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There are thousands of places online to buy jewelry, but the quality of those stores, their customer service and their products can vary greatly! This article will help you avoid those problems and assure a pleasant online buying experience.
- Is the store site secure? If you are worried about your personal information, like your credit card number, being stolen by hackers, just make sure the store has a real “Hacker Safe” certification, or something similar. You can check that by clicking on the certification logo and it should take you to a website operated by the certification service which confirms the store’s identity. If the logo is “static”, so that it does not direct you to such a page, then it is surely fake! Also, on the page where you enter your personal information, make sure that your see the “padlock” symbol in your browser as well as “https” at the beginning of the store URL shown in the browser address bar,
- Does the store have a reasonable return policy? You need time to receive the item and make sure it is exactly as described in the website. 30 days is fairly typical. You should expect the store to refund the entire cost of your item, less the original shipping charges, but it will be your responsibility to return the item at your expense. If the item was over $500, you might have to pay a small restocking fee to help cover the merchant’s credit card fee on your order (around 3% which does not get refunded to the merchant). In addition, no store will take back an item that you have scratched or otherwise damaged, or any item that has been engraved or rings that have been sized. So, read the refund policy on the store’s website carefully!
- Is the store reputable with a long-term history? You can gain some comfort by checking the store’s reviews in one of the shopping engines, such as Yahoo! Shopping, but not all stores participate in such ratings, because there are scores of shopping engines out there! Don’t be fooled by reading a review which actually applies to the shopping service, but not the individual merchant (Amazon is notorious for this!) Many stores will give summaries of customer’s comments on their website, so read those to get an idea of the store’s “flavor”. If you really want to get a perspective on the store, though, call their toll-free number and see if you get a human! If you get voicemail, it might mean that they are too busy to answer the phone, or it could just be a part-time business or a cell phone. Try again in an hour or two (during their normal business hours, of course!)
- Is the store accredited by the Better Business Bureau? If the store displays the BBB seal, you can click on it and see the store’s complaint history, and how long they have been a member of the BBB. This also means that they cannot display fake sale prices, which many online jewelry stores do! The “normal price” that those guys display is actually a “retail price” which nobody charges, even the old fashioned mom & pop jewelry stores! So, you really do not “save 50%”!
- Does the store provide accurate and detailed information about its products, or does it just show a picture and a 1-sentence description? Jewelry almost always looks smaller than the photo on the website, so it is very important that you check the dimensions of the item, so that you know exactly what you are buying. The item description also should always provide the gold type (14K? 18K?), the weight of the item (the more gold, the more expensive), the carat weight of the precious stones, and if diamonds, the clarity and color specifications for them. A photo of a platinum wedding band can look the same from two different stores, but the weight of the ring, and consequently it’s cost, can vary by 50%. And, a 1/2 carat diamond can vary by even more, just depending on its quality!
- Does the store offer services such as engraving and ring sizing, or do they just “sell stuff”? It takes a more significant investment of a store owner’s time and money to offer such services–a store that is just a guy with a cell phone is not one that you want to buy jewelry from! If you buy a ring from such a fly-by-night store, you will have to get it sized and/or engraved at a local jewelry store–expect them to charge more than they would have it you bought from them!
- Is the store a “drop-shipper”, or a real jewelry store? Many jewelry wholesalers, who do not sell directly to the public, will nevertheless “drop ship” an item directly to a jewelry store’s customer. That means that the “guy with the cellphone” can take your order and have it shipped from his supplier without ever touching your order! That might work just fine for buying a laser printer, but don’t buy jewelry that way! The reason is because a jewelry item can be shipped from the distributor in “less than perfect” condition. This can happen with the best of suppliers, so that is why it is important for your jewelry store to inspect, clean, adjust and/or assemble your item(s) prior to shipping them to you! So, how can you tell? Call the store’s toll-free number and ask them!
There are many online jewelry stores that meet most or all of the above criteria, so you shouldn’t have any problem locating a few! After that, compare the items you are interested in, you might find the same items in more than one store, so you can do a bit of price shopping. Don’t forget to check shipping prices, time from your order to when the store ships your order, sales tax (you won’t pay sales tax unless the store is actually located in your state), and cost of extras such as sizing and engraving. Happy shopping!