ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Finding the perfect pair of jeans or the most flattering swimsuit is not an easy task.
COVID-19 has made it that much more difficult.
With some stores still closed, reduced shopping hours, modified return policies, closed dressing rooms and now a shortage of coins across the country, more shoppers are electing to make their purchases online. From furniture to groceries, to clothes and make-up, consumers are relying on the internet to deliver their goods.
Although one can shop anytime of day or night, and reduce the risk of contracting the virus, online shopping is not without its challenges. Here are some tips to make online shopping easier and more manageable.
Read the reviews: It’s hard to know the quality and actual feel of something when you can’t actually handle it. The purpose of product pictures is to make an item look as good as possible, but the reality might be completely different. Reviews will contain more useful information about how the item actually functions in real life. Some websites even allow buyers to ask questions of others who have already purchased the product.
Pay attention to product descriptions: Most websites contain information that tells buyers the size, material, and ingredients if applicable of the items they are selling. There are hilarious examples of people buying a rug or chair online only to find out when it arrives that it was actually intended for a dollhouse.
Know the return policy: There is nothing more frustrating in online shopping than getting something that doesn’t meet expectations and then finding out returning it is a big hassle. Reading a return policy BEFORE placing an order can save a lot of stress in the future. Some places charge a restocking fee. Shipping costs might also be prohibitive. Buying a $15 shirt but having to pay $6 to ship it back makes it almost not worth returning. Other places might only offer store credit and not cash. Try to shop places that provide free returns and/or exchanges.
Shop where you do in real life: Shopping online at a store you have visited or frequent in real life will make it easier to know what you are getting. For clothes, this is an especially good idea because different stores have different fits and sizes are not standard.
Use a hybrid model: Buy online from a store that has curbside pick-up in your area. This can save on shipping costs and time, and makes it much easier to do a return. This is also a great way to support local businesses during the pandemic.
Pull out the measuring tape: Clothes can be one of most challenging online purchases. Measure waist, hips, chest, inseam and even calves. Write down your information and keep it somewhere handy. Most clothing retailers provide a size chart that correlates to measurements.
Although still not common, some companies are using models with a variety of body types. Pictures are usually accompanied with the size and height of the model and sometimes they even provide a video. Pay attention to those to give you an idea how a product will look on your body type.
Is that rayon?: Have a general knowledge of different fabrics. Go to your closet and pull out your most comfortable clothing. Read the labels and make note of what type of fabric it is. Do the same with the pieces that are scratchy, stiff or haven’t washed well. Make note of which fabrics are your favorite and which you probably want to avoid.
Ask a friend: Making expensive, online purchases can be one of the biggest risks. Sending back a couch or grill can be a challenging task. When making a big purchase, get a second opinion. Ask friends what brands they do or do not prefer and why.
It’s coming from where? Pay attention to the originating shipping location. When the pandemic first began, getting products from China was taking months. Products shipped from within the United States will arrive much quicker. Also, sizes from other countries vary from the United States. An extra-large here may be a 3X from China.
Find a good seamstress: Sometimes it’s worth it to have clothing taken in or hemmed instead of sending it back. Most seamstresses charge a reasonable fee for small jobs. Find one close by your home who can be a go-to for these situations.
Resist impulse buying: Sometimes it’s easy to fill up a virtual cart and with the click of a button spend a lot of money. Give yourself time to browse. Place things in the cart and come back the next day to see if your enthusiasm for the product remains.
Get organized: Find a place at home to save the packaging. Create a folder in your email to keep the receipts from your online purchases.
Give those favorites a list: Keep a virtual “favorites” list of products purchased on a regular basis such as deodorant, shampoo and toothpaste. Many grocery apps will allow you to mark an item as a favorite. When it’s time to place another order, the products are already grouped under a favorite tab saving you the trouble of searching for them.
Sign up for email and rewards programs: Many stores award points or coupons based on the amount of money spent but this requires signing up. Make sure you create an account and ask to receive emails about promotions. Some places offer online only deals or additional online discounts.