On-line Christmas Shopping

photo of John Michael Pierobon By: John Michael Pierobon

Once again. Christmas is just around the corner.

My column last year on what to get for Christmas was about personal computers and accessories. This year, because of the Y2K bug many people are not buying computers. Instead they are using their computers to do their holiday shopping on-line. After all, it is safe to shop on the World Wide Web, so here are a few suggestions about on-line Christmas shopping.

Know your "e-tailer". An "e-tailer" is an electronic, or on-line, retailer. Make sure you are transacting with a reputable firm.

I had a very bad experience with an e-tailer. They had the lowest price and their advertised return policy seemed as good as any other e-tailer. However, I did have to make a return. The trouble I had to go through to return the item was not worth the savings, and then it took them nearly three months to refund my purchase.

Obviously, customer support is very important. On-line shopping is still in its infancy. Those firms which are going to survive are going to do so based on how well they treat the customer. Ask a friend about their experience with an e-tailer. You should inquire if the e-tailer will send you an order confirmation, give you a tracking number, notify you when the order is shipped, how fast they answer your inquiries, what are their shipping times and charges, let you talk with a human being, etc.

Here are three e-tailers my friends and I have had very good experiences with. They became very large e-tailers because they are good at customer service. Their Web sites contain lots of product information to help with your purchasing decisions.

Amazon.com is the largest e-tailer. They started out just as a book store, but have now branched out to include music, video, toys & games, and electronics. They offer gift wrapping, and you can choose the wrapping as well as the shipping method.

CDNOW probably has the best music selection, and you can listen to songs on-line. They also sell videos, and are always running special offers. You can also personalize the CDNOW Web site, and have it display in any of the following foreign languages: Deutsch, Español, Français, Italiano, Nederlands, and Português.

eToys, as the name implies is a toy e-tailer. Like Amazon.com and CDNOW, eToys offer recommendations and has a search engine to help you find what you are looking for. What sets them apart is that they ship orders in plain brown boxes so nosy kids cannot identify the eToys logo and tag gift-wrapped items to indicate which child gets what.

With on-line holiday shopping the next e-tailer is a few clicks away, and you do not have to worry about parking.

John Michael Pierobon is an Internet consultant based in Fort Lauderdale.
John Michael may be reached by sending electronic mail to pierobon@pierobon.org

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