Online shopping can be fantastic. You get to purchase items that may not be readily available in stores near you and you can take advantage of sales even when you can’t make it into an outlet. However, if you’re not careful, you can end with a heap of bargain-priced items that don’t fit or even worse, become a victim of credit card fraud.
Here are some tips to help you not only get the best items for your wardrobe, but protect critical personal information in the process.
1. Use familiar websites
Start with a website you trust rather than simply searching for “boyfriend jeans sale”. Search results can be set up to lead you astray. If you know the brick and mortar outlet or the online-only store has a solid reputation, then you’re more likely to be safe.
2. Read as many details about the item as possible.
Pay special attention to the type of fabric and whether it needs hand washing, dry cleaning or other special treatment. If you’re not prepared for that, don’t bother buying it.
3. Know your measurements and consult each website’s size charts.
What’s a size small in one brand may be a medium in another so you need to check the charts to see how a particular retailer determines its sizes.
4. Read the customer reviews
This will help you to determine whether the item is true to size, colour or fit. You’ll see why other shoppers plan to order more in different colours or why they had to return the item. After reading, you can decide for yourself whether you want to purchase.
5. Check the sale rack first (just as you should in a physical store)
While searching sale racks can be time and energy consuming in person, it’s way easier when doing online shopping. You can get both trendy items and basics at discounted prices already sorted neatly.
6. Be sure to check the return policy
If you don’t like what you buy you can just return it, right? Maybe or maybe not. Some stores will impose a no-return policy on clearance stock or charge up to 25 per cent as a restocking fee. Before you check out, always take note of the retailer’s policies.
7. Be careful what you share.
If a store is asking for your social security number, that should be a red flag. The more information you share, the easier it is to have your identity stolen or other damage done.
8. Make sure the internet connection is secure.
You should never shop using an unsecured wireless network since this can make your payment information open to hackers.
Remember, the saying about if it seems too good to be true also applies to online shopping. If an offer seems too generous, it’s probably a trap. And if misspellings or other errors make you suspicious about a site, follow your instincts and go elsewhere.
9. Check shipping costs and how much import duties and taxes will be charged.
This is especially for us Caribbean people. Sometimes you end up paying twice or three times the price of the item when all these extra costs are added in. You will have to determine whether its really worth it. From my experience, clothing can cost you an arm and a leg. However, I’ve ordered lotions and body sprays from Victoria’s Secret and even with all the extras, I still paid less than I would in Barbados!
*This post was originally published on September 20, 2014 and updated July 23, 2016.*