Tips For Online Power Shopping


Betty is making her list and checking it twice.

She’s got grandchildren scattered across the country to shop for, but she’s not heading to the crowded malls to fill those wishes – she’s taking a few steps to her computer in the spare bedroom.

With many websites offering free shipping and gift-wrapping she can make sure she gets the gifts under trees in PEI, Montreal and Calgary in time for Christmas morning, all with just a few simple clicks.

For those just wanting to get their shopping done quickly, sites like Amazon.ca, ToysRUs.ca and HBC.com can get your list polished off in seconds. But if you want a little more adventure, dive deeper into the web to seek out the savings down south.

With the US buck dropping down the backside of a rollercoaster hump, Canadians are flocking to the web to get their Christmas shopping done.

More times than not, shopping online usually means hitting an American site. However, some of the bigger players aren’t available to Canadians. Saks.com, Nordstroms.com, Nike.com, Macys.com and others won’t ship to Canada.

Unless you have a PO Box in Blaine, or a brother in Seattle who will take your shipments for you, you’re out of luck.

If you’re looking to buy online here are the sites to get your research done right:

Google Product Search helps act as a barometer for price to see what kind of benchmarks you should be looking for when making a purchase. Some of the sites it links to could be a little sketchy, but if you’re just trying to ballpark a price on, say, a digital camera, this is a good place to start.

Once you’ve set your price and site, there’s still a chance to save some extra money with e-coupons.

Retail Me Not is a great site to search for discounts and coupons for online retailers. Some codes aren’t always valid, and could be expired, so along with the coupon code, the site lists the success rate from users who’ve tried them.

If you use the Firefox web browser, there’s a handy extension to include in your searches. Everytime you hit a site that has potential coupons, a RetailMeNot note pops to try and save you some coin.

Before you head over to your chosen e-tailer to make your buy, a quick stopover to Woot is in order. Woot is a clearing house that offers up great bargains on tech toys – with a catch.

The site only features one item for one day and it has limited quantities. Every night at 11:59p central, the site switches it up with a new item, and a new deal, but only for that one day.

So great are the deals, an entire subculture exists with Woot Trackers and Wootaholics helping people keep track of the items with online reminders.

Of course you always have to look to see if you can find it second hand for cheap before you buy new. Craigslist and eBay are the old standbys and still the best bets.

Be careful if you’re using eBay to sell some of your useless stuff for a little extra Christmas cash. Americans may not be aware of the current state of their currency and could recoil with sticker shock when having to pay extra to convert to loonies. Shipping fees are also more expensive heading south, than they are coming north, another negative which could scare off the bargain hunters.

Really eBay is a buyer’s marketplace for Canadians right now, selling isn’t providing the lucrative returns of the past.

Finally, reading the fine print for your online order is very important. Depending on how your order is shipped across the border, you could be in for a little bit of sticker shock

I recently bought a Livestrong cycling jersey online from Lance Armstrong’s foundation. The shirt was $90, the brokerage fees, duties and taxes totaled an extra $50. I didn’t read the fine print, and I got dinged.

There is no real way to avoid these fees, other than having an item shipped to a US address and just declaring the item yourself when you cross the border.

Betty’s avoiding the surprises by keeping it simple this year. It’s her first kick at shopping online so she’s sticking to the big Canadian sites and smacking smiles on her family from coast-to-coast.

[From Vancouver View Magazine, December 2007]

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2 Comments

  1. […] I’m an online kinda guy. Y’all know that. I’ve written articles on how to get the best bang for your online buck and I’ve been shopping over the internets for years and years and years and […]

  2. December 10, 2008

    I have found Canbuy.ca to be very handy too. They list only Canadian friendly merchants. They also have coupons and freebies just for Canadians.

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