Published Date 27th January 2007
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By Sheila McDonald from "Banking at your Fingertips"
Whether you are a rare book collector, a Pokemon addict, or just want to enjoy a better selection of products - the Internet is an excellent place to shop.
Today hundreds of companies are offering websites that let you examine their goods and purchase on-line, and sites like e-search provide complete directories of Web shops in the United Kingdom. When you venture abroad the range of goods offered is even greater. Excellent first stops if you’re seeking books or music are Amazon.co.uk and dmgdirect.com respectively, both have been in business for several years and are skilled at providing fast delivery and quick redress if you have a complaint. Amazon has even ventured into houseware, toys and other products, so there’s plenty to keep shoppers busy.
As with any interaction on the Net, Internet shopping should be approached with a healthy dose of common sense. If you’re considering shopping on-line, check our handy tips below to help you make the most of what the Web has to offer.
Does the site deliver to Northern Ireland?
There is nothing more frustrating than clicking through a shopping website, only to find at the last moment that it doesn’t deliver to Northern Ireland. To check whether a site delivers internationally, look for a line marked "shipping information" or "customer service", or email the site to inquire.
Watch for the Padlock
Before paying for an item, watch to see whether a closed padlock icon appears at the bottom of your screen. This important icon means your credit card number will be scrambled as it crosses the Net.
Depending on your computer’s settings, you might also see a special pop-up window that lets you know you are entering a secure zone. If a site doesn’t offer a secure buying facility, you might consider phoning or faxing in your order. Never send your credit card details by e-mail.
Print out the page that confirms your order
Once you’ve completed your purchase, be sure to use the File/Print feature on your Web browser to print out the page that confirms your order. This page often shows an order reference number and serves as a handy proof of purchase. Watch your email 'in-box', also: many shops will confirm your order by e-mail.
On-line auctions offer another option
On-line auction sites like ebay.co.uk can be a great way to locate hard-to-find items like childhood toys, rare music or collectibles. As with any shopping site, contact the seller to be sure they deliver to Northern Ireland. Do check whether prices are listed in US dollars or another currency and don’t forget to add postage, which can be substantial, to figure out your total cost.
What else did fellow shoppers buy?
One great thing about the Net is the ability to gather together the knowledge of large groups of people, and sites like Amazon.co.uk have pioneered a tool that tries to put this knowledge to work for you. If you’re eyeing or buying a particular book or other item at Amazon.co.uk check out the link labelled "customers who bought this also bought". The tool is particularly handy when buying a gift, if you know a friend likes Tom Clancy, typing in this name can show you what other authors are popular with Clancy fans.
Group buying services
The Net can also help you find the lowest price. Sites such as Letsbuyit.co.uk offer group buying, sign up for the product you want to purchase, and you can join with other shoppers to get bulk buying discounts.
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