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On-line Trade Show - Seminars

Shopping on the Internet

by Art Little

Transmission Digest Magazine
This article appeared in the December 2000 issue of Transmission Digest.

Have you gotten your Christmas shopping done yet? That's what I thought. Me neither. It seems like every year we get so wrapped up in the shop that we can't attend to the Christmas shopping we need to do. You know how it is. You plan to go shopping but there is always a problem at the shop that needs your immediate attention. Then, by the time you get the problems at the shop solved, it's closing time and you are too tired to go shopping. So,you plan to do it the next day. Most years I would have to leave the shop early on Christmas Eve trying to get it all done. By then it was too late to do any good. All the good suff was gone and I had run out of shopping time. That's why, with Christmas just around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to write an article about shopping on the internet. If you have an internet connection at the shop, you can do your Christmas shopping without ever leaving the center.

I have to be honest, when I started the research for this article, I knew very little. I only knew how to buy a few things because, when it comes down to it, there are really only two types of shoppers. Those who go to a store and buy what they need and leave, and those who like to shop around. I go buy and leave. So I was limited in information regarding the process of making a purchase on the internet. I looked around on the search engines, toured a few shopping sites, read the articles in the magazines, the normal research stuff. Then it occurred to me to consult an expert or two. Well, I didn't have to go very far to find the experts I was looking for, and I am here to tell you, my wife and daughter turned out to be a virtual gold mine of internet shopping information. Yes sir. When asked to help, my wife Nancy said, and I quote " If you haven't been shopping on the internet, you haven't been shopping. " That scared me since she handles the money. So I said "Why don't you show me what you mean honey?" Over the next few days, I found out the girls had made a science out of internet shopping. Here's what I learned.

I will try to keep this simple. "You gotta get ready to shop and then you gotta know where to go to get it." To get ready you have to get your coupons ready, decide how you are going to pay for the merchandise, check the consumer guides, and check out the merchants you are going to do business with. When you get ready to buy, you can go to different websites like brand name sites, store sites, price comparison sites, portal sites, collective buying sites, auction sites, or you can even use a shopping bot to do the shopping for you.

So the first thing we will do is visit the best coupon site and get our coupons together. Go to http://www.coolsavings.com. Click on "merchants". There you will find all categories of merchandise and under each category you will find participating merchants. Click on the merchant name and you will be linked to a page that has their coupons. This website has a good variety of merchants, a lot of free coupons, and it is an easy site to navigate. Now that you have your coupons, you have to decide how you are going to pay for the merchandise.

The most common way to pay is with a credit card. You can pay directly at the website with the credit card or register your credit card with a third party like http://www.paypal.com and then the third party bills your credit card and the pays the merchant. PayPal's service, free to consumers, can be used from PCs or Web-enabled mobile phones. The upside is that you only give your credit card information to Paypal and the merchants never receive the credit card information. PayPal's bank pays them. The downside is that who ever you pay to has to be a member of PayPal to receive the money. Many merchants are not members. Some merchants are also accepting what is called Webchecks. When using Webchecks, you fill in the required information along with your bank account number, routing number and the check number. It is just like writing a check and the funds are transferred between your bank and the merchants bank. You go ahead and make a real check out and log it in your check book. Then, keep the check and match it up on your monthly bank statement. What ever happened to cold, hard cash?

There are a couple of websites you need to bookmark to use as a reference in your shopping endeavors. If you are concerned about the merchant you are purchasing from, check out a neat little website, http://bizrate.com that rates merchants. On the home page, click on store profiles and you can check out customer ratings, return policies, contact information and much more - everything you need to make a smart purchase. Another familiar consumer protection site can be found at http://bbbonline.com. Getting a good price on the wrong product is no bargain. If you are going to be spending a significant amount of money, you probably want to make sure that you are spending it well. Fortunately, you can quickly access good sources of product information and advice over the Web. The best two sites are http://www.consumersdigest.com and http://consumerreports.com. O.K. now we are ready to go shopping!

