Smart SpendingSmart Spending

6 common shopping pitfalls

Despite the popularity of online shopping, brick-and-mortar shopping is valuable because it lets you see what you're buying. What should you watch out for at the store?

By MSN Money Partner Nov 15, 2011 9:05PM

This post comes from Ritika Puri at partner site Investopedia.

 

From a sociological standpoint, the Internet has transformed the way that we shop. As consumers, we now have access to a wealth of information including consumer reviews, savings strategies and varying personal finance philosophies. Most importantly, the Internet equips us with the power of judgment when we make our most important investments. No matter what we buy, we're always empowered with limitless resources for sound research.

 

Still, the experience of in-store shopping is important. Could you imagine spending all your time in front of a computer? For many people with desk jobs, this scenario happens far too often. Despite the convenience of online shopping, it's important for us to step outside, window shop and engage with the product that we're about to buy. (For related reading, see Is Online Shopping Killing Brick-And-Mortar?)

 

Online and offline, consumerism is a balancing act, and we need to be self-aware of our decisions. Next time you head to the store, remember what you've learned from your e-commerce endeavors and avoid these six common pitfalls.

 

Impulse buying

You see something that you love sitting in front of you, and you decide that you absolutely need it. It happens to the best of us, even if we're champions of self-restraint. Online, we have more time to think about what we buy and to research products in depth. When you shop offline, exercise this same level of judgment and remind yourself that you'll be able to find the product elsewhere if it sells out.

 

Price biases

The field of advertising was built upon the art of persuasion. Online, it's easy to research the validity of a "best price" ad through a quick Google search. Offline, it's tough to assess the legitimacy of a similar "low-price guarantee." Thinking with our emotional brains, we assume that we've been lucky enough to find a great price, when in reality we need to do more research before coming to that conclusion. Use a smartphone or computer to reassess that low-price guarantee. Even if you're limited to a basic cell phone, you can call a friend or family member to confirm.

 

Limited access to information

Online, Google searches seem to answer all of our shopping-related questions. Furthermore, we're able to research information and reviews from a range of sources. In stores, we tend to only have one place to find information -- the store itself. Obviously, this can be a conflict of interest because stores want to sell, and they're likely to integrate advertisements with product details. Of course, there's no such thing as a bias-free review, and for this reason, it's important to weigh pros and cons from multiple places. Unless you have a smartphone, this process is less-than-straight forward in a store, and you may want to take some time to go home and do some research.

 

Nonexistent negotiation and price flexibility

In stores, prices appear to be as-is. We forget that in select instances, it's possible and acceptable to negotiate. Car care expenses provide one example for this rule. If you're shopping for an auto body service or regular maintenance expense, you should always ask what discount options are available. Online, through platforms such as eBay and Amazon, buyers have some wiggle room when it comes to price. In stores, this flexibility is seemingly nonexistent, but when it is possible, we seem to forget. Post continues below.

Forgetting the fine print

Return policies, promotional terms and warranty conditions are easier to find online than in-store. Generally, this information is available in a publicly accessible place. However, it can be tough to spot. While a sales associate will help you find the fine print that you need, it's often easy to overlook if you're not actively thinking about it. More often than not, we forget to ask questions about the minutiae that can become important down the road.

 

Pressure to buy

Retail sales people are amazing communicators, which can make us feel pressured to buy something. When we shop online, we do it from the comfort of our own homes, and we can avoid the sales associates' charm. Sometimes when we shop, we don't even realize where the pressure to buy is originating.

 

The bottom line

Online shopping can never replace the experience of brick-and-mortar shopping; however, it can help us become more aware of our weaknesses. As a consumer, your strongest asset is your mind, so use what you've learned online to make strong offline decisions too.

 

More on Investopedia and MSN Money:

0Comments

DATA PROVIDERS

Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

ABOUT SMART SPENDING

Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

TOOLS

More