In these days of covid protocols and shutdowns, online shopping is the only option available
Shopping, be it through online sites or social media sellers or going to the malls or bazaars or other shops locations, is both an art and a science.
For me, shopping is an adventure, a hobby and one of the loves of my life! Over the years I have by experience and interest acquired the acumen for shopping both offline and online.
The major question that online shopping throws up is: how do we know that we are getting our money’s worth. This is especially tricky when you can’t touch, feel, test the fabric but only view and that too in a limited fashion. Not being able to physically interact the product could result in some missteps, but, by and large, you can get good stuff if you really using some determinants.
Here is a list to check off when you shop online:
- FIX A BUDGET THAT YOU WANT TO SHOP WITH as this will stop you from splurging too much. Determining the cost bracket of your product will help you seek the best deal within your means. The sky is the limit when you shop online and every search will throw up enticing bargains that are just outside your reach and you will be tempted to cross over. I always use the price option on the filters to limit my choices!
- SURF DIFFERENT ONLINE SHOPPING SITES TO COMPARE PRICES AND GOODS so as to get good bargains. Oftentimes, you can find a product marked slightly lower in another site than the one you usually shop on. I don’t mind browsing through couple of sites to get a good deal, similar to trudging up and down couple of shops to made a good deal.
- SPEND SOME TIME TO READ UP THE REVIEWS ON THE PRODUCT as this will help you fairly assess the worth of the product. As we cannot physically see or touch the product, this is the best way to enquire if the product is what the site says. People are quite willing to post reviews with pics and with their input you will be able to set your fears at rest. I generally look for 4 or 4.5 rating and/or photos of product posted by buyers since you get a real view of what you are about to purchase.
- LOOK TO SEE IF THERE IF THERE IS FREE DELIVERY since otherwise the total price on your detailed bill will be more than what you saw on the product. Recently, my mother saw 4 bedsheet sets being advertised on TV as costing Rs 999/- and thought it a good bargain. Yet when she called up to place the order, she was told that courier costs would be an extra Rs 200/-. She did not purchase the sheets as the delivery charge was as almost as much as another set or the cost of taking a cost to a local shop!
- CHECK OUT THE RETURN POLICIES AND PICKUP OPTIONS so that you can return product and reorder or get your money back in case of any hitches in delivery or damage to product or wrong product delivery. Most sites do oblige in this, but some sellers even on such sites mark their products not returnable. So watch out sharply for such notices and addendums. Many sites have their own certification placed on products and these actually are reliable to purchase. Some sites want you to mail it back to them, which means extra work for us.
- ANALYZE TO SEE WHICH SITE WORKS BEST FOR WHICH TYPE OF GOODS you want to purchase. I have actually isolated sites that are good for grocery and household items, others for clothing, still others for beauty products etc. This helps me identify where I need to look for bargains for the item or items I interested in buying, besides saving from over-analysing or expending energy unnecessarily!
- BE CAREFUL WHEN PURCHASING FROM SELLERS WHO ADVERTISE ON SOCIAL MEDIA because many of the earlier tips may be absent with them. I had a postman, while delivering a parcel, warn me of sellers on a particular social media as he had seen people being dumped with the wrong product. He told of how folks would lament to him about it and their inability to return it or get refunds. Proper shopping sites actually work better as they are quite authentic and mean what they say. That’s not to say you can’t buy from them as I actually got a good product at a very reasonable cost from couple of them.
- TAKE TIME TO WHET THOSE WHOSE GOODS CATCH YOUR EYES ON SOCIAL MEDIA by connecting as much as possible through personal messaging or whatsapp or other means. Some of them abscond, leaving you unable to get any response for your requests for exchange or money back. They bombard you with queries when they want you to buy and then abscond when you start bombarding them for returns, with even their sites having no proper communication links. So better to have some form of connectivity other than on social media and check for customer care options that will enable direct complaint and communication. I did buy from couple of sellers, but only after checking them out. They proved to be really good and I did get real bargains on authentic stuff!
- KNOW WHEN TO SHOP ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND WHEN TO BUY FROM SHOPPING SITES. During lean shopping seasons, sellers on social media actually offer lesser price than shopping sites for the same goods! I know it from experience and I was surprised to note the difference. The saree was marked higher on a shopping site and I opted to buy from a seller advertising on social media, resulting in acquiring a genuine product for a lesser price. During season, shopping sites offer better options, combos and gifts to buy from them, while social media sellers actually hike their prices during it!
- DO NOT SHOP ONLINE BUT OFFLINE DURING CERTAIN SEASONS. Times when people are on a shopping spree such as during festival seasons, auspicious marriage times, beginning of school year etc., the actual shops in bazaars and shopping centers offer better prices as well as discount sales. Make full use of them and real bargains and gifts thrown in, enjoying the festivity as a whole. I was surprised to find a saree I had purchased from a shopping site a month or so before a festival season marked with a much higher price on the same site!
Online shopping is like trading on the stock market or handling an investment portfolio – you must learn the basics of it. You must have enough comprehension to know when to buy and went not to, where to buy and where not to, how to buy and how not to, what to buy and what not to. You must have certain competence to not to get your fingers burned, confidence to take the right risks and complaisance to be able to absorb any losses that may occur in spite of your carefulness.
Play and pay within a small budget so that your risks are small. If you hit a snag or a loss, rather than bemoaning it or staying away from it, consider it as payment for a lesson learned in the process of becoming online shop savvy!
Online shopping is the only safe mode available in these pandemic period. May it be an enjoyable experience while it lasts!