The Dos & Don’ts of Online Clothing Shopping: How to Avoid Returns & Scams

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Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

In the time of COVID, lots more people are shopping online for their needs rather than going to a store, and even if you do shop in person, there are limits to the availability of fitting rooms and returns might be impossible.

If you’re staying inside but still find yourself in need of new clothes, this post courtesy of guest author Jenny Bloom from ShirtMax will help give you tips on how to do so safely in an age of scams, fraud, and identity theft.


 

With more than 79% of Americans now doing at least some of their shopping on the Web, it’s become increasingly easy for cybercriminals to take advantage of online shoppers. Online shopping is fast, convenient and allows consumers to purchase just about anything without needing to brave large crowds or travel to other cities to find what they are looking for.

While most online transactions take place without any problems, people still fall victim to cybercriminals every day. Whether they are taken in by scams designed to steal their personal information or they are sold products that do not match their descriptions, shoppers can fall victim to numerous things when shopping for clothing on the Web.

Buying clothes online is appealing for numerous reasons. Whether you’re shopping for blank t-shirts, pants, shoes or accessories, the Internet boasts more selection than your local mall could ever dream of carrying, and the prices are often substantially lower than the prices found in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. It’s important to be aware of the darker side of e-commerce, though, and make yourself aware of how to avoid scams and returns. Here are a few dos and don’ts of online clothing shopping to help you stay safe on the Web.

DO: Shop from Home

It may be convenient to do some online shopping at your local coffee shop on your lunch break, but doing so makes you much more vulnerable to hackers. Even novice hackers can easily access public Wi-Fi connections and see everything you enter online – including your credit card number.

It’s fine to browse your favorite shopping sites while you’re at the airport, a coffee shop, a hotel or another public place with a Wi-Fi connection, but avoid entering any personal information until you are on your own secured network.

DO: Be Careful When Choosing Sellers

If you use Google (or another search engine) to search for products, be careful. Statistically, about three results on every search engine results page are fraudulent. Whenever possible, shop directly from a well-known retailer or directly from the manufacturer or brand you’re shopping for. If you are trying to find the best price, use a trusted price-comparison site.

Before entering any personal information on a website, take a look at the address bar at the top of your browser. The URL should always start with https://. If there is no “s,” it means that your information will not be transmitted privately once you submit it. Also, make sure any website you shop from has an SSL certificate.

DO: Shop Using Credit Cards

Generally speaking, credit card companies offer better protection against online scams. Whether you receive a product that does not match the description or you have your information stolen, they will normally work with you to help you recoup your losses when the seller refuses to cooperate. Using your debit card means that a criminal could gain access to everything in your bank account, and depending on your financial
institution’s policies, there may be little you can do if you fall victim to a scam.

Editor’s note: If you don’t use credit cards, double check your bank’s policies to make sure your debit card offers purchase protection. Shopping via PayPal Goods & Services also provides buyer protections. 

DO: Keep an Eye on Your Credit Card Bills

Pay attention to your credit card bill every month. Make sure only transactions you’ve authorized appear on your statement and watch out for recurring charges. If you notice anything suspicious, contact your credit card company immediately, as there are usually time limits for disputing charges. Also, make sure you’re only shopping within your budget and paying it off every month so as not to carry a balance.

DON’T: Use Your Personal or Business Email Address When Shopping

Having a separate email address to use for online shopping is highly recommended. In addition to keeping all those promotional emails out of your business or personal email account, you’ll be a lot better off if this email address gets hacked than if one of your main addresses does. Set up a separate account that is easy to access, and keep track of the orders you’ve placed, when they’ve been shipped, and when they arrive. Hang onto order confirmations until you’ve received your item and you are happy with it.

DON’T: Wire Money to Sellers

If a seller is asking you to pay by Western Union or a similar money transfer service, it is almost always a scam. Even if you order from an online auction site, you should only pay online using a credit card or a protected service like PayPal. If you wire a payment to someone, you have no way of getting your money back in the event of a problem.

DON’T: Provide Excess Information

When you place an order online, you should expect to provide your name, billing address, mailing address, phone number, email address, and credit card information. If the site is asking for anything else – such as your social security number or your driver’s license number – it’s likely fraudulent. There is no reason why you should need to provide this type of sensitive information when shopping online for clothes.

DO: Shop Eco-Friendly

Unfortunately, shopping in general isn’t the most conscientious thing we do. Products are
typically kept in plastic, fast fashion is bad for the planet, and mass-produced boxes aren’t always properly recycled. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help lessen the overall carbon footprint. Shop from secondhand consignment shops, like ThredUp, to help save the planet. Plus, you’ll normally find a sweet deal and save a couple bucks.

