After my days at Baylor as a photojournalism student I used to shoot a “man on the street” piece for my local newspaper. It was an entry level, out-of-college gig that paid slightly better than flipping burgers. The idea was you go up to a person, ask them a question and then take their photo for the paper.
I recall one of the questions I had to ask one week was, “Do you feel confident shopping on the Internet?” This was back in 2000, when online shopping was still in its infancy (if I’m remembering correctly, back then Amazon.com hadn’t even turned a profit yet). Long story short, most people I asked said no. My how things have changed.
These days online shopping brings in billions upon billions of dollars every year, and with so many reputable companies to buy from, consumers can be more choosy (i.e., safe) in where they put their cyber dollars. Some choose to stay with the big dogs, and Amazon.com is never a bad choice when it comes to safety and customer service. On the other hand, buyers can often save a bundle of cash by dealing directly with a manufacturer via their retail website.
Here are a few tips to know you’re on a site you can trust:
– Online reputation. Do a Google search and look for customer reviews
– Look for signs of credibility within the site itself (e.g., does the site offer Bizrate reviews? Google Checkout? Amazon Payments?)
– Does the site have a clearly articulated refund policy?
– Does the site offer a 1-800 number that goes directly to a human being (at least during business hours)?
The World Wide Web, as a virtual frontier, is a boon for both retailers and consumers. Just remember, be safe and shop safe. 🙂