photos and descriptions provided by the seller must be used to determine authenticity. Online Shopping During the Holidays Shopping online during the holidays is quickly becoming one of the most popular options for shoppers. Although many shoppers still enjoy the hustle and bustle of doing their holiday shopping in traditional stores and may also enjoy the festive decorations festooning stores during the holiday season, many shoppers are glad to have the option to do at least part of their holiday shopping online. This is because there are a myriad of benefits to shopping online during the holiday season. Two of the most common benefits include the ability to do last minute shopping online and the convenience of avoiding overcrowded stores during the holiday season. This article will discuss these two advantages in greater detail and will also provide information on some of the other advantages to online shopping which are also important to holiday shoppers. Last Minute Shopping for Holiday Gifts Although there are some shoppers who are well prepared and do their holiday shopping in advance, many shoppers find themselves scrambling to purchase gifts at the last minute. These last minute shoppers far outnumber the well organized individuals who complete their holiday shopping months in advance. This category also includes not only chronic procrastinators who put off holiday shopping until the last minute but also includes well intentioned shoppers who were caught by surprise with a need to purchase gifts for a few extra people at the last minute. Fortunately for these last minute shoppers, online shopping take a great deal of the stress out of last minute shopping. One of the greatest benefits of last minute shopping is the ability to ship gifts to friends and relatives. The available shipping options may even make it possible for shoppers to have these gifts arrive within 24 hours after making the purchase. Shoppers may pay a premium for these express shipping services but it can be a worthwhile investment for last minute shoppers who would otherwise be caught empty handed. Avoiding Holiday Crowds by Shopping Online The crowds at traditional stores can unbelievable during the holiday season. Finding a parking space often becomes a stressful situation and simply navigating stores can be chaotic. While some shoppers thrive in this type of environment most shoppers find this to be stressful. Furthermore some shoppers may enjoy this type of environment for brief periods of time but may have difficulty completing their holiday shopping with so much chaos surrounding them. Fortunately, online shopping provides a welcomed escape to much of the shopping chaos of traditional stores. Online shoppers can shop when it is most convenient for them and typically the most troubling crowd related problems they experience is slow loading of websites which are overloaded by website visitors. Waiting for a few extra moments for a website to reload may be somewhat frustrating but it is significantly less stressful than standing in line at a crowded store for long periods of time. Added Benefits to Shopping Online During the Holidays There are also other benefits to shopping online during the holidays which do not necessarily pertain to the holiday season but certainly simplify the process of shopping online for holiday gifts. One of these benefits is the ability to comparison shop with ease. When shopping online comparison shopping is as easy as opening two different websites from competitors and comparing the products they have available and the prices they are charging for these products. This is much simpler than running around from one store to another to find out which stores have a particular item available and how much each store is currently charging for this item. Another benefit to shopping online is the ability to purchase items from stores located far away. Holiday shoppers who limit themselves to traditional stores are also limiting the products which are available to them. These traditional shoppers can only purchase items which they physically find in a store while online shoppers can search stores around the world for a particular item. This can be particular useful for shoppers who are looking for a specific item which is hard to locate.
Coupons for Online Shopping Smart online shoppers know there are a variety of ways to save money when shopping online. Comparison shopping and seeking out sales are certainly excellent ways for saving money when shopping online but they are not the only ways an online shopper can save money. Using coupons and promotional codes can also result in a significant cost savings for online shoppers. This article will discuss methods of finding coupons for online shopping and the importance of understanding the restrictions placed on the use of these coupons. Finding Coupons for Online Shopping There are many different coupons and promotional codes available for online shopping. The most common types of coupons and promotional codes available are those which offer a discount on the total purchase price of an order and promotional codes which offer free shipping on an order. Both of these offers can be financially beneficial to the shopper if he is able to find these valuable offers. There are a number of different ways in which a shopper may acquire coupons and promotional codes for online shopping. Many online shoppers receive promotional codes for online retailers in catalogs they receive in the mail. These catalogs may include special offers in an attempt to entice the recipient of the catalog to make a purchase online. The shopper may receive these catalogs because they have made purchased from the online retailer in the past or because the online retailer is advertising to new clients. Similarly shoppers may receive promotional codes offering discounts via email. This is common for shoppers who belong to buyer's club organized by the online retailer. These types of clubs typically offer these promotional codes to regular customers to reward them for their consumer loyalty and encourage the shopper to continue to patronize the online retailer. Still another way for shoppers to find promotional codes for online shopping is via the Internet. There are websites where members frequently post the codes they acquire via catalogs and emails for the benefit of others who may be seeking a discount on a purchase from a particular online retailer. Shoppers can use these promotional codes as long as there are no restrictions on sharing these codes. Restrictions on Coupons for Online Shopping Shoppers who utilize coupons and promotional codes while they are online shopping should be aware there may be restrictions on the use of these coupons or promotional codes. Common examples of these restrictions include dates of expiration