Safely Shopping Online
Self-isolating or locked down and new to shopping online?
These are certainly unprecedented and uncertain times we live in today. Before we jump into today’s blog topic, we at Sheridan Art and Designs would like to thank and applaud the truly heroic efforts of all those responding to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. First responders, medical personnel, hospitals, health organizations (i.e. WHO and CDC) and the thousands of makers out there that have risen to the occasion and are doing what they can to contribute to supporting the fight against this pandemic. Thank you. Wow, you are all inspiring and amazing heroes. Thank you.
As the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic it can leave one feeling lost at how to do our normal activities, such as exercise, staying connected with loved ones and colleagues, and yes, even shopping. Even in today’s world of technology, there are many people who have never shopped online. The very real threats and concerns about identity theft, breach of privacy, or selling one’s information to marketers, prevent many from feeling safe and secure enough to shop online. Today we are sharing a few tips on how to be safer and smarter about where you shop online and with whom you share your personal information. Your online purchases help support local artisans, small family-owned businesses, creators, and makers around the world, which are some of the people greatly impacted by the loss of income during this time.
Here are some quick tips on selecting from whom to buy online:
1. Only purchase from secure websites:
a. You can quickly identify a secured website by looking in the upper left corner of the browser url address line. If there is a padlock symbol, this site is secured.
b. Secured Sockets Layer (SSL): Vendors who utilize SSL to secure any data collected on the website would either display an https:// at the beginning of the URL address on a payment page or you will see a notice such as this:
Most reputable sellers make it easy to contact them. They will display their address, phone number, and usually an info@ email address for you to be able to get in touch with them. If you have questions don’t hesitate to contact them via email or even call during normal business hours. Some things to look for on reputable sites are:
a. Do they respond reasonably with information requested?
b. Are they transparent about stock levels, pricing, and products they carry?
3. Consistency of vendors:
Look for consistency in the vendors a website uses. Keep with the manufacturers you know and trust for you first time shopping online, you will be more likely to spot a counterfeit listing if you already use products from a certain company (ie. Maywood fabric or Deb Tucker rulers). Once you've ordered from a website and know they are legitimate, you can branch out with your purchases and try new brands or products.
Also look for websites that have:
a. Well-known vendors in the industry
b. They sell a variety of products from reputable manufacturers (ie. they have multiple fabrics from the same brand)
4. Beware of 3rd party sellers:
It’s perfectly ok to use 3rd party sellers (ie. ebay, Etsy, etc.), we only suggest, “buyer beware”. Know exactly what you are buying, is the price reasonable and do you trust you will get it once you’ve paid for it? Is there an avenue for you to get your money back if you never receive your order?
5. Look for licensed products/ don’t buy counterfeit:
$600 billion is lost each year in the US alone due to counterfeit products, copyright infringement, and intellectual property theft. Have a favorite pop-culture icon you want? Ask for licensed products to ensure the protection of copyrights of artists and creators. If a product is licensed, you should be able to find it on multiple sites. Ask for the maker, collection, and product specifications, if these are not prominently displayed on the site.
If you are really unsure if a fabric is officially licensed or not, you can visit the manufacturer’s website (ie. Camelotfabrics.com). Although you will not be able to purchase for retail purposes from the manufacturer, you should be able to find their fabric lines or licenses listed on their site, so you will know if a fabric you found online is legitimate.
6. Pictures on the site of the vendor:
Look for photos on the vendor’s website that ring authentic of trade shows and events they have attended. Look at their social media accounts for a strong following, longevity and respectability in the industry. Research a company’s reputation in their industry.
7. Avoid purchasing from sites with unclear terms and conditions:
Be careful of purchasing from sites where the terms and conditions are unclear. Other things to be wary of are prices that are “beginning at…” or “starting from...”, inventory signals such as “only 1 left and going fast!” These are common marketing tactics to make you feel a sense of urgency in ordering, or to make products seem less expensive than they actually are.
8. Be wary of photoshopped product images:
In this day and age of social media influencers, it can sometimes be hard to tell what is real and what is a photoshopped image. If you see a product at a price that looks too good to be true, it most likely is. Many scammers and counterfeiters will take an image and photoshop a fake product into it, offer it at a great price and then take your money and run. If you can’t tell if a product image is photoshopped, do a Google image search (copy the image and paste it into the Google browser search bar and hit enter, look at results on the image tab). If it is a legitimate product, you should be able to see results from multiple vendors. Also, counterfeiters will often use the same image with a different product photoshopped in, so look for this too.
Buying online can be a fun, safe and secure activity if you take a few precautionary steps. Look for small businesses with strong reputations to support. Ask around in your community if there are local artists or makers that you can support through patronage. Artists and artisans have uplifted our communities throughout history, even through the darkest of times. If you are able, toss a coin to your artists…..