Technology for All of Us
By Lightburn Designs
The holidays are just around the corner and that means two things – shopping, and spending quality time with Aunt Betty! If you are like me, you may not fully appreciate the art of dodging little tikes in the mall, walking eight blocks in a slushy parking lot or dealing with a 16-year old cashier with an attitude. As the malls grow busier and time more scarce, it’s no surprise online shopping has grown exponentially over the last few years. It’s perfect for those of us who prefer to shop in our PJ’s late at night while watching reruns of Cheers.
eCommerce, my how you’ve grown!Compared to other tools we use to trade and purchase goods, the Internet is by far the fastest-growing of all time. The telephone took 38 years to reach 50 million users and the television took thirteen. The Internet? Four years.
According to the Census Bureau, eCommerce sales in the second quarter of 2004 were $15.7 billion (yes, billion!), up 23.1rom the second quarter of 2003. It is projected that eCommerce transactions will increase annually by 22�compound).
Part of the appeal is selection. Without leaving your house, you can find everything from digital cameras and designer clothes to rare wine. I did a search for the phrase ‘Holiday Gifts’ on Google and it returned 5.1 million results!
New shoppers might want to start with the more popular, established sites that offer a larger variety of items across multiple categories. Amazon, Blue Nile and eBay are three of the biggest. Many even have the ability to cross-match potential gifts or mention items that others have purchased, offering shoppers even more options. And if you have absolutely no idea what to get your second Uncle Steve, try www.surprise.com or www.findgift.com for suggestions.
Reputable merchants should always use Secure Socket Layers (SSLs) for transactions, which scramble, or encrypt, the information you send to a vendor (billing address, credit card numbers, etc.). The best way to see if a vendor is using a SSL is to look in the lower right-hand corner of your browser for a little padlock icon or an unbroken key, or for a web address that starts with “https:” – the ‘s’ stands for secure. If a site is not using SSL, when you submit the information, a pop-up box will notify you that the site is not secure, at which time you can cancel the transaction (strongly encouraged).
I also recommend you start with small purchases the first time you shop at a particular online store and keep a personal record of your online transactions.
Use a Separate Credit Card for Online Purchases. Just like you may use a separate charge card for travel, I would advise doing the same for your online purchases, if possible. If you pay by charge or credit card you are covered by the Fair Credit Billing Act, which protects consumers against fraud by allowing them to dispute any charges they did not make, only holding them liable for the first $50 until the dispute is settled. Using a dedicated card helps you keep track of where you spent (or didn’t spend).
Shop early.Now that you found the new Ab-Master 5000 for Cousin Bill, you will want to make sure he gets it in time to work off that holiday dinner feast. Most online vendors will ship to the recipient on or before its intended date. But if you are like me, you may procrastinate. Just remember, the longer you wait, the more shipping you will pay, and the less likely that your item will be in stock. And if you know Cousin Bill’s New Year’s resolution is to have six-pack abs in eight weeks—go on, get on the Net. After a few clicks, you can sit back, and relax, and let Bill do the work! VS