Why Not To Buy

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 12 minute read

One may make a strong case for the convenience of internet buying. The Internet is essentially the largest shopping mall in the history of the globe, with every imaginable commodity for sale at all hours of the day and night.

Without leaving the comfort of your couch, you can now simply shop around by comparing prices, looking for discounts, and having your purchases delivered right to your door. Indeed, many items may be purchased online at much reduced costs.

Despite this, experts agree that not all items are worth the risk of buying online, regardless of how cheap they may be. Some of them are expensive pieces that you shouldn’t buy blindly online, such as furniture or appliances. However, it’s still preferable to go to the shop to get certain little things like fresh food and cosmetics. If you want to be sure you’re getting a decent price, it’s worth forgoing the comfort of shopping in your jammies.

Why Not to Buy Online

Online retailers have three significant issues that make them difficult to recommend. To begin with, you have no way to personally inspect the goods before purchase. Not a major problem for certain items, like books, where an image on the computer is all you need to make a decision. However, it’s a deal breaker for some things, like shoes that have to fit perfectly or throw pillows that have to match the wallpaper in a specific room.

Online purchasing has two major drawbacks, with delivery prices being the second. Once again, this may not be a huge problem for some products. In fact, many retailers will cover the shipping costs entirely if your order total is over a particular threshold, especially if the item weighs less than a specific threshold. However, shipping costs for large products like furniture are astronomical, and if you wind up sending it back, you’ll have to pay the amount again.

At long last, there are items that are more cost-effective in person. Because it costs less to operate a website than a physical location, online retailers may afford to provide more affordable prices to their customers. However, there are some instances in which in-store costs are preferable, such as when using discounts or haggling with salespeople.

Here are eight items that internet shopping experts warn you should be avoided at all costs.

  1. Art and Decoration

Purchasing a unique piece of artwork is now simpler than ever before thanks to the proliferation of internet galleries. Artwork of various types, as well as home furnishings like carpets, cushions, and lamps, may be found at extremely reasonable costs on online markets like Etsy. Discounts like this may seem tempting, but experts advise against making a purchase.

  1. Furniture

The issues inherent in online art and accessory purchases also apply to furniture purchases. It’s just as difficult to make an informed decision about the color and quality of a couch as it is about a cushion when shopping online, and it’s much more crucial to do so when making a significant investment. At addition, there are several benefits to buying furniture in a store, including:

  • Spend less on shipping. Shipping fees for sofas are much higher than those for cushions since sofas weigh significantly more. When buying a large item like a living room set online, delivery costs might easily exceed 10% of the total. In-store and online delivery costs are similar, but online retailers typically charge more. In addition, sometimes you might save money by bringing the item home yourself instead of paying for delivery when you purchase in a store. In comparison to the $120 delivery price, the cost of renting a vehicle for the day is minimal at $20.
  • See If It’s Relaxing. It’s possible to save money on shipping by shopping in a local store instead of online, but you can’t feel the quality of the goods before you buy them. It’s not enough for a sofa, chair, or bed to appear nice; it must also be comfortable to sit or rest on. There’s no substitute for physically trying on the item in question to determine its suitability.
  • Stay away from Late Fees and Returns. Since returning furniture can be a time-consuming and costly process, it’s crucial that you’re completely satisfied with your purchase before making a final decision. You’ll have to pay to ship back any furniture you don’t like from some internet stores like CB2. The restocking fee is 25% of the purchase price if the retailer is not happy with the condition it is returned in. Even if the item is returned in pristine condition, the original shipping cost will not be refunded.
  • Do some haggling with the price. You will always pay the displayed price when making an online purchase. However, when you purchase at a physical store, you interact with a real person who gets paid a commission for each item you buy. This provides them with leverage to negotiate with you on pricing or other terms (like shipping fees). One method in which furniture purchasing online may be useful is this: You should look up the pricing of what you want to buy online before heading out to the store. You may be able to negotiate a lower price with the sales associate if you can prove that a lower price is available elsewhere, such as on the internet.
  1. Mattresses

The quality of your mattress has a significant impact on how well you sleep, and excellent sleep is essential to your health. But this doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically get a better sleep if you go for the more expensive mattress. The characteristics that contribute to a restful night’s sleep on a mattress include, but are not limited to, the individual’s height, weight, sleeping position (side, back, etc.), the frequency with which they change positions in bed, and other similar factors.

