Shopping up a storm

Shopping has never been one of my favourite occupations and it only takes a few minutes of it to have an effect on my usually sunny disposition.

It was people like me they had in mind when they invented Internet shopping to enable me to complete the distasteful chore from the comfort of my office. I was scared that I’d get robbed so I didn’t get into immediately, but I’m now using it more and more.

I started out on the auction site eBay which I found is a rich source of vintage Durban-related postcards and other printed matter. I bought lots of stuff from any number of different sellers and the items have invariably been securely packed and dispatched promptly.

I’m not saying there are no villains on eBay but each seller has a rating based on what their previous customers have said about them. You can read customers’ comments about the seller and, in addition, the site has full details about how to avoid online pitfalls.

One of my favourite online shopping services is AbeBooks.com which is a site which collects together the stockholdings of 13500 new and used booksellers from around the world. In their catalogue are about 110 million books which means that they will have just about any book you could imagine.

You type in the details of the book you want and the site comes up with a list of the booksellers who have it in stock. Each entry has the seller’s price, a description of the condition of the book, and the shipping charges that will apply.

You pick the book you want and add it to your shopping cart whereupon you can carry on shopping, or proceed to the payment page. The system copes admirably with multiple purchases, even if they come from different sellers, and only charges your credit card once for the combined total.

I have used that site a couple of times with no problems at all. Another shopping site I have used many times is B&H Photo Video (bhphotovideo.com) which is a bit of an Internet legend for its reasonable prices and immaculate service.

I, and many other local photo enthusiasts got into buying photo stuff from abroad when we noticed that some products were radically cheaper that way, due to the hefty charges levied by middlemen in this country.

Not all brands are much more expensive locally but, in some cases, you can save thousands by ordering from overseas, even taking account shipping charges and the VAT you have to pay when the stuff lands in the country.

On the last two occasions I ordered from B&H, I’ve had my shipment in hand a week after placing my order. That’s just about as quick as going into a shop and ordering an item which has to come from agents in the country.

There are risks associated with Internet shopping but they can be minimised by bearing in mind that bargains which are too good to be true are probably too good. You can also go to resellerratings.com to check what sort of reputation your reseller has and, in the last resort, you can reverse charges on your credit card if you act within 6 weeks..

Internet shopping is so cool I’m wondering if it can solve my other shopping problems which include not being able to find clothing to fit, tins of decent bully beef, and, since Tiger Brands introduced a crappy ‘improved’ recipe, XXX mints.

I remember Trebor Extra Strong mints with great fondness from my time in the UK and I was pleased to find a website which sells British groceries; they’ve also got Fray Bentos bully beef. Watch this space for details.

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