Friday, June 19, 2015

How To Shop Smart Online: Do's & Dont's

Hello my lovely readers,

This post has been in the back of my mind for quite a while and it feels good to finally put it out there. I’m pretty keen on online shopping and I often prefer it to in-store shopping. I feel like I can think through my purchases more thoroughly when I can easily compare prices and items with just a few clicks.

Now I’m the kind of person that rarely just goes shopping having done zero research beforehand. I’m pretty thorough with my pre-shopping work, I take things far too seriously to take any chances. I wish to make the best choices possible. Having ended up with a ton of unnecessary items only to take up space and cram my closet is a nightmare to me. I don’t like being wasteful. If this isn’t your thing and you look spontaneous shopping and don’t mind impulse buys then do your thing, by all means. But for those of you who are like me, I think there might be a couple of things to take from this post.

So as I mentioned before what’s so great about shopping online is that you can easily compare different prices and items on the spot in a fuss-free manner. You don’t have to go into ten different stores only to end up with something subpar that a pushy saleswoman made you buy. You don’t have to drive yourself anywhere, or go into a smelly changing room with bad lighting or stand in the huge line at the cashier. Even better, you don’t have to carry with you all the shopping bags while you’re exhausted from walking around too much. You just have to sit comfortably in your desk chair or lie on your bed like I like to do, search what you’re looking for and just compare your findings.

TIP 1: Make sure to read reviews.

A lot of stores provide reviews for their items. Forever21 US, Sephora, Marks & Spencer and many more feature user reviews for each item. That way you can get customers’ opinions on the fit, the material and the in-person appearance of the item. For those who like shopping makeup online, is your savior. Whenever in need of a real and honest review just head there. Bloggers and vloggers might be compensated for giving a good review, so they might not be as truthful. Makeupbyalley is where real, every day people chime in and share their raw view on the product, which makes the final rating so much more valuable.

TIP 2: Search for images.

The store will use all tricks to get the item to look more expensive and attractive. That’s what is tricky about online shopping. You’re never 100% sure what you’re gonna get. Sometimes it kinda feels like a gamble. With clothing it’s definitely trickier. But with makeup it’s easier to get a clearer view of what the product looks like in person. Just search images on Google of the desired product and you will come across many user photos. Make sure to check out multiple photos because different lighting/angles make for a different effect. You can also do a search on Youtube since a lot of users post videos of what the product looks like. If you’re looking for something that needs to match your skintone for example foundation or concealer, try They have a huge swatch list where you can find pretty much anything and they like to compare it to other brands’ shades etc. Just look up your current shade and see what else is similar.

TIP 3: Always consult size charts.

When shopping clothing, don’t just rely on the size number. Women’s clothing sizing is very unreliable, and although you might be one size at a certain brand you might be a different one at another, so make sure to check their size chart so you can see the exact measurements of the clothes.

TIP 4: Start out slow and don’t take chances.

If you’ve never tried a brand’s clothes or cosmetics don’t bulk buy at one go. Especially when it comes to clothing, where things are more uncertain, if you’re not so sure about how the item will suit you, then don’t take that chance. Try something a little safer, that you can tell it will suit your body type and once you get it in your hands and are satisfied with it then you can opt for something a little more daring. Of course there’s always the option of returning something if it doesn’t fit you but a. not all stores have that option and b. why not save yourself the hassle. When it comes to makeup or skincare, don’t buy too much from a brand you’ve never tried before because you might end up not liking it and there’s always that chance that you might be reactive to some of the ingredients.

TIP 5: When shopping for cosmetics, look up ingredients.

Most online cosmetic retailers offer info on the ingredients of each product. Look those up. Are you allergic to any of them? Does x ingredient harm acne-prone skin? Is z ingredient suitable for dry skin types? Don’t take risks when it comes to face products. Better be safe than sorry.

TIP 6: Not available in your country or the store that sells what you’re looking for doesn’t ship to where you live? Try amazon or ebay.

