Basic Cents, Business, Features

The Perils Of Shopping Online

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WITH easy access to the Internet, and delivery direct to your mailbox, online shopping provides a worldwide selection of gadgets, technology and everything else that offers you choices that have never before been as convenient to obtain. However, there are many dangers to moving from the safety of dealing with your local store, to purchasing goods from another country across the other side of the world, where they speak a different language. Nevertheless, once you understand the potential perils, online shopping may become your new addiction, as long as you control your purchases to ensure that you do not fall victim to online fraud.

Across the Caribbean, ordering merchandise online has become extremely popular, mostly due to the extremely competitive basic price of the product.

While the larger countries around the world share the convenience of being able to order a vast range of goods over the Internet, with delivery the following day, we, on the islands, have had to rely on friends visiting the country for many of those supplies that you cannot purchase locally.

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The major benefit to online shopping is the competitive prices that are available because these companies do not have to suffer the expenditure for shopping mall operations. Unfortunately, while the goods may be far cheaper than you can source locally, the cost of having them delivered to your home or business as well as additional taxation such as custom duties, may quickly make some products, particularly unattractive. When you are able to calculate the final cost, the difference for an item in your local store may be quite close to the online purchase price, plus delivery and customs duties – that quickly add up.

Buying is easy and after a few simple clicks and the acceptance of your credit card details, the item that you desire will be on the way to you. Many people buy from Chinese websites, but delivery can be anywhere from one to four months. This prevents you from planning for anything you require within the next two weeks.

You will be paying the shipping and handling charges for the item to be delivered to you, but what happens if you need to return the item because it is broken, fails or you need to purchase a spare part?

Businesses in another country will often expect you to pay to return the item to them, before they will consider replacing the item or offering you a refund.

Understanding the warranty on a product can also present you with a multitude of difficulties. A local supplier may not wish to honour a warranty on a product that they sell, when you have purchased it from overseas. Trying to return a product to another country, when it has failed during the warranty period, can be a very trying and exacting process. Sometimes, you will be dealing with people who do not speak your language, so this might restrict the countries from which you make purchases.

Many overseas businesses will not accept your local credit card and almost certainly not your debit card, but where you are offering all of your credit card information to an online supplier, it is best to look at the reviews about the business so that you are able to consider whether a company is legitimate or simply stealing your credit card information to sell elsewhere. Your bank may not appreciate receiving your claim for fraudulent activity, somewhere else in the world.

Be sure to refrain from becoming an online shopaholic, and weigh up the cost of delivery and local taxation. On many occasions it is still beneficial to order items online. Sometimes, online ordering gives you the opportunity to claim items you cannot purchase locally, but also, the savings are occasionally worth the time, energy and effort.

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Samuel Rosenberg is the founder and CEO of Axcel Finance Ltd., the leading regional microfinance institution. Share your thoughts and email your questions to srosenberg@axcelfinance.com

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