Thanks to the steep discounts that e-commerce retailers offer, shoppers are frequently enticed into buying items online—despite the fact that, often times, the risks associated with these purchases outweigh the rewards. Though the internet feels like it was made for buying things, like laptops and headphones, other, more sensitive purchases should just never be made online (unless you want to end up with fake diamonds or medications that make you sick, that is). Here’s what to be careful for while online shopping. And for more amazing shopping advice, here are 50 Things No One Over 50 Should Waste Their Money On.
Unless you plan on seeing it in person first, you shouldn’t ever buy a car—used or otherwise—online. Even Carfax, a company that promotes the sale of used cars, notes on their website that you should “never buy a used car without first seeing it and going on a test drive.” (And if you do make a purchase that big without first seeing the product, don’t be surprised when you don’t get what you paid for.)
Like a car, a musical instrument is a big investment, and you don’t want to risk buying one that doesn’t play like you want it to. Plus, something as fragile as a guitar or violin can easily become damaged during the shipping process—and not all companies will take responsibility for what happens in transit. And for more shopping tips, don’t miss the 23 Genius Tricks for Shopping Craigslist.
The online counterfeit makeup and perfume industry is on the rise in the United States, and unfortunately it’s all too common for an online shopper to become enticed by lower prices of fake versions of name-brand makeup and unknowingly purchase a knockoff. But since you can’t be sure of what ingredients are going into counterfeit concealers or mascaras, your best bet is to buy them in store. (Plus that way you can test the products and make sure you actually like them!)
Since children’s feet grow at such an exponential rate, it’s better to go to a brick and mortar store for a proper professional fitting than to buy shoes online that might not fit. Plus, kids are especially finicky when it comes to footwear, so you’ll save yourself some time, effort, and money by just going to the store to let your child try on some shoes. And for more child-rearing tips, check out these 10 Parenting Secrets from an All-Star Dad.
Bouquets of Flowers
Though ordering flowers online is certainly convenient, you don’t know what the final product is going to look like until it arrives at its final destination. As one experiment from Consumer Reports clearly demonstrated, what you see online is not always what you get, and this is especially the case with flower bouquets.
There are several benefits to buying a piece of furniture in store versus online. For starters, most stores will offer either significantly discounted or free shipping when items are purchased in person, whereas online shipping for large pieces of furniture often ends up costing an arm and a leg. And not only that, but buying an item in store gives you the chance to touch it and test it out before you buy it, ensuring that you actually want the item you’re eyeing before you pull the trigger.
According to Consumer Reports, a mattress—which can cost as much as $4,000—can last for as long as 10 years if treated properly. And seeing as this pricey purchase is such a long-term investment, it’s important to actually test out different mattresses at a certified retailer before you settle on one, taking into consideration everything from comfort to cost. And if you need some help nodding off on your new mattress, try out one of the 10 Best Pillows For A Better Night’s Sleep.
For people who hate shopping for a new swimsuit—in other words, the majority of the population—buying swimwear online is less painful then actually going to the store to try on multitudes of unflattering garments. However, a swimsuit is one of the things you should never buy online, seeing as fit tends to fluctuate depending on style and brand and not every retailer will allow returns. And once you have your new swimsuit, get ready to head to one of The 30 Best Beaches in America.
“Even if you know your size, the variety between suits can be vast, and a little fit can make a big difference, John Park, CEO of coupon site Goodshop, explained to GOBankingRates. “Of all the clothes men buy, this is hardest to do online. It’s always easier to get a better fit in person.”
Discounts on fine jewelry might be lurking all over the internet, but you can’t trust the quality of a cheap pair of diamond earrings purchased online. And seeing as fine jewelry is a big investment, it’s better in the longterm to spend the extra money on a high-quality in-store purchase than to cut costs with a less expensive online retailer who’s offering a lesser product.
Before buying a new bicycle, you always want to test it out and make sure that it’s “the right size and fit,” Katherine Karrick Gianini, a certified cycling and triathlon coach, explained to Kiplinger. Not to mention that bicycles often require repairs, and these are much easier to get done (under warranty, no less) when the bike was purchased at a local retailer.
Online grocery delivery services are enticing in their convenience and effortlessness, but when you order perishable food online, you run the risk of ending up with bruised fruit and wilting vegetable plants. If you care about the quality of your greens, then it’s worth the extra few minutes to head to the store to grab whatever fresh produce you need. And if your spinach has a tendency to rot almost as soon as you buy it, then check out the Safest Way to Store Vegetables.
