Ah Joy! Online Shopping Rescue Me!

In today’s time-starved world, urban professionals get late nights and weekends to shop for personal stuff. Thanks to an archaic Shops & Establishments Act, shopping hours coincide with working hours. And across Hyderabad Sunday (most folk’s sole day off) is a holiday! On weekends we (also) catch up on lost sleep, do laundry and squeeze in socializing! Shopping’s usually a quick graze through the supermarket for weekday essentials.

As I lack an inclination to dress up and drive in an ever-hotter sun to buy goodies, online shopping fills this gap. As all I need is a computer, Internet access, some banking credit and being able to loll around in my underwear. For younger readers muttering “what about my WAP-enabled mobile?” I’ve had the dubious pleasure of shopping online using a Nokia Communicator. Too soon I developed a promising migraine from the tiny display and my fingers felt like Mike Tyson had been gnawing them!

The Convenience
Shopping online is convenient. Just don’t go overboard buying stuff that seems nice ‘n right. Expectations too often belie reality. Look all you want but buy carefully. Avoid stuff on sale unless you’ve seen the identical item at Big Bazaar or Giant Hypermart at more that the online price.

Online stores, to drive volumes, offer discounts plus the convenience of doorstep delivery. I shop for books and music because finding parking in Hyderabad such a bore! I’m now shopping for a mobile phone after chancing across Fabmall discounts ranging from a few hundred to several thousand Rupees on a range of models. Yet shopping online today when compared to the early 21st Century reveals a dearth of exciting products and prices. In the past I’ve bought Olympic-quality pain relief sprays and omnibus editions of niche writers for a pittance from Indiatimes (http://www.indiatimes.com).

…And Dangers
I asked acquaintances about their online experiences. Almost everyone marvelled at the convenience where you paid for stuff delivered to your doorstep a couple of days later. Jitender L [who works for an ISP] remembered the first time he shopped online (as) he couldn’t sleep for days wondering if his credit card details were being misused.

I too had a horrible experience with First & Second (http://www.firstandsecond.com) who were quick to debit my card but then tried to renege on delivery claiming the items were out of stock yet refusing to reverse the charges.

I only managed to force a settlement after highlighting the issue in columns I publish on Cyber India Online (http://www.ciol.com). Readers wrote in with their tales of woe. Another even threw a foaming fit (using toothpaste) at an First & Second (F&S) store before the management even deigned to talk to her! However Ripul K swears by F&S and claims never to have had a problem but remembers being short-changed by Fabmall (http://www.fabmall.com).

Online Essentials

1. Look but don’t touch. Check if prices offered are really discounted or disguise hidden costs.
2. Don’t buy at stores that aren’t secured. Look for a golden lock in your browser status bar.
3. Never share credit/debit card details with customer support; only the order number.
4. Track online transactions and cross-check them with your monthly statement.
5. Try to club multiple products into a single order to save on shipping costs.

This article is also available in an edited form at
http://www.deccan.com/Lifestyle/LifeStyleDescription.asp#A%20shopping%20trip%20in%20cyber%20space
(second item on the page 🙂

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