and required minimum purchase to use the discount. Similar to coupons which are valid at traditional stores, online coupons or promotional codes usually have an expiration date and the discount is no longer valid after this date. Another common restriction associated to offers of free shipping is a minimum required purchase. In these cases the consumer must purchase more than a specific dollar amount from the online retailer in order to be eligible for free shipping. Another example of a common restriction on online coupons or promotional codes is a required minimum purchase necessary to receive a discount. In some cases the online retailer may even offer a greater discount to shoppers who are willing to spend more money on products or services. For example the retailer may offer a 10% discount on purchases of more than $50, a 15% discount on purchases of more than $75 and a 20% discount on purchases of more than $100. With all of these different types of restrictions on online discounts it is important for the consumer to fully understand these restrictions before attempting to use one of these offers. Finding Rare Items through Online Shopping For many online shoppers the ability to find rare items is one of the many appeals of online shopping. Online shopping may offer other benefits such as convenience but when it comes to hard to find collectibles online shopping can result in a tremendous time savings for the savvy online shopper. This is a direct result of the online shopper being able to visit websites of a variety of different retailers in a relatively short period of time. Without this ability the search for a specific item could not only take significantly longer but may result in the shopper never finding the item he seeks. However, although online shopping can be an excellent option for shoppers seeking rare items, it can be more difficult to verify the authenticity of these items when they are purchased online. The Ability to Shop around the World The ability to shop retailers located around the world is one of the primary reasons why online shoppers seeking rare items often turn to online shopping. This is important because these rare items may not be readily available in the shopper's vicinity. However, retailers on the other side of the country or even the other side of the world may have access to these items. Obviously traveling to these distant locations to purchase an item is not always feasible but when these items are offered for sale online the buyer can purchase hard to find items from retailers anywhere in the world. Whether a shopper is looking for an expensive one of a kind item or an item which has a great deal of sentimental value and very little financial value, traveling around the world to find this item would be time consuming and expensive. However, when this trip around the world is taken virtually by visiting online retailers around the world the shopping excursions take relatively little time and are very inexpensive. Furthermore the ability to shop online greatly increases the possibility that the shopper will be successful in his search for a particular item. Verifying the Authenticity of Items Purchased Online Although online shopping may be a wonderful opportunity for shoppers seeking rare items, there are some aspects of purchasing these items which are more difficult when the shopping is done online. Specifically the ability to verify the authenticity of the item is more difficult online than it is when shopping in traditional stores. This is because the buyer does not have the opportunity to carefully examine the item in person to ensure it is authentic. The authenticity of items purchased for sentimental value may not be very important because the buyer may simply be looking for an item which symbolizes a fond memory for them. However, when items are purchased as part of a collection or for the purpose of reselling the item, verifying the authenticity is critical. Online shoppers who are concerned about verifying the authenticity of an item should ask the online retailers for any additional photos or information which will assist the buyer in verifying the authenticity of the item. If the seller is unable to provide sufficient information for the buyer to verify whether or not the product is authentic the buyer will have to decide whether or not they still want to make the purchase. Correcting Mistakes When Online Shopping As with any type of shopping it is possible to make mistakes during the process of online shopping. These mistakes may include ordering the wrong item, ordering the correct item in the wrong size or color, providing the wrong shipping address, providing inaccurate billing information, purchasing the wrong quantity of an item and even dealing with mistakes made by the online retailer. This article will discuss some effective strategies for dealing with mistakes made when online shopping and will also provide some tips for avoiding mistakes when online shopping in the first place. Contacting Customer Service Immediately Mistakes made when online shopping are typically realized either immediately after the purchase is made or else they are not realized until the order arrives. However, regardless of when the mistake is realized the first step for correcting the problem is the same. As soon as an online shopper realizes a mistake was made with his order, he should contact customer service immediately. In situations in which the mistake is realized immediately after the order is placed, correcting the mistake may be fairly simple as long as the online shopper contacts customer service to describe the problem immediately. If the order has not yet been processed, the customer service representative may be able to make the corrections before the order proceeds. However, many online retailers have their online shopping process completely automated which can make it difficult to make changes to the order even when it is recognized immediately. This may occur because the order has already been transferred to the shipper and the online retailer no longer has the ability to the files. Even when a consumer does not realize a mistake has been made until the item arrives, he should still contact customer service immediately to report the problem. This is useful because this first call to customer service will start a record of the problem which will be useful in getting the problem resolved. The customer service representative can provide valuable information the consumer can use to rectify the problem as quickly as possible. Making Returns when Necessary When mistakes are made with an online purchase, it is often necessary to return the items to the online retailer. Online retailers who also have traditional stores may allow the online shopper to return the items purchased online to a traditional