Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
Forum 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Sunday, 7 January, 2001, 13:38 GMT
Your online shopping experience
Your online shopping experience
Online shopping in many countries has soared in December, with many online stores reporting record turnovers.

Products bought online ranged from books and CDs to groceries. Electronic goods, especially digital cameras, DVD players and mobile phones, were among the most popular purchases.

Many companies employed extra staff to cope with increased demand over the Christmas period.

What is your experience? Is shopping online as hassle-free and convenient as retailers want us to believe?

HAVE YOUR SAY

It still makes me laugh when people say they do not like giving their credit card details over the internet

Tim, UK
It still makes me laugh when people say they do not like giving their credit card details over the internet. Of course, telling someone over the phone is far safer - or not!!! To crack the encryption code for credit card transactions would take every computer in the world combined and the lifetime of the universe to solve it! Fancy starting now? I've never had trouble with online ordering. I would much rather give my details to a fully automated service, to a company where there are no overheads (hence lower product costs) and the deliveries are usually free and extremely quick.
Tim, UK

In a country as large as the USA, with friends and relatives spread out over thousands of miles, shopping on the Internet was a lifesaver. Lots of choices, good prices and NO trips to the Post Office!
David, Los Angeles

No problems at all including presents ordered from Australia which arrived in 10 days. Can't think why anyone would bother getting cold and wet on a High Street!
Kate, UK


Don't give up, it's early days yet

Stuart, Scotland
I did my entire shopping on-line this Christmas. It took a November evening, with feet up, shorts and T-shirt (well, who needs to get dressed for web shopping?), glass of wine in one hand, mouse in the other. Fantastic! All my shopping experiences were good. Like many correspondents, I shopped mainly with well known High Street names and web-only stores. Everything was delivered inside a week, with no shortages. After this super cool experience, I never again intend to stress myself out shopping in town at Christmas. I also added the cream to the cake by booking airline seats for the Easter break. For those of you who have had a bad experience shopping on the web - don't give up, it's early days yet - and, as others have said, buy from well known names with good reputations and secure web sites, and do it at least a month before you need the goods.
Stuart, Scotland

I have made a few purchases on-line and although all were from net-based companies I have had both very good and very bad experiences. The thing to remember is that most companies are "net amateurs" at the moment. My advice would be to limit your purchasing to services with a good net reputation.
Joel, UK

I work for an online CD shop, and would like to say that we work very hard to get the right products out and on time. It is true that we can not stock every CD on offer, but we do try to get them as quickly as possible. We, and I think most other stores know how vital it is to make a customer happy especially considering how new the idea is. The industry in general is an honest lot who want to make an honest profit, supplying an honest product.
Nikolai Bird, UK

Nothing wrong with buying online presents, all the companies I dealt with had the stock and delivered on time. The only problem was the delivery service; they all used the post office and we were hit locally with a strike.
Phil Barnes, United Kingdom


The last trick to make out lives dried and more controlled

Matteo Guainazzi, Spain
Take me as an old-fashioned romantic, or a blind technology enemy (which I am not, as I earn my daily bread with Internet and computers) but I will never buy on the Internet, even if it would eventually turn out to be the most efficient and safest system. Buying and shopping, intrinsically require personal human contact between who sells and who purchases. How can Internet substitute the fatherly advice of our trustworthy butcher, who advise us to buy "that special ham", or who recommends us to try "this piece" of extraordinary cheese, which has just arrived from a special dealer? Shopping on the Internet is the last trick to make our lives dried and more controlled.
Matteo Guainazzi, Spain

Internet shopping is perfect when you know exactly what you want. It saves having to trudge round the shops looking for the item and there are even sites that search for the cheapest price on offer. Credit card numbers might be vulnerable, but a sales assistant can just as easily steal your card number as a hacker can. But if you are looking for something for Auntie Mabel or Uncle Fred, and are short of ideas then nothing beats real life shopping - though once you have decided you can always try and find it cheaper on the Net.
Gill, UK

