Ten Reasons to Shop Offline During the Holidays
Shopping online can be a great way to get the most of your money and time – but there are merits to going shopping the old-fashioned way too:
1. Walking the malls offers exercise
2. If you are tied to your computer all day at work, you may not want to sit in front of that screen again
3. You want to have a cash-only holiday
4. You can see and try on the items
5. Festive displays can get you into the holiday spirit
6. It’s an opportunity to socialize with friends and family
7. You leave with your purchase instead of having to wait for delivery
8. Salespeople can help you identify what you need and offer expert advice
9. No shipping and handling charges to pay
10. Returning merchandise is postage-free, immediate, and (often!) easy
|The holiday gift-giving season is quickly approaching – and if you are planning on buying some special somethings for loved ones, you have a relatively modern decision to make: shop the traditional way by physically visiting stores and malls, or log onto your computer and let your fingers do the running around. To help you decide, know the benefits, drawbacks, and safety measures of Internet shopping.
Because the Internet is always open for business, consumers have 24-hour access to virtually every major (and minor) retailer on the planet. While undeniably convenient, for those with spending issues, the web mall can be a little too accessible. Online auction sites are particularly problematic for thrill-shoppers. Many people get caught up in the “game” of outbidding someone else – and end up spending more than they intend.
It is vitally important to know what tempts you so you can avoid it. For some, it’s too easy to buy unnecessary items by clicking a mouse; for others, inviting displays and aching feet wear down financial common sense. To avoid making impulse purchases (whether you’re shopping from home or at the local mall) make a list of what you want to get for each person with the top price you are willing to pay, and try not to veer from it.
If you are careful to buy only what you need, shopping online can save you a lot of money. Since virtual space costs a fraction of real space, online retailers can turn a profit while offering serious bargains.
One of the greatest benefits of online shopping is the ability to quickly find the product you are looking for at the lowest possible price. With a simple toggle between websites, you’ll know who sells what, and for how much. This can be a tremendous cost and time saver when compared to going to brick and mortar stores (where you’d have to locate and evaluate competitor’s newspaper advertisements or visit each store yourself). Depending on the company’s policy, you may even be able to get free shipping and handling if you shop early enough or spend above a certain amount.
Shop early! If you don’t, your purchases will have to be specially (and expensively) shipped. Keep in mind too, that if you are counting on a specific item for the holidays, particularly if you want the hottest gizmo, it could very well be out of stock by the time you order. This time of year, plan for no less than a six-week preorder time before you want the gift to arrive.
Have the item sent directly to the recipient to save on not just shipping costs but hours spent at the post office. Make sure you have the invoice sent to your home and not the person the gift is for (you may not want them to know what kind of deal you were able to swing!). Many sites offer a fee-based gift-wrapping service too – take advantage of it if the idea of a present arriving in a plain brown box just doesn’t feel festive.
Obviously when you walk into a store you know who they are – which is not always true with Internet retailers. To avoid scams, actively type the web address of the business you want to shop from (rather than responding to an email or pop-up ad). Before entering any personal or financial data, confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number in case you have future questions or problems.
Online auctions are fun and amazing deals can be had, but be sure to read the product’s description carefully. If the item is described as refurbished, vintage, or closeout, it can mean that what you’re buying isn’t in a pristine state – which may be fine with you, but perhaps not for your loved one. Strangely cheap prices on luxury goods may indicate counterfeit products too. Remember caveat emptor, shoppers: buyer beware.
When purchasing, always use credit cards and never send cash. Plastic offers consumer protection: if the product fails to arrive or is not what you ordered, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. Make sure you know the refund policy, including the reimbursement timeframe, shipping costs, and if there are any restocking fees. Do not email any personal or financial information – it is not a secure way to transmit data. Instead, use the company’s website, and make sure it is secure by checking to see if there is a lock icon on the browser’s status bar, and the URL for the website should begin with “https”.
By using the Internet to find exactly what you need at the best possible price, you could save enough to indulge in a thing or two for yourself this holiday season – which is pretty joyful indeed.