That’s not exactly groundbreaking advice but I hadn’t made use of it, until recently when I wanted a palette that I just couldn’t seem to find anywhere.

TIP 7: Search for promo/discount codes.

Lots of online stores have discounts that are running for a limited period of time but are not made known on the website. For example, search: “Forever 21 discount code” and see what’s available. There won’t always be a discount code but check just in case.

TIP 8: Don’t always get lured in by marked down prices.

A lot of websites seem to always have their products on offer. Or some websites tend to always give away coupons to bloggers and vloggers who share them with their viewers (and are of course compensated for that). That’s because these websites aren’t actually charging you less than the actual price of the item, but are marking up their prices and then marking them down to make it seem like they’re making you a good deal. For example instead of selling an eyeshadow palette for its original price which is 30 dollars, they tell you that the before price was 50 and that they marked it down to 30. That way they try to trick you into thinking that’s it’s a good deal and that you’re saving money when in reality, you just pay for the actual price. That tends to happen in store too (i.e. Physician’s Formula cosmetics are always on sale at Ulta).

TIP 9: Do not fall for the “EVERYTHING 20% ENDS TONIGHT”

Websites do this because of course they want to convince you that now is the time to shop, since clicking away means they might lose you as a customer. They will try to put up all kinds of attention-grabbing headlines so you will be persuaded that this is a once in a lifetime deal you don’t want to miss. Websites like Feel Unique, Dorothy Perkins and others have a sale pretty often, which lasts about 2-3 days, then comes back after a week or so. So keep an eye out, but don’t feel frustrated if you miss it because it will likely come back soon.

TIP 10: Read the product info.

Sounds pretty basic, but it’s not. A lot of times you see a cute top which looks lovely through your screen but when it comes in the mail, you realize it’s a rug. It happens a lot with more affordable brands (which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen with more expensive ones though), where the clothing/accessory item looks fantastic thanks to the lighting,  photo editing and the 6 foot size 2 model that wears it, but in reality you wouldn’t look at it twice if you saw it in store. So make sure you read the damn info box, check the material, the lining, the proportions. If a video is available where the product is properly demonstrated, don’t overlook it. Pay attention to the details, zoom in. By all means try to get a clear view of what the product’s really like.

TIP 11: If you’re unsure about the size, go for the bigger one.

If you don’t want to go through the pain of having to return something and order again only to end up with another useless item that doesn’t fit properly and if the size chart still hasn’t helped with deciding which size will suit you, then just pick the bigger of the two you’re looking at. The simple reason is that it’s much harder to alter an item that’s smaller and make it bigger than it is to make a bigger item smaller. A skirt that’s a bit to loose at the waist can be easily altered and cinched a little bit, whereas a skirt that’s too tight can’t become larger.

TIP 12: Paypal

Now I’m no economics/logistics expert, and I’m really bad with the terminology but I’ve been advised numerous times that Paypal is way safer to use for your internet transactions rather than just your credit card. Instead of giving your credit card number to multiple websites, where there is a certain risk, it’s much better to only give your card number to Paypal which handles all of your transactions on behalf of you. That way you can also see the history of your purchases and therefore, have a clearer view of what you spent and where.

TIP 13: Do not hesitate to contact customer service if you need anything, whether it be a clarification or a complaint.

This is again very crucial. Some companies have excellent customer service and are very willing to replace an item if anything goes wrong. So if your shadow palette came smashed, contact them immediately, send them a picture, and give them your order details. Definitely insist on what you want, and if nothing gives and they’re being very stubborn and unprofessional just flat out tell them you’re going to post about their bad service online and give them a negative review (never underestimate the power of social media). Just be polite and firm, don’t get rude or aggressive, that won’t do anything for you. If the company wants to survive they will listen to your complaint carefully and take care of it.

TIP 14: What you see is what you get. You can’t be charged for anything you haven’t agreed on. It’s the law.

