No Hell Here: The Heaven of Online Shopping

I've been shopping online for decades, for both myself and for gifts. At work, I look at online stores with a critical eye for hours every day, assessing navigation, shopping carts and ease-of-ordering. My take on shopping via the Internet is very multi-dimensional. Although I find some things that don't work, I find plenty more that does.

Although I too have occasionally experienced what Delia Ephron called out as the "Hell of Online Shopping," in her opinion piece for the New York Times, I'm not even tempted in the slightest way to stop shopping online.

I'm not ready to burn my pile of catalogs. I'm not going to desist from surfing the web for great deals. I'll continue to buy, and send, gifts from online stores.

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A very small handful of stores miss the mark regularly, falling down in customer service or creating shipping disasters. Almost every store makes an unfortunate, but occasional, error.

Most stores, though, do a stellar job in all aspects of online sales. Shopping online -- in general -- saves time, gas, and money. Catalogs on the web eliminate the anxiety many shoppers feel in crowds, long lines and general shopping mall stress. Online stores offer a world of merchandise that many people could never find locally.

To make sure that your online shopping experience is a good one, you should follow these tips:

  • Pick up the phone and call the company. Ask questions you have about merchandise, packaging, delivery dates and return policies. If you have special requests, make certain that they can be fulfilled. Always get the name of the service representative; write it down.
  • Set up an account when you check out; often this makes it easier to locate your order and get help for any problems.
  • Watch for your confirmation and shipping emails. If something doesn't look right, contact the store immediately. Save these emails until your order has arrived and you know it is in perfect condition.
  • Create a separate folder in your email to store your shopping-related emails. Make them easy to find when you are on the phone with a customer service rep.

Do you have tips for a problem-free online shopping experience? I'd love to hear them.

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