Christmas may be right around the corner (71 days to be exact), but not everyone is ready for walking those long walks through parking lots, and fighting through crowds that are not as cheerful as you’d expect people to be during the season. Those are just a few reasons why many people have taken up online shopping as an alternative to walking the malls.

Shopping year round has just become easier for everyone, because you can shop during lunch breaks, browse for fun, or even send gifts to friends and family that live a good distance away.
We’re going to discuss the 10 Pitfalls of Online Shopping so you can make an informed decision before you hit that “Place Order Now” button.

Pitfall #1 – Can’t Try Out Products Before You Buy Them:

You’re not able to actually feel the texture of something or see the true color of an item when shopping online. There’s no way to try out products before you buy them, the way you can when you walk into a retail store. Some e-commerce websites have salespeople who are available for online chats to help you select products, but sometimes nothing beats in-person assistance, especially if you have a lot of questions or doubts.

Pitfall #2 – Returning Something Can Be A Huge Hassle:

Returning items that were purchased online can be a hassle and time consuming. You might have to pay extra to have something shipped back. Online retailers are more likely to have different consumer policies than their walk-in retail counterparts. Common ones are no-return policies or, if returns are allowed, restocking fees that can be 10 or even 30 percent of the original purchase price. If you are fighting with an online company about their policies, check out this website for local consumer agencies that may be able to help you: http://www.usa.gov/directory/stateconsumer/index.shtml

Pitfall #3 – Shipping, Handling, and Restocking Fees, Oh My:

Then of course there are the shipping fees, handling fees, and restocking fees that one must deal with. If an online merchant doesn’t follow the Direct Marketing Association’s guidelines on shipping and handling fees, it could face a legal complaint or other action from law enforcement. If you think a site is charging excessive or misleading fees, report it to your local consumer protection office.

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This is also where your savings might not be real savings after they tack on all of those fees. Look for Promo Codes or Discount codes to get a percentage off or to get free shipping, most websites have discounts if you look around the web for them.

Pitfall #4 – Please Wait Your Turn:

It seems like people lack patience these days. But in all fairness, it could be because we get stuck on hold with customer service representatives for what seems like hours on end. Waiting for customer service over the phone can be a real pain in the neck, and sometimes that happens with online shopping. You’ll have to check the website again and see when their customer service representatives are available. If they are across the country or even halfway across the world, you may have to call at a very inconvenient time just to get a hold of someone.

Pitfall #5 – Is This The Same Product That You Ordered:

Some items can look nicer or bigger on the Internet, and can be sort of confusing when the description of an item or size seems misleading. You may be in for a surprise when the item or product actually shows up at your door. Always look for measurements and use a ruler or tape measure to know how big something is before buying it. Clothing size is a perfect example because you might be a size 4 in one dress and a size 8 in a different dress. It’s a good idea to check any comments or feedback left by other consumers who have purchased same item. Customer reviews often contain information about whether a brand runs true to size.

Pitfalls of Online Shopping

Pitfall #6 – Broken Into Little Itty Bitty Pieces:

Another pitfall to online shopping is the unexpected poor packaging and delivery of let’s say an expensive electronic purchase. Waiting for something that you are excited about purchasing, only to find out it was poorly packaged, and completely broken can be pretty devastating, not to mention embarrassing if it was delivered as a gift.

Online retail giant Amazon.com has been criticized for its overzealous packaging, using more bubble wrap, inner boxes and packing tape than many of its competitors. However, some retailers who skimp in this department can leave a wake of frustrated customers who open their online purchase to find broken and damaged items. Even companies that have a good track record of making sure their shipments are secure can’t escape the casualties that can be caused by a careless delivery person.

Pitfall #7 – You Can’t Get Your Money Back:

The worst pitfall of online shopping is falling for a scam, or ordering something from a fraudulent site. This is the worst feeling ever, because people purchase online in good faith. With all good intentions information is provided such as credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, or emails. Some sites abruptly disappear, after you have purchased items.

Some bad experiences of online shopping can be avoided by purchasing from reputable sites that provide information that will give you peace of mind, such as phone numbers to reach customer service and an actual physical address.

These reputable companies also provide store policies for buying and returning items you are not satisfied with. Other sites provide online instant messaging with a customer service representative. These sites have nothing to hide, and a lot to offer, so they offer the best services available for online shopping customers.

Pitfall #8 – Patience Is A Virtue:

Online shoppers need to be patient because waiting on delivery can also be a pitfall, especially if you believe your purchase will always arrive on time. Planning your purchases way a head of time for special events may also be a good idea, as there may be times that returning an item for any reason could take some legwork and cause you even more wait time.

Pitfall #9 – One-Click Away From Being In Debt:

Falling into debt because of online shopping is so easy to do. There are websites out there that keep your credit card information on file, and you can literally purchase an item with just “One-Click”. This kind of one-click electronic shopping can be dangerous because you are not handing over cash to someone. You are almost disconnected from the actual sales process, and you could find yourself deep in debt because online shopping is so easy and convenient. You can even make one-click purchases right from your mobile phone. Online shopping opens up a whole new avenue for impulse buys.

Pitfall #10 – Identity Theft Is Very Real:

Identity theft is one of the biggest pitfalls of online shopping. Online shopping offers convenience and ease of shopping, but we must be aware of sites that we are not familiar with, their methods of payment, and any alerts or reviews about unsatisfied customers. While not everything said in reviews may be true, it can at least alert a potential customer of a bad reputation concerning purchases or services offered.

If a company doesn’t have any online customer reviews or testimonials then you may want to steer clear of buying anything from them. Phishing scams and hackers have been known to create whole e-commerce websites to get people’s information and steal their identity. You should look for security badges on the website, check out the URL address at the top and make sure it’s correct, sites that are HTTPS are usually safe and secure, but most of all ask people if it’s a reputable website and company and see if anyone you know has ever purchased from them before.


Online shopping definitely has its pitfalls, but we cannot deny that it also has its advantages, if you purchase from reputable sites and follow the advice listed above. Just think, because of online shopping purchasing items from around the world has never been easier. Online shopping gives you more choices and more vendors to purchase from, more products varying from prices, more color options for an item, and even more designs of an item. The possibilities are virtually endless!

Some people even agree that online shopping can be therapeutic, if you can avoid the pitfall of falling into debt. Online shopping can be fun, and can save you money. There are various offers only available to online buyers, or repeat customers. With a little extra time on your hands, online shopping may turn out to be a fun and rewarding experience.


Author: Lauralynn Mangis
Lauralynn is the Online Marketing Specialist for AdvantageCCS. She is married and has two young daughters. She enjoys writing, reading, hiking, cooking, video games, sewing, and gardening. Lauralynn has a degree in Multimedia Technologies from Pittsburgh Technical College.