Date:         Mon, 6 Nov 2000 19:47:06 +0000
Sender:       The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace
From:         Bob Rankin 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 02 Nov 00 - Safe Shopping Revisited
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              TOURBUS Volume 6, Number 31 -- 2 Nov 2000
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      TODAY'S PLUS BUS STOP(S):  Safe Online Shopping Revisited
Howdy, y'all... do I sound Southern?  This is Bob, sending out the
Nov 2nd TOURBUS on behalf of Patrick, whose computer crashed.  He
wishes you a happy belated Thursday from beautiful Tuscaloosa, and
we wish him a healthy motherboard.
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On with the show ...
With the holiday shopping season now in full swing, I thought it would
be a good time to take another look at something that we talked about
this time last year: how to SAFELY purchase stuff online.
Analysts estimate that online shoppers will spend anywhere between
US$10 billion (Forrester Research) and US$32.96 kajillion (Crispen)
this holiday season.  Before you rush out and join the throngs of
people crowding the leased lines of your nearest cybermall, you need
to take a few moments to learn how to avoid getting ripped off online.
Fortunately, the nice folks at the American Bar Association have
created a free Web site that shows you how to decrease your chances of
encountering trouble as you shop online.  The site is called
"" and you can find it at . is divided into 10 short sections ranging from
"Security" and "Privacy" to "Complaints" and "Tips."  I *STRONGLY*
recommend that you visit and read each section. is a
primer for online shopping, asking questions that you need to answer
before you purchase anything online.  For example, the security
section asks the question "how do you tell if the Internet connections
are secure" and then shows you how to answer that question (by the
way, if your connection is secure, you credit card information will be
scrambled so that no one else can see it).  The "Terms" section asks
the question "What are the legal terms of your purchase" and then
shows you where you to look to find information about the legal terms
(warranties, disclaimers, and so on) of your purchase.
My suggestion is to start in the "Security" section and read all of
the subsequent sections in order.  The information on the site is quite brief -- can you imagine that? LAWYERS
actually wrote something that was BRIEF! -- so it shouldn't take you
more than a couple of minutes to read all 10 sections.  Despite its
brevity, though, SafeShopping.or is essential reading for ANYONE
thinking about making an online purchase this holiday season.
The BBB's Safe Shopping Online Report
Another great safe shopping guide is the Better Business Bureau's free
"Safely Shopping Online" report at .
I particularly like the report's "Quick Checklist" of common sense
tips you need to follow when making purchases over the Internet:
     - Don't Rely on a Professional Looking Website as Proof of a
       Company's Quality or Good Reputation.
     - Investigate a Company or Seller Before You Buy.
     - Find Out Where a Company is Physically Located to Help Avoid
       Overseas or Offshore Scams.
     - Never Give Out Your Bank Account Number, Credit Card Number,
       or Personal Information Unless You're Certain a Company is
     - Pay for Your Purchases by Credit or Charge Card which can be
       Protected Under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
     - Start with a Small, Inexpensive Purchase to See How the
       Company Handles Your Order.
     - Find Out About a Company's Return and Refund Policies Before
       You Purchase.
     - Always Use a Secure Internet Browser That "Encrypts" or
       Scrambles Your Personal or Financial Information.
The FTC's Consumer Protection Guides
While we are on the subject, let me also put in a plug for the US
Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Protection Web site at .
The FTC offers literally HUNDREDS of free consumer and business
education guides on topics ranging from advertising and automobiles to
telephone services and tobacco.  Bookmark this site, folks.  I could
spend an entire TOURBUS post talking about the wealth of information
available on this site.  Instead, let me highlight just one of the
many pages in the FTC's site: the Holiday Shopping Tips page at 
This page, like most of the pages in the FTC's site, has links to both
text and PDF (Adobe Acrobat) versions of some of the FTC's most
popular consumer protection reports.
Checking Up on Ecommerce Merchants
The Better Business Bureau recommend that you "Investigate a Company
or Seller Before You Buy."  But how do you do that?  Well, I'd start
by reading an article that Jesse Berst wrote last year titled "E-Shop
the Smart Way This Holiday."  You can find that post at 
One of the resources that Berst mentions is Forrester Research's
ecommerce Power Rankings at
Forrester Research shows you the highest rated e-commerce sites in 12
market segments:
     1. Books                           7. Electronics
     2. Flowers                         8. Health
     3. Computing                       9. Apparel
     4. General Merchandise            10. Toys & Games
     5. Airlines                       11. Movies
     6. Brokerage                      12. Music
On the PowerRakings homepage, you'll see the top five e-commerce sites
in each market segment.  Click on a particular market segment (like
Computing) and you'll see even more sites in that segment.  To get
an even more in-depth look at how the sites in a particular segment
compare against each other, click on a market segment and then click
on the "View by these categories" link on the bottom right hand side
of the page.  This shows you each e-commerce site's score for cost,
customer service, delivery, features and content, transacting, and
Where do these scores come from?  Well, Forrester Research
      tests all aspects of the eCommerce experience by opening
      accounts, conducting financial transactions, researching and
      buying products, contacting customer service personnel, and
      returning purchased merchandise. This series of tests is
      performed in a consistent and rigorous manner for all of the
      selected sites.  Finally, the Forrester shopper's experience and
      the consumer data are synthesized to generate an overall
      [quote from a pop-up window on the PowerRankings homepage]
To investigate a company or seller before you buy, just hop on over to
Forrester's Power Ratings page and see how that company or seller
compares to others in the industry.  And if the company you are
investigating isn't listed by Forrester, you might want to think about
taking your business elsewhere.
That's it for today.  Have a safe and happy week, and we'll talk again
on Thursday-ish.  :P
   Safe Online Shopping Revisited
PARROT (noun).  One who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without
commission from a sovereign nation. (from
USAGE: "This building is called the parrot's den because this is where the
parrots divided up their loot after hijacking ships in the area"
[Special thanks go to Kathy MacGregor for today's word]
You can find all of the old Southern Words of the day at 
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