10 Tips To Safe Online Shopping

The internet has changed our buying habits. Many people have found the convenience of online shopping to be a great experience. You can easily click and see the product. You have a fun time shopping, browsing, reading and getting informed about products. And you don’t have to take time out from your busy schedule to fight traffic, crowds and lines to buy the perfect gift for your recipient.

No wonder Internet business generated $301 billion in revenue last year, by a University of Texas estimate.

If you compare shopping online to offline you would think as far as security goes, it would favor offline shopping, right? Not really.

In the years past, shoppers were more reluctant to do their shopping online – now things have changed greatly. And that confidence in consumers directly reflects the enormous growth of online sales.

I have a friend who took his wife out for a romantic evening to a local restaurant. The last place you would expect credit card fraud to happen. By the time he noticed they had charged him double the amount for their dinner, it was too late to go back to the restaurant. He rang me and we concluded that it must be a mistake. It was later that we found out that the restaurant owner’s reputation was a bit shaky. Apparently he frequently overcharged customers in the hope they wouldn’t notice.

I don’t know. It’s a funny world we live in.

Does this mean the internet is safe? Relatively yes, but don’t forget, the Internet is an open field and there are some bad elements out there.

We have been shopping online for years. We never had a problem with credit card fraud on the Internet. But then again, we always take precautions. From this point forward, you will see 10 checkpoints online merchants have to pass to secure our business…

Will your credit card details be safe?

Reputable companies online know that one of the things preventing customers from placing orders with them is customers not been sure whether their credit card details will be safe. Responsible companies have taken this concern onboard and have set up their systems to provide the customer with maximum security.

How would you know if you are entering your payment details on a secure page?

You should see a picture of a lock on the bottom right hand side of your screen. This lock will appear on the page that you fill in when ordering and ensures that your name, address and credit card information is being sent to the online store through encrypted code. This encrypted code means that a hacker will not be able to steal your credit card information.

Does the online store value your privacy and confidentiality?

Prior to the internet days, when I used to order something from a mail order company, mysteriously I would be sent advertising from companies that I hadn’t done business with. Back then I didn’t know that companies sold your personal information for advertising purposes to other companies.

Receiving junk mail was annoying but because of the cost involved, it didn’t happen constantly. Imagine now if you do business online with a company that doesn’t respect your privacy and sells your email address.

Next time you open your email software, you are bombarded with emails ranging from a dozen to hundreds. Now that’s not annoying – it’s intolerable.

So moral of the story here, make sure your email address won’t be sold. Ensure the online store has a privacy statement which would state they will maintain your personal details in the strictest privacy and confidentiality.

Does the online store have contact details?

You may think, of course an online store would display their contact details on their website. You would be surprised. I was. No email address, nothing. This is a sure red flag.

Reputable companies will have contact details.

Do they have a refund policy?

Offline stores have a refund policy and you go into the store, physically select the product and are then allowed to return it for whatever reason. If a refund policy is important in offline stores, it’s twice as important for online stores.

The internet in convenience surpasses the offline world when it comes to shopping – but one thing it can’t match is that offline you can physically touch the product. Therefore a refund policy of 30 days is great, more is better. No refund policy and I would stay away.

Do they send you some sort of confirmation when you place your order?

When you place your order what you need is something to tell you they have receive it, a receipt if you like.

A reputable company will either issue you one via email or display a new page of their website where they thank you and tell you the order went through okay and your product is on its way.

When do they deliver?

What times do they deliver during the day? Do they deliver on the weekends? Can you choose a time to have your gift delivered? Will it be delivered personally to the recipient intended or will the courier leave it outside their door?

How will your gift arrive?

If its flowers, will it come with a vase or in a nice box or wrapped? Will your bouquet contain flower care instructions? How about flower food to make your flowers last longer?

If you’ve ordered another gift product, will they wrap it? In what kind of material will they deliver it? Do they tell you these things on their website?

How long have they been in business?

This may not mean too much. There are companies that start off and surpass all others. But perhaps for your peace of mind, you may want to use an online store that has been in business for some years. To check the history of the company is easy.

You can go to networksolutions.com and click on “whois” on the top bar. You will be taken to a page where you can enter the web address of the online store you want to check and you will receive the relevant information.

Is the online store’s site easy to use?

Is navigating easy? Is looking for products easy? Do their graphics download in a reasonable time? A sure sign of an amateur sight is if they have their website cluttered with information.

Have they gotten any bad reviews?

A reputable company isn’t necessary one that hasn’t any bad reviews to its name. It’s virtually impossible to please everyone.

