Advantages/Disadvantages of Buying Online


May 22, 2002 (Updated May 27, 2002)


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The Bottom Line It all depends on your personality, what you are buying and what your comfort level is. Please research the company if you choose to buy online.

Many MANY brick & mortar stores are jumping on the online bandwagon. But, why should you go to an online store rather than the brick & mortar store?

Personally, I’m an online store addict. I do the majority of my shopping online, BUT there are certain things I just will not buy online. I can’t say why exactly. Perhaps it is because the item that I want to buy is pricey and I want to get my hands on it first. There are a lot of reasons to consider before making the choice. Here are the pros and cons of online shopping as I see it.

PRO:
The convenience of shopping whenever you want. Online stores don’t close. If you want to buy Godiva chocolates at 4AM, you can. So, shopping online can fit nicely into your schedule.

CON:
You won’t get what you order right away. In other words, those Godiva chocolates won’t be beamed over to your home, you will have to wait for them. Most likely you will pay shipping fees, and often those fees are steep, especially if you want the items delivered quickly. You not only need to shop around to find a good price on a product, but you need to consider the shipping fees when you are trying to decide if you are getting a really great price or not.

PRO:
No traveling required. You don’t have to drive or take public transportation, park, deal with mall traffic, bad weather, etc.

CON:
Websites can ‘go down’. Often you can fill out a page or pages of information and then you get that oh so lovely message that there has been an error. Sometimes you can be unsure as to whether or not your order even went through.

PRO:
You don’t have to deal with one on one contact. All correspondence can be made through e-mails and phone calls. So, if you are not a people person, this may be the place for you. Also, if you get e-mails, you have proof of what you were told in writing, and you have the name of the person who sent it.

CON:
There are sales clerks right at the store to help you out. They can’t hide out on you if you have questions. Sometimes it is difficult to get a hold of the Customer service reps online. You may end up waiting on the phone for a long time. Sometimes they even hang up on you ‘by mistake’ and then you have to go through the whole waiting process again.

PRO:
When I worked in the retail corporate world, the department that handled the online stores were run by a completely different department than those who supported the brick & mortar stores. As a result, many discounts (like coupons, etc.) can be found for online stores that cannot be used at a brick & mortar store. You may want to do a search for store coupons. I have used bigbigsavings, but there are many others out there, including some coupons and savings codes at the actual website.

CON:
Your local paper does have coupons for discounts at local brick & mortar stores. Sometimes once you add on the shipping costs, the brick & mortar store is still the better choice.

PRO:
Online stores are newer and seem to be really competitive right now. Perhaps they are still adjusting and are still trying to find a good, comfortable ground to stand on. During this adjustment period, there are a lot of good buys to be had. It seems to me that if you shop around, you can still find some amazing prices.

CON:
Brick & mortar stores have been around for a while. They have their feet solidly on the ground and often know what type of prices to offer. This can be a good or bad thing depending upon the company. Some have always been good prices; some have not.

PRO:
Many times the online store has more products/a bigger selection to offer.

CON:
Many times they don’t. Sometimes (ok, many times) you will find that the item you want is out of stock. Some online companies handle this process better than other. I personally like to know that it is out of stock right when I try and buy it instead of putting the order through and THEN getting some sort of correspondence telling me that it is out of stock. Be especially careful with small companies. From my experience, they seem to have the least informative system regarding whether or not stock is in.

At a brick & mortar store, you actually pick up the item you want. You can grab it and go. Yes, they sometimes have items out of stock, but usually you won’t even see these items, so you don’t fall in love with the product and then you can’t get it. If you are a hands on person, brick & mortar may be the way to go.

PRO:
You don’t have to have a ton of money on you…just a credit card and whatever is required on their online form (usually address, perhaps phone number and/or e-mail address).

CON:
Security is a big issue. People still feel leery about paying via credit card over the internet, and as well they should. Not all companies have a secure system down yet, and since the internet is still relatively new, security, or lack thereof, is still an issue. At a brick & mortar store, you not only get the credit card option, but you can pay in cash (a more anonymous way…if you like that sort of thing). Also, you aren’t submitting your address, so you probably won’t receive unsolicited mail, e-mail or phone calls.

PRO:
Many online stores offer free returns (meaning, they will send you a return label so you can sent the item that doesn’t fit, etc. back to them at no cost to you.)

CON:
Many online stores WON’T offer free returns. You end up paying for the item to go back to them, even if THEY mess up and send you the wrong item. Make sure you do your homework on this before purchasing from the company. With brick & mortar stores, you can bring the item right back to the store.

I’m sure there are many more pros and cons to online purchasing; I have outlined a few of them above.

It all comes down to a personal choice. For me, it all depends on what I am purchasing. As a general rule, I do not purchase electronics online. I want to see and feel the product. Try it out. See if I would like it. I was a little worried about purchasing clothing online…at first, but now I purchase them a lot. I found an online store that I liked, purchased a few things and noticed that the size I bought always seems to fit. Also, the return policy was right for me.

And, last but definitely not least, all online stores are NOT created equal. Check around for sites that review these companies (like Epinions!), look at all the details on the site before deciding to purchase there…just plain do your homework.

Thanks for reading my review. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me.
Heidi (hjs33)

Update: Tizzo has made some very nice comments under this review regarding purchasing online with credit cards. For those with fears about purchasing online via credit card, you may want to check his comment out.

Thanks again!!!

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