General Web Shopping Advice

Choosing the right item at the right price with a reliable merchant can be tricky.  Below are a few types of sites to help your research.  Here are also a few things to keep in mind before you buy:
  • The lowest price might not be the best deal.  Read the fine print on everything including shipping fees and taxes.  Check out a store’s debit policy.  Do they take your money out right away or wait until your order is shipped?  What is the return policy?  Do they charge a re-stocking fee (a fee for putting the return merchandise back.)?
  • Make sure you are using a reputable vendor (store).  There are a lot of scams on the Web.  When you use BizRate it shows consumer feedback on vendors.  So check out this site before you buy.

  • Make sure the site where you are shopping is secure, which means the user name and password you type in will be encrypted before it is sent to a server.  There are two general indications of a secured Web page:

    • Most Web pages start with "http".  If there’s an added "s" (https) it is secured.
    • Check for the "lock" icon (see below).  There’s a de facto standard among Web browsers to display a "lock" icon somewhere in the window of the browser (NOT in the Web page display area!).  For example, Microsoft Internet Explorer displays the lock icon in the lower-right corner of the browser window:

As another example, Mozilla's FireFox Web browser displays the lock icon in the lower-left corner:

THE LOCK ICON IS NOT JUST A PICTURE!  Click (or double-click) on it to see details of the site's security.  This is important to know because some fraudulent Web sites are built with a bar at the bottom of the Web page to imitate the lock icon of your browser.  Therefore it is necessary to test the functionality built into this lock icon.

  • Verify if the item you are purchasing is available immediately, if that is important to you.  If availability is not specified, call (if a number provided) the Ecommerce site, or Email them.  Also see if you can cancel the item if it is not shipped when it is supposed to be.
  • Don’t forget to factor in shipping costs and sales tax.  Some merchants do not add these charges until you checkout.  Once these charges are disclosed, and if you realize another trusted store has the item at a more economical price, leave the site and buy it from the cheaper source.  If a site does not disclose these additional charges at all, RUN!
  • Print out your receipt.  Make sure you write down the Internet address if it’s not already on the receipt.  When the bill arrives with your merchandise, compare your receipt to the amount on the bill.