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Guideline for online shopping


Security (see also tips for Safe Online Shopping)

When shopping online, plastic is the preferred method of payment. However, you must remember that your credit card number is static. It doesn't change unless you close and reopen an account, and once your credit card information is online, it can be compromised if it falls into the wrong hands.

There are some measures online shoppers can take to minimize their risk. First and foremost is ensuring that all online shopping is carried out only on secure sites. To be certain the page you're on is secure, look for a tiny padlock icon, usually found in the top right corner of your browser's URL bar. You can also tell if the site is secure by looking for an "s" in the URL address. While non secure sites and pages begin with http://, secure sites begin with https://.

Never send your account numbers or any other personal information via e-mail, which isn't secure. For this same reason, you should never access a Web site to shop through an e-mail link.


Shopping online is easiest with plastic, but some plastic is better than others. It's advisable only to ­use credit cards, rather than debit cards, for online shopping. Credit cards represent an extension of credit, while debit cards draw directly from your bank account. Once in possession of your banking information, hackers can do much more damage to your finances than with your credit card number.

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act (USA only but similar in other countries), consumers are protected in the event of identity theft or fraud -- if they use a credit card. This law protects account holders by limiting their fraud liability. Payments for unauthorized charges to a credit card can also be put on hold and investigated. Even better, most credit card companies offer more protection, sometimes limiting consumer liability for fraud to zero. Using a debit card affords you some federal protection as well. If you notify your bank of a fraudulent debit card purchase within two days your liability is limited. Ask your bank about the conditions.

Most credit card companies now offer single-use credit card numbers for online shopping. These expire after one purchase and only your credit card company knows which account it's linked to.

Using only one credit card for online shopping is another great way to head off potential online shopping headaches. If you have one credit card number sent via cyberspace, the potential for fraud is limited to that one account. Should a hacker come by your account information, you'll have only that credit card company to contend with.

When shopping online it's always better to use a credit card over a debit card. To refund your online purchase when you have used a debit card takes a lot of time!

Beware the Restocking Fee

Online shopping could eventually mean the death of the physical retail store, but even if that happens, one thing will be constant: the warehouse. There will always be a need to store vast number of items and to employ people to stock these warehouses.

Until robots take their jobs, warehouse employees will require salaries for the work they perform. Paying a person for retrieving, packaging and shipping an item that you've purchased online is already built into a retailer's costs. But if you return the item, it still has to be repackaged and replaced, although the company hasn't made any money from the return. As a result, online retailers have begun to charge restocking fees on returned items.

It's a reasonable requirement, but some restocking fees are easier to swallow than others. While some retailers charge up to 25 percent or more, a fee of 15 percent of the price you paid for the returned item has become customary for intensively packaged products, like electronics. Before proceeding to checkout, familiarize yourself with the retailer's return policies, which should be explicitly stated somewhere on its Web site.

Simply packaged items like books and unopened DVDs shouldn't cost you any money to return. Likewise, if you're returning the product because it's defective, you shouldn't be expected to pay any return fee. If you've damaged the product's UPC code or serial number, however, don't bother trying to return it -- you've pretty much taken the item permanently out of circulation. You can try to recoup some of what you paid by listing the item on websites such as Amazon or eBay.

Bargain Hunting

Online shopping presents consumers with a wonderful new advantage -- the ease of barg­ain hunting. Prior to shopping via the Internet, finding the lowest price for an item meant perusing catalogs and circulars, traveling from store to store or hitting the yellow pages for phone numbers and addresses.

Tabbed browsing has even further paved the way for finding deals online. When checking out, don't pass by the online coupon code bar. Open another tab or window and do a quick search for coupons for the retailer available on other sites, like FatWallet.com and CurrentCodes.com. You may come up with a coupon you didn't know existed just by taking a few extra seconds for a quick search. Many stores will happily provide you with their own promotional codes if you sign up for their email newsletters. Enter the code before you check out to reap the savings. Keep in mind that this is only a tiny sample of bargain-hunting sites on the Web. You may have your favorites, but no one would blame you for keeping your shopping secrets to yourself.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are the most days for shopping, most retailers have special promotions and discount codes on these days!

Use the 'Chat now' button if available and ask for Discount or Promo Codes directly. Say hello and ask if they have any promo codes they can share. If you would like to purchase that special item, ask if that item will be on sale for the next couple of weeks. You can also send an email or call their customer service. If you are looking for a phone number, try Get Human first.

If you would like to know when your favorite item is on sale, use the 'Like it' button! You will receive updates on your favorites and save money! This works great on websites like Shopbop and Revolve.


Plan Your Purchase

If there's one big drawback to online shopping, it's the agony of waiting for your order to be shipped. The earlier you make your purchases, the greater chance they'll ­arrive on time. Under federal laws, retailers must ship items within the dates specified (for example, three to five days for standard shipping), or within 30 days if no shipping date is specified in the transaction.

To cut down on shipping fees, try to order many items at once from a single retailer. Your purchases should be lumped together into one large package with one shipping fee attached. By registering with an online retail site, the cookies uploaded to your computer will retain any items in your online shopping cart until you either delete or purchase them, allowing you to ship everything at once -- and at one price. Many online retailers offer free shipping on purchases over a certain amount, and online coupon sites regularly offer free shipping coupon codes.

If you can't catch a break on shipping, ordering early enough will allow you to opt for standard shipping. It's almost always the slowest, but if you order early, you've got time on your side. Give yourself a little more time if you're ordering from a third-party vendor through a big online retailer. The retail site's delivery date is an estimate, one the vendor doesn't always meet. Be aware of the fact that, in accordance with the requirements of Universal Postal Union, International Civil Aviation Organization and International Air Transport Association, all dangerous articles such as perfumery products are not admissible for posting by air mail (including Speedpost).




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