US

Online shopping - a 21st century dilemma

US
By Sana Afridi
Fri, 11, 19

Now, if you are like me and don’t want to go through the hassle of actually going to stores, online shopping has saved all our souls.....

COVER STORY

It’s that time of the year, people. You know it; I know it; we all know it. It’s the SALE season. Summer collections are on discount, end of year sales have caught steams, but most importantly, it’s the Black Friday sales (or as we like to say White/Blessed Friday sales)!

Now, if you are like me and don’t want to go through the hassle of actually going to stores, online shopping has saved all our souls. But as much as it is convenient, the risk is always ripe. If you’re a newbie to the world of online shopping, or have had a sour experience in the past, here are some basics to guide you.

Reviews

See something you like on Facebook? Before admiring it further, scroll through the comments/reviews section. Be thorough. If you spot lots of “hey, call me 0900786452”; “hi, nice pics dear”; “wow, lovely”, just leave. Real sellers don’t need to buy an audience. And of course, you’ll find the occasional “worst experience”; “waste of money”, which is a definite giveaway. If you’re on a product website and don’t see any reviews, do not take the risk.

“Wow, what a deal!”

Now, in most cases, when you see deals like “Buy three shirts for just 999”, it’s a scam. Pay attention to the details. What is the product? Is it three plain t-shirts for the price? Makes sense? Yes. Is it three fancy dresses for the price? Makes sense that someone is so generous? No. Common sense will tell you that you can’t get fancy stuff for that price, unless you’re standing in Sunday Bazaar bargaining your soul away. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Product pictures

Do NOT click on products when you are being sold pictures copied from Google images. Unless you see actual product photos, please don’t do it. You’ll cry later, and so will your wallet. Authentic sellers post their actual product that they photographed themselves. Take some time and observe other items of the seller. Are they posting pictures of other brands? Are they using Google images? Are the models clearly not local? Don’t risk it. And please, don’t try to buy branded clothes or “replicas” from re-sellers or Facebook pages. We all know it never works out.

Cheaper isn’t better

Is someone selling the entire Huda Beauty vault for Rs 1500? Is someone selling a page from Gul Ahmed’s catalog for Rs 850? Are Huda and Gul Ahmed having a seizure over the unbelievable price you’re getting? Did you just cheat the system and win? No. You got robbed. Cheaper isn’t better; it’s shady and risky. Finding famous brands online at unbelievable rates is never the real deal. If you want something from a brand, visit the official website and purchase from there. Do not trust random makeup pages or shopping pages, unless people can personally vouch for them (the lovely ladies of Facebook, may I add).

Go big or go home

If you are someone who is not familiar with the nasty world of online shopping, please don’t follow ‘Go big or go home’. I have seen people shopping online for their wedding and wasting thousands (many, many thousands). Do not go looking for wedding clothes, or electronic equipment or furniture if you’re not familiar with it.

Ask the community

Facebook is a huge community. Personally, whenever I spot a new brand that interests me, my first instinct is to ask around. Facebook is flooded with groups for women; shopping communities, social groups, support groups, all in all, women helping women. Take some time and ask the lovely ladies of Facebook; trust me, they know. I’ve been saved countless times by women less fortunate than myself. See which of your friends have liked or followed the brand, ask them. Flying solo is always more risky.

Customer care

The way a brand communicates is vital. If they appear rude, insistent, or simply unprofessional, just leave. As a precaution, when receiving the parcel of your online purchase, open it up, check what you’ve received and then hand over the payment. If you’ve been scammed, you will most probably end up blocked as soon as you hand over your money. And this is where their customer care ends. So please, be very careful. They are pros, you are not.

Ads and sponsored posts

Even though I am the one to vigorously click on social media ads myself (zero self-restraint), this is a definite no-no if you have no clue what you’re doing. Ads are always intriguing, but in most cases they lead to scam pages that seem to be selling at unbelievable rates. Remember, cheaper isn’t better. Cheap makeup and cheap clothes, this is what social media traps us with. Sure you can ‘check them out’, but again, if you haven’t shopped online before, don’t let a Facebook ad be the first purchase you make.

Shopping applications

Famous shopping platforms like Daraz and AliExpress are all the hype. But somehow, I find myself trusting AliExpress way more than I can trust our local Daraz app. AliExpress has amazing customer care and satisfaction. Not once have I been disappointed. But, of course, you need to be a smart shopper.

On shopping apps, never purchase an item that has no reviews or ratings, no matter how good the product or deal seems. It’s a shot in the dark, and most likely you will miss. If no one else took the risk, neither should you. Only when you see reviews and pictures of what people have received should you choose to proceed.

The benefit of shopping at AliExpress is you can get a refund hassle-free! If you do not receive your item, or if you file a legit complaint, the system reimburses you. While Daraz has a long tedious process of begging for a refund and mostly just getting frustrated and giving up.

On a side note, avoid making huge purchases from AliExpress, customs tend to charge on large or expensive items coming from across the border.

And with that, happy (and safe) shopping!