To Buy or not To Buy...Online?

 by: Garry Neale

More and more people are saving time and energy by shopping online these days. However, there are a few things you should know before making that online purchase.

Always be sure to check an online store’s terms and conditions, privacy policy, complaints procedures, and whether or not it has a secure checkout. If you have problems, being able to contact the retailer is crucial,. Always note the phone number and physical address of an online store before buying.

There are also 12 questions you need to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to make an online purchase.

1. Who are you dealing with?

Information about the site owner should be clearly identified somewhere on the site. They should list either email address or phone number, or both, and a full mailing address. These are very important should you decide you need to file a complaint or check on your order.

2. How much is it going to cost you?

The price should be clearly displayed and include all costs. Be sure to remember to look for information about delivery charges, taxes and currency differences.

3. What are you buying?

You should be able to easily identify the product. This is especially important online because you often can't see the goods you buy. Be sure you understand exactly what you are buying. You may also want to do some research before you buy. It is always good to read online product reviews like those found at which lists reviews of many of the products or services commonly purchased online.

4. Is there stock available?

Stock availability should be clearly displayed. If they tell you an item is on back order, be sure they give you an approximate date for order completion. If not, you would probably be better served to cancel your order and try another merchant.

5. What delivery methods are available?

Determine what deliver options you desire are available and how much it will cost. Also ensure that the merchant delivers to your country. This is especially important since the Internet is truly and international community.

6. How do you know when you’ve confirmed your order?

There should be a clearly defined ordering process for you to follow. You should also receive a receipt for your order either online or by email.

7. How can you pay for your purchase?

Payment options available should be clearly displayed. Most online stores will accept credit card, but some do not. Some stores accept non-internet payment, debit card or third party payment providers (PayPal, Western Union, etc.).

8. What personal information are they asking for and what will they do with it?

Only information needed for purchase should be requested. If you're asked for personal information, there should be an explanation of how the information will be used, and who it will be given to. Be sure to check to see if the store has an online Privacy Policy and read it!

9. How long will it take to get your order?

Make sure the store gives a stated target time for delivery, and that you'll receive an email to tell you when it's been sent.

10. How much do you owe?

The amount you paid should be stated when you order, with allowances for any currency conversion.

11. What if you don't like the product, or it's faulty?

The returns procedure should be stated on the web site and easy to follow with who to contact if the returns procedure fails. Any extra costs should be specified in the returns policy, so check before you finalize your purchase.

12. Can you get a refund?

Most of the time there should be no problems obtaining a refund, just like regular shopping, provided you have the physical address of the trader. It's a lot harder to chase up a virtual shop. There are also some legal questions which may make getting a refund more complicated if you shop overseas.

Remember shopping online can be both fun and convenient, but it pays to be cautious.

About The Author

Garry Neale is the president and CEO of Lyndyco Marketing, Inc.

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