How To Shop Smart Online

As life around us starts to open up again, online shopping is here to stay. But it can be difficult to navigate what sites are safe, and what might be a scam.

Even the biggest websites in the world, like Amazon, are not 100% safe from scammers.

Anyone can post an item on Amazon to sell, whether it be an individual or a company. You may think you're purchasing a Marvel action figure from Disney, but in reality, it could be from an entirely different company altogether.

It's important to look at who's selling it, and the price point. Companies may price something extremely low to catch the buyer's attention when the product could be damaged or take weeks to arrive.

When looking at an item on Amazon, click on all the options to see who's selling it.

You'll quickly see there's about a dozen of the same item, all priced differently.

Make sure to always check reviews before you buy, and make sure to read the description thoroughly. With Prime, Amazon offers a two-day shipping guarantee, but that doesn't mean there can't be weeks or months between when you actually order the item and when they decide to ship it.

But there are other sites to be weary from that Gen Z has taken a particular interest in, such as Shein, Romwe, Wish, Zaful, and AliExpress.

These clothing websites offer suspiciously low costs but for pretty poorly made items.

These sites often reuse the exact same product photo for around the same price, leaving many to believe they all come from the same warehouse or factory. Nobody really knows much about these companies either - unlike some brands that pride themselves on the owners and companies' values, websites like SheIn and Romwe leave no traces of who they actually are.

(The Observer has a great article on deep diving into these companies, which you can read here!)

That's not to say these websites will always offer bad products - but it's important to know where you're shopping from, and sometimes they don't give you the transparency parents deserve. Especially when you are shopping for your kids. Where was this product made? What chemicals were in the dye? It's truly impossible to find out.

Body positive influencer Sierra Shultzie has posted this helpful guide for shopping at these websites, in which she purchased the same items from both Shein and Romwe that used the exact same product photos to see if there was truly a difference.

Spoiler alert, they were almost always the same exact item. Sometimes, she would order a shirt from Romwe and it would come in Shein packaging. So although it's not confirmed, it's pretty clear that these companies are using different names and marketing to sell the exact same product.

Watch Sierra's video here -

Shein is getting a little more trustworthy - they now have celebrity brand reps who swear by the clothes and have even taken over Amazon as the number one most downloaded shopping app on the App Store. But it's important to always, always make sure you know where you're putting your credit card information.

What about Wish?

Wish offers almost insanely low prices for items such as a Macbook Pro, oftentimes hundreds of dollars less than what they are actually worth. Of course, the saying here is true - it's usually too good to be true.

Right now, Wish is offering an inflatable beach chair for a whopping 0.50 cents.

So what does this mean for you? Well, using common sense is the number one way to be wary of these scams. If something is being advertised as almost free or for a suspiciously low cost, chances are you aren't getting what you paid for. Sometimes, something will be marketed as free if you just pay shipping, which can sometimes range anywhere from upwards of $20.

You can also try the reverse image search function that Google offers, which you might be aware of if you watch MTV's Catfish.

If you pull the product photo from the website into Google images, it will automatically show you every website this product photo has appeared on. That will give you a good idea if the product is originally from that company, or if dozens of companies are using the exact same product photo.

Finally, don't just read the reviews on the website. Oftentimes, people will pay for good reviews, or perhaps a company will use fake names in order to appear like their products are better than they are. Instead, try looking at the Better Business Bureau.

A nonprofit organization, BBB will tell you a rating for most online companies and let you know if it is an accredited business. There are usually real product reviews, as opposed to ones that they advertise on the website.

Use your resources, read independent product and company reviews, and always double-check a website's credibility. And if possible, check to see if your credit card offers insurance for online fraud. If you believe you are receiving a fake product, your bank may be able to help you get your money back.

Shopping online may be more convenient, but it's important that you stay aware of how easily a company can deceive you. Always do your homework before shopping online!

Ever had a bad, or great, experience purchasing products online? Let us know!

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