store. The other option for making returns is to ship the item back to the online retailer directly. Depending on the cause of the mistake there may be different options available for returning the item to the online retailer. If the online retailer is at fault they may assume the responsibility for the cost of the shipping and may even make arrangements to have the shipper pick up the item from the shopper's home. This is both cost effective and convenient for the shopper. However, when the shopper is returning the item because he made a mistake or simply did not like the item the consumer will likely be responsible for the cost of shipping the item back to the online retailer. Tips for Avoiding Mistakes when Online Shopping Although correcting mistakes made during online shopping is not always difficult it is far better to try to avoid these mistakes in the first place. The best way to avoid mistakes when placing an order online is to carefully review the purchase before submitting the order. Most online retailers provide shoppers with the opportunity to verify information such as the items being purchased, shipping address and billing information before the purchase is submitted to the online retailer. Online shoppers should carefully review all of the information provided on this verification screen to help avoid making mistakes which can be costly in terms of time or money. Mistakes when online shopping can also be avoided by placing the order through a customer service representative as opposed to through the online retailer's website. This method can help to limit the potential for mistakes because the consumer has the opportunity to converse directly with a representative who can answer any questions the consumer has about the product. Therefore, mistakes which often result from the consumer misreading the product description can be avoided. When Online Shopping is Not Ideal There are a number of distinct advantages to online shopping. Some of these advantages include the ability to shop at a convenient time, a potential for cost savings, the ability to shop at stores around the world and the ability to find rare collectible items. While these advantages draw many consumers to online shopping there are also some situations in which shopping online is not the best option for all consumers. This article will discuss some of these situations such as shopping for clothing online, shopping for decorative items and shopping for used items. Although some consumers may be able to shop for these types of items online there are some consumers who will always have difficulty shopping for these types of items online. Shopping for Clothing Online Shopping for clothing online is often difficult. This is because consumers are used to being able to try on items in traditional stores before making a purchase. The ability to try clothing items on before making a purchase is so important because it allows the consumer to evaluate the size, fit, material and color of the garment before making a decision about whether or not to make the purchase. Although some consumers may be able to make decisions about purchasing clothing items easily without trying the item on, the majority of consumers will not be able to make these decisions easily based solely on an image and a product description. While shopping for clothing online is not always easy the upside to this type of purchase is making returns on clothing is usually a fairly simple process. Clothing is light and relatively easy to ship so as a result there is usually not a substantial cost in returning clothing items. This ease of shipping often makes consumers more likely to make clothing purchases online even though they are not sure how well the item will fit. Shopping for Decorative Items Online Shopping for furniture and decorative items online is another area in which consumers may wish to avoid online shopping. They may browse online retailers to get ideas about the types of products they want and the costs of these items but it many cases it is wise to make these purchases in a traditional store as opposed to an online retailer. Consider purchasing bulky pieces of furniture such as couches, beds or tables. These items can be rather expensive to ship and the cost of having these items shipped can significantly add to the overall cost of the item. Although the consumer may pay a delivery charge when purchasing furniture from a traditional store, this fee is usually considerably lower than the cost of having the item shipped. Also, consumers have the option of avoiding delivery fees if they are capable of transporting the item themselves. Shopping for furniture and decorative items online can also be difficult because the consumer may want to see these items in person before making a decision. This is important because seeing the item in person enables the consumer to see the color, feel the texture and make any necessary measurements which will help to ensure the item is a good fit for the home. Shopping for Used Items Online Shopping for used items online can also be difficult. This is because the consumer may want to evaluate the item carefully for wear and functionality before making a purchase. Although the seller may provide photos and a description of the item for sale, these images and words may not fully describe the product for sale. Although this may be completely unintentional on behalf of the seller there are also situations in which the seller will attempt to misrepresent the item deliberately to deceive potential buyers. Online shoppers may find a variety of great used items for sale at excellent prices but care should always be taken with these purchases to ensure the item is described accurately. Consumers who purchase used items online are advised to ask questions and ask for additional photos of the item if necessary. The Dangers of Online Shopping Although there are many who enjoy online shopping, there are others who have fears about online shopping and do not enjoy this type of shopping. For these shoppers there too many concerns which prevent the shopper from feeling completely comfortable shopping online. Some of these concerns include identity theft, difficulty making returns and misleading product descriptions. This article will address these concerns and offer information about how shoppers can help to avoid these online shopping dangers and feel more comfortable about the process of shopping online. Shopper who are able to put these concerns aside will likely find they actually enjoy the conveniences offered by online shopping. Concerns about Identity Theft Concerns about identity theft are one of the most common concerns for those who are considering shopping online. Identity theft is a very real concern because unscrupulous individuals who acquire sensitive information