Oh what a joy. Stress free Christmas shopping. I did 90% of mine online. Presents, bows, tags, paper, food and booze etc. Amazingly, or maybe I was just lucky, everything arrived on time, in good order, and I will do the same again next year. I suppose if you live in a large town it is nice to go browsing and soak up a bit of that Yuletide atmosphere. Personally, I was very happy not to have the chore of trudging around in search of the elusive perfect Christmas present. The only cautionary note being make sure the site is secure before putting in your details - roll on next Christmas!
Nic Jardes, UK


I'll just put it down to experience

Jim, UK
I work in e-business and hear all the horror stories about shopping online! I've bought everything from my mortgage to CDs on the web and never had a problem until I bought a Palmtop from a e-retailer for Xmas who has since ceased trading with no sign of a refund. This doesn't put me off future purchases and I guess I'll just put it down to experience.
Jim, UK

As a working mother shopping online was a godsend. No arranging baby sitters so that I could go late night shopping or booking a day off work to go present shopping for my children. No dragging my children around over-crowded shops. Instead we spent a day out and visited Father Christmas.
Caron, England

I have used the Internet for on-line purchasing for some time now and so far I have had no problems. I don't think it is set to replace conventional shopping in the foreseeable future, I like many others sometimes enjoy browsing in a store. However it can be very convenient and I would always prefer it as a method of shopping from home. The immediate documentation via e-mail that one receives is helpful. Many suppliers are now offering free carriage for using this method, presumably because the transaction can be automated without the intervention of a sales person. In conclusion I believe that this facility is here to stay and long may it continue.
Philip S Hall, UK

This year, I did all my Christmas shopping on the net. Because, I still feel uneasy about putting my credit card details in, I find the products I want, phone the supplier (reputable suppliers advertise phone numbers on their sites) and order over the phone. Whilst this may defeat the object of shopping online, I have found that you get an honest answer about stock availability and delivery times.
Dave, UK


Unless you're really doing heavy shopping, you're just a victim of a fad

Mark Plummer, England
On-line shopping is yet another form of alienation disguised as "convenience" or "time saving"'. Don't get me wrong - I hate Christmas shopping crowds too, but I do enjoy everyday or occasional shopping and prefer it to filling in forms on an Internet site. In addition, I believe that for the majority of on-line shoppers the total cost of the required equipment exceeds the savings made on purchasing items - a 1000 computer to buy three CDs at a lower price. Unless you're really doing heavy shopping, you're just a victim of a fad.
Mark Plummer, England

I purchased a number of items on the Internet this year for the first time and had only one bad experience. Although the item was faulty, this didn't concern me, it was our unreliable postal service that caused me the problem. There wasn't sufficient time to get it back to the company and have a replacement sent out, even with 10 days to go before Christmas. Shopping on the Internet will only ever become successful if we can improve our postal and delivery services within the UK.
Emma - Bath (UK), England

Fast, efficient and secure ... and I found precisely what I wanted! The shape of things to come ...
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

I have bought mainly books and plane tickets online. But when it came to buying Christmas presents and I did not want my family to see them I had them delivered to my office. That turned out to be really practical as most companies deliver during office hours. And even bulky items got to me very quickly by mail as I didn't have to go and specially pick them up.
Andrea Kleine, UK


Internet shopping just requires you to use the same common sense as ordinary shopping

Jules, UK
I did my entire Xmas shopping online this year without a hitch. I even had it all delivered to my parents' house in Scotland so that I wouldn't have to carry it up on a flight from England. I regularly buy CD's, videos and even my groceries online. Its easy to get good service - order in plenty of time, use secure sites only and have an alternative delivery address if you are at work all day. The elderly lady next door would be delighted to accept delivery for you if you give her the chance also she would love the attention as well. Internet shopping just requires you to use the same common sense as ordinary shopping. You wouldn't but an expensive stereo off the dodgy guy in the market so why do it online?
Jules, UK

People saying "This bad thing happened to me so I'll never shop online again" are daft frankly. If you had a "bad experience" in a traditional shop, you wouldn't decide never to shop again, would you? Mail order companies have always taken orders for items they don't have in stock, so why should Internet companies be different? Let's say you want to buy a CD, do people really expect that companies should have warehouses containing copies of every CD ever produced "just in case" someone wants to order them?
James, UK

