When Christmas comes around every year, there’s one thing that many people dread most-shopping. Anytime I think about shopping during the Christmas season I can almost hear that ominous tune that forecasts chaos and misery. And I always face the dilemma of having enough time to go- (dum dum dum) shopping. So putting all those research skills I’ve learned in college to use, last year I ventured into the realm of online shopping. I was skeptical at first, of course, but ended up pleasantly surprised. There’s an array of websites that provide a safe, secure, shopping atmosphere with a wide variety of goods that allow the online consumer to find just the right gift.
My biggest issue with Christmas shopping, other than time, has always been money (lack thereof, rather). A good way to solve this issue is by checking places like Ebay.com . Ebay provides a wide open market for a number of items. You can find things from coupons to cars; it’s a great place to look for rare or collector’s items. An advantage of Ebay is that it lets individual people or small businesses auction their goods for lower prices for a low fee. I’ve won auctions for as low as one cent. I’ve bought video games, DVDs, CDs, and various collectibles on Ebay.
Because Ebay is open to anyone, the online consumer may be faced with a great deal of hesitation before purchasing something through an Ebay seller. A great tool that Ebay provides is a rating system. This allows consumers to leave feedback comments on the people they have bought items from. Next to the seller’s name a number and a colored star appears in parenthesis; this is the seller’s rating. By clicking on the number, you’ll be allowed to view feedback posted by past customers of seller. This can give you a general idea of how well the seller handles their business.
There’s a lot of great items that you can buy for cheap prices; however, the thing you have to watch out for is the Shipping and Handling charges. You might win and item for 99 cents, but the S&H charge could be five or more dollars. This isn’t always the case, but the S&H charges are sometimes on the high side. Because this is an easily accessible marketplace, people are often finding themselves caught in a feverish frenzy of trying to win and auction. I’ve noticed that items that are especially battled for on Ebay are CDs, DVDs, and video games. Sometimes you can get awesome deals, but if you don’t have a fast internet connection it’s more likely you can lose out on getting the things you want.
Prior to bidding on items, be sure to read the entire product description and all auction notes the seller has made. Some sellers accept various types of payments, but have particular standards as far as how they accept those payments (such as, checks may be held for a period of 7 to 10 days prior to the item being shipped). A majority of Ebay sellers accept payments through PayPal.
The PayPal.com website says states, “PayPal makes sending money as easy as sending email. Members can instantly and securely send money to anyone in the U.S. with an email address.” PayPal accounts can be connected to credit cards and bank accounts. When paying for items you’ve won on ebay with PayPal, you receive an email notice that provides a direct link toPayPal. Another option to find great new and used CDs, DVDs, VHS, and video games is the Ebay affiliate Half.com.
Half.com is where many individuals put up items for sale that they don’t put on Ebay. At Half.com the buyer simple browses through lists of available items that are sold at a fixed price, generally priced according to their condition. If you’re especially low on cash, this is an fantastic place to get presents. They have tons of used CDs, DVDs, vhs tapes, books, video games, and other items. I’ve bought a lot of cds, movies, and books through Half.com and have always been satisfied. Most of the media items are sent through a flat rate with Media Mail. The general charge for media items is around $2.50 to $3.00, so be sure and factor in the shipping cost when you’re trying to keep a strict budget. Also, Half.com lets sellers list items according to how “new” they are; the categories range from Brand New to Acceptable, and this tells you how “new” the item is.
For instance, if you purchase an item under the category of Brand New, it’s likely that the item will be and unopened copy of the product. However, when you purchase an item listed under “Acceptable,” there may be some wear to the item, or not all of the original content of the product may not be present (such as a booklet or artwork). Most often sellers will a brief description of the item in the listing. Half.com also provides the same rating system that is provided on Ebay, so again, you can check out their track record.
Aside from online shopping venues such as Ebay and Half.com, there are also a wide variety of other major online retailers. Another option for buying media materials is Amazon.com. Amazon lets its users compose a wishlist of items they’re interested in purchasing or receiving as gifts. This allows other users to view their wishlist, and it can save a lot of time and frustration for the busy shopper. The wishlist option provides an excellent way to ensure a happy gift recipient.
My personal experiences with Amazon have varied. I have pre-ordered products on a few instances, and in one instance the product was delivered the morning that the product was due to be put out on the market. However, I also had pre-ordered something that didn’t arrive until 3 weeks after it’s initial due date. Amazon also offers the option for individuals to list items to sell, much like Half.com. Amazon also has a rating system similar to Ebay and Half.com . My best advice is that you order things far ahead of time to ensure that you’ll have the item in time for the holiday. This rings true for anything that you buy online.
Major retailers that have physical locations also have the option to buy things online. Stores like Target, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy all provide consumers with the opportunity to purchase items that are sold in stores at the same great prices. Often these major retailers also have internet-only specials that give the shopper an opportunity to get deals that in-store customers wouldn’t have the advantage of. Again, the cost of shipping and handling needs to be considered, as it can make a large difference in price. An advantage to shopping these major retailers online is that you can view a wide selection with a great ease. Where an in-store customer may spend hours sorting through racks of CDs and movies, you can simply do refined searches for specific items. This can save you time and a headache.
If you’re really low on cash a good place to check out is FatWallet.com. FatWallet.com is a community of message boards in which its members post regular information about deals and giveaways that retailers are advertising. Fairly often notices for free magazine subscriptions are posted, and this is an excellent way to give someone a plentiful gift and not cost yourself any money. There are some cases in which there may be free items offered, but a (usually) small S&H is required. Recently, I signed up for two different year-long subscriptions to popular computer magazines as a gift for my brother at no cost to me. Something to keep in mind is that these deals go fast, and there’s new information added several times everyday.
There’s a large variety of options available to the online shopper; there’s so many options that’s it’s difficult to narrow-down just where and who to buy from. Also, it’s a concern about how safe it is to shop online. The website ShopTour.co.uk provides a list of things the Internet consumer should pay attention to when shopping online. “Security is probably the hottest topic regarding the Internet at the moment. We all have concerns when shopping on-line and we at Shop Tour UK are acutely aware of this,” states the website.
When shopping online it’s always best to shop at sites that are warranted as “safe.” The United States Federal Trade Commission states, “Shopping online offers lots of benefits that you won’t find shopping in a store or by mail. For example, the Internet is always open – seven days a week, 24 hours a day. And, bargains can be numerous online. Shopping on the Internet is no less safe than shopping in a store or by mail.”
With all of this in mind, I encourage people to try Internet shopping and save themselves the hassle of battling the crowded stores during the holiday season. I think that taking away the frustration and the feeling of chaos that often accompany holiday shopping can actually allows you to enjoy your shopping experience. You end up with everything you need, and don’t have a migraine at the end of the day.
Shopping Linkshttp://www.ebay.com http://www.half.comhttp://www.amazon.com http://www.target.comhttp://www.wal-mart.com http://www.fat-wallet.com
Online Shopping Safetyhttp://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/online/cybrsmrt.htm http://www.shoptour.co.uk/safety-first.shtml