about an online shopper can do a great deal of damage to the individual's financial situation and credit score. Although it is usually possible to correct problems which occurs as a result of identity theft the process of making these corrections is usually long and difficult. Additionally, there are some problems which result from identity theft which cannot be corrected especially if the identity theft was undetected for quite some time. While identity theft is a very valid concern, online shoppers are not completely vulnerable to identity theft in most cases. However, the online shopper should know how to determine whether or not the information they provide online is secure or not. This is important because while the risk of identity theft associated with online shopping through a secure website is relatively small, this risk is significantly larger when the website is not secure. For this reason, online shoppers should carefully examine the web address for any website in which they submit sensitive information. Websites which start with https:// as opposed to http:// indicate the information is being submitted through a secure server. Most reputable online retailers will provide a secure website for shoppers but some smaller online retailers may not offer this degree of security. If the server is not secure the shopper should consider calling customer service to place the order instead of submitting the information through the unsecured website. Dealing with Returns Another problem which faces many online retailers is the potential for problems which result from the need to return items purchased online. In most cases the return process with online retailers is quite simple and is not more difficult than returning items to a regular store. In fact online retailers who have a traditional store often allow online shoppers to make returns to these locations instead of shipping the item back to the online retailer. However, returns are not always this easy. In some cases the shopper will be financially responsible for the cost of shipping the item back to the online retailer. This can be costly if the item is oversized and could require pricy insurance if the item is expensive. Online shoppers who have concerns about the return policy for an online retailer should carefully review these policies and inquire if they have any questions about the process before making a purchase. Misleading Product Descriptions One final concern many potential online shoppers have about shopping online is encountering misleading product descriptions. This may include product descriptions which are intentionally or unintentionally ambiguous. The concern in this situation is that the shopper will purchase the wrong item or an item which is not as described by the online retailer and the buyer will have difficulty returning the item if necessary. Although this problem may occur there are simple steps the consumer can take to avoid this problem. The simplest solution to this problem is to contact customer service to clarify information about the products offered for sale online. This enables the consumer to speak directly to a representative from the online retailer and verify whether or not the product offered for sale will suit his needs. Based on this information the consumer can then decide to either make the purchase or not. Popular Websites for Online Shopping With the increasing popularity of online shopping has come a variety of new opportunities for online shoppers. The wide variety of options available to online shoppers makes shopping for all types of products incredibly convenient. Consumers can now purchase everything from groceries to clothing and electronics and appliances to automobiles. Even items such as jewelry and rare collectibles can be purchased online. With so many online shopping opportunities available, consumers might be confused about which options are the best for them. This article will discuss some of the online shopping venues including traditional stores offering online shopping, online retailers who operate exclusively on the Internet and auction websites. Traditional Stores Offering Online Shopping Many of the traditional stores shoppers patronize on a daily basis also have an online presence. This includes retailers of all types of products such as grocery stores selling food and convenience items, popular clothing retailers, retailers of electronics and appliance and general merchandise stores offering a wide array of products for consumer purchase. Examples of these types of stores include Albertson's, Nordstrom's, Best Buy and Target. Most of these stores offer all of the items available in the traditional store as well as items which are available exclusively at the online store. While the obvious advantage of shopping at a traditional store is the ability to see, try on, test or otherwise examine the products before making the purchase there are also obvious advantages to shopping at the online versions of these same stores. As previously mentioned, there are often items offered for sale which are exclusive to the online store. This gives the consumer a greater selection of products from which to choose. Another obvious advantage is the convenience shopping online offers to consumers. Online stores are open 24 hours a day and seven days a week which gives the online shopper the flexibility to do his shopping when it is convenient for him. It also eliminates the time required to travel to a store. Still another advantage of shopping in online stores over traditional stores is consumers can patronize online stores which do not have a traditional store located near their residence. Online Retailers who Operate Exclusively on the Internet There are also online retailers who operate exclusively on the Internet and do not have a traditional store where shoppers can examine the products available for sale. Here consumers will have to rely on images and product descriptions to select products. However, there are some advantages to patronizing these retailers. One advantage is the prices are often favorable. This is because operating an online store is considerably less expensive than operating a traditional store. This is because there is no need to own or lease a large retail space. The owners of the online store only have to have a facility large enough to store their inventory and an office space large enough to operate the online store. Some online retailers do not even have a storage facility because they have items shipped from the consumer directly from the distributor. This cost savings enables the online retailer to pass along considerable savings to the consumer. Auction Websites Still another option available to online shoppers is the ability to shop at auction websites. This is a different type of shopping experience