I have been shopping in the web for the past few years and have never had a problem. I don't worry about fraud, as my credit card covers me for ALL online fraud free of charge, and have noticed recently that this is becoming main stream, my deliveries have always been on time and what I ordered. I can feel for the people who have had a bad experience, but as the web grows, the teething problems will iron out, companies with bad business sense will disappear and the best will survive, ensuring good customer service (no more 16 year-olds trying to advise you on what features a new stereo has only to get home and find it hasn't) excellent postage and great peace of mind from the stress of the high street.
Ben Holmes, Nottingham, UK


Online shopping nearly ruined our Christmas this year

David Llewellyn, UK
Online shopping nearly ruined our Christmas this year. We had everything organised (or so we thought), having sent via e-mail our Christmas order through to Tesco. Unfortunately initially they failed to deliver anything on the day promised (Friday 22nd) and then the order finally turned up at 12.30 Saturday 23rd with almost half the items missing. Much of the order was for a party we were having on the 22nd - beer etc and the rest was for a family Christmas. We ended up with less than 24 hours to go out and buy basic items like dishwasher tablets, tonic water, brandy when we had planned to do other things. All this when we had placed the order 2 weeks early on the 13th December. I think I will consider carefully before shopping via the internet again.
David Llewellyn, UK

I've bought a great many things online - clothes, shoes, toys, kitchenware etc. I've never had any problem.
Rufus Quick, USA

I have to say that I was very sceptical about internet shopping and in particular about security and service. However, shortly before Christmas I went to Figleaves.com to buy some underwear for my girlfriend and I was very impressed with the service. They actually phoned me to confirm the order which I thought was a nice touch and the goods were delivered the day after I ordered them. I will look forward to trying other sites.
Nick Hall, England

I ordered a CD from an internet company nearly three weeks before Xmas. I am still waiting for it to be delivered. These internet firms should not take orders for things that they do not have in stock and especially if they cannot guarantee a delivery date. When I sent an email to the company asking when I could expect it, I got what I would consider a rude response informing me that the CD was on order with no date for delivery! With service like this, I don't think I will be ordering more things from the internet soon.
Jonathon D'Souza, UK

I've bought many items online, the only problem I've had is with delivery to the UK. Typically some DVDs took less than 2 days to get from the US to the UK but as the carrier 'only does 9-5 Mon-Fri' that was no use to me a single working person. Some 2 weeks after arrival in the UK my order was finally filled.
Brian O'Keefe, UK


In theory it's a great idea

John B, UK
In theory it's a great idea. I would love to avoid going to physical shops and save the time and effort involved. However, as a lot of these merchants only delivery by courier and offer nothing more than a probable date of arrival they are of no use to me at all. Both myself and my wife work, so I can't necessarily have someone around for an entire day in case it arrives, and still willing to wait around for the whole of the next day in case it doesn't. Unless the savings were huge I'd rather pay a bit more and not have the uncertainty.
John B, UK

I have purchased many items online, from books and CD's through to electrical equipment, jewellery, cosmetics and food. In all but one instance I have been satisfied with the service and quality. However the only service where delivery was not an issue was from a supermarket that was extremely flexible and reliable. Every other purchase that has been delivered has been problem after problem, to the extent that I am now loathe to order online as I never know if, when or how I am going to take delivery of the goods.
Ellen, UK

We went to a DIY store to buy a Christmas tree, but they and all other local branches had sold out. We got home and tried their own website, and found the tree in stock and 20% off, more than covering the postage. Tree arrived within 3 days, well in time for Christmas. We did the same for friends on several hard to find toys, and we weren't let down at all!
Seymour Harding, UK

I probably buy more items via the web than I do in hard-shops (except for groceries). I've purchased DVDs and CDs from the USA with no difficulties. I've bought a camcorder, two digital cameras and a computer all at reduced prices (400 off the camcorder) plus computer games, books, clothing, financial services etc. I've never had a problem with delivery (usually 24 hours) and all the sites I visit have secure transactions so no worries with my cards (which are guaranteed against fraud anyway).
Phil White, UK


On the internet anyone in possession of the card details could enter into unlawful ransactions