Your wedding dress is the most important dress you’ll ever wear, so you’ll want to make sure that it fits your frame perfectly before making a final purchase. And if the steep sale prices of the internet ever try to lure you in, these online wedding dress purchase fails will speak for themselves.
Even though it might be tempting to save a few dollars by ordering your medications through an online service, you should never do so unless you have the approval of your doctor. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 50 percent of medication purchases made online are counterfeit, and they often contain unsafe ingredients like drywall and boric acid. Plus, Karl Fiebelkorn, senior associate dean at the University of Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, noted that by going in person to get your prescriptions, you can work with trained pharmacists who “are there to discuss your medications face-to-face.”
Though lingerie is a $13 billion industry, women are rightfully reluctant to purchase their bras online, seeing as each specific undergarment has a specific fit that can only been determined in person. And what’s more, one study of more than 1.3 million customer reviews in the fashion eCommerce industry found that some of the most commonly used words in online reviews are “size,” “fit,” and “quality,” meaning that most of the women who do end up buying online are either pleasantly surprised or unsurprisingly disappointed by the fit and feel of their purchase.
Unless you’ve tried on the pair you’re buying, buying sunglasses online is a risk that isn’t worth taking. If your shades come in the mail and it turns out that you hate the way they look or feel, then you’re stuck returning them (if that’s even an option) and ordering yet another pair, continuing this tiring cycle until you find sunglasses you actually like.
Weight Loss Supplements
According to one gigantic study of 14 European countries conducted by WHO, western Europeans spend more than $14 billion a year on counterfeit illegal drugs, with almost half of those being weight loss supplements. And for more insight into this insidious industry, check out these 20 Facts About the Supplement Industry That Will Horrify You.
An engagement ring is one of the most meaningful purchases a person ever makes (and if you’re lucky, you’ll only ever have to buy one). And though it might be tempting to purchasing the ring online in order to save time and money—both of which you’ll need for wedding planning—you’re simply all too likely to get scammed by an unverified online retailer.
The same rules that apply to shopping for an engagement ring also apply to making wedding band purchases. These are rings that you are going to wear every day for the rest of your life, and so it’s worth hopping in the car with your partner and driving to a jeweler to try on rings, pick out your favorite, and get them sized to fit just right. And for tips that you can use on your big day, check out the 27 Secrets Wedding Planners Will Never Tell You.
Unless you’re buying alcohol in bulk, it’s hard to justify the cost of shipping for an online order. It’s a good bet there’s a liquor store within walking (or short driving) distance from your home. Plus, most bottles of liquor are made out of glass, thus making them especially prone to damage during the shipping process.
Color swatches don’t always appear online how they’ll look in person—and when it comes to something like wall paint that you’re going to have to look at every day, you want to make sure that you’re getting exactly what you picked up. And if you’re looking into making small renovations around the house, then check out these 40 Home Upgrades You Should Have by Age 40.
Rugs are often the most important decorative item in any room, making it especially important to ensure that the one you’re buying is the proper color, fabric, and quality. And while some online retailers do offer returns on rugs, this process is a hassle and may even come at a cost to you.
Buying used electronics online is always a gamble—and all too commonly, it’s one that doesn’t pay off. Though sellers on marketplaces like Craigslist and eBay will advertise their electronics to be in working or even pristine condition, buyers will often receive their purchases only to find that what they bought is in fact broken beyond repair or even counterfeit. And for more secondhand shopping secrets, check out the 8 Tips for Shopping a Thrift Store Like a Fashion Stylist.
Cheap Designer Goods
Usually if something luxury like a Louis Vuitton wallet or a Coach handbag is priced well below market value with no logical explanation, then it’s safe to assume that the item is counterfeit. This is often the case with online resale sites like eBay and Mercari, where no third party is verifying the validity of items being sold.
Animals are like children—and since you would never buy a child online, then you should never buy a pet online, either. And if you’re still on the fence about becoming a dog or cat mom, then check out these 15 Amazing Benefits of Adopting a Pet.
If you’re in the market to purchase expensive and rare antiques, then the online marketplace is probably not where you want to be looking. Though the internet can serve as a good starting point for gauging the value of the item you’re looking to buy, you should ultimately head to a certified auction house or antique reseller to get a good deal on an authentic antique.
