In cyber space no one can hear the cash register ring, so how do you know if an e-tailer is the real deal?
Melisande Clarke, Editor of www.bellaloopa.com.au, reports.
Hard to imagine that there was a time when you couldn’t shop at home and collect your purchases at the front door. In recent years Internet shopping has changed the buying habits of Australians, and it shows no sign of waning – a recent study predicts that online spending by Australians will reach $21.7 billion by 2015.
If you haven’t already been swept up in the online shopping juggernaut it’s only a matter of time. But whether old hand or novice, how do you ensure that your cyber shopping experience will be safe and satisfying?
Looks aren’t everything
A lot of people judge a website by its aesthetic, and it can be a clue to the quality of the merchandise, but it could equally be just for show. More important than appearance however, is the information available on the site.
Before you start shopping look at the site’s Contact Details. In a perfect world there will be a street address and contact phone number, or a customer service number. Some legitimate sites with a high volume of transactions will only have an email address; if you are unsure of the site send a test email.
The promptness and quality of the response can tell you a lot about an e-tailer.
Read the Fine Print
If something looks too good to be true, it often is. Although there are good deals to be found on the Internet, you often get what you pay for. When buying something on sale make sure you can return it. Some sale items online aren’t refundable, so check before you buy.
We humans are an impatient lot and sometimes to fast track a transaction we tick the Terms & Conditions box without reading the fine print. Yes, these documents can be boring and knee-deep in legalese, but you may be surprised at what you find buried in the text.
Also check out the Returns Policy before purchasing, and keep an eye on your credit card statements when a refund is due – it’s also human nature to let these things slide, and an unpaid refund can easily slip under the radar. And while you’re at it, check that your card has been charged the same amount as that on your receipt, remembering to take into account currency conversions.
Know what you’re buying
In the absence of the touch test, it’s not unreasonable to expect a detailed description of any item you buy online. In the case of fashion, knowing what fabric clothes are made of will influence your choice – it may look like silk, but it could be Polyester. Likewise with jewellery, the length of a necklace can be the difference between a statement piece and a choker.
The same is true for home furnishings. A friend’s sister was over the moon when she snapped up six antique coat hangers online, only to discover she’d bought six dolly hangers.
Size and condition are important too when buying vintage or second hand items. In this case a detailed description and zoom tool can make or break a sale.
An online shopping ‘to do’ list:
• Before purchasing anything online get to know the e-tailer by investigating all aspects of the site. With Australians sites look for an Australian Business Number (ABN)
• Make sure you are familiar with payment methods, and are satisfied that they are legitimate before giving credit card details.
• If you don’t want to use a credit card use a secure payment service such as PayPal.
• Allocate one credit card with a moderate limit for Internet shopping.
• E-tailers should send an email confirming your purchase, but print out the receipt before leaving the site.
• Not all websites are all that they seem. Visit www.accc.gov.au for information on detecting Internet scams.
• Use a secure password. Mnemonic devices such as a quote or nursery rhyme are easy to remember e.g. To be or not to be, that is the question = tbontbtitq. And create a different password for all transactions.
• Use a computer that is protected with up-to-date Internet security software.
And finally, the adage ‘buyer beware’ is probably more applicable to online shopping than it is for bricks and mortar purchases, so look before you leap.
Melisande Clarke is the Editor-In-Chief of www.bellaloopa.com.au, Australia’s first fashion, beauty and décor, online shopping magazine.