For a long time I've thought I should write up a list of tips/common mistakes that I see online shoppers make. Since it seems like all the commercials and news reports are Christmas shopping happy already (sheesh it's barely November) I thought this would be a good time for that. From my years operating a pretty busy Etsy shop I've seen same issues over and over. I know I wouldn't have thought about some of these things when I was just a shopper so I hope that these are helpful to some of you.
- READ THE WHOLE LISTING I know that some descriptions are long. You can skim them, but make your eyes look at all the words. A good listing will give you an idea about sizing, shipping times and more. When shopping online reading the words and looking at all the pictures is the same as picking up the product and looking at the details or trying something on. One time I bought a notebook and didn't read the whole listing so I didn't realize until it arrived that it was much smaller than I was envisioning but when I go back to the listing sure enough it had measurements. As a seller I get customers emailing me all the time wondering about shipping time frames when my listings all have that information in them.
- VERIFY THE TIME FRAME, SIZING AND OTHER DETAILS BEFORE ORDERING hopefully all these details will be included in the listing. If not check the policies or announcements section of the store (etsy has both of these, most other online retailers have something similar). If you don't see these details message the seller BEFORE you place your order. I've got my shipping info in each listing and in my policies but a few times a week I've get messages asking if an item has shipped (often 1-2 weeks earlier than the scheduled ship date). I also get panicked messages about upcoming events customers need the item for, I try my best to accommodate them when I can, which a lot of times means me rearranging my schedule. But if I had been asked before the order was place I could probably have done it faster and with less stress for both of us. But what usually happens is a week or more passes and the person needs it in the next few days so if they're lucky I have to drop everything and they usually have to pay express shipping or if I'm too swamped I have to say sorry. Even if you're not shopping for an event or your event is quite a bit out, if the time frame isn't clear ask. Try to think of questions you have BEFORE you order and if you don't find the answer ask.
- USE REAL CONTACT INFORMATION I know a lot of people use a junk email address that they never check for online transactions but as a seller I want to beg you not to do this. For most of my orders people have to tell me what size they want. They forget all the time. I have to email multiple people each week to ask what size they want. Some never respond I'm assuming because they don't check their messages. On etsy there is a conversation/message system. If you use etsy you should have your convos forwarded to an email address you use or make a point to check your convos. When there's info missing I send a convo, if I don't here back I send an email. And a week later if I don't hear I do it again, if I remember. This Halloween I had three customers who ordered costumes that didn't include sizes and never responded to my messages so they didn't get costumes and I had to cancel their orders. One emailed me 2 days before Halloween asking where the costume was. I had already canceled the order since I couldn't even start making it because I didn't know what size to make it. One time I ordered a kitchen gadget that I wanted really bad and fast. They ended up emailing me to tell me it was out of stock and they were canceling my order (totally lame right?) but if I used a junk email I'd have been stuck waiting and wondering for a long time.
- INCLUDE NECESSARY INFORMATION related to the tip above, if you get to pick certain details (like size, color, etc.) make sure you include it. On etsy there's the spot to do that is in the notes section when you check out. And for goodness sake please make sure your address is correct and if on etsy that your etsy and paypal addresses are the same. If you forget some info or notice that an incorrect address is there message the seller right away with the correct information and if they don't respond follow up in case they have missed the message or in case the message go put in their spam folder.
- CHOOSE FROM THE OPTIONS AVAILABLE so this may sound like a weird one but I get a lot of orders for sizes I don't carry. Either too big or ambiguous. In bottoms I sell 6-12 months and 12-24 months so when people write 12 months I'm not sure which they want and I have to email and hope they'll reply. I imagine with other option based orders similar problems can arise. Look at the options and wordings included in the listing and pick one of them. If you actually want an option not obviously describe (for example a different color or different size) ask before ordering.
- INCLUDE ANY RELEVANT DATE I recommend including the date you need the item by (if there is a date) even if it's after the time line stated. Emergencies pop up and especially with the smaller shops like on etsy, the shop owners usually do everything so if something comes up they don't have someone to cover 'her shift'. If you've included that you need it by a certain time you'll probably be given priority. I know plenty of people who feel comfortable using online shopping last minute but I personally don't advise it, things happen, people are human, and the post office makes mistakes. Unless you're willing to pay a whopping 18$ for express shipping plan ahead.
- ASK QUESTIONS Finally feel free to send a message if you have a question. But before you do that please please please read all the info. Read the listing description fully, the policies, the shop announcements, if you have a confirmation email read that and anything else you can find. Most sellers are happy to help but if they've done a good job with the listings and other literature your question may already be answered there. I spend hours (yes hours) every day responding to messages. It'll save both of you time. But there are plenty of times when you just need to ask so whether you just a little anxious and need a personal confirmation, you have questions about possible customizations, are hoping to make a certain deadline or anything else ask away.