That’s why it’s so important to put mattresses through a comfort test before buying. You may get a sense of the overall quality of different mattresses by reading customer reviews online. However, you’ll have to lie on it yourself to get a true sense of how it feels.

According to Consumer Reports, before purchasing a mattress, one should spend at least five to ten minutes lying on each side, back, and stomach. That ought to be sufficient to give you a reasonable first impression. The magazine reports that after sleeping on a mattress for a whole month, most readers were just as unconvinced by its quality as they were on the first night.

Benefiting from the ability to haggle with a store clerk is another advantage of brick-and-mortar purchasing. Consumer Reports claims that the price of a mattress has more wiggle space than the price of most other items. Some retailers, like warehouse clubs, have set pricing that cannot be negotiated.

On the other hand, there is far more flexibility with other merchants, notably mattress specialist businesses. Retailers like this typically tack on enormous markups to their items, allowing them to offer discounts of fifty percent or more during promotions. Holiday weekends, like Memorial Day, are prime times for these discounts.

Consumer Reports, on the other hand, claims that you can haggle your way into similar discounts outside of official sales periods. The salesman will usually give in if you simply refuse to pay extra and are willing to walk away if necessary. You may also haggle for freebies like delivery, the removal of your old mattress at no cost, or the inclusion of bedding essentials in the overall price of the mattress.

  1. Massive Appliances

Shopping for home appliances online may be quite alluring when discounts are involved. By searching online, you may find deals on appliances at deeply discounted rates, with free shipping included in certain cases.

When asked about the benefits of online shopping, expert Brent Shelton told GOBankingRates that there aren’t many, because you can frequently receive the same discounts and delivery options purchasing in-store. There are a few benefits unique to brick-and-mortar stores that cannot be found while buying online:

  • Have a Closer Look. Details on appliances, like those on furniture, aren’t always visible on a computer screen. If you’re in the market for a new refrigerator, for instance, doing so in person will allow you to test out the quality of the build and the functionality of the drawers. In addition, you will be able to see fingerprints and other hand prints on the surface, which will be invisible in a picture of a freshly cleaned and polished refrigerator.
  • An Opportunity to Submit Queries. As far as contrasting different models goes, you’re on your own when you purchase online. If you want to know how they stack up in terms of size, performance, and other aspects, you’ll have to do the research yourself. A salesperson at a store can give you a detailed breakdown of the differences between two models that appear to be identical at first glance.
  • Use less fine print clauses. Ask the salesperson about shipping, setting up an installation, your rights to a refund, and the length of any applicable warranties. If you’re going to buy something online, you’ll have to read the fine print to find out what the return policy is. If you don’t put in the time or don’t pay attention to every detail, you can be in for an unpleasant surprise, like seeing your new refrigerator placed on your doorstep with no means to move it into the home.
  • Less Danger. It’s not without its dangers to ship a large item like a refrigerator or dishwasher. If you unpack your brand new item and discover it is broken, you won’t be able to just put it back on the truck that delivered it. To make matters worse, you may be unable to provide evidence that the damage was sustained during transit, leaving you on the hook for a costly restocking fee.
  1. Cars

Vehicle acquisition stress is real. The salesman will follow you around like glue from the moment you enter the showroom until you sign the dotted line. There’s a strong allure to skipping the traffic, crowds, and haggling by doing one’s automobile buying online.

In contrast, professionals stress the need of physically inspecting a vehicle before making a purchase. Internet research on vehicles is sensible, but nothing beats actually sitting in the driver’s seat and putting the vehicle through its paces before making a final decision. It’s the only way to get a real sense of the car’s ride quality, handling, vision, and other attributes down to the finer points, such as whether or not you can operate the radio without taking your eyes off the road.

There is more to checking out a used automobile than merely taking it for a spin. In addition, you should have a reliable mechanic inspect it. All the possible issues that a quick test drive won’t reveal will be found by them. That way, you won’t fall in love with an automobile only to find out it needs repairs costing several thousand dollars.

That’s why it’s preferable to do business face-to-face with a car dealer; exchanging a lemon is far less of a hassle if you find it right away. The procedure of returning an automobile purchased online might be far more involved than just taking it back to the dealership from whom you originally purchased it.

  1. Instruments of Music

If you’re serious about making music, you shouldn’t buy an instrument online. Costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars, a high-quality musical instrument is out of reach for most people.

Playing an instrument is the only way to get a feel for how it sounds and how it fits in your hands before shelling out serious cash for it. It’s not enough to just go by the brand name, as there may be significant variation in sound and playability even among well-respected manufacturers.

