I brag a lot about my ability to track down virtually any product online, and about a year ago I decided to put my prowess to reader-fueled use through the Insomniac Sale Picks series. But I’ve had a few questions about online searching and shopping techniques, so I thought I’d share some of my personal practices to see if they’re universally employed or me-specific.
Here’s where I look when I’m looking for something online:
- eBay - If you missed out on an item when it was being sold retail, it is likely to be somewhere on eBay. If you’re looking for something super trendy or runway reminiscent – like burgundy boots or a peplum top – eBay will sell you vintage and used for pennies on the dollar. Check vendor feedback and don’t go with anyone less than 100% if you’re super skittish (I go as low as 97% myself). Tips for shopping eBay here.
- Amazon – I remember when Amazon sold books, and books only. I’ve bought green tea, cosmetics, and cheese curds (for my gran) from them. And they often have amazing deals on clothing, shoes, and accessories. Check Amazon for any and everything.
- Google Shopping - Google Shopping used to be my secret weapon, but it’s changed. Google switched its model to favor paid entries, so many times the service points you to eBay listsings. But not always, and using Google Shopping or just plain Google can help you narrow down an online search. Especially if you’re looking for a specific, named item – like a pair of Timberland Earthkeeper boots – since even related retailers may be offering different prices for the same item. If you’re looking for a category of item, like high-waisted skinny jeans, also search. The shopping tool is limited, but will still introduce a few vendors into the mix that you’d never have thought of on your own.
- Etsy: I have nearly endless patience when I’m questing for something, and will pore over 65 pages of search results. Not everyone has that kind of stamina. But Etsy’s vintage offerings are amazing, handmade goods are often reasonably priced, and accessories are unbearably fun.
For those who are skittish about shopping online, here are some general tips:
- Know thy measurements: NEVER trust a photo for fit, and don’t buy from a site that doesn’t give you specific garment measurements unless you know the brand. Even comparing your personal dimensions to those listed online can fail, especially when vendors put one big chart up for ALL garments, but better to be as informed and accurate as you can be.
- Check the return policy: If you can’t send it back, is it really worth the risk?
- Check the shipping rates: If you have to spend $15 to get it and another $15 to send it back if it looks like poo, is it really worth the risk?
- Read customer reviews: Now, do this with a grain of salt, please. Some users are biased against brands, some leave negative ratings but no descriptive input, some are basing their feedback on factors that have no bearing on your own wants and needs. All that said, if a product is universally described as poorly made, strangely constructed, or some other negative criterion, take that information under advisement.
- Look for coupon codes: Put the vendor’s name and the word “coupon” into Google. You’ll get about 70 trillion sites offering you free shipping, 15% off, and all manner of bargains. Always check for coupons before purchasing. My favorite site is Retail-me-Not.
How many of my online shopping haunts do you haunt? Any other general, looking-for-a-red-brimmed-wool-hat-with-teal-trim, find-anything type sites that you use? I know there are alternatives to eBay (like Bonanza) and Etsy (like Supermarket)- anyone a fan? Do you always check return policies and shipping before clicking, “buy”?
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