With so many online merchants—both big and small—cropping up and offering insider deals, it’s tough for consumers not to take the bait. We know we’re not the only ones who have joyously clicked and filled their virtual carts with goodies from here and abroad. To all the newbies, the amateur shoppers, and even the seasoned cyber bargain shopper, here are a few things that should be kept in mind when scouring the net for goods.
Majority of high street brands and popular retail stores offer products that are exclusively sold in cyberspace, so it pays to be on the lookout for online deals. These products may not be as limited edition as you want them to be, but at least they’re not as mass produced either. While you're at it, scour Google for additional promo codes and discounts. 10 to 20% off coupons can make your shopping spree all the more sweeter. Even big name online shops such as ASOS, Shopbop, and Net-A-Porter (“Net-a-Port-ay”) are no strangers to sale and promo codes.
One of the most terrifying bits of buying stuff online, particularly clothing, is selecting your size. The best way to get around this is to have a copy of your dress size on hand. Ask someone to help in taking your measurements correctly. Sizing dramatically varies from one brand to another. Case in point, in shops that cater to Asians (such as YESSTYLE), your size can be an XL, but on the other hand, if you buy from European brands like Zara or Mango, you can range between a US 4 to 8. Many online stores also provide user reviews on the same page as the item you are considering to buy. Spend some time to read through it. Customer comments provide a clear insight on whether the product is true to size or not.
As tempting as it may be to grab the latest trends, the best way to avoid having to return goods that were purchased from an international online seller is to stick to styles that already work best with your figure. The closer the dress silhouette is to your figure, the better. Not to say that you should select something that doesn't leave an inch to pinch. In many instances, a bit of allowance leaves room for minor adjustments and tailoring from your neighborhood seamstress.
Never underestimate the wonders of eBay. You can buy just about anything on this amazing website. The best part? Items are often dirt cheap—with free shipping to boot! Of course, the biggest catch is the wait time you have to endure, thanks to our not-so-efficient postal service. (More on that later.)
Install shopping apps to your smartphone so you can get notification alerts anywhere and anytime. No need to miss out on a sale because you're out on the dance floor! With an app on your phone, you can easily shop while taking a breather and sipping cocktails with your gals.
Plastic currency is king when it comes to shopping online. This is generally how many international merchants transact with shoppers across the globe. A word of warning, though, do not save your credit card details in your shopping account. This lessens the risk of having to deal with unauthorized purchases or trigger happy virtual shopping sprees. For your safety, just make it a habit to manually input your payment details every time you shop. When it comes to local online stores, thank the heavens because there are now cash on delivery and bank deposit payment options aside from the traditional Visa or Mastercard selection.
I recently made the mistake of shopping while distracted. During checkout, I was busy taking an important conference call. I immediately called customer support and politely asked if they could help me cancel the order. After 10 minute, they phoned me back to say they couldn't help. Through years of shopping online, merchants have always been very considerate; this site unfortunately was not. Moral of the story, order cancellations are not always possible. Practice caution before you click that “Next” or “Submit” button.
Forever21, Nike, H&M, and Romwe are just some examples of online vendors that offer free shipping once shoppers reach a minimum purchase. There are instances when codes are also provided so that loyal customers can get their goods faster through free expedited shipping. On the same note, bear in mind that internationally purchased products take 2 to 4 weeks to arrive depending on where the items are coming from. All regularly shipped parcels go through the Philippine Post Office. If you want to avoid the hassle of driving to your designated pickup point, you can shell out extra for courier services.
Customs and Taxes
Still on the subject of the Philippine Post Office, the current fee for parcels declared at under $50 is P60. Anything that costs more is subject to additional customs charges. So far, I haven't had any horror experiences that involve being charged exorbitant rates that go up to thousands of pesos. Be cautious when you shop to avoid getting taxed crazily.
Returns & Exchanges
Just like cancellations, returns are a tricky slope. Usually, online brands will provide a return option in case there is a problem with the product—whether it’s a quality issue or the wrong size (or color or style) While the majority of online businesses are willing to accept returns, know that you will shoulder the shipping fee to get the item back to the seller.
The one thing to keep in mind when shopping online is to always (always!) read the details carefully. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don't get carried away. Think logically to avoid being scammed online.
(Main image edited by Mike Dee; GIF from Giphy.com; Insert photo from Flickr Creative Commons)