Think Twice Before You Buy These 19 Things Online
Add to cart, hit send, and wait for it to arrive. Online shopping is a time saver, but sometimes you could pay the price for the convenience.
Head online to figure out what you’re looking for, but head to a furniture store for your final purchase to get a feel for its comfort and craftsmanship, says Brent Shelton, online shopping expert for FatWallet.com. “Do all your research online and do as much as you can because that can save you time. There are hundreds of models and types, and you can narrow it down before you go in the store,” says Shelton. “But going in the store is going to ensure you’ll be happy with the purchase.” Returning to the store after thinking it over could even up your chances of getting a better price. A salesperson who makes commission won’t want to see you leave empty-handed a second time, so you’re likely to land a great deal. These are the signs a shopping site is fake.
Do you need a new mattress? You may not want to just click and buy the first mattress you see online. “If you get eight hours of sleep a day, that’s a third of your life, so that’s a pretty important investment,” says Shelton. Online reviews are a good jump-off point, but you should take them with a grain of salt. After all, a back sleeper will experience a mattress differently than a side sleeper would, so you might not have the same preferences. Find one you love in a store, then price check after you leave to see if you can find a better deal online. Like with furniture, going back and haggle with the same salesperson who’d helped you before could help you get a better buy. You might not just get the price matched, but also snag extra perks like free shipping as the salesperson tries to seal the deal, says Shelton.
You’ll want to see and feel rugs, curtains, bedding, and other home goods before you bring them to your house, says consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. “Colors can appear different online, and the quality of material is impossible to assess by viewing through a Web page,” she says. If you need drapes that match your carpet, buying in person will ensure you’re happy with how your room comes together. Here are savvy shopping tricks you’ll wish you knew all along.
Shipping and returns aren’t a big deal if you’ve got time to spare, but if you’re ordering a product for an event that’s coming up fast, your safest bet is buying straight from the store. “If it’s something you need now, you can’t return it and you have the risk that it won’t work out for whatever you need,” says Shelton. That quick dash to the store might take more time, but save you regret.
Cosmetics you’ve never tried
You’re safe buying your go-to mascara online, but if you want to try out a new makeup product, pick it up from a brick and mortar store. “A lot of online purchases won’t take things back that have been opened up if it’s sealed like cosmetics,” says Shelton. Get products that aren’t sure bets from stores like CVS, Ulta, or Sephora, which will let you return items even after they’re opened.
Clothes from unfamiliar brands
If the retailer doesn’t allow returns or exchanges via mail or a physical store you can access, you could be stuck with an ill-fitting piece. Feel free to buy from shops where you know your size, but take caution when trying new stores. “Make sure you are familiar with the brand and sizing, or make sure that the retailer allows returns or exchanges,” says Woroch.
Clothing with uncommon materials
You might feel confident ordering a certain dress size from a store you shop at often, but fit isn’t the only aspect to consider when buying clothes—comfort is also key. Certain textures might not feel good on your body, so if you’re buying something more extravagant than your typical cotton, you might want to try it on in a store before adding it to your cart, especially if you’ll be spending a lot of money on the piece. “Luxury items you want to check out to make sure they feel right when wearing it, as well as if it has good craftsmanship,” says Shelton.
Buying secondhand clothes can save you money and let you find some offbeat gems, but purchase with caution. Jeans could have formed to someone else’s shape, or you could find unexpected wear and tear. “It’s pre-worn, so you don’t know if it’s shrunk or if shoes are broken in for someone else’s feet,” says Shelton. Feel free to give it a shot, but be discriminating with what you buy. This is how you can save money on Amazon.
“A lousy fitting shoe or boot will be a waste of money if you can’t wear them, and sizes even on brands you’re familiar with will vary slightly,” says Woroch. It’s not that you should never buy shoes online, but you should only buy from sites that give you free shipping and returns—which a lot of shoe retailers do, knowing how tricky it can be to find a comfortable fit, she says.
Imitations of the designer looks you want will save you tons of cash, but some knock-offs are way better quality than others. “Especially if it’s from a store that isn’t that trustworthy and you’re not sure about the return policy, you want to go in and look at it,” says Shelton. That way you can inspect the quality in case you can’t get a refund.
A car might seem great from its honest-sounding description, but you won’t know for sure until you see it and drive it yourself. “It’s important to test drive and inspect a used car for wear and tear and have a mechanic look under the hood,” says Woroch. Here’s what you should never buy used.
Run out of hair ties or tissues? You could literally pay the price for convenience if you buy online. Unless you land free shipping, you could end up paying more for processing and handling than for the product itself. “There’s no excuse to pay more for shipping than the item costs unless you can’t get it locally,” says Shelton. “Pick it up the next time you’re in the store.”
Before clicking “buy” for big-ticket appliances like fridges or washing machines, review all the charges. “They may have an expensive shipping charge, plus an oversized delivery fee on top of that,” says Woroch. If there are any major fees, call up customer service rep—you might be able to negotiate a delivery discount.
Buying a cheap guitar online for your kid who’s dying to be the next Jimi Hendrix is fine. But longtime players should give a test run in person before splurging on a high-end instrument. “The interesting thing about these high-end instruments is they’re all made to be different,” says Shelton. “It’s not an assembly line kicking these items out—they’re handmade a lot of the time, with a lot of care to give its own distinct tone and feel.” Instead of taking a chance, visit the seller in person.
You’ll often get fresher flowers from a brick and mortar store than you would from a flower service, says Woroch. If you’re looking to save money, just pick the right shop. “You can save by picking up flowers at the grocery store compared to a local florist,” she says. This is what you should buy at big box stores—and four to get at retail.
Whether you’re looking for a Bluetooth system for your living room or a pricey pair of headphones, you should test out the sound before making the buy. You can expect poor quality from cheap products, but even expensive items can range in how they sound. “For the best value and experience with those kinds of items, you need to try them out and listen to them and see how they’re going to work for your situation,” says Shelton.
Packaged food like boxed and canned goods will be equal quality, regardless of if you buy them in the grocery store or online, but produce could vary more. While a grocery delivery service probably won’t send you rotten or overly bruised produce, you won’t have a say in which shapes and colors you prefer. “I prefer to choose my own and make sure I pick the best and freshest options,” says Woroch.
Be careful when buying fresh, preservative-free foods online. Do your research on forums to find out whether the items are from overseas—if they are, find another distributor that can provide what you want without crossing borders. Plus, if you buy in-store, you get the added benefit of asking a shopkeeper about items that are too specialized for your usual supermarket to stock. “You’re better off buying that from an expert in a store that you can talk to face to face,” says Shelton.
With expensive luxuries like diamonds, you’ll want to make sure you know what you’re getting. “You want to inspect it for flaws and make sure the clarity and color are what you want,” says Woroch. Head to a local jeweler to buy your dream ring or necklace. Next, check out the secret store policies that could save you money.