Shoppers Advice receives thousands of calls and letters from shoppers who have the following questions about catalog and online shopping. We hope our advice helps you to shop securely, save money and find exactly what you’re looking for:

* Shopping Tips from the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection

* Toy Safety Shopping Tips

* Shipping Options and Charges

* When Can I Expect Delivery of Packages

* Handling Returns

* Will this Fit? Sizing Tips for Women

* How does this fit? Sizing Tips for Men

* Fall Fashion Trends for Women

* How a Man can Build a Wardrobe


Shopping Tips from the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection

SHOP WISELY- Know who you're dealing with. Confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems. If you get an email or pop-up message while you’re browsing that asks for personal or financial information, don’t reply or click on the link in the message. Protect your privacy. While online, order only on a secure server. Guard your online password. Pay the safest way.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS -Check the refund and return policy. Read the fine print. Check delivery dates. Review warranties. Can you return the item for a full refund if you’re not satisfied? If you return it, find out who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees, and when you will receive your order. An FTC rule requires sellers to ship items as promised or within 30 days after the order date if no specific date is promised.

GET THE BEST DEAL -Compare prices. Check shipping and handling fees. Order early to allow plenty of time for shipment and delivery.

KEEP GOOD RECORDS - Track your purchases. Keep receipts & website printouts. Print and save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and copies of every email you send or receive from the seller. Don’t email personal or financial information. Read your credit card statements as you receive them and be on the lookout for unauthorized charges.

Don’t email your financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting financial information like your credit card, checking account, or Social Security number.

KNOW WHAT YOU’RE BUYING- Read the seller’s description of the product closely, especially the fine print. Words like “refurbished,” “vintage,” or “close-out” may indicate that the product is in less-than-mint condition, while name-brand items with “too good to be true” prices could be counterfeits.


Toy Safety Shopping Tips

Are you buying the right toy for the right age child? According to the The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):

Under 3 Years Old - Children under 3 tend to put everything in their mouths. Avoid buying toys intended for older children which may have small parts that pose a choking danger. Never let children of any age play with uninflated or broken balloons because of the choking danger. Avoid marbles, balls, and games with balls that have a diameter of 1.75 inches or less. These products also pose a choking hazard to young children.

Children at this age pull prod and twist toys. Look for toys that are well-made with tightly secured eyes, noses and other parts. Avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.

Ages 3 through 5 - Avoid toys that are constructed with thin, brittle plastic that might easily break into small pieces or leave jagged edges. Look for household art materials, including crayons and paint sets, marked with the designation "ASTM D-4236." This means the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist and, if necessary, labeled with cautionary information. Teach older children to keep their toys away from their younger brothers and sisters.

Ages 6 through 12 - For all children, adults should check toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. Damaged or dangerous toys should be repaired or thrown away.

If buying a toy gun, be sure the barrel, or the entire gun, is brightly colored so that it's not mistaken for a real gun. If you buy a bicycle for any age child, buy a helmet too, and make sure the child wears it. Teach all children to put toys away when they're finished playing so they don't trip over them or fall on them.


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requires toy manufacturers to meet stringent safety standards and to label certain toys that could be a hazard for younger children. Look for labels that give age recommendations and use that information as a guide. Labels on toys that state "not recommended for children under three ... contains small parts," are labeled that way because they may pose a choking hazard to children under three. Toys should be developmentally appropriate to suit the skills, abilities and interests of the child. Shopping for toys during the holidays can be exciting and fun, but it can also be frustrating. There can be thousands of toys to choose from in one store, and it's important to choose the right toy for the right age child. Toys that are meant for older children can be dangerous for younger children.


Shipping Options and Charges

Shipping costs on items from catalogs an online retailers typically can be shipped to any address in the world. Every website and cataloger has their own shipping restrictions. Please be sure to read the shipping notices carefully.

If you choose to group items into as few shipments as possible, you'll often be charged for one regular per-shipment fee, as well as a per-item fee for each item in that shipment. If, on the other hand, you choose to ship items as soon as they become available, then often you will be charged in full per-shipment fees for each shipment as well as a per-item fee for each item .