Make sure to read all the info –I said this before in regards to the quality of the product- . They can’t charge you anything you didn’t consent to. The price you saw on the website is the one you should pay for, if they try to tell you otherwise it’s a fraud and it’s illegal. Be safe, read footnotes, read the small letters. Make sure you know what you’re getting. Do not trust websites that look sketchy.

 What’s the deal with all these Asian websites? (Sheinside, Choies, etc.)

To be honest, I haven’t shopped from these so I can’t comment. Their prices are ridiculously cheap, there’s no shipping fee even though they come all the way from China, the sizes are tricky, the images available for the items are limited and definitely not very enlightening. From what I’ve gathered these websites gained an audience via bloggers, Instagrammers and websites like Polyvore, by giving people free stuff in exchange for promotion. I have been tempted to buy from them, but I’m wary. I’d rather stick to what I know. Reviews all over the internet talk about extremely long shipping, inexistent customer service and items that don’t correspond to the pictures. If you have a different experience, please let me know.

Websites I recommend:

For reviews/opinions (beauty only):

Makeup Alley
Paula's Choice Beautypedia
Musings Of A Muse
Sali Hughes Beauty

For shopping:


Feel Unique
Beauty Joint
Beauty Bay (even better prices than Feel Unique)
Makeup Geek


Forever 21
Dorothy Perkins
New Look


  1. This is a great post! Thank you so much for all these tips!

    Michaela || The Monogrammed Midwesterner

  2. Hi, Athena! A great post for sure and I am an online shopper - I normally only buy things that way for years, going to stores normally bore me. So I agree with paypal, amazon for sure and reviews - although I, sometimes, know the brand and I don't go through reviews, but I agree it's my mistake. And yes, if anything goes wrong, post-sales service need to know and answer, for sure. Now, my experience with Chinese shops - I bought some things from them. They arrived and the quality was good. Choies - after 4 months, goods arrived. They didn't fit and I wanted to send them back. Well, I will write about them in around 2 weeks, I have already planned that. They refunded me, said I didn't have to send anything back and offered me a 20% discount for future purchaes. They were great, in my opinion. Now, DressLink. They offer items to bloggers and offered to me, too, upon a wishlist. I published the wishlist and they didn't like it, and after 3 days of free advertisement from my side, they told me they wouldn't send me anything. So I deleted the post and they didn't like it, got mad, very impolite emails. I didn't want to write at first,cause I certainly didn't need their items, so next time I will follow my intuition. BUT I have to write on my blog about them soon, cause I am honest and I did publish the wishlist as if I wanted the things, and I will tell it was my mistake. So, those were my experiences :) Hope they were helpful :)

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write about your experience! That was enlightening, I am very pleasantly surprised to hear about Choies, didn't expect that to be honest! Dresslink's customer service sounds ridiculous. You certainly should write about their terrible manners and service online and warn people about them. If word gets around they will soon regret their unprofessional behaviour. Again, thank you so much for the thoughtful comment! xo

  3. Oh, these are such great tips! I'm totally going to have to keep these in mind next time I shop online ♥
    Amy xx

    Little Moon Dragon

  4. I'm definitely going to go back to this post every time I get second thoughts when purchasing items online. Great reminders!


  5. I almost never order online, and when I do, it's from Sephora or Amazon lol. This was very helpful!


  6. Such a great post Athena; you can always find a discount code online for the UK websites which is good! I order most of my stuff online as its quick and easy and returns are generally free. xx

    Around the World in 80 Pairs of Shoes

  7. i do most of these things but i always still end up buying the wrong sizes haha! good tips :)

    danielle | avec danielle // giveaway

  8. Great guide for online shopping Athena! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Great post, love the tips!


  10. What wonderful tips. Thank you for sharing.

    Jenn | Jennifer Jayne


Thank you so much for taking time to read and comment on this post. I love listening to your feedback. Take care. XOXO