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Search LibrarySpot or Google |   Great Must-See sites   |   Read Articles and Lists | Find answers | Did you know?  
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Shopping Smart:

You need a new vacuum but you aren't looking forward to shopping for one. Who can you trust to give you the best information? Last time that creepy salesman tried to sell you all three of his "best models." After you finally decided on one, it put more dirt on your floor than it picked up.

Forget pushy salespeople. Now before you buy, you can conduct fairly sophisticated consumer research without leaving the comfort of your living room. Through some great consumer Web sites, the Internet empowers consumers to compare not only the quality of a product, but prices from retailers around the world.

Who makes the best?

Consumer Reports has been testing products to provide unbiased advice to consumers since 1936. They don't accept advertising (which would open them to bias), so they do charge for their data. But it's not expensive. For $5.95, you can get a monthly subscription to their online database. That can be money well spent if you're planning to buy a new car or even a new toaster oven.

Read product reviews and recommendations for everything from baby equipment to video accessories at Consumer Guide. Each category provides buying and safety tips and lists products according to "Best Buy", "Recommended Buy" and "Budget Buy." Editors of the Consumer Guide write that their publication "has no affiliation with any manufacturers or retailers" thus providing an independent review based on product evaluation.




Who sells it for less?

Bottom Dollar will help you find the best price on books, hardware, magazines, software, music, toys, movies and more. Simply choose a category and type in a keyword to render results ranked by price. Searches for books, music and even vacuum cleaners yielded a host of options. The RoboShopper site offers a free downloadable software program that will help you track down the best pricing for computer software, computer hardware. books, music, movies, cars, electronics, magazine subscriptions, clothing, golf equipment, games, toys, gardening supplies and more.

If it's computer hardware you're after, ZD Net can help. The computer experts at Ziff Davis search the Web for the best computer deals so you don't have to. Netbuyer lists prices for products consumers can purchase on the web. For each product, there is a link to an online store.

Where can I get it?

Once you've found the best product, there's no sense in leaving your living room for the inconvenience of the mall. Let Bizrate help you find safe, convenient and reliable shopping sites. The independent directory features sites that offer excellent customer service. Search by category or keyword and it will rate sites based on security, shopping cart systems (which allow you to pay all at once), tracking systems, customer privacy, live customer support, international shipping and search capabilities.

Is shopping on the Internet really safe?

Consumers say their biggest fear about shopping online is security. So is shopping online really safe? For the most part, it's safer than shopping at a department store or ordering something from a catalog over the phone. But it is still important to protect yourself. Here are some tips to help you be a safe shopper:

  • Make sure that you have a secure browser.
  • Make sure that the Web site is secure before sending credit card information. Most browsers will indicate this to you through an icon on the bottom corner of the Web page - usually via a padlock graphic. Keep in mind that the entire site doesn't need to be secure, just the page that you are sending information from.
  • Make sure there is an address and telephone number of the company. It's probably not a good idea to trust a company with only a post office box. Use the telephone number to call the company if you have any doubts.
  • Most companies have 1-800 numbers. If you're worried that site isn't secure, order using the toll free number rather than risk it.
  • Find out the return and refund policy before you order, and, to be on the safe side, be sure to jot down your confirmation number when you have placed an order.
  • Don't give out any personal information that isn't necessary. The company should only need your first and last name, address, credit card number and expiration date. Don't give out any information concerning you social security number or checking account.

Who can I trust?

There are established organizations to help you avoid scam artists on the Web. If you have doubts about a company, visit these sites first. The Better Business Bureau can help you find out if a company is legit. If you have a problem with a company, you can report it to the BBB and hopefully save other consumers from the same headaches. US Consumer Gateway is your link to all the federal and state consumer sites. Consumer Gateway also alerts you of any scams that might be heading your way.




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