online shopping lessons I’ve learned

online shoppingI resisted online shopping for a long time.

I thought it would be complicated and when I found out that it was really easy, I assumed that it couldn’t possibly be safe.

I had heard horror stories about people stealing your credit card over the internet and then putting a second mortgage on your house before stealing your identity!

And I’m a tactile person. I like to see and touch what I’m buying; touch it, pick it up, turn it around in my hand, play with it, open and close it (if it does that) and try it on.

I still don’t understand how women buy shoes on line! What do you do if they don’t fit or if you just don’t like them as much when they arrive?

And electronics? What if it arrives broken? The whole idea of shipping it back sounds like so much work. What if they don’t believe that you didn’t break it?

Interesting that none of my concerns actually stopped this online shopping business from exploding in popularity. I guess I’m not as important as I thought I was. So, as online shopping became more main-stream, I eventually managed to get over my fear and jump down the rabbit hole that is the internet shopping mall. Yikes!

Now, I’m certainly not an expert online shopper but I’ve learned a few things from my experiences; lessons that I would like to share.


Is it really cheaper on line? A lot of things are cheaper on line but do your research. You need to factor in taxes, shipping and possibly duty if you’re shipping in from a different country. So, even if the base cost is less than buying the same item at a retail store, the added costs may bring it up and the savings are lost.

Tag team purchasing – people + online. There is no law saying that you can’t talk to the online retailer that you’re buying from. Call them if you have a question or need clarification on their products, prices or policies.

I’ve done this; especially for travel. Did you know that airfare prices change by the minute? I’m serious, by the minute! When we were trying to coordinate a flight to Disney (three families and we wanted on the same flight), I had the Disney person on the land line, my sister on the cell phone and my sister had my sister-in-law on her cell phone. We had the Disney agent checking the flights and when she found what we wanted, we all booked it at the same time online. It was a crazy hour but it worked.

Another time, I was planning a trip to New York City. I had no trouble getting the flight picked out but which hotel to choose? They all look so nice in the pictures. So, when I found one I liked, I called and told the lovely lady at the front desk

Okay, sell me your hotel!

She spent lots of time telling me all of the great things about her hotel and I wound up booking my stay with her!

Paypal. If you aren’t comfortable inputting your credit card information online, Paypal is another payment option. Paypal is a service that enables you to pay, send money, and accept payments without revealing your financial details. It’s been around a long time and is very trustworthy and secure.

You can link your paypal account to a credit card or even your bank account which is great if you don’t want to use your credit card or if you don’t have one. It’s easy to sign up and is accepted at most online retailers.


Will they ship to you? Before you get excited that you finally found that impossible to find antique teapot that goes with your grandmothers china set, make sure that the retailer that you’re buying from will ship to you. Not all online retailers will ship outside of their home country.

Shipping is extra Be sure to account for shipping into the final cost of the item, it can really add up. Often, if your order reaches a certain dollar threshold, shipping will be free but if you’re now buying more than you intended or buying things don’t need, is the item still a bargain?

Free shipping does not include duty if crossing the border. I learned this lesson the hard way. My son bought a gaming computer that was only available online. Let me tell you, this was not a cheap piece of equipment. The computer was coming from California so it took a while to get here. When it finally arrived, I was excited to sign for the package and put it in my sons room for him to find after school!

All I had to do was pay $345.00 in duty. What???

Guess what? You have to pay duty to ship electronics from the US to Canada same as you would if you were declaring it at the border in your car.

What was I supposed to do? He saved all of his money for almost two years to get that computer. Of course I paid the duty!

Currency Exchange. Check which currency the website is quoting the price in. It could be Canadian dollars, US dollars, British pounds, Euros . . . Know the exchange rate so you can determine the real cost of the item in your currency.

You can ship to a store. We were in Buffalo (in the US, we’re from Canada) and I was looking for broiler pan at Williams & Sonoma. They didn’t have one but the salesman found what I wanted on their website.

I said thank you but it didn’t help because they don’t ship to Canada. Then he told me that I could order it, pay for it, have it shipped to their store and I could pick it up there.

This wouldn’t work for everyone but it was a great option for me because we only live 2 hours from the border and we go down often.


You can’t try it on so buy a couple of sizes. This worked like a charm. I hate bathing suit shopping so I decided to do it online one year. I found a style I liked but wasn’t sure which size to order. So I ordered two different colours in three different sizes and tried them on in the comfort of my own home. I picked what I wanted and returned the rest.

Return to a store. I try to buy online from stores that have retail stores in my area. If you do that, you can generally return your online purchases at the store, which is a lot easier than shipping it back.

FYI, that’s what I did with the bathing suit trick (see above). I found a bathing suit brand that was sold at a popular retailer here (The Bay). And, because they sold that Brand, I could return my online purchases to that store. They gave me no trouble at all on the returns.

You don’t get your shipping cost back. If you have to pay for shipping, make sure you really want what you’re buying and that it’s the right colour, size, etc. because, although it’s likely free to ship it back, you don’t get back the money you spent on shipping it in the first place.

Yup, I learned this the hard way too. We bought my daughter some leggings from Victoria’s Secret. When they arrived, they were the wrong size (totally my daughters fault). No problem to return them because they provided the “return” bag and pre-paid shipping label. That’s great and I got my money back but I didn’t get my original shipping cost back. So her mistake at picking the wrong size wound up costing me $11.

I hope these lessons and tips are helpful and maybe even save you some time and money. Happy online shopping!

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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