Not so long ago, the mere idea of shopping used to make me break into hives. The horror of it all unfolded in several predictable steps. Driving to a mall through a nasty jam, looking for someone to vacate a parking spot only to have someone else steal it, abuse the person, then spend another 20 minutes looking for one. Then to walk in and out of a gazillion shops and, finally, when you select what you want, have the smug shopping assistant matter-of-factly tell you, “Sorry madam, we don’t have this in your size!” (I swear to god, they totally enjoy informing you that you are too fat for pretty clothes!)
Then came the Internet and a whole new world of online shopping and wham! — I am now pretty certain I have some sort of online shopping disease that will probably lead to my inevitable doom. But before that happens, I feel it is my duty to impart my gyaan to all those out there who need my help—you know who you are.
While many of these tips are focused on buying clothing, they are applicable to most online purchases.
1. Do your research
Yes, just like you go to a dozen shops before you buy that pair of jeans, I recommend you visit at least 3-4 sites before you zero-in on one product. It’s common to stumble upon the same item—yes, the SAME item—cheaper on another site. And a sale is almost always on somewhere or the other. So be patient.
Pro tip: the same product could also be cheaper on the app version of the e-tailer.
2. Know your size
Yes, take a tape measure write down your measurements—36-24-36. No, not the one you state on Tinder, the real one—40-38-46.
Pro Tip: I usually avoid buying things that hug the body because the chances of you scoring the right size are slim. (See what I did there?)
3. Beware of nasty delivery charges
These tend to sneak up on you at the last stage. In some cases, even if the site says there is no delivery charge, you will notice the same product in another site will cost you less even after paying the delivery charges. Also, make note of the charges you may have to bear if you have to return or exchange the product.
4. Read the fine print, especially the return/exchange policy
One true benefit of shopping online is the fact that you can “sometimes” return a product and get your money back, which is NEVER the case if you buy it from a retail outlet. But while most large online stores offer your money back, some don’t. Some sites only offer exchange or store credit. Just make sure you know what you are signing up for. It’s not a bad idea to just call the customer care and check with them.
5. If you are dissatisfied, complain
It’s always a good idea to let the seller know if you faced any issues with the product. Call, mail, chat, whatever works for you, but do leave your feedback. You might just get a voucher from a savvy seller to make up for a bad experience.
6. Be very careful while ordering from international portals
Yes, I have done it. Yes, I am shameless. Yes, I have paid more than 1,000 bucks extra in import taxes and all the other annoying add-ons. But stupid as that may sound, there are some benefits of buying from international sites.
One, you will get some really cool stuff you may not find in the same brand outlet/website in India. Second, there are some sites—I will not name names, let’s just say a very famous site from one of our neighbouring countries that we are not best of friends with—that actually sell the same products you will see in some of our local sites at a much, much cheaper rate. And since they post the products, you will not have to pay exorbitant import taxes, but you must be prepared to wait for your goodies—anything from 15-30 days. Also, note that this is a one-way commitment. Returning the product if dissatisfied isn’t possible.
7. Always read the user feedback
Not all websites have this feature but some do and you should always reap the benefits of it. Now, reading into a feedback is also an art. Beware of the always-disgruntled shopper who will buy a ₹100 headphone but expect Bose quality audio or of the extra-‘nice’ feedback, probably written by the seller’s daughter. Then, there is the genuine lot. How can you tell? I usually go with the majority vote or just stick to my gut. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Now that I have imparted my wisdom, it’s time for me to take my begging bowl and look for a sweet spot at a metro station. May the Force be with you!