Mohansingh, India
Person(s) unknown to me, obtained details of my credit card, unlawfully from a statement misdelivered by the post office, and used the details to obtain goods on line from a very reputable, well-known shop on the main street. The next statement from the credit card company contained particulars of the unauthorised, illegal transaction which I reported to the credit card company. The credit card company advised me that the shop had 30 days to submit a copy of the voucher to them when I will be contacted for further details. If I produce the plastic card personally in the shop, my signature is verified before the transaction. But on the internet there seems to be no checks whatsoever and anyone in possession of the card details could enter into unlawful transactions, impersonating the true owners of the plastic cards!
Mohansingh, India


Most of the stress I have experienced in previous years was due to days of traipsing around packed out shops

Melissa Loughran, UK
I did about 50% of my Christmas shopping on-line this year, and felt very relaxed by the 25th. I realised that most of the stress I have experienced in previous years was due to days of traipsing around packed out shops! I would recommend it to everyone, although on-line services are not perfect yet, especially if you receive faulty goods that need returning to a store, or if items are out of stock and you are not told in good time. Ironically, I have found some of the established high street company web sites to be the worst! As with all shopping; for me, the secret is in excellent customer service and regular e-mails regarding delivery times and stock availability.
Melissa Loughran, UK

Over the past two years I have grown used to buying many different things over the web ranging from low value items such as books and CDs to higher value things such as jewellery, plane tickets and even a Caribbean cruise. Without exception so far, I have always received complete satisfaction from every transaction I have made on the web with the added benefit that, in nearly every case, I have also got a really great deal in the process. All of this I have been able to do from the comfort and convenience of my desk and I have never experienced any credit card fraud despite the thousands of pounds I have spent over the web.

I have three pieces of advice for anyone less confident of buying on the web. Firstly, buy through well-known reputable traders that advertise off-line customer support channels should you need to speak to a real person about your purchase. Secondly, print out order forms and confirmation forms as they appear on the web so you have a hard copy of the transaction in future should anything go amiss or be disputed. And finally, only submit your credit card details over a secure site that displays the closed padlock icon in your web browser.
Jonathan Gains, UK

When you can get CDs for 9 on the web as opposed to 14 on the high street, service would have to be pretty bad to put me off. In fact, from the reputable companies delivery tends to be very quick and reliable, and if you shop around you can normally get free shipping. There's simply no reason for high street record stores to exist now except to sell singles and as places to window shop for the Internet.

When it comes to books, it's a different story: unless it's a heavily discounted bestseller, the high costs of p & p usually eats up any advantage over bricks and mortar shops. And then, if it's too bulky to go through your letter box, you have to arrange for it to be delivered at a suitable time.
Rupert Cousens, UK

Having family in the UK, online shopping was incredibly convenient for me. Most online stores offer gift-wrapping services and it saves me a lot of time and shipping expense. In the USA you can get almost anything online and I buy everything from clothes to books to pet products to food. I love it, no packed stores, no hassle with parking and you still get sales. I can browse at midnight and really shop around enabling me to get a greater diversity of goods. The UK will catch up and from my own shopping they are doing pretty well now.
F Morales, USA ( British)

I've had mostly excellent experiences shopping over the net. E-shopping will never take the place of traditional shopping for certain items, such as clothes and furniture; and I think people will always want paper-based books rather than e-books. Be careful buying anything from overseas though - I once bought a rare edition of Monopoly from an auction site in America, and whilst I knew in advance of the seller's shipping charges I was caught out by the extortionate UK import duties, which added 15 to the price.
Graham Adair, Scotland


I'd rather shop with the store who charges a little bit more but has a good reputation

Glyn Sloman, UK
Buying online is not revolutionary at all - people have been buying from catalogues for years. All online does is open up thousands of shops rather than being stuck with a handful of catalogues. The same problems occur with online shopping as with catalogue - that of sometimes waiting ages for goods to arrive and then, on occasions, having to send them back when they aren't what you expected. And the same caveats apply to both sort of shopping - beware the dodgy retailer and beware the retailer who doesn't care about after-sales service. The greatest benefit is competition - but, as I have found out, cheap doesn't mean it's a bargain. 8.99 for a CD might sound cheap, but if you have to wait three weeks to get it and send five e-mails to get any response from the company who has failed to deliver then I'd rather shop with the store who charges a little bit more but has a good reputation.
Glyn Sloman, UK