Believe it or not, many people will turn to the internet to sell illegal taxidermy—and if you don’t know the difference between what can and can’t be sold, then you might just find yourself purchasing contraband. For instance, “in every state in the union, it’s legal to go out and shoot a mallard, but it’s a felony to sell that mallard,” taxidermist Paul Rhymer explained to Men’s Journal.
Depending on how bad your eyesight is, your glasses are something that you’re going to have to wear every day—and because of that, you’re going to want to make sure that the frames you pick out actually flatter your face. However, if you decide to cut costs and buy your glasses online, you lose the ability to try different ones on, thereby giving yourself just one shot to find the perfect pair.
When it comes to medicines that are entering your body and messing with your natural homeostasis, you can never be too careful. And in the case of emergency contraception, it’s doubly important to go to a pharmacy to make your purchase, seeing as taking this medicine comes with many unpleasant side effects.
You should never buy vitamin supplements without the assistance of a medical professional or pharmacist. Since 2008, more than 400 supplements have been recalled from the shelves by the FDA because they were spiked with prescription drugs, and from 2007 to mid-April of 2012, supplements were responsible for more than 10,3000 serious injuries and illnesses. In fact, This Is Why You Should Stop Taking Vitamin Supplements Altogether.
Sketchy online retailers will do whatever it takes to get rid of their inventory, including change the expiration date on a bottle of sunscreen. Unfortunately, what this means for the person who purchases said bottle is that they’ll likely end up with a sunburn, seeing as “as sunscreen ages or is exposed to too much heat or moisture, its other ingredients dissipate… causing them to lose sun-blocking properties,” Sydney Ziverts, health and nutrition investigator for ConsumerSafety.org, explained to Health. And if you want to effectively protect yourself from the sun, then check out these 15 Hacks to Apply Your Sunscreen More Easily.
If stored in improper conditions (like in an unregulated warehouse somewhere in Asia), protein powder does have the potential to grow bacteria, just like any other food. And what’s more, even protein powders have counterfeit counterparts, which, while cheaper, don’t contain the same nutrients that the brand name ones do.
Because baby formula is often such a huge expense for new parents, many moms and dads will turn to the trusty internet to find deep discounts on the powdered product. However, unless you are purchasing from an online retailer who double-checks that all of their products are sealed and secure, it’s worth spending the extra money on formula in the store just to know that your baby is consuming something safe. Not to mention that, if the formula is delivered and left out in extreme temperatures for too long, the quality of the product can become compromised.
Every brand and style of shoe fits differently, and so when you buy a pair online without trying them on, you may receive them in the mail only to realize that your normal size is too small. If you don’t mind making several trips to the post office to return your online purchases, then feel free to purchase your next pair of heels online; otherwise, take a trip to the shoe salon and try on several sizes and styles until you have your Cinderella moment.
The only thing harder to find than a pair of shoes that fit well is a pair of jeans that fit well. Some brands run small in denim while others run big—and on top of that, each pair of jeans is going to fit differently. Because buying denim is already hard enough as it is, you should always make your purchases in person (after trying them on and confirming that they fit, of course).
You might be able to save some money buying your frozen grocery items online, but if you forget when your food is supposed to be delivered, then you might just come home to a pile of melted, inedible products, which you’ll then have to spend even more money replacing.
Carbonated drinks have been known to explode when exposed to excess direct sunlight, especially when temperatures are in the high 90s and 100s. Instead of taking a chance with a delivery, just head to the grocery store and pick your favorite carbonated beverages up yourself to ensure that no can of soda or bottle of sparkling water is left out for too long.
According to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports, only 11 percent of consumers have ever bought a big ticket appliance like a refrigerator online. Though people prefer shopping for appliances in person versus online for several reasons, one of the biggest ones is that with a hands-on visit, you can get a better sense of a product’s usability.
Just like a car, an RV is a big automobile purchase that should only be made after seeing (and testing) the product in person. The internet is definitely a good resource for finding information about types of RVs and the best places to find sellers, but when push comes to shove, you should never make a final purchase without first examining the product and making sure that it works.
Buying illicit items—whether in person or online—is always a bad idea. And yet, sites, like the now-shuttered Silk Road, pop up all the time that allow for such behavior. But what makes buying illegal goods online especially bad is that these purchases can be traced back to you, which could potentially put you in trouble with the law. And if you think that you’re not breaking the law now, then you might want to read up on the 30 Illegal Things Practically Everyone Has Done.
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