Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Buyer Beware-But Be Brave-When Shopping on the Web

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Buyer Beware-But Be Brave-When Shopping on the Web

Article excerpt

Even if you haven't experienced it, you've undoubtedly read about it. Shopping on the Internet is exploding in popularity from the perspectives of both consumers and businesses.

Various studies indicate that from onequarter to one-half of all Americans have now placed at least one order online: Some analysts believe that eventually e-commerce will account for one-fifth of all retail sales - the figure today is between 1 percent and 5 percent, depending on who's doing the counting. The numbers for business-to-business e-commerce are even higher.

There's no better way to locate hard-to-find items or comparison-shop for the best deals. I've shopped for cars and plane tickets on the Web, and recently I bought boogie boards formy kids, videos for my wife and specialty bath mats and pillow wedges for the house - all items that I couldn't find in local stores - at excellent prices.

E-commerce has had a society-wide impact, helping to fuel the economy's decadelong expansion, the longest expansion in the 150 years on record.

Butto almost evey upside there's a downside. With e-commerce, you need to beware of scams and foul-ups. Businesses and entrepreneurs eager to cash in on the Intemet gold nosh can be ill-prepared,or worse,have venal motives.

The incidence of outright fraud appears to be low, with exceptions in the areas of pyramid schemes and to a lesser extent, online auctions. More common problems are featured products being unavailable, late deliveries, high shipping charges and orders never arriving.

The key issue is trust. If you're buying, how can you trust Web merchants? If you're selling, how can you engender trust in prospects?

As often happens with Web problems, the Web offers solutions as well.

A number of Web sites track fraudulent Web businesses or otherwise help you avoid becoming a victim. Examples are the National Fraud Information Center , BBBOnLine , and WebAssured.com .

Other sites review shopping sites for qualities such as ease of use, pricing, selection and service, including Gomez Advisors , BizRate.com and Rating Wonders .

Some sites provide product reviews, such as ConsumerSearch and Productopia . Then there are shopping discussion sites such as Deja.com and Epinions.com , where consumers share their buying experiences. …

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