Did you know that people sell unusual items online – especially at online auction sites. My husband sold an small homebuilt airplane for $20,000 on his. The man who bought it, drove all the way from Louisiana to Oregon hauling a trailer to pick it up. I’m not sure I would have taken a chance like that, but he seemed, and still seems quite satisfied with his buy. (See picture of plane in early construction stage below.)
Over the years I have wavered between buying online and buying locally. I have also, through ebay, been involved in buying and selling online.
I first learned about buying online when I set up an auction site on ebay. It is true, you can get real bargains there, if you are patient and know just how to bid on items; it is also true that you can end up totally disillusioned with your purchase. Most of the items on ebay are used items and do not always live up to the glowing reports provided by the auctioneer. And, in addition to the ebay bid price, you usually end up paying a fairly high shipping and handling price for the item. You need to decide, BEFORE you bid, whether that shipping and handling price is too high to actually make the item a good buy.
In the same way, it is imperative to study each online purchase you make and compare its basic price, plus shipping and handling fees with what you could purchase the identical item for locally. If the item you would buy locally is some distance from you and would involve renting or borrowing a truck to retrieve it, or paying an additional price for home delivery, the online purchase might be the way to go.
Convenience and time invested is worth more than a few dollars to very busy people, and might be another thing to consider in whether or not to purchase online.
I have several general rules to help me make up my own mind.
1. Is the item even available locally? Sometimes, you are lucky to find something online that you have searched for years, and failed to find near your own home.
2. Is the item new or used? If it is used, does the seller guarantee it will arrive in good condition, or do they point out flaws that you may want to consider before making an agreement to buy.
3. How much will it cost, in addition to the purchase price, to get the item from the seller into your hands? (Including shipping, handling, and insurance, if applicable?)
Usually, answering those three questions give me a pretty good idea which way I can get the best return for my investment. In the past, I have tended to consider only small items where the shipping costs would be low, but recently have found more and more big, and sometimes well-known companies offering reduced, or even free shipping – – sometimes as a regular part of their business; at other times, as a special promotion for a limited time period. Dell computers, for example, is one such company. If their shipping price is too high to suit you, wait a few weeks and check them out again. They frequently offer free shipping deals, so you shouldn’t have to wait for long.
Another example of the former would be online companieswhich offer free shipping on all but oversized items for orders totaling a certain dollar amount, like $100 or more. It would be hard to beat that. We recently ordered some floor mats from a company and ended up paying almost $30 for shipping and handling, on a total order of only $69. If we had shopped around a bit, we might have ordered a couple of other things we had considered, but declined to buy because of the high shipping cost, to bring our total up enough to qualify for free shipping.
If you do decide to purchase online, shop around for the best possible deal, and carefully check out the company you decide to buy from. If you are satisfied on both points, go ahead and order. I think you will find that the convenience of shopping online is one of the best deals around.