I found the high-street stores extremely frustrating this Christmas. Not only is their customer service appalling, but they always seemed to sell out of the item I want a week before Christmas day! On the other hand, I bought 80% of my presents online and received nothing but great service and decent stock levels! Slowly but surely, "The times they are a'changing"
Gavin, UK


Some sites had terribly insecure shopping carts

RP, UK
I was looking forward to shopping on-line but things didn't work out as expected. It was very easy finding techie stuff on-line - those sites were a joy to navigate and had full product information. It got tedious browsing for other gift items - some sites had terribly insecure shopping carts and when I emailed them to tell them, I got back "yes, we're working on it but feel free to place an order".. hmm.. I don't think so! What I would like to see on sites is a more user-friendly database, more speed, and more opportunity for customers to write in with feedback about a particular product so that other potential purchasers know if the product really is any good. I didn't do my shopping on-line after all - I think the excellent standards Amazon has set leave a lot to be desired on most sites.
RP, UK

After spending 2 days searching bookshops in 3 towns for a hardback copy of Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom, I ordered from Amazon UK. I ordered on Saturday evening, and it arrived Tuesday morning. No parking worries, no crowds, no hassle; great!!
Tim Collins, UK

I book all my travel on-line, I buy most books and CDs on-line too. I think the UK lags behind the rest of the world in terms of customer care - for example, I ordered a cook book from a UK chain on-line and a tee shirt from the Olympics website in Australia - the book shop charged me for delivery and after numerous phone calls I had to go to my nearest branch to pick it up - the tee shirt arrived after two days, with free delivery.
Graeme Mulvaney, UK


I have had nothing but excellent service from the online suppliers I have used

Peter Martin, UK
I have had nothing but excellent service from the online suppliers I have used and have no concerns about using them. On one occasion I used an American web site to buy a CD by an English band: the cost of the CD and the shipping was under 9, whilst in the shops in the UK it was 16! I have also managed to find CDs in America that I have been unable to buy here. As far as I'm concerned the Internet has revolutionised the way that I shop.
Peter Martin, UK

I have bought a few items over the net. Lastminute.com have been excellent. EmpireDirect were very slow to send me the item I ordered but when you are saving 150+ on a single item, sometimes it's worth the hassle. However bookmakers William Hill seem very willing to take my money but I never get any back. I'm obviously backing the wrong horses!
Colin, UK

Generally I have had pretty good experiences of shopping on the net. I have used Tesco Direct a few times without problems and bought travel insurance and concert tickets as well. But some things I would never buy on the net, things like a sofa or a bed, or clothes even, these are things I absolutely would have to touch and feel and try before buying, especially if they're expensive.
James Hoyland, UK


The only downside is delivery arrangements

Matthew Robertson, UK
I have bought many items on-line, including books, CDs, computer hardware and electrical items. I have never had a problem with any of the companies I've used (including DABS, Amazon, LetsBuyIt) and have always saved a significant amount of money over what is available in the High Street. The only downside is delivery arrangements as my partner and I both work full time.
Matthew Robertson, UK

In general I have found shopping on-line pretty easy and very handy, last Christmas I bought nearly all my presents taking the hassle of trips to busy shops out of the equation. Probably the only bad thing is if you do have a problem trying to get something done about it or when returning goods.
David Cumming, Scotland

I've never had problems with buying on the internet, and have actually saved a fortune on electrical equipment, DVDs or games.
Mark Cain, UK

The downside is the endless form filling, the upside is no travelling to the shops, queues etc. I do a great deal of online shopping for all sorts of products and have been more than happy with the various services I have used. I just have one rule - I never use sites that don't use an encrypted channel.
C J Hendrick, Goa (still on vacation)

Send us your comments:
Name:

Your E-mail Address:


Country:

Comments:

Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

02 Jan 01 | Business
Festive cheer for etailers


Links to more Talking Point stories