“Are you online shopping, again?” My roommate gives me a knowing smile as I halfheartedly close the screen window and shut my laptop, acknowledging the fact that I was, yes, online shopping, again.
Every time I fire up my computer, online shopping beckons me. It’s amazing to me that virtually every store with literally every item is available, with the quick click of a button. It’s positively effortless. And dangerous.
Anywhere that I have access to the Internet is a place I can shop. Everything from groceries to high fashion is currently available online. And what’s not to love? It’s efficient, simple and requires little movement. It seems like a blessing, especially in our cold Canadian winters with limited quality shopping malls that may be a half hour or more away.
Plus, it’s easy. Type in your credit card number, address, and your name and in approximately three to five business days you have a package sitting on your porch. Most companies even offer free shipping if the company is in your home country.
It’s not just consumers jumping on the online bandwagon either. Companies are ensuring their products are accessible on the Internet to as many people as possible. If they aren’t, they can lose business fast.
Let’s say you want a specific pair of boots from a company that doesn’t ship to Canada. Shoppers that don’t have time to cross the border might be able to find new boots from a company that can ship to Canada.
Not being accessible online is a huge handicap for companies, especially in the ever-changing and evermore competitive clothing market.
So, online shopping is accessible and good for business – win-win situation, right? Not exactly.
Problem is, it’s almost too easy – too easy to spend money that you don’t have on things you don’t need. In other words, it’s a university student’s worst nightmare.
Buying online at Topshop, one of the most popular British clothing companies (now it’s an international company with franchises in the United States and Canada) is a good example of what to look out for. Topshop proudly declares on its webpage, “Free worldwide delivery on all orders over £75.”
Yet for customers outside of the United Kingdom, any returns come with the burden of cost of shipping, as well as the possibility that parcel won’t reach the return center, meaning no refund.
For certain countries, the store fails to offer refunds or exchanges at all, regardless of the circumstances. When online shopping, it is essential to know the return policy on the items purchased, and not to use the minimum amount necessary to get free shipping as an incentive to purchase more than desired.
It is much too easy to punch in the numbers and excitedly wait for the package to arrive without realizing how much excess you’re spending. Plus, the fun of online shopping is killed if the package arrives and the piece fails to fit, especially when you can’t return it.
Obviously, online shopping can be an amusing, easy alternative to physically getting out of the house and going to the mall, but it needs to be done with caution. A surprise thousand-dollar visa bill is a reality check that no one wants to experience.