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ShopSmart reveals tips all online shoppers should know

Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2009

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The best ways to save money and avoid getting ripped off

Yonkers, NY ― In the souring economy, many consumers are cutting back on superfluous spending and instead surfing the Web for bargains on their necessities. But with so many places to click, how can you be sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck? The May 2009 issue of ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, shares online shopping strategies for getting the best deal every time and avoiding rip-offs.

“The Internet is a great tool for stretching a buck,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “Our advice includes basic tricks that the savviest Web shoppers know by heart. By using them, the next time you ask yourself, ‘Did I shop smart?’ you can know you’ve made all the right clicks.”

How to Nab the Best Online Shopping Deals

  1. Start with price-comparison sites. No matter what you’re buying, always check price-comparison sites like PriceGrabber.com, Shopping.com and Google.com/products.
  2. Comb through product reviews to zero in on the best buy for you. Read user reviews on shopping sites or check out Buzzillions.com and Epinions.com.
  3. Grab a promotional code. To find promotional codes, go to RetailMeNot.com or Google the name of the shopping site with the words “coupon code” or “promotion code.” For free shipping coupons, go to Freeshipping.org.
  4. Shop retailer sites. To keep on top of special Web deals, coupons, and sales at your favorite stores, go to retailers’ sites and sign up for their e-mail alerts or RSS feeds where possible.
  5. Take advantage of Web sites that round up the sales. iStorez.com lets you scan sales at tons of retailers and click through to a specific retailer.
  6. Leave the item in your cart. If you don’t check out, the price might go down and you could receive a follow-up e-mail offering a discount. Warning: The price might also go up.
  7. Shop the stores. Prices online are not always the best deal. Call or visit local stores. Also, check Walmart.com and Target.com, which don’t always turn up on price-comparison sites. To eliminate shipping charges, opt for in-store pick-up of items purchased online.
  8. Keep an eye on prices. PriceProtectr.com, DealAlerter.com, and PriceSpider.com track prices on thousands of items and will e-mail price alerts.
Don’t Get Cheated
  1. If the site is unfamiliar, go to BBB.org. Click on “USA site,” “Check out a business or charity,” and then “Phone, URL, Email” for a Web site’s grade.
  2. Get to know the seller. Always check for three things when dealing with any e-commerce site: a street address and phone number (not just an e-mail address), a privacy policy describing how the site will use your info, and secure checkout.
  3. Put away the checkbook. The safest way to pay is with a credit card.
  4. Try an alternate payment method. If you use PayPal, link it to your credit card, not your checking account. Or, elect to receive your bill in the mail or online with BillMeLater.
  5. Eyeball the site’s return policy. At many stores, certain product categories have shorter return windows. Check to see what you need to do to receive a full refund, and don’t assume you can bring items bought online back to a store.
  6. Watch out at online megamalls. Sites like Amazon sell products from other merchants who set their own policies on shipping and returns. If the name of the vendor is different from the name of the site you started on, make sure you’re OK with their policies.
  7. Watch for red flags. Symbols at the bottom of a Web page, such as Hacker Safe (now McAfee Secure), VeriSign Secured and TRUSTe, can help you determine if a site is legit. But be warned: These seals can be fraudulently copied and pasted onto a page. If the site has typos, misspellings, or a URL that ends in .CN, .RO, .RU, or some other odd suffix, or only accepts checks or has negative seller reviews, click the other way!
  8. Scramble your credit card. Many credit cards now allow you to get a number for one-time use online, to protect your real card number. Call your card’s customer service to find out.
About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon Consumer Reports’ celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. The magazine features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. ShopSmart is ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Borders, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is now available by subscription at www.ShopSmartmag.org.
 
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