There have been companies I have bought from and absolutely loved. So it surprises me sometimes when I stumble on a bad review about their products or even bad comments about them.

So when is a bad comment about a company worth considering? I take note of reviews where the writer complains of:

  • not receiving the product
  • not receiving a refund
  • not having their emails answered

If you want to see what kind of reviews a company may have, click on alexa.com. When you get to the website, type in the address of the store you want to check out. This will also show you how long the company has been in business.

Online shopping is fun. Take a little care and make it an experience! Happy shopping!

How to Make the Most of Your Outfits’ Shopping Trips?

Whenever I head to the malls, I look at my overflowing wardrobe to remind myself, though usually fruitlessly, that I must exercise restraint. I do the same, when I browse my favorite websites online. The online stores offer irresistible deals, so this personal resolve weakens there considerably. And, when it’s about sales and discounts – whether online or in the real shops – even the constant reminders fail to work.

I am sure that’s the case with most people, these days. After all, who would say no to the wonders of a nice shopping trip! However, what is important is that this ‘happy’ and ‘adrenaline-pumped, relaxed, de-stressed’ feeling remains (and escalates), even after credit/ debit card swipes.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case – always. Once the colorful stuffed bags are in hands, the ‘happy’ feeling fades, getting replaced by guilt or remorse – for many. There have been instances, when I have instantly regretted a purchase. I have seen women cursing themselves for buying something ‘useless’, as they were influenced by a fellow shopper or coaxed by a pushy shop assistant.

Some just cannot say no! Others decide to cancel, or worse, refuse Cash On Delivery orders. Cancellations and refund requests are a routine affair in the online shopping domain, and most ecommerce portals reel under the pressure created by incessant ‘returns’. Many of us just cannot seem to get the most out of our shopping escapades. And, a wrong shopping decision is not just about wasting the money – it’s also a great burden on our time strapped lives.

Well, here we bring you some tips that will help you make the most out of the time, effort and money spent on every shopping trip you take – in the real or the virtual world.

1. Think of Your Vital Expenses – for the month

This is one thing that I have always seen working for my husband, who always mentally cruises through the current expenses list, before he clicks on the ‘Buy’ button. Start with the expenditures that are waiting payment or processing.

Okay, it may sound like a depressing thing to do at the beginning of a, probably, uplifting shopping cruise, but it does make a lot of sense. You will be reminded of the priorities, so you will end up shopping only for the priority stuff.

2. Don’t Go Shopping (even online) – when in a hurry (or just before a meeting)

The feeling of ‘running around’ makes us stressed and anxious. We may not realize, but any frenetic, frenzied run-through is bound to leave you on your nerves.

Purchases made in such a frame of mind are quite unlikely to fit in the ‘great’ category. Also, we tend not to be our resourceful best, in such a state of mind. Plus, hurrying doesn’t let us look for options. Buying whatever we encounter first, irrespective of quality – especially when it’s something essential (at the moment) – is quite likely in a maniac rush.

That is precisely why planning ahead works well. If you have to make some purchases for some event, occasion, wedding or anything – even a gift – do so in advance, as you are unlikely to get something you ‘really admire’ in a hurried shopping trip. For the same reason, I now even avoid buying groceries and veggies in my lunch hour ‘free-time’. Doesn’t really work well, I realized!

3. Don’t Go Shopping – when angry or hungry (or thirsty)!

Cranky is bad, when shopping. If you are hungry, again you will be in a hurry to wind up the shopping, so you can eat (and drink). So, all we talked about in point 2 – applies here too.

Most women decide to go shopping to beat stress or a bad mood, alright. But, ask these ladies, if they love their purchases made on those ‘seriously-need-a-mood-lift’ trips. The majority of answers will put you off doing this in future. Instead, go for a run, or to a park to play with kids, or simply take a stroll with your favorite music in your ears – to uplift sodden spirits. Shopping is best done, when you are in a balanced state of mind!

4. Make a List

As old-fashioned and clich├ęd as it sounds, preparing lists really helps in prioritizing and cutting out unnecessary buys.

Contrary to the popular belief, making lists ahead of a shopping trip is not restrictive. Instead, it leans a direction and flow to your trip down the mall or street. And, at the end of it all, who is asking you to ‘not’ buy anything apart from what the list lists. Just start with the most important stuff, or something that you actually need, and then go to the peripheries and extras.

It will also reduce your effort too. I recently needed a new Anarkali, which I forgot, as I entered the mall. I shopped for 2 pairs of shoes, which I don’t regret at all. But, on my way back, I realized I ‘really’ needed the dress for my dance class. Since I was already out, I did not go back to level 4 in the mall – to my favorite store. I bought one from a shop near my home, and I rarely wear that suit now. Get the point?

