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Hard Facts on Software – …and even more safe shopping tips

You will probably be surprised that there are even more things to consider when shopping safely online. There are plenty! This week we deal with Shipping (Delivery) Terms, Return Policies and using shoppers intuition. Here is take on these issues, which I have infused with my own experience and comments:
Pay Attention to Shipping Facts
A company should ship your order within the time stated in its ad. If no time frame is stated, the merchant must ship the product in 30 days or give you an “Option Notice.” This gives you an opportunity to cancel the order and receive a prompt refund, or agree to the delay. It’s common practice for companies to ship the next day or two, but sometimes the site will dropship, meaning it will order the goods from the supplier only after you have placed your order and paid for it, so there may be delays.
Here are key shipping questions to ask: does the site tell you if there are geographic or other restrictions for delivery; are there choices for shipping; who pays the shipping cost; what does the site say about shipping insurance; what are the shipping and handling fees, and are they reasonable; does the site tell you the expected delivery date and do they tell you whether they have an item in stock or whether they need to order it first? Another question to ask is do they tell you how long the whole process is going to take if they don’t have the item in stock?
Learn the Merchant’s Cancellation, Return and Complaint-Handling Policies
Even under the best of circumstances, shoppers sometimes need to return merchandise. Check the Web site for cancellation and return policies. Be sure to check for the following: who pays for shipping; is there a time limit or other restrictions to the return or cancellation; is there a restocking charge if you need to cancel or return the order; do you get a store credit, or will the company fully refund your charges to your credit card; and if the merchant only offers store credits, find out the time restriction for using this credit.
Also consider whether the merchant post a phone number and/or e-mail address for complaints; how long has the company been in business and will they still be around when you need them; is there an easy, local way for you to get repairs or service and is there a warranty on the product, and who honors that guarantee; and lastly, what are the limits, and under what circumstances can you exercise your warranty rights?
Don’t expect less customer service just because a company operates over the Internet. This is especially important if you are buying something that may need to be cleaned or serviced on occasion.
Use Shopper’s Intuition
Look at the site with a critical eye. And heed the old adage, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
If any of these questions trigger a warning bell in your head, you will be wise to find another online merchant:
Are there extraordinary claims that you question?
Do the company’s prices seem unusually low?
Does it look like the merchant is an amateur?
Are there a lot of spelling or grammar errors?
Does the company’s phone go unanswered.
The use of a post office box might not send up a red flag, but a merchant who does not also provide the company’s physical address might be cause for concern.
Serious online merchants work hard on building credibility into their site. They will have a trusted site logo (which we discussed elsewhere). They will have lots of pictures of their offices/premises/store fronts. They will have pictures of their leadership team and links to their social networking sites. Look for these things – if they are missing, you might be dealing with a less than reputable company.
Until next time then – Keep it (A)fresh.

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