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How to shop online, smartly
Priyanka Joshi | December 29, 2005
Twenty-year-old Sushma Sethi thinks buying online is 'cool'. An active member on eBay, she claims she "has found the best bargains online". One-and-a-half years ago, she began with ordering Diwali and Holi gift-hampers online for her mother who lives in Mumbai.
Sethi found that besides the surprise element, which her mother loved, she also managed to save herself a "lot of hassle fighting the crowds at local stores and then running after courier guys to get the package delivered."
Today before every Diwali, Holi and New Year, she simply logs on, breezes through the bargains and discounts offered and chooses the best 'online gift option'.
Aziz Chaudhary, 25 years old, works for an international call centre in Gurgaon and loves to haggle online. "I have sold my classic rock CD collection online and couldn't have asked for a better price," he exults. Devali made Rs 4,500 on the sale and claims "that's a good deal".
He spends an average of two hours per day hunting for good bargains online and says it has earned him "a degree of respect at work when it comes to purchasing, gifting or selling online".
Online buying is picking up as ecommerce reports suggest. What's in - your wallet (with the usual array of credit cards) and an Internet connection. This aside, you also need an eye to hunt for bargains but online, of course.
Websites like Ebay, Yahoo, Rediff, Sify, MSN, Fabmall, Indiatimes Shopping and many more are frequented by millions of surfers looking for the 'right' deal, brands, better options and quality too. And how do they ensure they get what they are paying for, without actually seeing the goods?
"That's one risk you have to take. Sometimes what you see on a website is not what is actually delivered to your doorstep. Though there are sites like eBay, Amazon or even Rediff, which through various channels, ensure that the customers are delivered a certain quality," says Dinesh Gaur, an avid online shopper.
Gaur, spends at least an hour everyday surfing the shopping sites and looking at the price tags.
"My costliest buy till date has been my Nokia 6600 that cost me Rs 9,375," he says, "I had to check at least a dozen sites but I finally settled for a vendor on MSN Shopping."
Gaur cannot remember the last time when he went on a shopping without "checking out" the goods beforehand on net. His friends, all working in IT companies, have taken to gifting and ordering the latest DVDs online.
Online shoppers say there are a few hiccups when it comes to the delivery of goods. Twenty-eight -year-old Deepak Agarwal says, "I gift bouquets, chocolates and a few not-so-expensive items to my relatives while I am on a tour. Till date, no one has complained of a broken gift or a stale cake!"
The only grievance, he confesses to, is that sometimes the deliveries take a longer time. "I had ordered a birthday cake and bouquet for my sister," Agarwal recalls, "but the gift arrived a day earlier."
The general consensus among the young affluent people between 20-45 age group who shop online seems to be that they do detailed research online (check the prices and delivery charges from various vendors online) but if the product is beyond Rs 10,000, then they rather go and buy from the nearest mall.
"I do buy designer or costume jewellery online but if I am in a mood to buy solid diamond jewellery then I would prefer to go out and shop on my own," says Sethi.
Her friend, Ajay Shah agrees: "I would prefer buying a DVD online, since I get all the brands at one location and an unmatched price (delivery included)." His highest bid online has been Rs 6,999 for the designer saree he bought for his wife, last year. So, does e-shopping get him products 'cheaper'?
Shah's answer - "No, I will not say cheaper but it sure reduces the hassles of going from shop to shop and listening to the same boring sales talk." For Shah, paying extra bucks for home delivery is not a problem since tax is not an issue.
What about the "feel and touch" element in online shopping? There seem to be some problems here.
Swati Shrivastava, manager (corporate communications) in an IT company has bought "some coats and jackets online" but says, "I thought the colour they showed in the images online was better than what was delivered to me." She had ordered a leather (tan-coloured) online on eBay but "the colour looked different there".
She paid Rs 1999 for the same and insists that colours and size are definitely an issue for the apparel bought online. Shrivastava also recalls that another of her colleagues was delivered a wollen coat of a different size. The item was duly returned and the right size delivered. However, it took a good 10 days before her colleague could finally show off the coat after it was purchased online.
Rajnish, head of marketing and strategic business initiatives, MSN India believes that "people in the US have been using the Net for detailed research on every product they buy online."
eBay India claims that 83 per cent of its listings offer 'Paisa Pay' - a secure online payment gateway enabling credit card and online bank transfers. Ratan Lahiri, head, marketing, feels "Indians have finally got over their apprehensions about shopping online."Diwali shopping has by far dominated the sales for most e-shopping sites. So next time you want to buy goods, the Net might be worth a try.