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Getting the Most From Online Shopping
Even the most enthusiastic shopper has a bad day sometimes: You can't find what you want, every second person in the crowd seems intent on bumping into you, and your legs are aching from hip to toe. It's at times like these when the much-touted convenience of shopping over the Internet sounds like a better alternative.
Like bargain hunters in the real world, however, on-line shoppers need to be aware of the pitfalls in order to enjoy the benefits of e-commerce. For most, the main concern is the invisibility of whoever is on the other end of the transaction. Those walking into the cyber market armed only with a credit card and an active imagination need to follow a few guidelines.
The golden rule in purchasing anything over the Internet is to find out who you are dealing with. The first step is to make sure the company is legal and has clearly stated sales and security policies, which should be easy to access on its Web site.
Buyers should also pay close attention to the terms and conditions of sale, such as whether there are any hidden extras in the form of delivery costs. Of course, it is essential that the firm can guarantee the security of personal information and credit card numbers. Otherwise, you may end up being charged more than you bargained for.
Not all on-line shopping is done in virtual stores. Internet auctions function in much the same way as regular auctions, though with a longer time limit. Information about items for sale is posted on an auction site and anyone can make a bid within the stipulated time. The successful bidder is informed by e-mail. Then, payment and delivery, which are carried out by prearranged methods, follow.
There are two kinds of auction sites: business-to-person and person-to-person. In the former, it is the Web site that has possession of the goods on sale and accepts payment for them, whereas a person-to-person auction site merely provides a means by which sellers can sell their goods directly to customers.
As with other forms of Internet shopping, credit cards are usually the safest and most convenient way to pay, but in a person-to-person deal, the seller may be unwilling to accept them, insisting instead on a cashier's check or money order before sending the merchandise. In that case, some sites recommend an escrow service that will handle the transaction independently for a fee of around 5 percent of the cost of the item.
Practically anything can be bought on-line and, provided the appropriate caution is exercised, Internet shopping can be a rewarding alternative to trudging through the stores. So sit back, log on, and save the workout for the gym.