I know you’re reading this because you love to shop online. Me and you both! Everyone loves the low prices and greater product selection. Shopping online is the best way to get a sweet deal – one your local automotive dealer can’t beat. But the perks do come with certain risks.
Proceed your shopping with caution! Some online businesses will not only take your money, but your identity, and credit card info as well!
The idea behind this blog is not to scare you away from the internet. That’s actually the last thing I want, since my business sells automotive parts online. If you want the perks of buying aftermarket parts online, but want do it safely – read on!
Get to Know the Retailer
Shopping online is like dating. You need to get to know the retailer before making a commitment. So check them out, are they hot or not?
The retailer’s site can tell you all you need to know! If it looks like it was built in 10 minutes, it was. Close the page and spend your money elsewhere.
Most reputable businesses have taken the time and invested the money into developing a professional-looking site. Spelling mistakes and outdated images will tip you off. Trust your gut on this one – if the site looks run down, it might not be worth the risk.
Check out the contact information provided by the retailer, including their e-mail, phone number and physical address. If you can’t find this basic info, be wary, in all probability the price you are looking at really is too good to be true.
Buy from Authorized Dealers
It’s in your best interest to purchase products from authorized dealers only. Even if the prices are slightly higher. Otherwise you risk buying defective, discontinued or stolen products.
Think about what makes sense.
Would you rather spend $700 on a Magnaflow Exhaust system from an authorized dealer like TDot Performance with a lifetime warranty, or spend $650 on a Magicflow exhaust system with no warranty?
Even if you get the right product shipped to you, your warranty could be voided. Most manufacturers will not honor warranties if the product wasn’t purchased from an authorized dealer. Remember that saving a few bucks now could cost you in the long run.
If you’re going to be spending you’re hard earned cash don’t do it at a site of ill repute. See who you’re dealing with before committing with a purchase. In most cases, reputable retailers ease first-time buyers by featuring consumer reviews directly on their own site.
Do a quick online search on the retailer and see what comes back. Reviews on Facebook and online forums can be very helpful. Keep in mind that negative reviews get posted more often. If you’re not finding any reviews don’t be alarmed - it’s not necessarily a bad sign.
If you’re placing a larger order, you want to be even more careful. Give the retailer a call, and see how well they know the product. Be as sure as you can that you’re not dealing with a fraudster who is picking up phone calls from his basement! State your concerns openly – the seller should not be avoiding any of your questions, and should not get agitated that you’re asking!
Are you buying what you think you’re buying?
Shopping online is great because prices are lower, product selection is better, and you can easily compare retailers! Too bad you can’t actually hold the product in your hands before spending your money. That’s right – sometimes the product you think you bought, and the product you actually bought are not one and the same.
Reputable retailers will take responsibility if you ordered the wrong product because of misinformation on their site. But do you really want to rely on that? It can be such a hassle to go through the return process. And it means more waiting time before you can start enjoying your purchase.
There are a number of things you can do to confirm you have the right product in your shopping cart. Make sure that the product will fit your specific vehicle application. In some cases, confirming the make, the model, and the year of your vehicle is not enough! Different part types have different fitment requirements.
You should always know your vehicle’s year, make and model. If you’re buying an exhaust system, you need to know your vehicle’s drive train, sub-model and engine size. If you’re buying a tonneau cover, you need to know your vehicle’s truck cab, truck bed sizes, and if you already have a cargo management system.
It really isn’t straight forward.
So if you’re having doubts, take the time to call the retailer and confirm vehicle fitment. For added safety, cross check product details with the manufacturer’s site. Most times information will be updated there first, and later on a reseller’s site.
Terms, Conditions & Privacy
You may think this is tedious stuff, but those long winded, small-fonted Terms and Conditions you never read… could mess with you! Try to get answers to the following questions:
Packaging Costs: Is the retailer charging you for packaging?
Product Delivery: Are you eligible for free shipping? How long will delivery take? Will you be compensated for a late delivery?
Billing: When do you have to pay – before or after product deliver?
Product Tracking: Can you track the product from the moment of purchase through delivery?
Product Defects: What happens if your product is delivered with a defect? *Ideally, the retailer will allow you to inspect the product for faults, defects or other damage before you sign for delivery.
Cancellations & Returns: Once placed, can you cancel your order? If the product is not what you expected, how can you return it? Who pays the cost of returning a product? If you return a product, do you get e full refund, or store credit?
Privacy: How will your personal information be used? *Reputable retailers will be candid about what they do with your personal info. Make sure it won’t be passed on to third party merchants. You really don’t want those spam e-mails spawning in your inbox. Remember to opt out of any unwanted e-mail updates and brochures.
If I still don’t have you convinced, let me remind you that by placing an order online, you are signing a binding contract. You know you shouldn’t put your signature on anything without reading it first!
So you’ve checked out the retailer, and they seem legit. And you’re sure you have the right product in your shopping cart. All you have to do now is go to the checkout and pay.
But, wait! Is the site secure?
You want to be sure that your payment information will be processed with a secure connection.
You can check if the site has secure encryptions like the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) using your internet browser. Depending on the settings, your browser may tell you that you’ve entered a secure area. This usually happens when you are asked to enter personal details.
Check the address bar in your browser. If the site is secure, the site address will change from “http” to “https” – the “s” stands for secure. This usually happens on the order page. A closed padlock symbol or unbroken key symbol in the address bar also confirms that the page is secure.
Choose a Payment Method
Most retailers will allow you to pay with a credit card, a merchant gift card, or PayPal.
Your best pick is to use a credit card. Credit cards are always safer than debit cards or Pay Pal. When you use them money is not directly removed from your bank account. And if the transaction goes sour, you’re protected. It’s always worth it to become familiar with your credit card company’s policy for online fraud protection.
A bonus safety feature for credit cards is their CVV number. The CVV number is a short code on the back of the card which you need for completing an online purchase. Even if someone manages to steal your name, credit card number and expiration date online, they wouldn’t be able to make a purchase without the CVV (in most cases).
I like to be very well protected so I have a phishing filter installed on my browser. A popular phishing filter for Internet Explorer is the SmartScreen Filter. It will warn you if you wander onto a suspicious site.
Don’t be annoyed if you’re asked to go through an Address Verification process. This is probably happening because your shipping address is different from the address provided on your credit card. Retailers get scammed too, and they want to make sure you’re a stand-up guy!
Save your order confirmation number, and get that tracking number on paper! Your shipped parcel will sit at your local shipping station. And if you don’t claim it within 5 days it usually gets shipped back to the retailer.
Inspect the parcel thoroughly before signing for delivery. Look for damaged or broken packaging, dents, or other signs of tampering. Make sure all product components are in the box. If you find any issues, take a picture and send it to the retailer. A picture says a thousand words. You should already be familiar with how they handle defects and returns.
Write a Review
So you did your homework and didn’t get burned. Your product is delivered, and you’re glad you read this blog! If everything works out (or doesn’t) post a review on the retailer’s site, Facebook, or your favorite forum. Help your fellow shoppers and reap in Good Internet Karma. We can all relate to a review which helped us!
Hey – I like reviews too! Let me know what else I can add to my list in the comments below!
Oddly enough my credit card was cancelled 10 days ago due to fraudulent activity intercepted by my credit card company. Your email and the information contained are things that we online shoppers tend to sometimes forget. Thanks for taking the time and trouble compiling all of this valuable information. Oh and by the spring I may be in the market for some of your products.