Consumers: 4 Things You Need to Know Before Placing an Online Order — not After

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If you’re like me — and about 80 percent of other people according to Pew Research Center — then you shudder at the thought of living in a world without online shopping.

No, this doesn’t mean that you’re allergic to entering a brick-and-mortar store. In fact, sometimes it’s preferable, enjoyable, and wise — such as when you need a pharmacist to guide you in the right direction.

But with this being said, for many of us online shopping is the default option for most purchases. There’s no traffic to deal with, no parking lot hassles, no long line-ups, and the prices are often equal or better to what’s available in the offline world.

However, before the next time you happily fill your virtual shopping cart, here are four things you should know:

  1. Pay Close Attention to Extra Fees.

Most e-tailers don’t try and ding you at checkout by tacking on weird extra fees, for the simple reason that trying to deceive your customers isn’t much of a practice. In fact, it’s probably the worst thing you can do.

But some e-tailers haven’t figured this out — or they have, yet are still doing it anyway (as Forrest Gump advised us: stupid is as stupid does). Make sure that the price you expect to pay is the price that is going to show up on your credit card statement.

  1. Don’t Treat All Testimonials and Reviews as Absolute truths.

Eighty-one percent of shoppers check out testimonials and reviews before making an online purchase. This is a good idea, but it’s not foolproof. Some testimonials and reviews are bogus. Keep this in mind and do your own homework — don’t let someone else do it for you (because that someone else may be the seller themselves).

  1. Find Out How your Data will be Secured.

The convenience of online shopping can be shattered by discovering that a cyber criminal has stolen your identity, and is wreaking havoc on your financial life. You don’t have to be paranoid about this (although a little paranoia is probably a good thing here.) Just make sure that the recipient of your personally identifying information (FII) is complying with all prevailing laws and security compliance standards (e.g. PCI.)

  1. Get the Fulfilment Details.

Last but certainly not least: some e-tailers make it blissfully easy for you to put stuff in your cart and pay, but then then drop the ball when it comes to shipping your order. Make sure that you get all ecommerce fulfilment details before clicking “buy now,” so that you don’t end up chasing down your order.

The Bottom Line

Online shopping is supposed to be convenient, safe and reliable — because anything less, and it’s not online shopping anymore; it’s online gambling. My advice? If gambling is your thing, then find a legitimate gambling site that gives you a chance to win big. But if shopping is your thing, then keep the above in mind. You’ll be glad that you did.