How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Online Shopping

If you’re like me, there’s something mystifying and alluring about online shopping. Not only do you get to stay in your pjs (or, uh, undies), but you can visit multiple stores with just a few clicks of the mouse. And you don’t have to wait in long lines. Or blow a full day’s worth of calories on a Cinnabon that you can’t deny after you smell it’s cinnamony goodness from 6 stores away. And you can have everything you want in seconds. OK, so you have to wait for the actual package to come, but what girl doesn’t love coming back to her dorm and finding a giant package waiting for her. (It makes me feel special, at least.)
Really, online shopping is the best thing since sliced bread. No, it’s better. I mean, what’s so great about sliced bread? Was that really some amazing advancement in our history? It’s just bread…that someone cut. I just don’t get it.  But it’s far from perfect. If you’re not a seasoned veteran (AKA addicted) like myself, you could fall into many online shopping traps if you’re not careful. And they’re expertly hidden, too! So let me be your online shopping sherpa.
Here a few tips to make your next online shopping trip safe and fruitful!
Tip #1: Make sure you’re shopping on an actual website – and not a scam.
It’s always so tempting to click those advertisements on the side of the screen that feature all these cool products at such great prices. Trust me, I know. No one loves a great product for a low price more than I do. However, be wary of those advertisements. Sometimes, though not all the time, those advertisements bring you to shady sites that are just itching to get your address, phone number, email address, and major credit card number. Online shopping may be fun, but you have to be cautious about who you give all that sensitive information to.
Tip #2: Score! It’s not a scam! Now it’s time to know what you’re shopping for and know your limit.
I have terrible self-restraint. It’s true. If I want it, I buy it. But learn from me – that is a terrible, TERRIBLE idea. If you’re online shopping, have an idea of what you’re shopping for. At least when you know what you’re looking for, you’ll know what you want and what you don’t want. It’s easier to ignore all the other pretty (but useless) things when you have a goal in mind. Also, know how much you want to spend and how much you definitely do not want to spend. I know it’s so tempting to just keep adding to your virtual cart, but don’t do it! The cart may be virtual, but that credit card bill you get at the end of the month is 100% real, baby.
Tip #3: Okay, so now you know what you want to buy. It’s what you were looking for and it’s within your spending limit. Perfect! Now it’s time to read the reviews. Always read the reviews.
I know, I know. It sounds boring. But you have to do your research! If it’s a piece of clothing, you need to know what other people think of the size and fit. There have been tons of instances where you get a size medium, and it turns out the dress fits like an extra-large in real life! Or you want this really cute teapot and it turns out it doesn’t come with half of the stuff you saw in the picture. It always helps to read the reviews because people love to complain, or rave, about products. Listen to them! They’ll save you a bunch of time and money.
Tip #4: So now you’ve read the reviews, and the product sounds even better! Now you can purchase it, right? Wrong. Now it’s time to check the shipping costs.
Say you found the perfect pair of shoes for a really amazing price. They were only $30! That’s totally an acceptable price for a pair of shoes and you can’t possibly pass up a chance like that, right? Maybe right. Those $30 shoes might end up costing you way more than $30. Those $30 shoes might turn into $50 shoes. Are they that appealing at $50? Maybe. But you need to watch out for those extra costs that might weasel their way onto your credit card bill. Check for those before you checkout! They may make the product you wanted so desperately not that worth it anymore.
Tip #5: Okay, now you’re definitely think it’s time to purchase. Except…it’s not. There’s one last thing you must do: check the return policy.
You never know what could happen. Despite all the raving reviews, it might not be what you wanted. Or, somehow along the way, the product got messed up and you want to return it. Except, you bought it without checking the return policy! And maybe there isn’t a return policy! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen into that trap. I did all the things I was supposed to, but I just forgot to check for a return policy. And guess what? There isn’t one. Don’t fall into this trap! If there isn’t a return policy, or if there’s a fee for returns, it’s better to know that now then be unpleasantly surprised later. Better to be safe than sorry!

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