While the entire weekend will be full of Black Friday buzz, many of us prefer to shop from the comfort of our own homes and will be gearing up for fresh deals and promotions on Cyber Monday.
For those of us who will be logging in and even skipping work to take advantage of online deals, the click of a mouse button certainly seems safer than battling the Black Friday hordes, but there are a few things to be aware of when shopping online during a big retail event.
Here are eight things to watch out for when logging in and checking out on Cyber Monday.
1. Avoid or reduce shipping fees
While the online deal may seem like a dream come true, the cost of shipping could negate any savings you have racked up. The shipping fees on your package will depend on the weight, size and the number of items you’ve ordered, along with how far away the product has to be delivered. Some international online retailers charge a flat rate to Canada so make sure to read the “Shipping” section of the website you’re buying from to ensure you know what you’re paying. In general though, shopping from Canadian websites and retailers may be your best bet to avoid paying exorbitant fees, according to Sari Friedman, shopping expert with Ebates.ca.
Luckily, many retailers, like Joe Fresh and Wal-Mart have lowered their threshold for free shipping, so you don’t have to spend a ton to avoid those shipping costs. Shipping within Canada doesn’t necessarily break the bank but for bigger products like dishwashers and refrigerators, see if there’s an option to pick up the item in-store to avoid the extra fee. Walmart even sends purchases to your local Canada Post branch for you to pick up for no cost at all.
2. Know the duty fees you’ll have to pay
Depending on where the product you’re buying was made, you may incur a duty fee. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ensures that Canadians don’t have to fork over a duty charge for most products made in America and Mexico. But if you buy something from the U.S. that’s manufactured outside of North America, you could be hit with a fee. Use this duties and taxes calculator offered by the Canadian government to determine approximately how much you could be required to pay. And check to see if the site you’re shopping at is part of Borderfree, which calculates all applicable duties and taxes upon checkout so you’re not left unsure of what the full cost of your purchase will be. Watch out! Shoes, towels, blankets and camping equipment are just some of the items that will cost you up to 20% or more in duties depending on where you live.
3. Triple-check delivery dates
Depending on which shipping option you choose and where you’re ordering from, your purchase might not be delivered to your doorstep for anywhere between four and six weeks—which could mean the difference between a shiny new gadget under the Christmas tree and an IOU. Shopping local or within North America will likely yield faster delivery times compared to buying something on Amazon that could be shipping from China.
4. Check the return policy
In the giddy excitement of ringing up deals, make sure you thoroughly vet the return policy of the retailer you’re purchasing from. Some websites don’t include prepaid postage and packaging for returns, meaning not only will you have to go through the hassle of sending back the item you were so excited about, you’d have to pay for its return journey, says Friedman. If the retailer doesn’t include materials to send back the product, look for websites that allow in-store returns so you don’t have to worry about postage or have to wait yet again to be refunded or sent the right item.
5. Prepare for customs broker fees
This is the expense that routinely catches shoppers by surprise. Couriers like UPS, FedEx, and Purolator charge fees for handling the paperwork involved with clearing your purchase through customs at the U.S.-Canada border. These shipping agents often base the fees on the value of the duty (for example UPS will charge around $30 for duties between $150.01 and $200). Canada Post, on the other hand, charges a flat fee of $9.95 for handling.
6. Look beyond the door-buster deals
The advertised virtual door-busters are the products getting the most attention, so don’t be surprised if the TV you really wanted is out-of-stock when you get there. According to Adobe’s 2014 Digital Index, out-of-stock messages were to increase five-fold on Cyber Monday due to crazy demand and limited supply. Have a look beyond what’s advertised in email newsletters and flyers and you might just find that what you’re hoping to buy is on sale anyway and, because it’s not as heavily advertised, it might not be sold out.
7. Don’t use public Wi-Fi for online transactions. Just don’t
Yes, it may be convenient to get in on the Cyber Monday action during a coffee break at work. But the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services warns that free public Wi-Fi options don’t offer the cyber-security needed to make a financial transaction. As well, the RCMP warns that cyber-criminals are particularly keen to find vulnerabilities in networks on Cyber Monday. Plugging in your credit card information over an unsecured network is a risk. If you really don’t have a choice, try using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which encrypts your data.
For the safest experience, however, stick to your private, password-protected internet connection at home and don’t try purchasing anything from an unverified source.
8. Know that your online purchase is covered by the Consumer Protection Act—but only if it’s worth more than $50
If your purchase amounts to more than $50, make sure the online retailer you’re buying from discloses an itemized price list that includes taxes and shipping charges, a description of any additional charges incurred and the exact currency the total price is being reflected in (if it’s not Canadian). See the full list of Consumer Protection Act rights on the Ontario government website.
Bonus tip: Sort through deals with Flipp
If you really want to find the best deals and coupons, Flipp is a service that will help you sort through all the flyers near you, real or digital. You can search particular products you’re on the hunt for and view all the offerings from various retailers without having to flip through any actual flyers or spend hours hunting on Google. It’s virtual coupon-clipping to the max, which will come in pretty handy when preparing for Cyber Monday.