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Online Shopping Adventures: A Mishap Story

Mary Claire O'Donnell | Monday, November 2, 2009

Identity theft, ruined credit scores. These are the words that first come to people’s minds when they contemplate the negative aspects of online shopping. But what about customer service and shipping time?
Online shopping may or may not be one of the greatest inventions of our generation. Think about it, it is such a simple, easy process. All you have to do is sit down at your computer, surf the Web for a bit and presto, a few days later, a package arrives at your dorm, containing your new clothing. Even better, because being green is so hip right now, it is an environmentally friendly way of shopping, no car needed. Not only that, it is a great way to procrastinate on that eight-page paper due the next day in your College Seminar.
But in reality, online shopping is not always such a cakewalk. Sometimes you choose the wrong Web site, and your package is not sent to your dorm room in a few days. Sometimes it takes a month, many phone calls, and three lengthy e-mails in order to receive your package.
The key to avoiding this dilemma is discretion in picking reputable Web site. Clearly, big name Web sites, like J.Crew or Old Navy, are respectable sites and can easily be trusted without a lot of extra research. But it is when you go off-roading, when you really need that pair of Ugg Minis and the official Web site does not sell them, that you run into trouble.
First thing to check on a Web site, where does the company ship its goods from? If it is a foreign country, beware, and possibly run away. Or in this case, hit “Back” on your browser and Google another Web site.
Next thing to check on a Web site is the “About Us” section, or something similar. What you are looking for here is evidence of poor-quality translation. This clearly indicates a foreign company and generally, though I do not like to stereotype, foretells customer service representatives whose first languages are not English. Weirdly placed punctuation is also a tip-off. For example, this quote is taken from a Chinese-based company and clearly exhibits classic symptoms of FreeTranslation.com:
Dear friends from all over the world,warmly welcome and sincerely thank you for visiting our website of International Trade CO .Ltd., with excellent surroundings of convenient transportation and flourishing economy center.
It is very important to not be swayed by the shiny baubles and promotions of these Web sites. It is very tempting to buy from them, with their offers of free standard shipping (only four to seven days), but do not give in, unless this site is fully researched. The opportunity cost of free shipping can be very high.
Think about it in the context of an example. Imagine you need a new pair of Uggs because your current pair is two years old and, quite literally, ripping at the seams. Maybe you think you are too good for the official UggAustralia Web site, so you perform a Google search and find a Web site that offers free shipping, and you just cannot resist the gleam of that bauble. You order the Uggs, excited about your find.
But then, it’s two weeks later, the cold is seeping in through the cracks in your boots, and you’ve seen neither hide nor hair of your new shoes. In fact, when you check the tracking number, an error screen pops up. Then, to make matters worse, when you call the company, they repeatedly blow you off. Furthermore, you can only call after midnight to talk to the manager, though they never patch you through, because of the time difference.
Imagine calling back twice a day, every single day and still never receiving answers about your shoes, only more faulty tracking numbers. Then, one glorious day three and a half weeks after you placed your order, your shoes do arrive, and it’s fantastic. But the anger and resentment remains, buried deep within your soul, waiting to erupt into a 1,200-word letter to the company that, true to form, remains unanswered.
Be careful when shopping online. Remember that, though it is easy and you are saving the environment, there are hazards and pitfalls, so use discretion and always do your research.
Also, never use uggonlinesale.net, no matter how free their shipping is.