It’s hard to imagine life before the Internet—when school research actually meant heading to the library, VHSs and DVDs were the only ways you could catch up on the latest flicks, and there was no such thing as the iPod. Christmas shopping meant battling the Herculean crowds during midnight madness sales and trekking to Divisoria in the wee hours of the morning. Well, the droves of people during pre-holiday sales still exist, and getting the best bargains in places like 168 can still be a logistical nightmare, but thanks to the Web, shoppers now have more options online. While sites like Amazon and eBay have made shopping over the Internet widely popular in the U.S. since the mid-’90s, Philippine shopping Web sites have only experienced a boom in the last few years. Despite being rookies in the virtual shopping world, Pinoy sellers have begun offering everything imaginable online—attracting customers with its ease, convenience, great prices and “green” potential (no need for cars!). Online shopping can seem daunting for the non-techie mom, but it’s worth a try for anyone who wants to play Santa from the comforts of home.
Finding a reliable seller Safety is one factor you’ll want to check when Web-shopping—posting sensitive information like billing addresses and credit card numbers can make anyone wary, especially since scammers exist online. Legitimate sites and sellers you can trust, however, are relatively easy to spot. Watch for these telltale signs and signals to weed the good sites from the bad. 1. Feedback. Sellers typically publish (good) reviews while collective sites like Amazon and eBay have a rating system where people post both positive and negative comments. “Customers always leave honest feedback,” says Singapore-based Itsy Macasaet, who runs two online shops (mrs.dazo.etsy.com, sippingtea.etsy.com). “You can also study sites that display the number of sales a seller has made. The more satisfied buyers (and sellers) a company has, the better its reputation—good examples to browse are Etsy, DaWanda, ArtFire, Threadless, and CafePress.” Google is also the quickest, easiest way to do a background check on any store. 2. Complete information. “You’ll know you can trust a site when the seller’s complete details are posted—a mobile number, a landline number, e-mail address, and complete information on payment and delivery,” says Ramona Fenix, who runs Bags by Two Oranges (2oranges.multiply.com). Full disclosure equals accountability on the seller’s part since you’ll be able to communicate with them at any point during your purchase. It’s good to know you can call someone directly whether you have questions about sizing, deliveries, or even returns. 3. Visuals. A professional site is always visually appealing—from the way the homepage is laid out to the product shots of all the items being sold. “The site shouldn’t look too cluttered. Ideally, there should be a photo and description for each product the site sells, and everything should be organized by type or by theme,” explains graphic designer Cynthia Bauzon-Arre, who runs Poptastic Tees (poptastictees.com), a print-on-demand service based in the U.S. “The more details and pictures of the item the seller took personally (and aren’t just confined to “official” product images), the more you can trust a site,” says Lauren Dado of The Ukay Manila Store (store.ukaymanila.com). “As superficial as it sounds, how a Web site is presented speaks volumes about a company’s business practices,” adds Gibb Alfafara of The Urban Baby (theurbanbabyonline.com). “How a company takes care of its image says that they’re in the industry for the long haul and won’t just run away after making a quick buck.” 4. Word of mouth. Chances are, you know at least one person who’s had some success with online shopping—referrals are a great initiation into the World Wide Web. “Frequent online shoppers already know who to avoid and who to trust,” shares Aimee Sison of Babinski Baby (ilovebabinski.com). “Sometimes, sites also do offline selling during bazaars, or have products placed in actual retail stores on consignment. This way, you get to meet the owners or see the merchandise face to face.” 5. Straightforward return policies. “Reliable sellers always anticipate returns or refunds and assure their customers they won’t have a hard time when this happens,” says Em Somera of Readyforrain.com, the Philippines’ first one-stop rain shop, known best for distributing rain boots brand Plueys. “A good site will include straightforward instructions on how to go about returns just in case.”
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