When I started I only knew two ways to shop. I would type: http://thebrandnameoftheproductIwaslookingfor.com or http://thenameofthestoreIwaslookingfor.com in the address field of my browser. Then, I would hit enter on my keyboard. When I told my daughter that, she laughed at me and asked me if price was a concern of mine? (Ever notice how kids love it when they know something you don't?) She then directed me to the price comparison sites. This is where I have to tell you, if you are the type of shopper that likes to go to the store, buy what you need and leave, this article is over. However, if you are the type of shopper that likes to get down to the nitty gritty, this article is just beginning.

If you know exactly what you want and it's a brand name product, then you might want to find the store that sells it for the lowest price. If you wanted to do that on your own, you'd first have to figure out which online stores sell that item, then go to each one individually to see the prices. As an alternative, you can go to price comparison sites that search through the catalogs of online stores and organize the results for you. Examples of such sites can be found at http://www.bottomdollar.com and http://www.mysimon.com A price comparison site periodically sends out robot programs ("shopping bots") to check the catalogs of a preset selection of online stores. Bots typically store the information gathered in a database. So when you do a search they are checking the information they have stored rather than sending a fresh query to all the stores. So, this approach provides you with fast results, but may or may not be accurate and is restricted to the stores the website chooses to shop. To prove that shopping can be a science, let's move on to what's called the portal buying sites.

If you don't know exactly what you want, try some of the portal sites on the Web. Portal sites want you to use their website as a hub to direct you to other sites on the web. They index everything for you and want you to make their home page your start up page when you log on to the internet. They are all trying to provide everything a shopper might want all in one place. Venture into their shopping areas and you will find products for sale, price comparison tools, suggestion tools, buying advice, consumer-oriented product information, decision support tools, and ways to find other products elsewhere on the Internet. The top five portal shopping sites are:; http://shopping.yahoo.com , http://shopping.aol.com , http://shopping.altavista.com , http://shopping.msn.com , http://shopping.netscape.com . Now, we are on a mission. Let's go to the collective buying sites.

The basic principle behind collective buying sites is that the price goes down as the volume goes up. You join their group and you get group prices on various items for sale. This is the opposite of an auction. At an auction the more people who want an item, the higher the price. Here the more who want it, the lower the price because supply is not limited. Examples of such sites can be found at http://About.com and http://GroupBuy.com. While we are on the subject of auctions let's go to some auction sites.

At the auction sites you can buy about anything you can think of. New, used and refurbished merchandise can be bid upon and purchased at discount prices. Once you register with the auction and you are able to bid on merchandise. They will even send you an email notification when you are out bid on an item. If you choose, they will submit a 'proxy" bid for you. All you have to do is put in the maximum amount you are willing to spend for an item and the website software bids for you. Come to find out, this is where a lot of my grand daughters clothes and furniture come from. The top auction sites are at http://eBay.com , http://uBid.com , http://Amazon.com ,http://Egghead.com and http://yahoo.com. A B2B (Business to business) auction can be found at http://Freemarkets.com. Also, you can search dozens of auctions simultaneously at http://www.bidfind.com/.

We have all seen the http://priceline.com commercials on TV. This is a unique website in that you can go there and submit what YOU want to pay for airline tickets, hotels and rent cars. If a merchant wants to sell it to you for YOUR price they contact you and sell it to you. I tried that when I was booking our trip to the trade show in Las Vegas last September and no one contacted me. Not one contact. You may have better luck.

To end up this shopping tour I am going to direct you to shopping bots that do the shopping for you on specific items. To access a complete list of "bots" go to Go to BotSpot, http://www.botspot.com. You can also sign up for their news letter that reviews the bots and keeps you posted on the latest bot.

Shopping on the internet can help you to meet your responsiblities at the shop and get the Holiday shopping for your loved ones done on time. Why not fire up the shop computer at lunch time for a few days, get on-line and go shopping without the traffic, the crowds and the long lines? Browse for merchandise, do price and product comparisons and purchase goods on-line - without ever leaving the center. The merchants will then conveniently ship the merchandise directly to your home. If you have a gift you do not want anyone to know about, have them ship it to the shop. It's almost too easy. Like Nancy said " If you haven't been shopping on the net, you haven't been shopping." Merry Christmas everybody and a prosperous New Year to all.

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