because although consumers can browse through available items and read product descriptions the shopper is not guaranteed to be able to purchase an item unless they win the auction. Some auction websites do allow sellers to place items for sale instead of up for bid but the vast majority of items available on these websites are available via the auction process. Again there are certain advantages to this type of online shopping. One obvious advantage is the consumer can set a price they are willing to pay for a particular item and do not have to exceed this price. Additionally, they may win the auction with this price resulting in a considerable cost savings. Another advantage to online auction websites is consumers can often find rare items which are hard to find at these websites. Online Shopping For Used Items Online shopping for used items is quickly becoming a fashionable alternative to frequenting garage sales or browsing through thrift stores. Using the Internet to shop for used items can not only save the consumer a great deal of money but can also help the consumer to find used items which are difficult to find. This article will provide useful information for shopping for used items on websites such as Craigslist and eBay as well as information for properly evaluating used items available for purchase online. Shopping on Craigslist Craigslist is one of the very popular websites for online shoppers who are seeking used items. This is a website which is divided by city and allows users to post descriptions and photos of items they are offering for sale. Visitors to Craigslist can either search for items available for sale in their own city or they can opt to search for items available in other cities as well. However, many online shoppers opt to search for items in their own city simply because they can avoid shipping charges this way. Many users selling an item on Craigslist will either meet the buyer at a public location to exchange the item for the previously agreed upon fee or will enable the buyer to come to their home to pick up the item. However, users who opt to purchase an item from another city will likely be responsible for paying any shipping and insurance charges associated with having the item shipped. Online shoppers are advised to exercise caution when picking up an item purchased on Craigslist. Although the majority of users are honest, there may be the potential for harmful individuals who also use the site. Agreeing to meet the buyer in a public location and bringing along a friend are both recommended. Shopping on eBay The shopping experience available on eBay is somewhat difference than the experience of shopping for used items available on other websites. The major difference is eBay is an auction website. This means the consumers must bid against other website users for items they wish to purchase. There are some items posted on eBay which are available for immediate purchase but the majority of postings utilize the auction process. Through the auction process registered users can search through the available listings to find items on which they would like to bid. Once these items are found, the users enter a maximum amount they are willing to pay for the item and bids are placed automatically for the user until the maximum is reached. Once the maximum bid is reached the user may opt to raise the bid if another user outbids him. Items up for auction have a set ending time and the highest bid at the conclusion of the bidding period wins the item. After this the user must pay for the item and the seller ships the item to the user. Evaluating Used Items Online Shoppers at garage sales and thrift stores are able to carefully examine used items before making a purchase. This can give the shopper a good indication of the condition of the item. However, when shopping online for used items, the shopper does not have the ability to carefully examine the item. Therefore the buyer must rely on pictures and descriptions provided by the seller to evaluate the quality, condition and authenticity of the item. If the photos and descriptions provided are not adequate for this purpose the shopper should ask for additional photos or information as necessary. Is Online Shopping Secure? Whether or not online shopping is secure is one question which gets asked over and over again by those who are considering making a purchase online. Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this question which will apply to all online shopping situations. However, there is a list of questions which online shoppers can ask to assist them in determining whether or not it is safe to purchase the item they are seeking online. A few of these questions deal with the online retailer's reputation, the security of the server and the return policy offered on the items. This article will discuss some of these questions in an effort to help readers make informed decisions regarding online shopping. Is the Online Retailer Reputable? Determining whether or not an online retailer is reputable should be the first step shoppers take before deciding whether or not to make a purchase online from a particular online retailer. This is important because shoppers are much more likely to be satisfied with purchased from a reputable breeder than they are to be satisfied when the purchase is made from an online retailer with a less than favorable reputation. There are a few methods shoppers can use to verify the reputation of the online retailer. Consulting the Better Business Bureau is just one of these methods which can be very beneficial to the shopper. Here the shopper can find information regarding previous complaints against the online retailer and can use this information to determine whether or not the retailer has a reputation for dealing fairly with customers. Online retailers who have been in business for a few years and do not have any complaints against them or have very few complaints against them can generally be trusted while shoppers should be wary of consumers who have many unresolved complaints against them or who have only been in business for a short period of time. Is the Server Secure? The security of the server used to complete the online purchase should also be questioned by online shoppers. This is a valid concern because identity theft can cause a tremendous amount of problems for the shopper. However, there is a very simple way in which an online shopper can determine whether or not the website is secure. Whenever submitting sensitive data such as credit card information the shopper should carefully examine the web address. A secure website will have a prefix of https:// while an unsecured website will have a prefix of http://. If the website is not secure the online shopper should consider making the purchase by calling customer service