24-hour purchasing peril
Clearing out a cupboard the other day, I came upon childhood relics.
They were tiny miniatures, monstrous things, all claws and jaws.
IQ-retarding lead spewed from car exhausts in the 1980s, so nobody blinked at selling leadbased figurines to children.
Ah, the memories those figurines brought back, though I never could afford the whole set with my pocket money.
But hey, this is the modern world. You can buy anything, anytime.
Ten minutes later I was on the checkout page of an Italian company’s website, about to complete the collection 30 years later, before common sense prevailed.
That 24/7 ability to shop is the biggest wealth danger posed by online shopping.
I speak as a man/boy whose finger hovered momentarily over the keyboard to okay a €70 (NZ$115) payment for some small metal toys.
Impulse wealth depletion is just one of the dangers of shopping online.
The recent Commerce Commission’s Consumer Issues report indicated many of us are lead little too trusting.
Exposure to advertising, false lifestyle expectations, and the ability to virtually walk through endless digital aisles are all threats to human wealth and mental health.
But so is giving your credit card details to an overseas trader you just met on the internet.
I asked Netsafe to tell me how to stay safe while shopping online.
First, buy only from companies you trust.
In our household, The Book Depository and British clothing retailer Boden are among the small number of online retailers we buy from.
It’s not just trusting them not to steal our money. It’s trusting them to send good-quality stuff.
The commission found a lot of unhappiness with the quality of goods bought online, and the delivery times, and occasional non-delivery.
There’s comfort in dealing with big companies who have reputations they can’t afford to
lose, but I’m quite comfortable with buying from New Zealandbased small speciality businesses, though I need to know where they are physically based, and who runs them.
That’s easy using the Companies Office searchable online database.
I like to see New Zealandbased shareholders and directors with ordinary street addresses.
Don’t be fooled by ‘‘.co.nz’’ on a website.
It doesn’t mean the company is based in New Zealand.
Buying through big intermediaries like Trade Me and Amazon can also help engender trust. They have public feedback systems, and mechanisms to exclude crooks, though no system is foolproof.
Importantly, they also have safe ways to pay like PayPal and Trade Me’s PayNow which keep your payment details from the merchant. Guard your private details – including your credit card details – jealously.
Read the terms and conditions of trade of online traders, and be deeply cautious if they are confusing and fees are not clearly explained.
Online shopping brings choice, competition, saves legwork, and lets you indulge your rarefied hobbies, but you need self-defence strategies against the dangers it brings.
All grown up: Rob Stock with his still incomplete childhood collection of lead monster figures.