Now that I build and paint more than I play 40k, I tend to need specific items. If I can't get them from my FLGS, I go online. I don't love shopping online, I love the convenience of shopping online. I don't do it that often, but the ease at which I can get things for the hobby makes it almost essential in this day and age. Everything is online now.
But, shopping online is not without its pitfalls though.
With the holiday season coming up, I thought I might break from the norm and offer a few tips that I've found and follow when it comes to shopping online. While these are not going to "save" you, they might help you avoid problems when it comes to buying something online.
My experience with one company may be different from another person's dealings with the very same company. There are companies out there that I use all the time that some folks will never buy from and there are companies out there that others use all the time that I will never run into.
This is about making sure you are an informed buyer when shopping online and that you're smart about where and with what businesses you spend your money. With the hobby costing more and more each year, none of us can afford to run into problems after we've saved up our money for that one figure we've been dying to get our hands on.
1. Understand how PayPal or your credit card works.
No matter what method you decide to use, you need to know how they work. You should have an understanding of the complaint procedure and how you can get your money back (if possible) should you discover the business or seller is not following through on their end of the deal.
This might take some research, but it's worth looking into before you find yourself trying to figure it out in the middle of a problem.
2. Look for signs of security.
Legitimate sites and businesses will display these indicators. Many times businesses will display seals from Verisign, GeoTrust, SSL.com or others. Another thing to look for is the lock at the bottom or top of your browser indicating a secure site when it comes to ordering and transmitting private information. Many sites will be listed as https: instead of just http: in the top bar as well indicating it is secure in terms of information being transmitted online.
Want an example? Go to Forge World, order anything and then go to checkout (you don't have to buy it). I use Firefox for my browser and I get a green lock at the start of the URL address at the top in addition to the site changing over to https:
This helps verify that the information you are sending to them is being transmitted securely and is not as easy to get a hold of by folks who are trolling the internet looking to steal individual's personal financial information.
3. Research your merchant and check their reputation.
This may be the biggest one of all. I do this every time I order something from someone new. Whether it be an online store or an eBay seller or whoever it is. Do your homework! Look around at what others are saying about the company. Anyone can set up an online storefront these days.
Take a look at what folks are saying about the company or seller. Both the good and the bad. You want as many different opinions and experiences as you can find before you spend your money. If something doesn't seem right to you or you're not comfortable, then don't do it! Walk away and look around for someone else who has or is selling something similar. Trust your instinct here.
If you don't see anything on a particular company or buyer, then ask around. What's the worst that will happen? You'll get some info and decide not to buy from them and keep your money?
Another thing to look up is their return policy. This information should be posted on their site as well.
4. Keep receipts and other documentation
I do this one all the time with stuff I buy online. Save your emails, letters, receipts and such until the transaction is complete and you have your stuff in hand (and are happy with it). Save any bank or Paypal information that it sent to you as well. Once everything has cleared, then you can delete all of it.
It's better to keep that information and not need it than it is to need it and not have it.
All of these things or hints fall on the buyer's shoulders to take care of. You need to be looking out for yourself when you're spending your hard earned money online. The last thing you want is to run into any problems and have to deal with that hassle when you should be building and painting your new model.
Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
How to find a good artist to do your commission work for you