"A large print giveth, a small print taketh away"
Sometimes I look at my website and ponder whether a random visitor would feel confident that me and my product is something trustworthy enough to spend their hard-earned cash on. The design looks rather cheap, there is no brand name recognition — who knows of xplorer˛ other than a hard core elite?
Internet is a relatively new shopping experience and people still miss the usual cues they utilize for normal shopping. When you walk into a mall, you can tell a lot by the way a shop and its proprietor looks, how clean it is, how long has it been established, how many other people shop in there etc. But online shops are different. Many times the smartest looking website could be a death trap waiting to eat your credit card and sell your contact details to spammers. How can you tell friend from foe when you don't recognize the brand?
A safe tactic would be to simply click away to the next, more familiar website, but then you'd miss out on bargains like xplorer˛ <g> So here's a list of useful do's and dont's to keep on your side when underground shopping on the internet:
- Scrutinize the website. See past any possible wow factor, or poor graphics design — unless you are shopping for graphic artists! Are there enough details about the product and what it can do for you? Is there a clear link to contact the webmaster? Try a test email to check their after-sale support response time.
- Check the word on the street. If you never heard of the product or company before, do a keyword search on the company name to see what other people have to say. If there's something fishy you'll hear a lot of angry people ranting on google groups and increasingly on blogs. If you want to stretch it check siteadvisor too.
- Here today gone tomorrow. How long is said website in business? You don't want to be the one to beta test some unknown website's credibility. A whois check on the URL will give you the date of original registration. If it's long established watchout for dead or dormant pages. What was the last time the information was updated?
- Snake oil deals. If it's too good to be true, steer away. Too many bereaved widows of exiled generals with million$ to spare nowadays. Sometimes a scam isn't as obvious to spot. Is the service they offer subscription-like? Think of printers that cost nothing to buy but with hugely expensive printer cartridges that will drain your money in the long run!
- Secure payments. If you decide to buy, ensure that the payment page has a secure communications protocol (the address starts with https:// and there's a padlock icon on the IE statusbar) before you offer your credit card details. Avoid typing your sensitive information through public wifi hotspots.
Remember it's all about using common sense to establish trustworthiness and confidence. The more expensive the purchase, the more careful you need to be. In the worst case use your rights as a credit card shopper and chargeback your way out of trouble :)
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