It’s December once again and with it comes the joys of endless gatherings and parties. However, it also comes with the stresses of preparing for all these activities and of course, buying the perfect gifts for your loved ones. If you haven’t started your Christmas shopping yet, better start now! There might be no way of avoiding the Christmas rush of long lines, no parking, no sizes available soon.
Thankfully, we live at a time when we need not be bound by the brick and mortar ways of shopping. We need not go to a physical store to buy something we want. We can do it at the convenience of our homes (or by the beach). We are also no longer limited to what’s available here for our needs. Thanks to technology, we can already do our shopping with our fingers just simply clicking away at our favorite devices. Let’s go (online) shopping!
For the uninitiated, online shopping may be a scary thing. There are many horror stories of banks accounts getting hacked, purchases not getting delivered, and goods arriving damaged to highlight a few. So how then do you do start doing it and prevent mishaps from happening?
1. Go for legitimate and secured sites.
One of the main issues faced by unassuming online shoppers is that they most often fall for attractive online promotions. While that is a good practice to save on expenses, if you are new to online shopping, then it’s best to first buy from known and secured sites. This ensures that others cannot get your details while you are online. One way to check this is to look for the padlock icon usually located in the upper left hand of the browser. Another way is to check if the site begins with https:// (instead of just http://) which signifies that the site is secure (that’s what the S in https stands for) and the interaction between you and the site is encrypted. Go for known online sites like amazon.com vs unknown sites offering the best deals ever. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
2. Check the fine print.
While there are many online shopping sites, not all ship to Guam and the Marianas. It can be quite frustrating to go thru the whole process only to belatedly realize that they don’t ship here. Or if they do, the shipping fees are too exorbitant! You should also check if the site offers tiered pricing depending on how fast you want your purchase delivered. Lastly, check the return and refund policies to make sure you are well protected in case something happens to your goods.
3. Pay securely.
Your best bet is to pay thru credit cards and secure online payment services such as PayPal. Don’t use debit cards. As a general rule, credit cards and online payment services are more secure since they don’t actually contain your bank details and there are exposure limits for most credit cards.
4. Relax and wait.
Once you’re done with your transaction, you should get a confirmation and/or receipt of purchase thru email or whatever contact method you chose. Most reliable sites also have tracking methods so you can check where your package is at any given time. It’s pretty cool.
If you are still hesitant about going all out on online shopping, there are other ways to try it out slowly. One would be to check out which stores on Guam offer shop online and pickup at store options. More established local brands such as Crowns Guam (crownsguam.com) and Fokai (fokaistuff.com) do this and also ship to mainland for your gifts to relatives there.
Another way would be to buy items from locally-owned online shops so at least you know the person behind the site. Try merchandiser tie-up sites such as Jennifer Senne’s Chloe + Isabel Boutique (chloeandisabel.com/boutique/jennesseycollection). Here, you have the option to pay online or get in touch with her for your orders, or even have shopping parties (pop-up stores at home!). You can also try tobikogo.com, locally-owned by partners Gary Sung and Patrick Sherman, which aims to connect consumers to brands that don’t ship to Guam and the Marianas. This e-commerce platform works like an online retail shop, with a strong logistics back-end that does the work for you to ship your goods here. It carries known brands like IKEA, Target, Costco, Tiger Direct and others. Eventually, it will also connect local entrepreneurs to the global market thru the platform.
Lastly, if you still want to go to a physical store but want the best deals available on island, try downloading Guam Visitors Bureau’s ShopGuam app. It’s a free app available on Google Play or Apple App store that showcases offers from more than 300 merchants. Just simply check out the shop you want to buy from, go there, and show the QR code or coupon for great discounts! You can also turn on your phone’s Bluetooth which will then beacon (signal) you when you are near a shop with a great offer.
Regardless of your shopping option, it’s best to manage it based on what’s most convenient and easy for your own needs. Online or not, the perfect gifts for your loved ones are out there. This is me, just letting you in on some tips on how to make it easier. Happy Shopping! And may we all have a blessed Christmas!
About this post: I am now a columnist of Pacific Island Times, a web-based news daily with a monthly in-depth publication. I write a monthly technology column called It's a Byte which aims to explain and give my views on technology in an understandable and relatable way. This is my first column which I wrote last Nov 14, 2018.