instead of submitting the information via the unsecured website where it can be vulnerable to being intercepted. What is the Return Policy? Carefully reviewing the return policy of an online retailer can also give the shopper a good indication of whether or not the seller is reputable. In general the return policies offered by online retailers should be very similar in nature to the return policies offered by traditional retailers with the exception of special provisions for handling the shipping of the product back to the retailer. Return policies which are unusually restrictive should be considered suspect by the shopper and may indicate a need for the shopper to do some additional research before deciding whether or not to patronize a particular online retailer. Contacting Customer Service Representative to Make a Purchase One of the most common interactions between online shoppers and online retailers is the process of making a purchase. Although many online retailers offer shoppers the ability to make their purchases directly through a website, most of these retailers also offer the opportunity for the customers to make the purchase by calling a customer service representative. Online shoppers may prefer this method for a number of different reasons. Some online shoppers may have apprehensions about the security of the website while others may simply have a personal preference for placing the order online as opposed to through a website. Regardless of the reason for contacting customer service to make an online purchase, the buyer will likely find this interaction to be quite simple as long as he has all of the necessary information on hand. This included information such as the product number and his billing information. Contacting Customer Service with Inquiries Another reason why online shoppers often contact a customer service representative agent from an online retailer is to ask questions about the products offered by the retailer. Consumers may have questions because the website does not provide enough information about the product. Even online retailers who offer very detailed product descriptions may omit details which are important to a particular consumer. In these cases the online shopper can contact customer service to have these questions answered. These questions may pertain to the product or other factors such as the shipping policies or return policies. Regardless of the subject of the question the customer service representative should either be able to answer the question or should be able to find an answer for the consumer. Contacting Customer Service with a Complaint Contacting a customer service agent with a complaint about a product purchased online is definitely one of the most difficult and stressful interactions an online shopper can have with a customer service agent. However, there are occasionally situations in which these interactions are necessary. When these situations arise it is important for the consumer to ensure he has all of the necessary information available when contacting customer service. This will include information such as the order number and the billing information. The order number is important because it will allow the customer service agent to verify items such as the item which was purchased and the date of the purchase. With this information the customer service can provide information about the options available to the consumer such as a refund or an exchange. Methods of Contacting Customer Service Online shoppers who wish to speak to a customer service agent from an online retailer typically have a few options available to them. The most popular option is the ability to contact an agent via telephone. Most online retailers provide a phone number for reaching customer service on the receipt as well as on the website. However, the telephone is not the only way in which online shoppers can contact customer service. Email is another popular option consumers can use to reach a customer service agent. Most online retailers offer the option of emailing customer service to make inquiries or complaints. Some retailers even provide online forms which make it easy for consumers to reach a customer service agent. These forms typically enable the consumer to provide his own contact information as well as the reason for contacting customer service. A customer service agent will then investigate the inquiry or complaint and respond to the customer either via telephone or email. Placing an Order When Online Shopping Online shoppers have a variety of options available to them for placing an order. Online shopping is already rather convenient for a number of reasons including convenience and the ability to shop for items from retailers around the world. The ability to place orders in a variety of different ways makes online shopping eve more desirable for some consumers. This article will discuss some of the options available for placing an order when online shopping including using the website to place the order, calling customer service to place the order and faxing or mailing orders. Placing Orders through the Website One of the most popular options for placing orders when online shopping is to place the orders directly through the online retailer's website. In most cases online retailers offer the ability to add items to a virtual shopping cart while browsing through the available items offered for sale. After the consumer is done shopping he can review the contents of his shopping cart and add, subtract or modify the contents of the shopping cart as necessary before proceeding to the checkout process of the online shopping experience. During the checkout process the consumer provides information such as credit card information and billing address as well as the address to which the consumer would like the items shipped. The online shopper can choose to have the item shipped to himself or to others. Although shopping online is generally considered to be safe, consumers should verify the website is being made through a secure server which will protect sensitive information. One way to do this is to look at the website address. Secure websites start with https:// while websites which are not secure start with http://. Calling Customer Service to Place an Order Online shoppers may browse for items online but may decide to purchase items by calling a customer service representative instead of placing the order online. Customers may choose this option for a number of different reasons. Some online retailers may not have an option for completing the purchase online or these features may not be functioning correctly and in these cases the shopper will likely place the order over the phone. However, there are situations in which a consumer may opt to call customer service to place the order even when it is