Online shopping can sometimes feel like a game of retail roulette – you’re not sure if those casual clothes on sale you just purchased are going to end up in your dresser or if the company will charge your credit card, only to disappear from the internet two weeks later. Still, the convenience of buying on the web (not to mention the limitless possibilities) is too good to pass up.
So, what kind of things should be on your radar? The following is a start:
Wildly different prices: Brick and mortar stores are known for their deviating prices: the long sleeve polo shirt in the shop on sixth street might be more expensive than it is in the boutique on third. Buying clothes online isn’t any different! Yet, while prices that vary a little are common, wild deviations are not.
Before committing to a product, scour the net for anything that seems too good to be true: a red crew neck sweatshirt is a red flag if it’s 90% cheaper on one site than it is on all the others. This vigilance helps prevent you from falling victim to a scam. And typing on the keyboard gives you a finger workout. Yep, we’re making that a thing.
False advertising: Some retailers pretend to have an item you’re looking for only to direct you to other items instead. This bait and switch might be effective – perhaps the new item is something you and your closet can’t live without. More often, it wastes your time.
They may also advertise deals, such as buy one get one free, merely to reveal that those t shirts on clearance sales are false once you enter the site. Stay away from any business with these kinds of practices. Good companies can sell without throwing in complimentary deception.
Bad reviews: Online reviews always come with a caveat for a few reasons. Firstly, positive reviews can be fake. Store owners might get them from employees, people they pay, or their mothers. They might even write them themselves!
On the other hand, bad reviews don’t necessarily mean you’ll have a bad experience. Like the old saying goes, “You can’t please everyone.” That’s especially true in customer service.
Look, instead, for patterns. Be cautious of sites with positive reviews that sound a little too similar or a little too wonderful. Likewise, avoid stores whose feedback is overwhelmingly negative.
Expensive shipping: Many retailers offer free shipping. Sometimes, it’s free even if you buy a single item (Thank you for your purchase on one sock - enjoy postage on us). More often, you need to spend a certain amount of money before you’re comped. Throw in another pack of "2 for 1" basic tees to get you over that mountain and into the land of no strings attached dispatch.
A company doesn’t have to offer free shipping to be worthy of your patronage, but make sure the shipping isn’t extreme. If the cost to get the item is nearly as much as the item itself, go elsewhere.
No return policy: One of the biggest challenges of buying clothes online is that you can’t try them on. For certain items, such as an organic cotton t shirt or plain black pullover hoodie, this isn’t usually an issue (you’re gonna look fab and comfy no matter what). Other items, those with a fitted style, aren’t as easy-going. Jeans, for instance, may prove problematic. They’re like the jerks of the fashion world.
The internet, for all its wonderful qualities, comes with issues as well. It allows anyone to pretend to be whomever they want, including businesses. Perhaps the best thing you can do is follow your gut. If it feels off, it probably is.