09 September 2011

Buying online? Manage your expectations.

Online shopping is different from malling. 

In malls, you pay for the item that you like and you go home with it that very day. Instant gratification!

In online shops, you may see pictures of the product, but you don't know whether they are actual photos or not. You may be able to view items, but you can't touch, feel and inspect them... not until the courier delivers the package anyway. 

Our advice: Manage your expectations. Here's how:

  1. Once you find an online ad that you like, read it thoroughly. Does it sound like a cut-and-paste job? Are there enough details to convince you that the merchant is serious about selling something? Or does the ad contain only one line? 

  2. Find out as much as you can about the advertised item. Is the product brand-new or sold "as is"? Are there any defects which the seller declared? Look for specifics. Make it a habit to comb through any list of declared defects and find time to look at the photos.

  3. Don't just limit yourself to the merchant's web store. Lurk in review sites as well. What do reviewers have to say about the merchandise or particular brand or gadget? What do actual users have to say? Nothing beats first-hand information.

  4. Investigate the seller's background. Communicate with the vendor, and observe how s/he handles your questions. Can you trust the merchant? Is s/he approachable? Does the vendor have any attitude that makes you doubtful about transacting business with the person?

  5. Compare prices. There's no harm in looking for the best and most reliable deal. Visit the merchant's site and other similar sites that sell the same product. Are there any add-on charges that the seller did not declare? What is a realistic price for the product?

  6. Read, read and read. Make attentive reading a habit. Review the ad. Scrutinize the seller's policies, terms and conditions, as well as any published list of frequently asked questions. Never miss reading the fine print.

  7. Leave room for reasonable doubt. No matter how well advertised a product is or how convincing the seller sounds, remind yourself that you are taking a calculated risk by shopping online and that it is possible for things to turn out not the way you expected. You'll cope better by not expecting too much. 

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