possible to do so online. This may include situations in which the order is particularly complex or situations in which the consumer has questions he would like answered before placing an order. Online shoppers who make a purchase this way should have all of the necessary information available before contacting customer service. This information includes the product number, billing information and shipping information. Faxing or Mailing Orders Online shoppers can also place orders by faxing or mailing the order to the online retailer. The consumer may browse for items online and even print the order form from the online retailer's website. Although this is not the most common method of online shopping there are some consumers who still use this method. One of the examples to using this method is the ability to pay for an order with a check instead of a credit card. A credit card will likely be required for orders placed online or with a customer service representative. Customers who fax or mail an order form may have the option of using a credit card to pay for the order but may also have the option of using a check as well. This is ideal for online shoppers who either do not have a credit card or do not want to charge items to a credit card. Although there are some advantages to this method of placing an order from an online retailer there is one major disadvantage to this method. This disadvantage is the order may take longer to process than it would through other methods. When a customer places an order through a website or on the phone the order is typically processed instantly. However, when the consumer mails the order form it may take a few days to arrive and then may require extra time for processing. Even orders which are faxed in may not be processed immediately despite arriving quickly. Savvy Online Shopping Savvy shoppers and bargain hunters are certainly not a new phenomenon. Ever since stores introduced the idea of sales there have been bargain hunters seeking out the best available prices on products and thrifty consumers are always seeking out ways to save money while shopping. However, online shopping offers shoppers many new ways to save money. Savvy shoppers can not only find the best deals online but can also find ways to further reduce the cost of these great deals. This article will discuss some of the ways savvy online shoppers can save money and will also discuss how these smart shoppers can also help to ensure the authenticity of an item when they are shopping online. Finding the Best Deals Online One of the greatest benefits of shopping online is the ability to comparison shop with ease. While comparison shopping at traditional stores may takes hours, days or even weeks for traveling from one store to another to determine which store is offering an item at the best price, online shoppers can typically accomplish the same task in a matter of mere minutes. In some cases of online shopping, finding the best deal can be as easy as going to websites which provide listings of online retailers for a particular item and produce comparison charts providing the information about the cost of these items from each retailer. This is an extremely easy method of comparison shopping and finding the best deal. However, even when this option is not available finding the best deal on a product online is typically not difficult. Savvy online shoppers can find often find the best deal online by simply visiting websites of several online retailers and noting the price at which they are selling the item in question. One simple way to do this is to open a new web browser window for each online retailer the shopper is comparing. This way the online shopper can simply browse through the open windows all at once and then only keep open the browser windows from online retailers offering the item at the best prices. Once the online shopper narrows the search down to a few online retailers who are offering the item at a favorable price they can use other factors such as shipping prices and incentives offered to buyers such as future discounts to make the final decision and determine which online retailer is truly offering the best deal on the item. Additional Tips for Saving while Online Shopping Comparison shopping is one way online shoppers can find the best deals online but savvy shoppers can find additional ways to save money while online shopping. One way to do this is to seek out promotional codes offered by online retailers. This can often be accomplished by doing an Internet search including the name of the online retailer as well as phrases such as, "coupon," or "promotional code." This type of search may return a number of different websites which compile coupons and promotional codes for a variety of different online retailers. These coupons and promotional codes may offer the online shopper savings such as a discount off the final price of an item or free shipping. However, it is important to note that not all of these codes will be valid. Online shoppers should not only verify the promotional code is still valid but should also carefully review the restrictions involved with using the promotional code to be sure the buyer is eligible to use the promotional code to obtain a discount. Ensuring Authenticity when Shopping Online Savvy online shoppers also realize it is necessary to verify the authenticity of an item before making a purchase online. This is important because it can help to prevent the shopper from purchasing items which are replicas of the item they are seeking. Verifying authenticity is usually not an issue when the online shopper is purchasing an item directly from an online retailer who is licensed to sell the item. However, problems may arise when the shopper is purchasing an item through auction websites or through individual retailers. In these cases the items may be misrepresented either intentionally or unintentionally. Regardless of whether or not the online retailer is attempting to deceive the buyers or simply makes a mistake, online shoppers should know how to determine the authenticity of an item. This ability usually comes from researching the items well and being aware of the key features of the items. The Hassles of Online Shopping Online shopping offers a variety of benefits to the consumer such as the ability to shop when it is convenient, a variety of shipping options, the ability to shop with retailers located around the world and easy comparison shopping but there is also a downside to online shopping. This article will discuss some of the hassles of online shopping including dealing with slow Internet connections, making a mistake when placing an order and problems which result from failure to read the fine print. Dealing with Slow Internet Connections Nothing can be more frustrating to an online shopper