Shipping charges vary greatly among catalogs and online stores. Please also note that the shipping rates for many items are either weight-based or determined by the dollar amount spent per order. Many websites and catalogs offer promotions on shipping, ranging from FREE shipping on ALL orders, to a percentage off if you spend a certain amount or more. Most online stores and catalogs offer :

Standard Delivery : usually will arrive within 6 to 10 business days.
Express Delivery: usually will arrive within 3 to 4 business days if ordered by 2:00 PM (EST).
Expedited Superfast Delivery: will arrive within 2 business days if ordered by 2:00 PM (EST).

To determine your shipping charges, be sure to read the fine print on every website. If you are still unsure, pick up the phone and ask questions.

Many websites allow you to check your order status online. Always have your order number available.

International shipping can be tricky, so it is best to be sure, inadvance, of what your shipping charges will be and the expected delivery times.

Generally items can be shipped to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the American Virgin Islands, Guam, and other Marianas Islands for additional charges.

Many websites have special or alternate order forms, and may have separate a page which contains a dropdown list of the different countries they ship to. Some may require that you pay with an International credit card. Often you will be required to pay duties and/or taxes when you receive your order . Insurance offers indemnity for loss of or damage to items. Indemnity limits and service vary by country.


When Can I Expect Delivery of the Item?

Where's My Package?
To check delivery status, always save your order number. If ordering through a catalog or online store, many customer service department can help answer questions such as “Where’s My Package” directly online. Packages can be tracked online, using your order number.

What to do if my package is late?


Is the seller complying with the 30-Day Rule? A Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") rule states that if a seller says that a product will be shipped within a certain time, the seller must reasonably believe it will. If the seller doesn’t specify the time within which an item will be shipped, the seller must reasonably believe that it can be shipped within 30 days from the day the order is placed. If the seller can’t ship the goods within the stated or 30-day deadline, the seller must notify you, and then give you a chance to cancel your order and receive a refund. Or, the seller can just cancel your order and refund your money. Violating these rules or regulations can expose a seller to legal action by the FTC, the Postal Service, and state law enforcement authorities. The FTC can assess penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation. These regulations do not apply to products ordered on a cash-on-delivery (C.O.D.) basis.


Handling Returns

Catalog companies and online stores have different return policies. Be sure you read and know, inadvance, if your items may be returned. Most products are shipped with a "Returns or Exchange" form on the invoice – most ask you to simply complete the form and return it with the item. If you don't have your invoice, please enclose your name, address and credit card account number (if it was a credit purchase) plus the approximate date of purchase with the item. It is generally the customers responsibility to pay for the return postage.

Be careful and remember -- keep your invoice/receipt, because without it, many companies will only give you the lowest "on sale" price within the last 30 days and you may end not receiving the full amount on what you spent.


Will this Fit? Sizing Tips for Women

To help you achieve the best fit possible, most catalog companies use the standard sizes, found in department stores throughout the USA. Most catalog and online stores provide tips for you to use as a guide when taking your body measurements. Many offer a size chart to assist you when selecting merchandise.

Measuring Tips
To get the most accurate measurements, have someone else measure you. Be sure to hold the tape straight and snug to your body.

Bust: Hold the tape around the fullest part of your bust. This measurement will assist you in determining your size for tops and relaxed-fitting dresses.

Waist: Measure around your waist at the point where you wear your pants and skirts. While measuring, put a finger between your body and the tape to ensure a comfortable fit.

Hips: Measure around the fullest part of your hips. This measurement will help you determine the most appropriate size for pants, skirts and form-fitting dresses.

Skirt Lengths: This measurement refers to the distance from the waist to the skirt hemline.

Inseam: This measurement refers to the distance from the rise to the pant hemline.

Please note that while we strive to provide consistent sizing, on occasion sizes may vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer.


How does this fit? Sizing Tips for Men

How to measure:

Measure a shirt with a collar that fits you well. Lay the collar flat, and measure from the center of the collar button to the far end of the button hole. The measurement in inches is your collar size. (Alternatively, measure around the base of your neck.)
With arms relaxed at your sides, measure around your chest at the armpits, over the highest part of your chest and shoulder blades, keeping the tape parallel to the floor.
Bend your elbow 90 degrees and place your hand on your hip. Hold the tape at the center back of your neck. Measure across your shoulder to your elbow, and down to your wrist. The total length in inches is your sleeve length.

