15 Biggest Online Shopping Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Pritam Nagrale

Updated on:

shopping mistakes

Buying online is thrilling as you would definitely have found. It gives an opportunity to browse for hundreds of products before zeroing on something. And then there is this additional attraction of discounts and getting the stuff delivered to your doorstep.

But online shopping can sometimes prove tricky and disappointing. Unless you are careful about how you shop and where, it is likely you would waste hundreds of precious bucks every year.

Most online shoppers remain blissfully unaware of blunders they commit. If you are among these, read further.

15 Big Online Shopping Mistakes

shopping mistakes

You can easily avoid a lot of these biggest shopping mistakes by following a few simple steps. And save money too. I will rank them on how serious these mistakes can prove when we talk of money.

1. Buying From Unknown Sources

Buying from unknown sources ranks as the biggest online shopping mistake you can commit. You can lose considerable money. Worse, you risk identity theft and misuse of your payment details and address.

Online shopping will be worth US$4.33 trillion by 2021. This is enough reason for scammers to come up with fake websites. It is very easy to identify such websites: they will offer expensive stuff at very low rates.

Buying from foreign companies can also land you in trouble. The consumer protection portal of the American government got 4,312 complaints from consumers about shop-at-home and catalog offers and 296 cases of fake businesses posing as legit companies, between April 1, 2018 and June 30, 2018.

That is quite lot in just three months.

2. Using Public WiFi/ Computer

You may often be tempted to shop online using a tablet or mobile connected to public WiFi. Remember, free WiFi at malls, coffee shops and restaurants, supermarkets, parking lots and other places are not safe.

Threat of cyber criminals lurking around on the same WiFi connection are fairly high.

Cyber-criminals can access your data including name, address, bank account details, credit card number and other vital information through a public WiFi. This warning comes from Kaspersky Labs, which makes the famous computer and mobile security software.

Another biggest online shopping mistake is using cybercafés. Without your knowledge, a cybercafé PC could be rigged to store information including username, password and bank details.

Most cybercafé operators have inadequate measures to protect their customers against cybercrime, including identity theft, phishing and other acts that can cause you to lose money.

Even if you are in great hurry to shop online, avoid public WiFi and cybercafé computers. It is quite likely someone may misuse your personal information and bank details.

3. Shopping During Sale

All of us await online sales to bag great discounts. Why not? Sometimes they give as much as 80 percent off on something we always wanted to buy but never had enough money.

But buying during sales also means you can actually lose money.

Every online store exists for one reason: to make money. Else, they would be called charities. When any online store offers something cheap, they do it for a reason: to get rid of existing stocks at the earliest.

And they find gullible customers like you and I to whom they can palm off products.

Buying during sales is one of the biggest online shopping mistakes, unless you are very cautious. Whenever you find something going cheap, look around the market.

There could be smartphones going cheap because the model has some problems or is unpopular. Food items on discount may be nearing their ‘Good Before’ or expiry date.

4. Using Credit/ Debit Cards

This is something we have in common. Shopping online using a credit or debit card can be a very expensive and biggest mistake. Understandably, we all use credit cards and debit cards for online shopping.

Here is the catch: some online stores charge you for using a credit or debit card. Of course they inform you about this extra cost: often, we do not have time to read the fine print.

Generally, we take it for granted that paying with credit card or debit card is fine and does not cost extra.

Find about government policies for online stores charging extra for paying with credit cards and debit cards. Usually, merchants have to pay a small charge to the bank and payment gateway.

However, they have no right to pass on this charge to you as customer. Online stores can ask you to pay for using a credit card or debit card only in exceptional circumstances.

5. Buying from Abroad

Buying something not available in our country sounds pretty attractive. Especially when we are getting it cheap. We conjure up visions of showing off something exquisite and unique to family and friends.

Unfortunately, buying from abroad ranks among the biggest online shopping mistakes.

According to statistics released by the US Federal Trade Commission in August 2018, 1,293 complaints were received against companies in China, 557 in UK, 305 in India and 159 about companies in Japan.

These figures show that no online store or seller can be trusted, regardless of where they are located. FTC also says, 1,324 complaints against American online sellers were found from April 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018.

This means, there are high chances of getting cheated when you buy from foreign countries.

You are also at greater risk in many ways while shopping from abroad. Firstly, the stuff may not be legit in your country. Hence, there is every chance it will be seized by Customs.

Worse, you can go to jail for trying to bring in something illegally. If the stuff you buy is legit, you can be charged heavy taxes and duties for importing. Only reputed websites will caution you about these risks. Others are after your money.

6. Buying on Installments

Tempting again. You are getting something very pricey and can pay for easily over some months. Here lies the catch.

Whenever an online seller offers something on installments, they are getting the full price in advance. The money is paid by a third party after checking your credit ratings.

This unknown party or sometimes your bank, charges you a stiff interest for giving this credit. This translates as extra cost.

But it goes on: you will be charged something called ‘processing fee’ for this credit. Meaning, the lender will check your credit ratings and complete other formalities. You will pay for this process too.

It is best to avoid this biggest online shopping mistake of paying in instalments. Often, you will pay 10 to 15 percent or even more than the actual price of the stuff as interest. This wipes of whatever savings you look for when buying online.