than a slow Internet connection or a website loads very slowly. This can be problematic because it can result in it taking a great deal of time for the shopper to find the items they are seeking and make their purchase. These problems may be a result of the Internet connection the seller has, the size of the page he is trying to load or the quality of the server on which the online retailer's website is hosted. Regardless of the cause of the problem it can be extremely frustrating and can greatly complicate the process of making a purchase online. A website which loads slowly can result in a great deal of lost time which can impact the shopper's satisfaction with the online shopping experience. It can also diminish the appeal of online shopping by making the process much less convenient. Making a Mistake with the Order Another problem which may result during the process of online shopping is making a mistake while placing the order. Although this problem can occur during any type of shopping, it can often be quite difficult to correct while online shopping. During the process of online shopping, shoppers may place an order and receive an email confirmation of the order almost instantly. Upon checking the status of the order the shopper may discover a mistake but may also quickly find out correcting this mistake is not easy. This is because many online retailers automate their shopping process which makes it difficult to manually correct mistakes. For example a shopper who realizes he used the wrong shipping address may find out the order has already entered the shipping process and can no longer be corrected within minutes after the order is placed. The order may not technically ship for a day or two but once the order is transferred to the shipper, the retailer may no longer be able to make changes to the order for the consumer. Therefore consumers should always carefully review the order before they submit the order to avoid mistakes which could be difficult to correct. Reading the Fine Print Finally, online shoppers should always carefully read the fine print before they make a purchase. This includes information such as the product description, payment options, cost of the product, taxes, shipping options and the return policy. All of this information is important because failure to understand this information could result in problems such as purchasing the wrong product or paying more for a product than expected. There may also be problems if the consumer needs to return the product and did not understand the return policy before making the purchase. This could result in the shopper either not being able to return the item or being responsible for the shipping costs. Reading Fine Print When Online Shopping Online shopping offers a wide range of advantages to shoppers but there are some precautions shoppers should take to when shopping at an online store to ensure their shopping experience is enjoyable and meets all of their expectations. Online shopping is not generally risky but consumers should pay particular attention to all of the necessary details when making purchases online. This article will discuss a few specific areas in which it is worthwhile for the consumer to read carefully to ensure they are not making a mistake with their online purchase. These areas include product descriptions, descriptions of payment options and explanations of return policies. Checking Product Descriptions Carefully The product descriptions on an online website are one of the most important components of the websites. This is because, unlike at traditional stores, consumers cannot physically examine the products before they make a purchase. Therefore, the consumer must rely on the product descriptions to make important decisions about whether or not to purchase a particular product. This is especially important when there are similar products available for purchase because the subtle differences may not be evident in the images available online. In these cases, consumers should pay particular attention to the product descriptions to ensure a mistake is not made in the ordering process. If the product descriptions are not descriptive enough or do not answer all of the consumer's questions it may be worthwhile to contact a customer service representative to seek clarification about the product before making a purchase. Understanding Payment Options Online shoppers should also carefully investigate the payment options available before making a purchase online. This includes not only the type of payment accepted but also the total cost of the item including taxes and shipping. Without a full understanding of this information the consumer may make a costly mistake with an order. To avoid these problems the consumer should first verify the methods of payment accepted before making a purchase. In most cases this will be limited to credit cards and debit cards when online shopping. Additionally the type of credit card accepted might be limited although most online retailers will accept all major credit cards. Regarding the use of gift cards the consumer should also investigate the policies regarding the use of these cards at the online retailer. This is important because some online retailers may limit the number of cards which can be used as well as the value of the cards which can be applied to an online purchase. This also applies to coupons and promotional codes as there may be restrictions regarding the use of these discounts. The restrictions regarding these discounts typically revolve around the times in which the discounts can be used as well as whether or not the discounts can be used on sale items or in combination with other promotional codes. Understanding Return Policies The need to make a return can be one of the most stressful situations resulting from an online shopping experience. Although making returns with items purchased online can often be very simple there are also some complications which may arise. To avoid these complications the consumer should read the return policies carefully and make sure he understands these policies before making a purchase. Depending on these policies the process of making a return may still be complicated and potentially expensive but as long as the consumer is aware of the policy he will not be caught by surprise when the need to make a return arises. The most difficult situation when returning a product purchased online typically includes the consumer being fully responsible for the cost of returning the item to the online retailer. Items which are relatively small may not be particularly expensive to return but oversized items and heavy items may be quite expensive to ship. Also, expensive items may require the purchase of costly shipping insurance.
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