How to be a Smarter Online Shopper

By Randall Orser | Covid-19

Due to the pandemic many of us have moved our shopping online. Sales online have soared in 2020 and they are expected to beat previous records during the holiday season. Most of us are buying from reputable sources that we are familiar with for groceries, electronics, clothing and much more. But as Christmas comes around we might be searching a little wider afield for that perfect gift and buying from vendors that we are not familiar with. You need to be smart when placing that online order to make it a safe experience and avoid potential issue. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:

1. Read Reviews - Do your research and make sure that your vendor has a good reputation and has reviews that are genuine and are from verified buyers. Check for negative reviews especially from multiple people and how the company responds to them. Be careful to trust reviews that seem over exaggerated they may be fake.

2.  Beware of Red Flags

  • If the site looks unprofessional or is missing important information you could be dealing with a sketchy company which could put you at risk. Important things to look for are contact information, an actual address, phone number and email address.  
  • If the site is poorly designed with many spelling mistakes, bad grammar or broken links.  
  • If the back button does not work and you are stuck on a page, this could be a sign that the site is not legitimate.  
  • The site asks for your credit card information early on, you should not be asked for this until you are ready to finalize the purchase.

3.  Read the Fine Print about returns and refunds.  In BC there are not laws that deal directly with refund, exchange and return policies so retailers can set their own policies for customer returns and they can differ widely. This is especially true during the pandemic where some stores have changed their policies to reduce the risk of infection for customers and staff.  Make sure you read the fine print and know what you are agreeing up.

4.  Confirming your purchase - Before you confirm your purchase, make sure you see the following things:

  • A detailed description of the goods or services
  • The currency
  • The delivery details, including the shipping method and details of delivery
  • The cancellation, return, exchange and refund policies if any.

5. Know your rights should your purchase not arrive - Again due to the pandemic receiving orders can take longer than normal especially if buying from overseas. It is annoying when your purchase does not arrive, you may be able to get some help under BC law, check out How to get a refund if your online order never arrives

6.  Know what you can do when there is an issue with quality -  There are many funny posts on the internet about products bought on line not being exactly as advertised but it might not be amusing when it happens to you.  It is difficult to define a quality issue as everyone has different ideas of what they consider to be poor quality.  However if you are dissatisfied with a product you can read more about what your options are here.

Trust your gut, if a site appears dodgy then it probably is, look for a more reputable vendor and remember it is always good to support your local retailers as much as possible, during this pandemic they really need your help to survive.

From an article by Consumer Protection BC

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About the Author

President/CEO Number Crunchers® Accounting Inc. Learn how to just say stuff it to this bookkeeping thing with our 'Just Say: "Stuff It" To Bookkeeping program.