Making online purchases less stressful

May 26, 2008

by Mark Ollig

How “comfortable” are you placing online purchases using the Internet these days?

It wasn’t so long ago buying something usually meant going to the store and seeing whether what you wanted was available or not.

You may have come to the store armed with information from a Consumer Reports magazine or a cut-out from an advertisement.

Looking back even five years ago, there was a definite hesitancy in making online purchases over the Internet . . . we just did not feel comfortable when typing in our credit card numbers.

This was very understandable, as buying and selling over the Internet at that time was not yet mainstream.

Today, many of the major online merchants generally use “encryption” methods to ensure secure transactions.

You will also notice some Internet address URL’s with “https.” The “s” indicates a “secure” http connection.

These standards encrypt or scramble the purchase information you send over the Internet, which ensures the protection of your transaction.

Also, be sure to always save a copy of your purchase order and confirmation number for your records.

Over the last two years, I have stopped using my credit card when placing orders on the Internet. I now use a service called PayPal.

PayPal was started 10 years ago and was purchased by the folks at eBay in 2002.

For me, PayPal has proven to be a secure and more convenient way to pay for products and services online.

I set up my PayPal account a few years ago during a classroom course on how to buy and sell items on eBay.

Using PayPal to receive and make payments for purchases is a very common practice on eBay.

One reason I like using PayPal is because I don’t reveal my credit card information when making online purchases.

PayPal will directly debit my bank account (or PayPal balance) when I place a purchase.

So far, I have not experienced any problems with it.

Today, most major online stores are accepting PayPal.

If you’re interested in learning more about how PayPal works, visit their web site at www.paypal.com.

In today’s age of online shopping, we have countless product choices available for us to pick from.

Gathering information from the Internet gives us instant access to resources that can provide information about a product’s price, availability, quality, and guarantees.

The way we purchase products online is becoming influenced by the information we find.

Many times, I will go out and do a Google search of an item before I buy, in order to learn more about the item and to compare costs.

Despite the convenience of online shopping, it can also create new information demands on all of us.

Fortunately, educating ourselves on the process of buying online using research, comparison shopping, and even secure methods of completing the transaction – can take place easily using the Internet.

Do you remember listening to your favorite music on the AM radio dial “back in the day,” and then going out and purchasing those songs on a vinyl record, cassette, or even (gasp) an 8-track tape?

Other then from live concerts, the use of radio stations was how the recording companies bridged the gap between the bands, musicians, and the people who purchased their music.

Using the Internet, we can sample a wide variety of songs as we stream them to our computers from almost unlimited online play lists and other sources.

We can research the music we are interested in from our favorite musician’s web sites and from corresponding with other fans of the music we meet online.

Music lovers can purchase as few or as many songs as they like, and in some instances, directly from the artists who create the music.

Looking back into the past, it’s interesting to note that Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, was one of the first to understand how communications technology might change the nature of listening to music.

Listening to musical concerts in far away places was one of the other uses Bell thought his telephone would provide for.

Of course, Bell did not foresee how today’s variety of high-tech devices would be used to not only listen to music, but to watch it being played via broadcasts over the Internet.

People are online right now meeting in chat rooms and holding live video broadcasts on the Internet to talk about and listen to their favorite music.

A valuable online shopping research tool is the web site provided by the Federal Citizen Information Center of the US General Services Administration.

For more information about making safe online purchases, visit the US government’s Federal Citizen Information Center web site at www.pueblo.gsa.gov.

In the “site search” box, type in “shopping online” and select the first topic, named “Tips for Protecting Yourself When Shopping Online.”