5. Keep a Time-Limit

Okay, I know it sounds quite contra-indicative to points 2 and 3, but ironically it still makes sense. So, you shouldn’t be hurrying while shopping, but you must also know that you don’t have all the time in the world. Your trip or virtual crawling need not be bound by strict time deadlines, making it impossible for you to ‘breathe’. But, you still must set a stipulated time, when you would need to finish you stroll through the mall.

This will help you prioritize and avoid endless comparisons. It will also save time and efforts, as you will not dilly dally! Still not convinced? Try first and tell us later!

6. Visit your Favorite Stores First

Again it’s about prioritizing. When you start your shopping stroll, you are freshest, perkiest and most sorted. Most of us know, what we want and what we need. So, things are clearer. And thus, it makes sense to head to stores that are your favorites, or where you know the fitting, quality, prices etc. are most suitable for you.

So, instead of mindlessly drifting to the spots nearest to parking area or entrance (like my husband does), or getting enamored by biggest discounts and most vibrant hoardings – first head to your trusted labels. Devote the best part of your shopping trip to the places that are sure to fit your personal bill! Everything can come later.

7. Pay by Cash – whenever, wherever you can…

You know how it works. When we count notes to make payments, we better register – how much we have paid. Plastic money doesn’t let it seep in our mind – unless we see those humongous bills.

8. Don’t Go with a ‘Friend’ – who is too haute, too self-immersed, too cranky, too critical, too rich, too careless – basically ‘too’ anything.

We don’t need such influences, when we are trying to make the most of a coveted shopping trip. That’s the reason, shopping online, when at work, surrounded by colleagues with hundreds of divergent opinions doesn’t work well.

Ask for opinions, suggestions, feedback – but not from someone, you know, would always disagree, or has extremely different likes that your own preferences.

9. Dress up well, wear well-fitting lingerie and good shoes

You will, invariably, end up trying your clothes, so you must know how they will actually look on you, when you are ready to ‘go out’. So, don’t make the mistake of going shopping in flip-flops and shabby undergarments, especially with a shopping agenda to buy something special.

Dressing up well also invites good attention from shop assistants, besides giving you confidence to say ‘NO’ when you want to. Look great, feel sprightly and shop right!

How To Find Best Online Deals When Shopping For Software

With so many comparison shopping search engines, you no longer have an excuse to buy software full price. These simple pointers will show you how to get 10-50% off practically any software or game.

Tip One – compare the price comparison engines.

The top three price comparison engines are Froogle (by Google), Yahoo!Shopping (shopping.yahoo.com) and PriceGrabber.
Froogle is the most comprehensive of the three because it does not charge merchants for their listings. The benefit of that is a a very large inventory of listings. However, sometimes this results in obscuring results. For instance, if you enter “Luxor Game” in order to search for a popular casual downloadable game by MumboJumbo, the first six listings will be totally unrelated to the product searched for. On the other hand, Froogle does usually find the best deal for software or games and posts it on the very first page, so all you have to do is to weed out irrelevant results. In this particular case, Froogle was able to find a merchant selling Luxor for $17.99

Yahoo!Shopping, on the other hand, provides more relevant results, with a proper match for “Luxor Game” in the very first position. However, Yahoo!Shopping only list products sold through Yahoo!Shops, therefore the inventory is much smaller, which decreases a chance of finding the lowest price. In this case, the best price for Luxor is $18.88, well above Froogle’s.

PriceGrabber works as a paid inclusion service, which means that its inventory of listings is smallest of the three comparison engines. However, because some large software merchants use this service, occasionally, PriceGrabber offers a rare chance fo find a really great deal. In case with “Luxor Game”, PriceGrabber matched Yahoo! at $18.88, which is still below Froogle’s results.

Tip Two – search only for downloadable versions.

Even though you may find very good prices through Froogle, Yahoo!Shopping or PriceGrabber, a vast majority of the merchants sell boxed versions of software that need to be shipped. These shipping charges often increase the price of software by three to five dollars, which is quite significant for software that may cost only twenty dollars or less. Solution? Buy downloadables version.

The two best places to go for downloadable software are Download.Com (a CNET site) and Deprice.Com. CNET’s Download.Com is not a price comparison search engine. However, it lists over 50000 software and game titles that can be downloaded and bought online. The prices are listed right below the date software was added.

Deprice.Com is a specialized website that list only discounted and only downloadable software. It’s searchable database contains only 14000 listings, which is not large enough to cover all popular software, but is still worth the search.