The possibility of shipment damage is another major issue when purchasing an instrument online. Shelton, a singer and a shopper expert, admits to experiencing this in an interview with Kiplinger. The cash loss can be covered by insurance, but a genuinely rare or vintage instrument is not easily replaced.

This internet shopping guideline isn’t as firm as the others, Shelton says; it depends on the type and quality of the instrument he’s purchasing. Wooden instruments have a wider tonal range but are more fragile and prone to breaking.

So, the danger is not as important when purchasing a flute, especially if it is a cheap student model. Finding a bargain online is a real possibility.

  1. Groceries

Inexpensive household goods like paper towels and toothpaste may be purchased more conveniently online. A subscription service, like Amazon’s Subscribe & Save, may ensure you never run out while saving you up to 15% off the regular price.

On the other hand, experts recommend physically visiting a grocery shop to purchase food items. It has three major benefits:

  • Quality. When you order groceries online, you anticipate receiving the same products you would find at a conventional grocery shop. That is not always the case, though. The inventor of the cash-back website BeFrugal, John Lal, has issued a warning that the freshness of the food used to fulfill online purchases may not match that of the product purchased in stores. The quality of food can’t be verified while shopping online. You can tell if the peaches are ripe by the way they smell and if the lettuce is crisp by the way it looks when you shop at a grocery store. Milk and other dairy products have expiry dates, so you may pick the one that will last the longest. Staff members fulfilling your online order won’t automatically do that.
  • Price. Online grocery shopping can be convenient, but contrary to popular belief, it will not help you save money. Amazon and other large internet merchants can’t provide the same low prices on perishable food goods as they do on everything else. Kiplinger discovered that for most food goods, you can get better deals at grocery shops or warehouse clubs than on Amazon. When compared to brick-and-mortar supermarkets, the food variety offered by businesses like Peapod, which delivers groceries straight to your door, is notably smaller. In-store specials are rarely offered online, and shipping costs add insult to injury. In-store purchases also facilitate price comparisons and the usage of discount vouchers.
  • Discovery. Last but not least, browsing and finding brand-new favorites is a lot easier when you shop in person. Online shopping often entails going down a list and clicking on each item you desire until you have everything you need. On the other hand, as you wheel your basket throughout the shop, you could come across some exotic fruits or artisanal jams that you’ve never heard of before. So, instead of always restocking on the same old boring items, going grocery shopping might be a fun opportunity to discover some new favorites.
  1. Makeup

There’s no sense in passing up a fantastic online discount on the lipstick you know you’ll adore. However, experts agree that going to a physical store is the best bet when looking for novel items. The result is that you can:

  • Take Careful Readings of Colors. As was previously said, colors on a screen may not always accurately reflect the true colors of the original. Choosing the right cosmetics to complement your skin tone might be more difficult than picking out the right T-shirt size. The exact shade of lipstick on your phone’s screen may not be the same on your lips, and you probably can’t send it back once you’ve tried it on.
  • Prototypes Available. Trying on cosmetics in person is the only way to get a feel for how they perform on your skin. Stores like Sephora and Ulta, which specialize in cosmetics, provide “testers” of their products so that customers may try them out before buying. You should use caution when utilizing them. Always use the disposable applicators provided by the retailer rather than touching the cosmetics directly to your skin to prevent the transmission of germs. If there are no staff monitoring the samples, you have no way of knowing if other customers have utilized them appropriately.
  • Talk to the Sales Team! Workers in a cosmetics boutique do more than simply monitor free samples. In-person instructions on how to achieve a certain look, like a smokey eye, and recommendations on the finest products for various skin types are available. If you want a free mini makeover or mini facial, for instance, you can stroll into any Sephora and receive one after filling out a short form.
  • Make use of incentive plans. You may earn points at a variety of drugstores and beauty supply boutiques by signing up for their loyalty programs. Members of these clubs may take advantage of exclusive in-store deals that aren’t offered anywhere else.

Bottom Line

Experts warn against making any online purchases of anything labeled “last sale.” You’re out of luck if you don’t like your purchase because returns aren’t accepted on most closeout products. Even for things that are often ideal to purchase online, it is preferable to avoid these unless the cost is small.

Happily, you don’t even have to commit to making a purchase to get many of the benefits of internet buying. You may do your shopping, research, and even save money by using the Internet. That’s a great way to zero down on the top places to shop at. That way, when you go shopping, you’ll know precisely what you’re looking for and how much it should cost.

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