SHOPPING online has its risks, especially if it involves apparel and items that require fittings. The only way to find a site that delivers what it promises is through trial and error. Recommendations by friends who have used the online shopping site before help too.
There is a site which fashion e-shoppers look to for help. FT (fashion-truth.blogspot.com) is where both buyers and sellers can post their experiences, good or bad. The last update, however, was early this year, so it could be in hibernation at the moment.
Sometimes, there are happy buyers, like the one who raved about a site that offered quality apparel that was really cheap and provided excellent service. Another talked about the super service of a site that wasn't rigid about rules and accommodated her request.
Then, there are bad experiences, like sellers who turn up very late at the designated spot for a Cash On Delivery (COD) purchase. When reminded to be on time for future pick ups, the customer is given the cold shoulder. One buyer had to continously follow up on her order and the date of delivery was constantly postponed. The item that arrived was in the wrong colour.
But, there's a flip side, too.
As some sellers pointed out, some customers suddenly go missing - they place orders and then disappear when payment is due or, they keep delaying payment. Some make unreasonable demands for COD or even back out at the last minute after the appointment has been set; others demand immediate delivery, and are rude and arrogant with sellers.
Regular online buyers like 30-year-old shipping executive Amy Lee from Miri, Sarawak, says she prefers to shop online because shopping at retail stores in her town is quite limited.
"I find it cheaper and easier as I don't really need to try on some free size items. And, there are so many choices. If the item costs more than RM50 (S$21), I prefer to buy it at the shops so that I can try it on. If I was in Kuala Lumpur though, I might not shop online so much as there are more options," explains Lee.
She is pragmatic and doesn't expect great quality for the prices that she pays. Her purchases average between RM50 and RM100 (S$21-43) (clothes, belts, necklaces, earrings and hair acccessories) every three to four months.
She has had wrong items delivered before but since they could be exchanged, Lee says she's satisfied.
Some of the sites which she recommends are carnivalsales.com.my, nanafashionboutique.blogspot.com, singurlcloset.blogspot.com, prettyshoppe.com, beautifuldisaster.org/vluvshopping/ and jovyswardrobe.blogspot.com (the first two are Miri-based).
Student M.K. How, 21, from Petaling Jaya says she normally purchases clothes, bags and earrings. She says on an average site, an item costs about RM45 for tops, and she spends about RM40 to RM100 (S$17-43) on online shopping a month.
"I prefer online shopping because it's easier to survey different websites and there's no sales person to harass me. Sometimes, I get a cheaper deal on the product of the same style found in branded stores," she says.
Her only complaint is the poor quality of some of the merchandise (which makes her feel that she was overcharged). She also finds that some of the sizes quoted don't match up.
Her favourite sites are forum.lowyat.net/StuffForTheLadies, just-bag-it.com, trendy confessions.com and amour-pour.blogspot.com/.
Research assistant Amanda Lee likes shopping online because of the convenience and the wide selection available.
While the 23-year-old from KL (who started shopping online a year ago) says she can easily spend five to six fun hours browsing online, she tries to restrict herself to a couple of hours. Her purchases in a month are between RM30 and RM50 (S$12 -21).
Her first puchase was a graphic T-shirt, costing RM20 (S$8) which was "nice, fitting and of good quality".
She says: "The seller was very helpful. She described the measurements, material and the T shirt lived up to my expectation."
Her favourite buy so far is a RM30 (S$12) floral vintage dress.
She advises e-shopping "virgins" to choose trustworthy sites (based on how long they've been established), check to see whether items are quickly reserved by other buyers (as this shows how popular they are) and if there are many return customers (which means they are satisfied with the service).