One of the joys of living in the 21st century is being able to do online shopping. Stores that were inaccessible in the past are never too far away anymore. Models that are just being launched are there for the picking, and you can search the world for whatever it is that your heart desires – from the trendiest jeans and the newest gadget to the hottest book. While online shopping is fast becoming a favourite pastime of American netizens, Filipinos have yet to take to cyber shopping in greater numbers. Few have discovered its great joys, and many still labor under many misconceptions about the web being overrun by tricksters and frauds. While it is true that there are all sorts of characters in cyberspace (just as they lurk everywhere else in the world), one can actually enjoy online shopping for as long as necessary precautions are taken. One great advantage of online shopping is the convenience it provides. You can see whatever it is your heart desires without having to go hit the road. For feature-rich items such as cars and gadgets, for instance, the internet carried just about all the information you need. You can learn how these things operate and know what they do by reading up on them online. It also allows to get hard-to-find products, or those that are not available in stores. You get to know about models that may not be carried by the brick and mortar stores, and you also get to compare one brand versus another.
The biggest benefit of online shopping, of course, is being given the opportunity to compare prices. You get to know where you can get the best deal, and many are willing to match the prices offered by other online retailers.
Most Filipinos’ online experience is limited to the purchase of airline tickets and the booking of hotels. This, of course, is perfectly understandable give that airlines were among the first companies to build the needed infrastructure for online transactions in the Philippines. To be sure, online shopping has its pluses and minuses. On the downside, online shopping does not allow you to touch or feel an item, which Filipinos, being tactile, love to do. The item you want may also not look exactly the way it did in the online brochure. Shipping costs can also be quite high, especially if you are having a single or a small item. Although some sellers are willing to ship items for free, especially if you buy in bulk, most will charge you for shipping and handling. Others would demand that you pick up the item. There, too, is the waiting time between the time you ordered the item and its actual delivery date. If you are in a rush, online may not be your best option. Airline tickets, for instance, have to be purchased at least three days before your planned departure date. If you really need a ticket quickly, then a phone call or a visit to a ticketing outlet may still be the fastest way to get your ticket passes.
Mode of payment is also a concern in online transactions. Although payment portals such as Paypal are now in the Philippines, there are still some requirements you have to meet. A valid credit card is a must for most online transactions. Online shopping, too, is not practical for buying all items. It makes no sense to go online to buy everyday goods such as shampoo or rice or pad paper, when these would fetch much lower prices in the local stores.
Just as you should be vigilant and careful when you go out shopping, so should you be careful when you do online transactions. Look for hidden costs, and always read the fine print. Make sure you are buying from an established seller, preferably one who has been vetted by others you know. Before making any transaction, check out the seller’s record, not only based on claims made in his online store, but also in other blogs. Know the fees you have to pay. Find out about returns policy. Ask, ask, ask.
If you are not dealing with an establishment you know, be on guard. Look for a telephone number that you can call, a real person to talk to and an address that you can write to. P. O. boxes will not do. Beware of sellers who demand payment through telegraphic money transfer, or through Western Union. And if the prices being offered are ridiculously low or too good to be true, watch out. It probably is.
Online shopping can definitely be fun. So long as you shop sensibly and thoughtfully, your PC can take you to great shopping expeditions.