I first started shopping online last year. I was at a store looking for a pair of shoes that I really wanted but could never find due to such common reasons like, They're sold out or ‚We are sorry but we don't sell them here and so on and so on. So I decided I was going to look for them online and order them. And so I did. Now, I'm hooked to online shopping.

Internet shopping is benefiting us in so many ways. We get to find the items we want from so many suppliers and we also get to have a much wider range of choices than we did before. Going online is also much easier than going to the mall or a certain store. However, one must ask: Is it safe?

How to shop online is really simple. All you need to do is: Go to the online store you want, register, surf the website and insert the items you want into the shopping cart and then checkout. Checkout includes choosing your method of payment (Visa, Master Card, PayPal, etc), entering your precise address, picking a delivery method (Standard, Overnight, Expedited, etc) and pay. There! You're all done. All that's left is waiting for your order to arrive. That's just simple routine. However, the real issue is, did you shop from a trusted website? Here's how to identify the good from the bad:

First, a trusted website is usually very popular; you see it talked about on the news, on TV, hear about it from your friends, read about it on blogs and websites, and see that website's advertisements around (such as Amazon.com). Some international well-known brands offer online shopping on their website such as fashion brands like Balenciaga or Marni you can know right away that it is a trusted site. Second, a trusted website is usually copyrighted and displays emblems from a trustworthy organization such as the BBB Accredited Business Seal. Third, when entering your credit card number make sure the padlock is in the bottom right of the browser window and for the website address to begin with …..

In total, those are the 3 main guidelines you need to follow when shopping online. Nevertheless, there are websites which sell products, yet are not online stores, like Facebook, for example. People create groups and sell their products to people who are interested. How do you know the seller is trusted? To put it simply, you don't! If you really want that product make sure that you pay the seller only when the goods are delivered to you. Do not give them your credit card details or pay by wire transfers because you can certainly be scammed.

Now that you've learned how to shop safely, learn how to shop wisely. If you are shopping for clothes you need to know your correct size in US, UK, and European size charts. The best sites have size conversion charts so you can know how to convert and pick the right size. What if you have more than one size? Take me, for instance; I'm a size 2 in dresses and tops, and either a size 4 or 2 in jeans and bottoms. Make sure there is a return or exchange policy for that product so that if it doesn't fit right you can simply return it. Sometimes the products are not as advertised, so it's important that you can exchange or return them.

Most of the shoppers follow a budget. If you are on a budget then you need to follow one important rule: Stay away from expensive products! Instead of shopping at sites like Net-A-Porter.com, which are known to sell expensive designer brands, opt for its sister site TheOutnet.com, which offers designer products on discount. Also, it's important to know how to convert your currency to the currency the online store. Beware of the currency rate on your credit card; some credit cards have very high rates and you may be paying more than what you think you are paying.

If you really like a bargain, then shop at online auctions such as eBay and Souq. They have items such as electronics, jewelry, designer bags, and vintage items. If you want to bid, be informed about what you will be bidding on. Some items that claim to be original are likely to be fake. More importantly, you need to know if the seller is trusted; check their profile and rating. Finally, the art of bidding is knowing when to start and when to stop. Auctioned items have a time limit, so if you really want to win the item, bid on the last day or even the last minute. Stop bidding when you realize you cannot afford over-bidding anymore.

Internet shopping is really easy, and if you follow the above mentioned guidelines, it will be a blast. Happy shopping!

– Zubaida Al-Ali Basha.

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