- Start The Countdown:Back in the not-too-distant past, people in search of gifts were required to shower, dress and brave cold winds and irritated fellow shoppers to choose holiday gifts. Fervent deal seekers impatiently awaited store openings on black Friday (like idling engines awaiting ignition. Children flipped through toy store catalogs like doe-eyed automatons, leaving them conspicuously open to certain pages in the hope that the catalog would somehow accompany their parents to the mall. It was a nasty, brutish time. Uncertainty reigned.Help would arrive in the late 1960s when computer scientists at the U.S. Department of Defense created — the predecessor of the Internet. We didn’t know it at the time, but holiday shopping would never be the same again. We didn’t have to go the store anymore! Instead, companies opened virtual stores online. Consumers could make their purchases day or night, respectably clothed or completely naked.
- Be Secure: When shopping online, plastic is the preferred method of payment. However, you must remember that your credit card number is static. It doesn’t change unless you close and reopen an account, and once your credit card information is online, it can be compromised if it falls into the wrong hands.There are some measures online shoppers can take to minimize their risk. First and foremost is ensuring that all online shopping is carried out only on secure sites. To be certain the page you’re on is secure, look for a tiny padlock icon, usually found in the top right corner of your browser’s URL bar. You can also tell if the site is secure by looking for an “s” in the URL address. While non secure sites and pages begin with http://, secure sites begin with https://.Some Web browsers now have larger certificate windows that are easier to read and that allow users to examine site information more carefully. For example, if you intend to check out your online purchases using Circuit City’s secure Web page but the site name on the page certificate doesn’t match up, steer clear — and alert Circuit City of the problem.
Never send your account numbers or any other personal information via e-mail, which isn’t secure [source: FCT. For this same reason, you should never access a Web site to shop through an e-mail link [source: .
Beware the Restocking Fee
Online shopping could eventually mean the death of the physical retail store, but even if that happens, one thing will be constant: the warehouse. There will always be a need to store vast amounts of items and to employ people to stock these warehouses.
Until robots take their jobs, warehouse employees will require salaries for the work they perform. Paying a person for retrieving, packaging and shipping an item that you’ve purchased online is already built into a retailer’s costs. But if you return the item, it still has to be repackaged and replaced, although the company hasn’t made any money from the return. As a result, online retailers have begun to charge restocking fees on returned items
It’s a reasonable requirement, but some restocking fees are easier to swallow than others. While some retailers charge up to 25 percent or more, a fee of 15 percent of the price you paid for the returned item has become customary for intensively packaged products, like electronics. Before proceeding to checkout, familiarize yourself with the retailer’s return policies, which should be explicitly stated somewhere on its Web site.
Simply packaged items like books and unopened shouldn’t cost you any money to return. Likewise, if you’re returning the product because it’s defective, you shouldn’t be expected to pay any return fee. If you’ve damaged the product’s or serial number, however, don’t bother trying to return it — you’ve pretty much taken the item permanently out of circulation. You can try to recoup some of what you paid by listing the item on any online stor