Practicalities For The Online Shopper

Actress Lauren Graham arrives at the opening of the new Oscar De La Renta Boutique on Melrose Place on April 18, 2007, in Los Angeles.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, over $300 billion in business will be conducted over the Internet during the first decade of the new millennium. Chances are good that you'll be one of those people making a purchase online soon, if you haven't already.

Jyoti Thottam, senior writer for On Magazine, drops by The Saturday Early Show to share some tips to help you become a well-informed and satisfied cyber-shopper.

Best online buys:

  • Books, DVDs and CDs: You know exactly what you're buying; there are lots of reviews; and it is easy to find rare or out-of-print books.
  • Kitchen appliances: You can compare features of different brands without going to the store, and you would have to pay for shipping anyway.
  • Consumer electronics: Comparison shopping can turn up great deals and some sites offer free shipping.
  • Specialty clothing: Great for maternity clothes or sporting gear because you have wider selection than in many stores. For example, it is only online that the Gap and Old Navy offer maternity wear.
Worst online buys:
  • Cosmetics: Color matching is still not very good on most sites, and you may not find the same selection that you would in the stores.
  • Furniture: The touch and feel of these products really matter. It's a big decision and returning the item would be a nightmare.
  • Jewelry: The selection is really lacking online, and it's very hard to discern quality.
One of the biggest concerns for consumers is using their credit card online. But, says Thotam, the risk of credit card fraud is no greater online than it is anywhere else. If you're really worried, you can use a separate credit card (with a low credit limit) for online purchases or use a special card, like the Blue Smart Card Reader from American Express, that is designed with special web security features.

If you're worried about security, stick with the big sites. And you will get less junk email if you use a separate email address just for shopping.

You can also check on a site by looking up independent ratings on such Web sites as or Any site where you shop ought to use a secure server for transactions and also have a clearly stated privacy policy, as well as a return policy.

Use a comparison site to check the deals you are getting. Such sites include:

Be sure to include shipping rates and taxes in your calculation. They can vary widely.

Coupon Sites: Sites like and list the "coupon codes" for many online retailers. You can take advantage of some great deals.

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