Shopping online can be very enjoyable but one must exercise common sense and some good tricks to get out ahead. Shopping on the internet should start here. This guideline is created to help you enjoy the experience of shopping online - you may even make some cash and pick up some savings tips too:
1. Use Contact Us Button - ALWAYS!
If you are interested in purchasing a product or service online - first contact the site using their "contact us" button. If you do not get a response with 24 - 48 business hours - be very wary about doing business with that site. Even for well known sites - you still need to see what their customer service is like so don't bypass this step. Being big does not necessarily mean good customer service. The response should not be an automated one advising you to check site's FAQ for your answer. The trick is to make your query one that will have to be answered by a REAL person. I have developed the mindset that " if they don't respond to my query within 24 - 48 hours" - I won't buy!
2. Join Their Affiliate Program
If you have a website - and wish to purchase anything online first check to see if the site you plan to purchase from offers an affiliate program. If they do, this provides the perfect opportunity for you to see how they will treat you and anyone that you refer down the road. Joining the affiliate program provides a threefold opportunity:
First: Testing Customer Service PRE-SALE. This is another way of testing customer service by applying for the affiliate program. If you get a friendly response within 24 - 48 business hours and you get a comfortable feel about the site, proceed to join their affiliate program. Next purchase the item you set out to purchase in the first place BUT from YOUR link on YOUR site.
Second: You get paid for purchasing and that is just a sweet bonus! You will usually get back either a percentage of your own purchase or a set $ amount. Check to see how long your cookies take to expire. The longer of course is the better - the best are cookies that never expire. If you have a busy site you may be able to market the product and make great commission before your cookie expires.
Third: Testing Customer Service POST-SALE. You are now in the position of a customer of this site as well as an affiliate. As a customer you can evaluate - was the service and item as advertised? Was service friendly? Did the product arrive timely? Was the quality as advertised? Was there a thank you email for the purchase? Did you receive an electronic receipt? Was there follow up contact to enquire about delivery etc. As an affiliate - Was your affiliate account credited with the commission within the time set out in their affiliate contract? If you get all the right answers you can now proceed to confidently market that product on your site because you are now your own living , breathing credible testimonial.
3. CHARGE IT WITH CONFIDENCE
Many first time online shoppers are wary about flashing out their credit card to charge it and they have many reasons to be. Countless stories about online credit card fraud abound. Be careful, exercise common sense. The credit card companies are also very vigilant and pro-active in protecting their customers but that should not preclude you from indulging in your own due diligence. Follow these tips and you will minimize your risk.
a. First get a credit card that you use exclusively for online shopping.
b. Keep the limit $500 or below.
c. Only purchase at sites that looks like a real person(s) is/are behind it - i.e misspellings, out of date content -example advertising a salon trade show for 2006 in 2008 are dead give ways of unmanned sites.
d. Beware of squatter sites - sites that are not really involving in retail but host a lot of retail links.
e. Your first line of defence if you are not sure, is to use the - "contact us link" if there is none - leave right away.
4. ORGANIZE ORGANIZE ORGANIZE
When shopping online you will undoubtedly get a lot of email contact from the sites that you do business with. In no time your email inbox will be cluttered with these emails. These are important emails please do not delete them. Here is what I recommend - create a folder in your email program for EVERY company that you do business with and SAVE all their contact with you in their respective folder. This way anything you receive such as guarantee of service, warranty, commission promised, receipts, contract terms , etc you can access easily and quickly should a dispute arise later.
This trick is especially good if you are given passwords and username to log into a site a while ago and now need it. Yes - most, if not, all sites have a password/username retrieval process but why wait on their reply if all you need to do is to check your own folder? This tip is also good for correspondences from lawyers, school teacher etc. If it is important file it.
This tip helped me recently when I had to retrieve information from an electronic receipt I received from David Notestine of http://www.cyber-robotics.com last April. I was able to locate the receipt and contacted the company to take advantage of the service I purchased back then. This is also a company I contacted pre sale got a personal reply within 24 hours. I purchased and also joined their affiliate program. See I do practice what I preach!
5. DON'T GIVE TOO MUCH
There are many legitimate sites in cyberspace that are very honourable and would never attempt to swindle you therefore an article like this they would welcome. They may even post on their sites for their customers. However there are so many many sites that are set up just to do the very opposite. These are the ones that this tip is intended to warn you of. If you are asked to provide your Social Security Number (USA) or your Social Insurance Number (Canada) you might want to reconsider doing so. I have had the experience of signing up for work-from-home programs promising great wealth working from home completing surveys, some clerical stuff etc etc but you have to provide the Social Security info for your self and your family members etc to be paid. I did! Luckily nothing happened to my identify to my knowledge unless there is a Desemal Thomas in the USA that is not YET affecting my identify here in Canada. This took place in my newbie days on the internet when I trusted everybody. Unless you want a clone of yourself - Rule of thumb - LESS is MORE. No social security numbers, no full date of birth, bank account information, give only what make sense. Less information = more protection.
6. THERE IS NO GET RICH FORMULA!
Stay away from the temptation - (speaking from experience). Temptation can that burn a LARGE hole in your credit card. If these folks touting the rich life on the waterfront properties, the yacht, the 5 star vacations did have the get rich-overnight-formula why would they want to share it with you a total stranger? It would be so guarded by these people - you would have a better chance of getting some of the royal jewels from Fort Knox than them sharing it with you. Don't fall for the manufactured testimonials - do you know any of these people featured there? Do you know anyone who knows anyone featured there? What proof do you have that it is real? Follow your Gut instinct? Beware!
7. LET EQUIFAX/ TRANS UNION BE YOUR FRIENDS!
If you have heeded all the tips provided above and still have that feeling that something is just not right after you have made a purchase.
a. Contact your credit card provider IMMEDIATELY - request that they not accept the payment and you MUST not accept the good or service. You cannot have it both ways.
b. Check your credit report for any unusual activities and file a dispute of any item on your credit report that you did not authorize.
c. Make checking your credit report a consistent habit - some credit card companies offer credit monitoring service.
8. You CAN Make MONEY while SHOPPING ONLINE
In spite of the tip in #6 you CAN make money online. I am not selling you any program - NO! This is how it works.
The premise is - if you have purchased products and service online and you are pleased with it you may want to share it to others. Why not make some money doing so. There are folks who do make a tidy sum of money online doing just that. Selling as a middleman/women! That is what affiliate/reseller programs are about. You are marketing someone else's products or services. Instead of the vacuum salesman going door-to-door in the old days - the vacuum salesman now simply sets up a site and calls himself a "RESELLER" and get to work getting traffic to his site to purchase the vacuums from him.
Or Mr. Vacuum Salesman puts a banner on his site from the manufacturer of the vacuums and gets paid REFERRING clients to buy the vacuums directly from the manufacturer. Find a decent set of affiliate programs from sites such as Commission Junction, Share a Sale, Clickbank among others.
They key is that you have to generate TRAFFIC to sell to! That is it straight and simple. If your website is not even ranked on Google chances of a customer finding you online via search engine is very very slim. Most people start out with a regular site with one central product or service and once they build credibility and a decent size customer base they introduce these add -on services and products. It will take time but if you remain consistent you can make money online and elevate your enjoyment of the internet.
9. DON'T BE AFRAID
Don't be afraid to purchase on the internet - it is a fun place. Do your research, compare, read un-solicited customer feedback then buy. Some sites have customer feedback that you know is real because it is so raw in its content and both good and bad reviews are posted. Believe me, you will know if it rings true. Exercise common sense and happy shopping - it can be fun.