Most people don't equate shopping with saving money. Marathon shopping trips that leave folks weary and penniless have long been fodder for jokes, and consumers are increasingly unamused. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, sales from online retail shopping will have increased from 172.4 billion in 2005 to 328.6 billion in 2010, with 265.8 billion of those dollars projected to be spent in 2008 alone. If you don't think your hard-earned cash should be counted among those figures, you might want to reconsider. Heading to the store will waste more than just time. Weary shoppers are prone to pick up expensive snacks and convenience foods, fall victim to the lure of impulse buys, and seldom take the time to bother with store-to-store price comparisons. Nevertheless, many consumers are not convinced. Here are some common misconceptions about online shopping, along with money-saving truths that are often overlooked.
Shipping costs too much. Even if you live near the stores, you'll still use a lot of gas sitting in traffic and circling crowded parking lots. The stop and go traffic means a lot of wear and tear on your car, not to mention your patience. If you think that's better than paying shipping charges, then think again! The competition for online shoppers is fierce. Many major retailers with an online presence offer flat rate or free shipping during peak shopping seasons, while some sites offer these perks all year long.
I can't see what I'm buying. Most consumers like to put their hands on a product before they buy, but online shopping offers something much more valuable: the user review. There are entire websites that are dedicated to consumer reviews of products, and manufacturers probably aren't thrilled that some of these comments are out there! Mega e-tailer Amazon displays user reviews of thousands of products. It's a great resource for shoppers, regardless of where you make your eventual purchase. Whether you've already selected a product or simply want help choosing between two or more, user reviews and comments can be a great source to help you get the most for your money!
Returning stuff is a pain. Relative to not having to return anything at all, yes, returns can be tedious. Returns by mail, however, may be preferable to having to stand in slow customer service lines. When your purchases are shipped to you, they will usually contain a prepaid return label for your convenience. Simply slap in on and drop it off at a shipping center. If a label is not included, you can easily mail your returns back via the US Post Service. By going to usps.com, you can pay for shipping online and print a coded mailing label from your home computer. A few more clicks and you can schedule a free pickup by your carrier, all without leaving the house. But if you're still determined to stand in line, many retailers will allow in-store returns for online purchases. Review the returns policy carefully before placing your order, and be sure to save all of your paperwork in the event that a return is necessary.
My account information won't be safe. In most cases, it's just as safe as it is when you swipe your card at the store. Additionally, most banks will protect cardholders against unauthorized purchases, so check with your card issuer for details. Before entering your account information on a website, be sure that the address at the top of your screen starts with "https." The "s" indicates a secure connection.
The best sales are in the stores. While it's true that some deals may not be online, the fact is that many are. In that respect, one big advantage a website has over the actual store is the fact that shoppers are not left to search out "door busters" on empty, ransacked displays. Better still, most websites have clearance sections where prices may be slashed by 75% or more, and you won't even have to get down on your hands and knees to peer into the recesses of the bottom shelf for these deals. To compound your savings, do an online search for the name of the retailer and the words "coupon codes." This is an easy way to find discount codes to enter at checkout for free shipping or 20% or more off of your entire order.
With all of these benefits, it's not surprising that online shopping is not just a growing trend. It's an explosion! When both you and your budget can end a shopping trip unscathed, it's a pretty good indicator that, for once, it may be best to follow the crowd. And this time, you can do it without even leaving the house!
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