I. Overview Of Topic
Why is shopping online so hugely popular nowadays? -- three reasons. One, convenience. Two, selection (you can usually find exactly what you want). And three, probably the most important, bargains. You can actually find incredible bargains online and over time save yourself a lot of money.
There's a catch, however. You have to do some serious research to find the online bargain shopping sites that offer the best quality, the best service, and the best bargains. I've done a lot of that preliminary research for you and I hope it will save you some time and aggravation. The results follow.
A Few Preliminaries Before You Start Shopping Online
You're probably aware that shopping online is relatively safe. Nothing, of course, is 100% safe anymore -- even eating out at your favorite restaurant entails a slight risk somebody will steal your credit card number. But if you deal with a reputable online shopping site, you're about as safe as you would be using your credit card in a bricks-and-mortar retail store.
There are a few rules to keep in mind, however:
Never enter your credit card number in a web site except to buy something.
If you have any doubts about a site, move on. Trust your instincts. Of course you can also check with sites like the Better Business Bureau, ScamBusters, the National Fraud Information Center, BizRate.com, and Complaints.com.
Always pay by credit card, because then you're protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and can get your money back. But make sure the shopping site's order form is secure. (Look for the little lock icon in the lower part of your web browser window.) Never shop from pop-up windows or email spam.
Keep good records of your online transactions. Print out the email confirmation and if possible also print out the final checkout page from the merchant's web site.
How to Research Purchases Before You Buy
Would you buy a car without checking out the make/model on Consumer Reports to see if it's reliable? You shouldn't. Since that information is readily available, why not use it?
The same is true of virtually any other big ticket item you're thinking of purchasing. There are now numerous web sites which provide solid data and reviews on just about anything you may want to buy. The best are: ConsumerReports.org, ConsumerREVIEW.com, Epinions.com, and ConsumerSearch.com.
Amazon.com, famous for its online bookstore, now sells just about everything, and just about all pages on the site now contain product or editorial reviews of the products for sale.
Another concern is getting a good price. For this I suggest using one or more price-comparison sites. These sites enable you to enter a product name and then scan many online retailers to see who's charging what. The most comprehensive, in my opinion, are PriceGrabber.com, BizRate.com, Froogle.com, Yahoo.com (go to shopping.yahoo.com) and Shopping.com.
Unfortunately, there's not a site out there which compares the price comparison sites (yet), but if you want to pick just one, I suggest Froogle.com, owned of course by Google. The reason is that Froogle is known as one of the most objective of these sites -- it doesn't charge the manufacturers for listings like some do.
Finding Bargains When Shopping Online
There are several ways to go about bargain hunting when shopping online. For example, you can search for rebates, coupons, discounted or clearance merchandise, used merchandise, or merchandise sold by wholesalers.
Rebates are a good strategy. The idea is simply that you buy a product, submit a claim, and get some money back. Rebates are available online for just about everything, but how do you find them? Begin with rebatesHQ.com. Just enter the product (or manufacturer) and a list of available rebates will appear. Click for more info on whatever interests you. Two additional good sources are MyRebates.com and RebateCatcher.com.
How about coupons? You don't usually get actual coupons when shopping online, rather you get coupon codes. Then you just enter the code when you fill out the online retailer's order form and you receive a discount. To learn about coupon deals, go to MyCoupons.com or to any of the following sites: Bargain-Central.com, eSmarts.com, RefundSweepers.com, and SpecialOffers.com.
If you're a hardcore online shopper you already know about the online malls. A lot of people don't. The big advantage of online malls is that you can scan the merchandise offerings of many merchants at once for a particular item. Try doing that in person at your local shopping mall!
There are two types, general interest malls and specialty malls. With the former, you can group purchases from several stores, entering your purchases on a single shopping-cart order form. To get acquainted with this efficient way of shopping online, visit InternetMall.com , SkyMall.com, or WebSquare.com.
Specialty malls bring together merchants that offer similar products or that appeal to niche markets. Use Google.com to find specialty malls offering products you're most interested in. A few examples are JewelryMall.com, WiredSeniors.com, and CraftIreland.com.
