10 Embarrassing Online Shopping Fails to Avoid This Holiday Season

Christmas shopping using credit card and laptop
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I know what you’re doing right now. You’re aimlessly browsing the web at your desk on your lunch break. Or you’re scrolling through social media on your phone before bed.

Sooner rather than later, you’re going to end up shopping online.

Oh, you’re just browsing, you say. “I don’t need anything, I’m just looking,” you promise.

I know you better than that. I know because I am you. I shop online constantly.

It’s nothing to be proud of, I know. It would do me good to get some fresh air and sunshine.

But because I’ve experienced all possible online shopping fails already, my vampire complexion means you benefit from my trials and errors.

So before you settle down to do some holiday shopping, read this.

Please don’t make these 10 mistakes when you shop online.

1. Getting Fooled by Terrible Discounts

A markdown from $54.99 to $49.99 isn’t a real discount. It’s a ploy to get you to think it’s a good deal.

Being listed on the sale page of a website doesn’t mean something is worth your money.

2. Spending More to Get “Free” Shipping

We’ve all been there. You know you can get free shipping if your order totals more than $50, but your cart comes to $48.50. Can you find something that costs just $1.50?

I admire your dedication, but I will laugh as you sort the sale section from low to high trying to find something that works.

It’s time to step away from the entire virtual cart and rethink your original purchase. Would it be worth paying to have that original item shipped — and sticking to your original budget?

3. Not Abandoning Your Cart

Nothing triggers buyer’s remorse quite like getting a coupon in your inbox the day after you place an order.

Suddenly, you’re thinking about that item you decided you didn’t really need. You’re considering placing two orders from the same site in two days. This is real life.

Hold on for a second.

Some websites will send you promo codes every single day, no matter what. If you’re paying attention to those daily “deals,” you should unsubscribe right now. Save yourself!

But others will trigger an email coupon when you leave items in your cart and close your browser. One of our contributors tried this and found several “Did you forget something? Here, have a discount!” emails waiting for him soon afterward.

If you don’t need to place the order immediately, a short period of indecision (or “indecision”) can help you get a better deal.

4. Falling for Expensive Promoted Products

Marketplace websites like Etsy and eBay have tricked me so many times by placing advertised products in my search results — even when I choose to sort by price from lowest to highest.

Before you click on that attractive-looking item, thinking it’s in your price range, double-check for an indicator that it’s a promoted product.

5. Not Shopping in Incognito Mode

Did you know some online shopping sites will show higher prices for certain locations?

Shop in your browser’s private mode to avoid retailers switching up prices to try to get you to buy now.

6. Shopping While Intoxicated, Tired or Hungry

No. Do not.

That is how you end up with a skirt two sizes smaller than what you normally wear, because you think you might be able to fit into it eventually. It’s only $12, but it’s a final sale. Whoops?

You’re not going to fit into that thing unless you get food poisoning twice. Wouldn’t you rather keep your $12?

7. Not Doing Your Research

Never make an impulse buy based on the image of the item alone.

Did you read reviews for the product? (Bonus points if you can peep user-uploaded photos.)

Did you check the specs on expensive electronics to make sure you’re getting a high-quality item?

Did you check the clothing size chart?

If you can’t rattle off the reasons it’s worth buying that product right now, step away from your laptop. You’re not ready to buy!

8. Not Checking the Return Policy

A lot of online stores let you make returns, but some of them also make you jump through hoops before you can get your money back.

Before you buy, check the store’s restrictions on returns and find out how much it will deduct from your refund (for return shipping or restocking) if you send the item back.

9. Not Using a Cash-Back Program

If you’re not shopping online through a cash-back portal like Ebates, you’re missing out on free money! Most major retailers participate, and you can get up to 10% back on many purchases.

I like the Google Chrome Ebates extension that automatically detects if there’s a rebate I should get — and then accesses it for me in one click.

10. Not Getting Price Adjustments After You Shop

If a product goes on sale after you’ve already bought it, you can usually go back to the store and ask for a price adjustment.

Did you know you can do the same online? I’ve been using Paribus for about a year, and it does all the work of asking for price adjustments for me on sites like Target.

Paribus files price adjustment claims on my behalf, so I never have to deal with customer service. It also keeps an eye on my Amazon purchase history. If something shows up late, it gets me money back for the inconvenience.

Paribus compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.

Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder. She shops online a lot.