ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Online shopping is favored by millions of Americans who would rather shop from their couch than at the store. Valentine's Day is less than a week away and countless shoppers will surf the web to find something for their sweetie.
But beware before you click. You could be buying nothing but trouble.
Chris Thetford from the Better Business Bureau joined with a warning.
BBB tips for buying Valentine's Day floral arrangements and fine jewelry online:
Showering significant others with thoughtful and sometimes expensive gifts has become Valentine`s Day tradition. More than two-thirds of North America consumers shop online on a regular basis, and better business bureau handles more than 10,000 complaints each year about internet shopping. Although you can`t beat the convenience of getting what you need at the click of a button, all too often, consumers find what they ordered is not what they get. Worse, many websites are total scams that take your money and don`t send a thing.
How can you be certain the websites where you shop are legitimate?
To avoid heartbreak, Better Business Bureau has advice to consider when buying floral arrangements and fine jewelry online. Some consumers have reported disappointment when items aren`t of the advertised quality, fail to arrive on time or at all.
• Do your homework. Before ordering flowers, jewelry or other gifts for valentine`s day, check out the company`s BBB business profile at bbb.org.
• Allow time for shipping and delivery. Check with the retailer or website to be certain that you have allowed enough time for delivery. Make sure that your preferred delivery date is specified clearly and guaranteed when you order. If you order ahead of time, delivery and other charges will be less than last-minute or overnight shipping. Some florists and jewelry retailers offer discounts for deliveries a couple of days before a major holiday, since that helps them deal with the rush.
• Have a backup plan. Make sure you understand a store's guarantee and other policies. Find out how customer complaints are handled and what recourse you will have if the floral arrangement or jewelry is not satisfactory. It`s best to use a credit card when ordering online, because you can dispute charges if the vendor doesn`t satisfy you. Charges made on a debit card are the same as cash, and you may have no recourse through your bank if there is a problem.
• Make sure the business has your information. When it comes to flower and gift delivery, there are times when delivery instructions need to be confirmed or a delivery driver needs additional directions. Making sure the florist or retailer has a call-back phone number to help them make sure your loved one gets what you expect.
• Check for trade organization affiliation. Companies belonging to an association are likely current on the latest industry trends and committed to quality work and products. Find out if a florist is a member of an association like the Society of American Florists. For jewelers, being part of organizations such as Jewelers of America can be a good sign.
• Read the description. Often, pictures can be deceiving, as online retailers tend to take photos that make items seem more attractive than they truly are. Florists may make bouquets look fuller. Jewelers may attempt to hide flaws or actual stone size. Make sure you know what you're getting.
• Be aware of hidden costs. Look for added fees like shipping, handling and delivery. Review your order and verify the total before confirming your purchase.
• don't be deceived by promotions. Valentine's Day is a popular time for online promotions, but most have terms and conditions. Check that you're getting savings you want.
• Track your purchases. When using a third party to deliver flowers, it's hard to tell when, and if, they have been delivered. Sign up for confirmation emails so you have proof the order was placed and an alert when the order has been delivered.
• Know standards of quality and pricing. Precious gems such as diamonds and rubies are priced according to carat size, clarity, color and cut. Floral arrangements are priced by the number of stems and whether or not a decorative vase is included.