Overstock and Wholesale Shopping Sites
Now you're getting serious about shopping online. Overstock and wholesale shopping sites are where you can really save some money.
These offer new or refurbished products that for one reason or another manufacturers are attempting to sell fast. Often they are perfectly good products but the manufacturer has simply overstocked them or perhaps decided to supplant them with newer designs or other types of merchandise. Whatever the reason, the seller wants them to get rid of them to make room for other products.
There are two ways to buy overstocked items, in bulk or as single items. Obviously you can save more if you buy in bulk but you may not need a hundred toasters or microwaves or watches. Then again, if you're an eBay entrepreneur, bulk overstocked items (also called bulk liquidation opportunities) may be a good source of merchandise for you.
For bulk liquidation opportunities, I suggest these sites as a basis for exploring this type of buying, though there are of course others: Liquidation.com (the largest), USA Closeouts.com, and AmeriSurplus.com.
By the way, if you buy from a bulk liquidator, be sure you know the terms and the brand you're getting -- bulk liquidators often sell off-brand merchandise. Know exactly what you're getting and how much it will cost you, including shipping.
More likely, though, you're interested in buying just one item at a time. There's definitely some online bargain shopping to be had. Try SmartBargains.com, Overstock.com, and Closeouts.com. For more upscale merchandise closeouts, go to LuxuryBrandsllc.com.
Finally, what about buying wholesale? This allows you to bypass the retailers and buy straight from the wholesalers. Of course, most wholesalers don't sell to the public, only to retail outlets, because they sell in large lots not individual items. Some do, however, and in these cases, prices are rock bottom. To explore this option I suggest you visit a directory of wholesale distributors. This type of directory lists sites that offer specialized wholesalers like ShirtDistributor.com (which specializes in shirts of all kinds) and CKBProducts.com (luggage and sporting goods). The major wholesale directories are: Wholesale Central, and WholesalersCatalog.com.
Online auctions can be yet another approach to shopping online but this is a method fraught with complications. You need to be familiar with eBay or whichever auction you use -- how it works, how to bid, how to search for what you want, what "reserve price auctions," and "buy it now auctions," are, etc., and how to avoid getting outbid. All that will be the subject of a future Web Search Guide. Online auctions are fun and can save you money. But be sure to learn the ropes before you jump into auction bargain-hunting in a big way. I'll try to help with a Guide on this subject in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, I suggest sticking to the shopping sites and portals previously discussed in this Guide.
That's it - our ten minutes are up! (OK, maybe twelve or thirteen if you're a slow reader.) Below is a listing of Web resources to help you continue your research on shopping online.
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II. For Additional Research
This Section provides reviews and recommendations of Web sites and other online resources
SHOPPERS CHOICE is the Internet's fastest growing discount e-tailer, according to the Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites. It offers good deals on just about every category of consumer products, such as electronics, computers, patio furniture, watches, kitchen items, BBQ grills, etc. If you're looking for a good all-around site for shopping online with a full range of products and excellent prices, this is a solid choice.
UXCELL is a Hong Kong site with direct connections to factories worldwide. It sells directly to individual consumers. Its pricing is extremely aggressive, with discounts up to 90%. I compared its prices for several products with other e-commerce sites -- I checked iPods, MP3 players, and laptops -- it came in or near the lowest prices in all categories I looked at. The company offers low-cost shipping, a 12-month warranty, and a refund guarantee. This is a site worth a look for shopping online.
MEMOLINK is a virtual mall which enables you to get rewarded with points for completing actions online like visiting websites, sampling products, playing trivia games, completing market research surveys and making online purchases. It's a rebate concept which is now growing in popularity on the Web and if this is something that interests you as a way of saving money online, Memolink is easy to use and reputable.
I have to give
high marks for effort. This is true Yankee enterprise, 150,000+ products in numerous categories, including furniture, electronics, kitchen gadgets, gifts, health, and baby items, among others. It also has a monthly coupon code program. They claim to have Unbeatable Customer Service and Unbeatable Prices. (I couldn't find any complaints against them at the BBB or on Internet complaint sites.) At any rate they do have a huge selection and an easy-to-use Order Form. I have to give this site a "worth a look" rating.