7. Fake Reviews

Never believe reviews you read for any product on an online store. These could be written by someone desperate to get rid of that stuff. A five-star rating does not necessarily mean that buyers are satisfied.

Millions of customers worldwide lose their money every month because they buy something after reading fake reviews. You can find a lot of fake reviews on Amazon, Facebook and other reputed websites.

These are posted by sellers and not real customers that have used the product. Most of the Amazon sellers lure customers for giving extra freebies or extended warranty for giving 5 star reviews.

Instead of relying on customer reviews at an online store website, search in newspapers and reputed magazines. They are more reliable.

8. Ignoring Returns Policy

Imagine you just spent US $30 buying that seductive panty from an online store. And found it of wrong size. The only option is to return the stuff, hoping to get your money back or at least getting another that fits well.

But that is not going to possible because of ‘Returns Policy’. The ‘Returns Policy’ does not apply to lingerie or inner wear only: there are countless products that an online seller will not take back or replace.

Also among biggest online shopping mistake is not reading the ‘Returns Policy.’ Interestingly, most online sellers are very vague when you ask about returns.

When you return something, they lose money on logistics and transport. Also, some stuff cannot be sold to another for any number of reasons.

9. Free Trial Offers

Free trial offers can prove a trap when shopping online. America’s FTC has very good guidelines for every online shopper who wants to get these ‘Free Trial Offers’.

In fact, the Canadian government rightly says, these free offers “can cost you big time,” in an advisory for consumers.

Indeed, free trial offers can prove a trap and are among the biggest online shopping mistakes. They are very tempting: we want to try something before buying.

Usually, these free trial offers come for a very short period. You may have to part with billing details. No sooner has this ‘free trial’ begun, you can get charged for a subscription.

If the free trial involves a product- it may land on your doorstep. The money will be debited from your credit card or bank account before you have a chance to cancel.

10. Not Checking Stuff

Yet another biggest online shopping mistake is not checking your package instantly and right before the delivery staff.

There are countless instances where customers have received a bar of soap instead of expensive smartphone, from reputed online stores. You can fall prey to these sorts of scams too.

Instead of postponing opening the parcel at leisure, do so immediately, before signing the delivery receipt. You can always refuse to accept the stuff if you are being cheated.

Once you sign and accept the package, the process gets longer. You will have to report to cops and prove before a court that you are victim of a scam.

11. Delivery Terms

Reputed online sellers also resort to this trick: they never show the full price of an item. Instead, they indicate delivery charges in smaller print on the side.

Others do not show delivery charges altogether. You will learn of these only when checking out or when the stuff lands on your doorstep.

If you are buying something expensive and heavy like a laptop, delivery charges can be very high. They shoot up considerably when you ask express delivery instead of normal.

This is because express delivery involves couriers who charge exponentially more money.

12. Checking Size & Material

That great looking shirt or skirt you buy may not appear so flattering once it arrives. You may need to wriggle to wear it or it may feel like donning a parachute.

Or it may be made of flimsy or very thick material that makes you feel uncomfortable.  Before buying something, look for size guides from reputed fashion brands. They can give you some ideas about what can fit well.

It is worth remembering that pictures and descriptions can vary vastly from the product itself. These descriptions are written for selling the product and not for your comfort.

It is your responsibility to ensure that clothing or shoes you order online is of the right size and material. Of course, you can return it and seek refund or replacement.

But this involves a lot of hassle. Plus, online retailers may refuse to accept returns if a garment is stained or an expensive shoe damaged for any reason, when you try.

13. Not Applying Coupons/ Codes

Have you heard of discount coupons and codes available for online shopping? Neither had I till someone pointed out that using coupons saves a lot of money.

If you are unaware where to find such discount coupons, simply Google the word. For example ‘Amazon Discount Coupons’. Google will display various results.

Look for reputed coupon and code providers such as Groupon. They have a good stock of coupons and codes for almost every major online store.

14. Buying Without Comparison

We rush to buy something online when it tempts our sight or available at very low price. This is natural since we want to grab it before somebody else does.

Fair enough. Before falling head over heels to buy something, you can save considerable money or get better offers too. Simply compare prices with other reputed online stores.

Comparison has two advantages. For one, you might find a better deal. The other, most important being, you may be able to detect a scammer or someone selling cheap fakes.

If the price is too good to be true, beware.  You could be falling for a scam or fake. Unfortunately, even reputed online stores like Amazon cannot control this fully. A lot of sellers on Amazon can send you a fake. Once you compare prices, you will learn what is the real cost of the product.

15. Emotional Attachment

This may sound alien. Buy yes, lots of people buy stuff online and never use it. This is one of the biggest online shopping mistakes because you could be blocking considerable money.

The phenomenon of online shoppers buying goods they cannot or will never use is fairly widespread across the world. This is a relatively new psychological phenomenon that is emerging among online shoppers. Beware of this bug before it gets you too.

Wrap Up

Nearly 17.5 percent of all purchases will be made online, according to studies conducted by Nielsen and other reputed organizations.

This means, your online shopping is also set to increase- whether for grocery or expensive stuff. Online shopping is rewarding and enjoyable.

But you can also lose lots of money on online shopping. Avoiding these biggest online shopping mistakes is therefore very necessary.

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