This week, we're discussing integrating the web into our real lives. Monday, we talked about using the web as a quick reference, then Tuesday, we moved on to "social networking," (a.k.a. "networking"). Yesterday, we discussed safely handling financial transactions online. Now, let's do some shopping.
Sites like E-Bay and Craig's List are the new garage sale. They are good places to buy or sell low-cost items (new or used). As always, use common sense. If you're going to buy something relatively expensive, make sure you meet the seller (i.e. buy locally). If you do meet a buyer or seller, do so in a public place, and take another adult with you. Be sure to use PayPal, to protect your bank account and credit card information.
Amazon.com, Overstock.com, and the Home Shopping Network are examples of sites that use bulk purchasing and cut out the middleman (the retailer) to save themselves and the customer money. As with the auction and trading sites listed above, consider using a site like PayPal to protect your credit card and bank account information.
Chances are that your favorite retailer is online, and is more than willing to ship whatever you're looking for to your house (for a fee). In many cases, there are items available online that are not available in the stores, and you may have the option to have those items delivered to the store free of charge (site to store). Go ahead and try it - type the name of your favorite retailer in your browser, followed by .com. (Target.com, WalMart.com, etc.)
When purchasing larger items like a house or car, a little online shopping beforehand can make you a more educated, informed shopper, ready to negotiate the best deal in person. Know what's available, and how much it should cost by doing your research online. The also applies to ordering services. Sites like AngiesList.com can give you a warning of potential problems.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is a trainer and tech writer in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking. Her weakness is the mocha frappuccino.