Measure around your chest including the fullest part of your arms at the highest point of your shoulder blades, keeping the tape parallel to the floor. If this measurement is 7 or more inches larger than your chest measurement, order the next larger size sportcoat to avoid binding in the upper arm and shoulder area.

Stand in stocking feet with your feet slightly apart and your back to a wall. Measure from the floor to the top of your head.


Fall Fashion Trends for Women

Texture is the rule of the day. Velvets, corduroys and velvets appear as abbreviated jackets worn over jeans, or in the sleek, floor-length silhouettes of a pared-down eveningwear look. Tone-on-tone embroidery and quilting details add subtle richness and detail without the fussy ornamentation of seasons past. Relaxed luxury is evident in the gentle fullness of a skirt, or the feminine lines of a silk print blouse.

Beautifully embroidered, silky, colorful or sheer , the season's best top is the tunic with ethnic influences. Inspired loosely by the kurta -- a long and loose tunic worn on the Indian subcontinent, according to -- this season's tunic looks great with crops or jeans and a wristful of wood bracelets. Sheer pieces may require a knit or silky camisole

Studs, sequins and embroidery are just a few of the embellished jean looks that are making news. Don’t just buy more basic jeans this season, try a pair of the newest jeans that have a little something extra.

Gauchos (aka wide cropped pants) are one of those rare fashion trends that are cute and practical.

  • Wear gauchos with everything from fitted knit tops to boots and sweaters.
  • Keep footwear substantial: no dainty heels or strappy straps. Try ballet flats, knee-high boots or wedges, to balance out the width of the hem.
  • Choose slimmer-cut, woven (denim, twill, etc.) gauchos for a more tailored fit that flatters bottom-heavy figures. Knit gauchos with fullness look best on slim bodies

Color us green with envy: this season, it's the sexiest, richest color out there. You'll find a hue to suit any complexion, from the deepest emerald pine to grass green, muted sage, or mint. Other color trends include rich jewel tones, especially on velvet and cashmere. Emerald, sapphire and amethyst provide a beautiful foil for rich metals like silver and gold. The summer's obsession with teal, dusty rose, and chocolate brown continues into fall.

Brights of all kinds are also hot for fall. Old-school denim pioneers Levi's has regained their cachet of cool by teaming with Lower East Side hipster art/fashion store Alife. Crayon-vivid red, yellow, orange, green, and blue jeans (of course) will be sold this fall.

Blazers and jackets are the key pieces to own this fall. Paired easily with work separates or relaxed casual looks, designers all over the block re-cut jackets in slimmer and cropped shapes. Important fabrics include tweed, tweed, and more tweed. Featured this fall are unusual colors like lawn green, petal pink, and teal.

Brooches. Pin them one, two, or three at a time on cardigans, sweaters, or attach to the hip of a flowing skirt or to your favorite pair of jeans. Beautiful bejeweled brooches can be found at any store that's worth their salt. Rhinestone brooches, tweed flower pins, and silk or leather flower pins are awesome.

Knits are back in a big way for fall. Long scarves, gloves and mittens, caps, sweaters, vests, cardigans, capes, ponchos, shrugs, bolero jackets, and even skirts lend a soft, warm touch to fall's fashion offerings. Fuzzy angora, luxurious cashmere, wool, mohair, and acrylic yarns are available in happy, bright colors to add some contrast. Cashmere is a must for fall, and Express has amazing and soft cashmere V-neck T-shirts in unusual colors, like orchid and acid green

Innerwear-as-outerwear is hot hot hot! With the jackets and blazers that are flying off the shelves, what better way to show it off than to pair your staid velvet jacket with a frilly camisole top or a lacy slip worn over pants or jeans? The lingerie-inspired phenomenon has extended itself to accessories, with peek-a-boo satin and lace-trimmed heels, satin shoes with bows, and all sorts of velvety, lacy, gathered and ruched purses and clutches with soft fabrics and feminine details. Belts are similarly ladylike; cinched Fifties-esque waists are gathered and tied together with ribbon bow belts. Velvet, grosgrain, and silk are fabulous choices.