And now you're welcome to read a set of very simple rules one shall follow when shopping on-line. Use them, and we wish you to become a huge fan of on-line shopping! It can save you plenty of time and money.
1. Buy from reputable sellers:
This is the BEST rule to follow, that almost replaces the others. Because when you buy from a reputable business with lots of happy customers, clearly it will cherish it's reputation above all, and take all possible and impossible measures to protect your personal information. It will also make sure that you receive exactly what you have ordered, in the promised time-frame.
A great way to check the reputation of an on-line store is to read it's guest book, or any other alternative "public place" where existing customers share their experience. Take a few minutes to read these feedbacks. If there are plenty of great recent comments from customers and subscribers, and you feel they're real - it's a very good sign.
The vast majority of good online stores have a guest book, AND/OR use a 3-rd party store feedback services like BizRate, e-PublicEye, Better Business Bureau, Trust-E, e-Opinions etc. Yet, there are some good online stores that just didn't guess to offer such "evaluation" feature to their potential customers. You may still do some great shopping there. Just be sure to follow all next rules carefully.
2. Buy from stores that "look like a well-maintained, fully functioning business":
First, take a look at the site. Forget the stupid idea about not judging by appearance. Appearance is important, because a good business person would never allow his storefront to scare away customers. It doesn't need to be a piece of art from a designer's point of view. But if the site is absolutely uncomfortable for navigation, or just looks like a 10 year old kid's masterpiece - STAY AWAY from that store.
Another great indication is the language used to describe everything - from products to help section. All texts should 'read' like they've been written by a normal, literate person - not an obvious senior school dropout.
If half of the web site images or pages aren't loading, it's also a big sign saying "NEVER BUY HERE". Of course, we're not talking about temporary ISP problems that every site faces once in a few months. But if a store looks neglected - it's a bad place for shopping.
3. Make sure that you can contact the store. A contact form or email address must be listed. A decent store will also list the company address.
Also, if you've emailed a relevant question about a product, ordering procedure or shipping, and the merchant doesn't respond within 2 business days - it may be wiser to order somewhere else. But keep in mind - we've noticed that really large stores often don't answer their emails at all. It does not necessarily mean that you will experience any problem with their products or delivery. But still, it may be wise to buy from smaller merchants, and benefit from better service.
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