X-mas time, online shopping time

It’s Christmas Time, so it’s online shopping time, so it’s ask-the-online-nerd-of-your-choice-for-online-shopping-advice time. And while I don’t mind playing the guide there, it also means that at times I have to give advice in areas I know virtually nothing about. So when a U.S.-based friend asked for good places to buy a digital camera, I basically froogled ran a Froogle search and pointed her to a place called Preferred Photo, which seemed to have good deals and looked decent enough. But on the Internet, no one know you’re a dog (unless you tell them), and it turns out the website of the New York-based online camera online shop is pretty damn deceptive.

Says the not-very-happy customer about Preferred Photo:

“don’t ever order from them; their website is totally deceptive (ie. in order to actually make the camera work you have to order a separate battery even though it says the battery is included). additionally, their sales assistants are [not nice people]. and they won’t even send your order out until you call them so they can try to manipulate you into buying more crap. the guy even hung up on me even though i was being entirely too polite! also, you can’t cancel your order without paying a “restocking” fee or i totally would. i’m so annoyed about this.”

Now what have I learned here? I didn’t do any of the due diligence thingies I should have. I just gave advice of the top of my head, or even of the top of Froogle’s head. And I potentially ruined a close friend’s vacation photo experience. (I’m sorry, E.!)

5 tips for those who have to give x-mas online shopping advice:

  1. Remind yourself that you, too, can be deceived by a well-designed website. Do look beyond that.
  2. It’s better not to recommend anything then recommending a service you know nothing about; Otherwise you’ll end up disappointing the ones who trust you.
  3. If you don’t know a service yourself, rely on the advice your friends and and trusted ones give you. There’s always a bigger nerd.
  4. Word of mouth gives you better advice than search engines ever can: Check out your personal network’s tips, and the blogosphere.
  5. Markets are conversations: If you hear about customers getting screwed, do what you do best: blog it.

Now go, buy stuff. Just 4 weeks left.