by David Gracey
This year about 25% of all U.S. holiday shopping will be done online. This is truly amazing given that online shopping didn’t exist 20 years ago and was barely on the radar 10 years ago. This year’s Internet purchases will be up about 17% from last year, according to nerds who track such statistics. I do a good bit of online shopping but there is nothing that gets me in the Christmas spirit like heading to the mall or Bed, Bath & Beyond. By the way, BB&B has more stuff you don’t really need but sure is fun to give someone else. Who knew that we all need to be able to make our own Coke and Root Beer at home? But now we can!
So here are a few tips to make your online holiday shopping experience more enjoyable:
Email Account: One quick way to increase the amount of spam you get is to give out your primary email address when doing online shopping. Many of the online retailers sell their customer lists to other retailers thereby making the problem worse. The best way to combat these aggressive online marketers is to create a secondary email account at Gmail or Hotmail and provide this email address when doing online shopping. They can spam to their heart’s content. Yes, it’s two email addresses and passwords you have to keep up with, but it’s a great way to keep your main email account clean from all the junk while still being able to perform basic Internet commerce. You can also use this email address for reward memberships like Starbucks and other retailers.
Credit card: Although credit cards and debit cards look and act a lot alike, they are very different in terms of consumer protection. Never, ever use a debit card when making online purchases. Credit cards are better because, in the event of fraud or theft, the consumer has a lot more rights when the purchase is made on a credit card (also see Tuesday Tip: Protect Your Identity – 2 Things NOT To Do). Additionally, American Express has some pretty darn good protection policies. If you have a PayPal account, that will work, too.
Consumer Reports: I’ve had a subscription to Consumer Reports for about 20 years now. I don’t use it much, but those handful of times each year I do, it’s a fantastic resource to have. In addition, CR now has all of their content, including ratings and reviews, online. You have to maintain a valid subscription (they have web-only accounts, which don’t include the magazine) but once you sign up, it’s easy to navigate and find those reviews that help you make educated buying decisions. And they review just about everything: cell phone plans, cars, hair dryers, ice makers, insurance, tools and just about anything else folks purchase. It’s the best, unbiased source of information a holiday shopper could have.
So Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy New Year. And by all means, practice good online shopping habits.