7 Things You Should Never Buy Online

by Rebecca Black on May 21, 2012

It’s no question technology has revolutionized consumer spending habits: with a few simple clicks, you can buy anything from anywhere in the world and have it delivered to your doorstep. In 2010, Americans spent $169 billion in e-commerce expenses, representing 4.4% of total retail sales, up from 4% in 2009, according to the United States Census Bureau, and e-sales are only predicted to increase as technology improves. The perks are obvious: convenience, online-only discounts, and sales tax breaks. While online shopping has made our lives easier in many ways, it can also be an industry fraught with shortcomings and disadvantages. Here are some things you should only buy in-store.

  1. Groceries

    Price and selection are the real reasons why you should always buy your groceries in person at your local supermarket rather than shopping online. There are demographics that keeps the online grocery industry alive (college students, disabled elderly, or military families living far from stores) but in general, the disadvantages make buying groceries online highly uneconomical. If you scope out for special deals, coupons, and play the price-matching game, you can almost always expect to save much more shopping in-store. Also delivery/shipping fees and tips or service charges make online grocery shopping not as wallet-friendly. There’s also no way you can use manufacturers’ coupons online.

  2. Luxury Brands & Items

    Buying from an affiliate site for luxury brands puts you at a higher risk for buying counterfeit items. Everything from designer perfume to handbags and sunglasses may be knock-offs of the real thing, especially if they are offered for significantly lower prices. According to the Department of Homeland Security, counterfeit products cost the U.S. economy as many as $250 billion each year, so beware when purchasing from classified sites (Craigslist, e-Bay) and other venders. If you must, order directly from the brand’s website or in-store.

  3. Intimate Clothing

    Online shopping for clothes is a great idea, but when it comes to intimate clothing, it’s not always the best option. Intimates must fit our bodies snugly, and for swimsuits, this is particularly important. The fact that you can’t try on these items before buying makes in-store shopping much more attractive. Also, you avoid the hassle of dealing with return shipping and restocking fees of up to 15%. If you’re a frugal shopper, an alternative to online shopping is scoping out outlet stores for the best deals, and using online shopping sites for price comparisons.

  4. Used Cars

    Beware of used car online advertisements and browse car-buying sites only for price comparisons and research. From 2008 to 2010, The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported nearly 14,000 complaints from car shoppers who fell for an online car-buying scam. Scams usually start with a used car being advertised on a “reputable” automotive website for rock-bottom prices. The seller might make up a plausible story for needing to get rid of the car in a timely manner or due to unexpected events (military deployment, need instant cash, etc.). Sellers may say they use a reputable wire-transfer third-party service, but in actuality, the third party is not involved. Since it’s hard to detect car-buying scams online, only use the internet to compare models and cars, and deal directly with car dealerships when purchasing your car.

  5. Large, Fragile Electronics

    While there are many trustworthy websites to purchase anything from tablets to computers to home entertainment systems, it may not be the best idea to shop for them online. Any way you put it, you’re spending large amounts of money for something unseen and untouched. It isn’t smart to buy big screen TVs without examining them in person first. Once you’re sure of the model, you might be able to search for it online at a competitive price. Just keep in mind that some retailers don’t cover damages that happened during shipping, and returning items can be quite problematic.

  6. Prescription Drugs

    Buying prescription drugs online can save you money, but the risk of harming you or your family may not make it worth it. There’s no way to ensure the drugs are what they claim to be — the pills could be contaminated, counterfeit, or unsafe. Third-party sites selling these drugs may have tampered with the pills or may not comply with standards set by pharmacy practices. Even worse, the website could be an unlicensed, foreign company operating in other countries where quality standards are more lax. The bottom line is, you can’t be sure of what drugs you’re getting. If you must buy your medications online, check the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) website to see if the site in question is reputable and compliant with all standards.

  7. Online Newspaper Subscriptions

    Some reputable news sources (For example, The New York Times, The Financial Times, and The Sunday Times) recently charged for full access to all content online. While online-based news sources are convenient, there are so many other paper-based and digital sources available for much less, or even free. If you’re not picky about getting your news from a brand name publication, consider other outlets for getting your news online for no charge. Try following reputable twitter accounts like CNN and your local news channel as well.

Categories: Advice

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