With the recession and job layoffs we see a lot of new shopping sites popping up all over the internet. We have a lot of customers phoning in orders as they're afraid of making a purchase online. I also had a few bad experiences myself recently (a seasoned online shopper).
So for the "silver haired surfers" and the "internet newbies" what should you look out for?
- Don't be tricked by the fancy site and stunning display of flash images. (Yes our site has it) be wary of sites that don't include telephone numbers or more than one way to contact the web owner.
- Avoid websites that state "we are not responsible if", there are a few exceptions including delays due to postal strikes, and holidays.
- Sellers that state they aren't responsible if your order goes missing; and that they will give you the proof of postage receipt so you can follow up the loss yourself, should be tarred and feathered. Wrong answer. Sellers are responsible to make sure the order gets to you the customer.
- Be wary of websites that give you an option of standard postage or recorded delivery. Chances are if the order goes missing they'll be one of those sellers that makes you track your own lost parcel.
- Recorded delivery is for the benefit of the seller, not the buyer. Recorded delivery doesn't track the order, it just shows when the order has been signed for. If you've signed for the order you know you've received it. Recorded delivery helps prevent fraud and charge back for sellers.
- It's perfectly acceptable however; for a website to give you the option of trackable service or standard. As you are then able to follow every step of the delivery process.
- Look for sites that have a full set of terms and conditions that cover returns, exchanges, delivery times, procedures for lost orders etc.
- Don't assume anything based on the photo of a product. Colours look different on various monitors. So be sure to ask questions prior to ordering to avoid disappointment.
- By law customers making purchases online are allowed a cooling off period. This generally varies between 7 to 14 working days (sometimes more). This should be stated on the site. If the site doesn't include this, ask and if you aren't given the appropriate response AVOID.
- Websites should include a list of payment methods. If you're making a purchase by credit card or debit card make sure the page asking for your financial data has a lock symbol somewhere on the page which indicates the page is secure.
- Google the site. This gives you an opportunity to see if there are any negative press on the site or unhappy customers venting their anger about the site's performance on other forums.
- Websites should clearly mark information about dispatch and delivery times. The last thing you want to do is guess when you're order will arrive. Good websites will keep you updated throughout the transaction. Be sure though to check your spam folders as sometimes these updates may end up there.
- Once you've made a purchase and received your order write a review. If the site has a review section make sure you write one. You're helping future customers make decisions on the safety and efficienty of that site.