7 things to check when doing your online shopping

PHOTO: Gallo/Getty Images
PHOTO: Gallo/Getty Images

These days consumers are spoilt for choice – apart from online retailers such as Superbalist and takealot.com, traditional shops such as Woolworths, Edgars, Foschini and Pick n Pay have joined the digital marketplace.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are shopping online instead of going to physical stores so they're not exposed to the virus in anyway.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before you whip out your credit card and start your online shopping spree.

Compare prices

Check the price on several platforms because there are often specials at different times. Be on the lookout for online shops that inflate the product’s original price to make it seem as if its discount is more. For example, it will say a certain toy’s original price is R300 and you’re getting a 30% discount, so you pay only R210. But when you look for the same toy on another site, you might find that it costs R215 – without a discount.

So, the offered discount is in fact much less than promised. Price comparison websites such as shopmania.co.za and pricecheck.co.za list the selling price of the same items from various retailers. Bear in mind that these sites usually display a limited number of online retailers’ prices.

READ MORE: This is how you should be washing your clothing and bedding in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic

Check cost and date of delivery

You need to add the cost of delivery, if any, to the amount you’re paying for the item. It might work out cheaper to drive to a local store and buy the item there. Most online retailers offer free delivery if the value of your shopping is more than a specific minimum amount – for example loot.co.za’s is R350, Foschini’s is R500 and takealot.com’s is R450. The free delivery option applies only to standard delivery – you pay for express delivery if you choose that option.

Each retailer’s website has a section explaining delivery costs and dates. As Christmas approaches it’s not uncommon for delivery to be delayed as orders stream in. If you’re in a hurry to get the product, compare the delivery times of the various platforms. Some might have the product in stock and can get it to you faster.

How and where to return goods

The retailer’s returns policy should be stated on its website. Check to see if you need to drop the return somewhere or if they’ll pick it up from you, and whether there’s any cost involved in returning a product. Also check to see if you’ll be getting a cash refund in your bank account, or whether the retailer issues a gift voucher (to be spent on its website) for the same amount you paid for the item you’re returning.

What if the product breaks?

The online retailer should have its warranty policy on its website. If you receive damaged or defective goods, the product usually has to be reported and returned within a certain time frame, such as within seven days after delivery. Electronics, for instance, probably come with a manufacturer’s guarantee but if it’s defective or it breaks, you can contact the online retailer who will take it up with the manufacturer. Some online shops also offer their own guarantees on expensive products.

Read more: What you need to know about returning purchased clothing to stores during the Covid-19 pandemic

Online security

The established and well-known online retailers know their success depends on customer satisfaction so they’re generally highly security conscious. All transactions are encrypted to ensure they’re secure. Mostly, you can pay directly with your credit or debit card. Many websites use the 3D Secure system, which means your bank sends a one-time pin (OTP) to your cell phone without which the transaction won’t be authorised.

 If you’re unsure about the website’s online security, rather pay with a bank deposit or an EFT that can be done using systems such as PayFast. Many online shops also accept payment methods such as SnapScan or Zapper and also allow you to pay cash on delivery. Before shopping online, make sure your computer’s security software is up to date. Be wary of using public Wi-Fi when shopping online, as hackers can easily gain access to your phone or laptop.

Privacy

The online shop’s privacy policy can usually be found somewhere on its website. Unless you explicitly agree to it, your information can’t be shared with any third parties such as marketing groups.

Client service

Check the website for contact details and at what time the call centre is available. A good online shop has different telephone numbers for different services. Test it by calling to see how long they put you on hold.