Each year, Aussies spend around $18b across the five weeks spanning the start of December and early New Year. Whilst it is certainly convenient and quite often more cost effective, there are some dangers to be aware of that can hijack the festivities:
Websites with history: Ensure that the sites you visit online are established brands or reliable outlets. If you haven’t heard of a particular online site before, google the site name and see if there is any online history for your own piece of mind.
Delivery times and stock levels: Whilst not necessarily a scam as such, having a Christmas item arrive late or not at all will certainly be frustrating and inconvenient. Most reputable outlets will advertise their delivery schedules on their sites to assist shoppers in making their decision. If delivery schedules aren’t advertised, contact the establishment to ensure your purchase will arrive on time.
Secure payment methods: If you are using an online store for the first time and are apprehensive about the process, consider making payment via PayPal if it is an available payment method (most reputable sites will provide PayPal as an option). PayPal provides consumers with some level of buyer protection that may not be available with traditional credit card payments.
Replicas and “crazy” prices: Heavily discounted items and “unbelievable” specials do exist, but they can also be misleading and dishonest. Many sites specialise in selling replica items or imitation items that may only be a fraction of the regular price, but will likely lack the quality and appeal of the genuine item.
Buying overseas: Buying from overseas outlets can be a great way of saving a few dollars, but this method comes with its own caveats. Keep in mind that shipping during this time of year is chaos, so seek some clarity and assurance from your seller that your product will arrive on time. Also keep in mind that any goods of greater than AU$1000 that are imported (i.e. bought from an overseas location to arrive in Australia) come with customs duty and GST when they arrive. There is a great overview of the restrictions and fees for imports on eBay here.
The online dating trap: The Christmas/festive period is prime time for online dating scams conducted by people who seek out those who may be spending Christmas alone or are isolated in some way. Most scams aim to extract money from the victim through elaborate stories or dramatic events (such as stolen wallets or lost plane tickets etc).
Whilst the warnings above paint a pretty miserable theme, online shopping is a valuable method for getting things done at Christmas time and staying in contact with friends and family. Online shopping for the most part is as safe, if not safer, than bricks-and-mortar shopping, not to mention much less stressful and completely free of parking-rage! Regardless, take care however you choose to prepare for the festive season this year.