DON’T: Fall Victim to Scams

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. When you stumble on a website selling designer clothes in the latest styles at a fraction of their normal
price, it’s extremely tempting to load up your cart and submit your credit card information. Chances are, though, the deal isn’t as good as it seems. Entering
your credit card information may do little more than fund a scam artist’s next shopping spree. Or you may find out when your order arrives that you purchased
counterfeit clothing or accessories.

Scoring great deals is one of the best parts about shopping online, but when looking at prices, be realistic. If the price seems too good, it’s probably a scam in one way or another. When you’re shopping for products in bulk such as wholesale shirts, you can expect to pay significantly less than you would pay when shopping retail. Avoid scams by only ordering from established wholesalers with strong reputations for quality and customer service.

Conclusion

With more and more people turning to the Web to shop for clothing and other products every day, it’s becoming increasingly important to be vigilant. There are a lot of people out there who make their living by stealing from others, and they love targeting unsuspecting online shoppers. Exercising caution when ordering online, however, can help you avoid returns and scams while protecting your bank account and personal information from cybercriminals.

About the Author

Jenny Bloom is the Marketing Manager for ShirtMax. When she’s not spending time with her three daughters, husband and two dogs, Roscoe and Boone, she’s creating content on fashion, online shopping and saving money on clothes.

4 tips for maximizing clothing storage when you don’t have closets

Happy Thursday! Did you take my challenge last week? I would love to hear all about it. I made a concerted effort to connect with my partner and really focus on him for a few moments at the beginning and end of each day. This week in particular has made a big difference on my mood and outlook throughout the day. Spending some time waking up together, instead of me slinking away to get dressed for a workout in the dark, has made me a happier person these last few days. Those moments are more important, in the grand scheme of life. I will never wish “If only I hadn’t spent so much time sharing my love with him…” so I call this challenge a win, in my books.

How did your challenge go? (If you’re just reading, last week I challenged readers to perform a small action each day for a week to improve their lives – such as drinking a glass of water upon waking, spending a minute to hug and kiss their partner or children when they get home, eating a serving of vegetables, etc. Go check it out!)

This week, I’m going to bring it back to your garden variety minimalism themes and talk about how to cope when you lack closet space. Many of us live in small spaces and lack storage space. I, personally, find this to be a blessing in disguise, because it means I have to be very particular about the clothes and items I keep around. They must really be things that I love if they make it to the prime real estate.

We don’t have closets in our master bedroom. There is a linen closet and a couple of storage cabinets on the landing outside our bedroom, which are being used for linens, the laundry hamper, workout equipment, unmatched socks, and craft supplies. The small spare room/office near our bedroom has one closet, but it’s housing my boyfriend’s nice button-down work shirts and some shoes. (Stay tuned for “How to live with a non-minimalist.”)

What can you do when you don’t have a lot of closet to work with?

1. Store clothes in a dresser

My first order of business when I moved in was to procure a dresser or two. Co-human had been using a downstairs spare bedroom to keep his clothes in a dresser and closet, but I prefer having clothes in the bedroom. I found a set of dressers at a local antique shop and purchased them for a great deal. One dresser is more horizontally oriented with three long drawers – these house partner’s underthings and socks, tee shirts, and backup tee shirts, respectively. The other dresser is taller with four short drawers. I have two: underthings and socks, and tee shirts/workout clothes/misc. The other two are for my partner’s workout shorts/towels and pants. (Side note: I have now written and read the word “dresser” so much that it no longer looks like it’s a real word).

Keeping clothes in a dresser, bureau, or chest of drawers is a great way to keep clothing contained without needing to hang them up. This works well for pants, sweaters, workout gear, tee shirts, socks, and underwear, but some things really need to be hung to maintain their shape and avoid wrinkles, such as dress shirts, slacks, dresses, or blouses.

2. Hang clothes on coat hooks

The more minimal you keep your wardrobe, the better for this example. If you only have a few “nice” items that you need to keep on hangers, you could hang them from coat hooks on the wall. This would be a great option if you only keep a few articles of clothing (think Project 333) and want to pre-make some outfits to wear.

Do not use this option if you have cats, dogs, ferrets, or other pets that might climb up your pant leg, pee on your hemline, or chew your sleeves.

3. Use a wardrobe

We bought two Ikea wardrobes to put in our bedroom for clothing storage. This solution made the most sense for our needs. They were about $100 each (plus gas and mileage to Pittsburgh and a burger lunch) and fairly easy to assemble. I put them both together. They have a shelf at the top, on which I keep folded pants, tank tops, leggings, and sweaters. They have one rod, which comfortably fits all of my clothing besides the things in the two dresser drawers. I still only have about 50 items in my wardrobe, but there are some things I recently culled from the pile and need to donate.

4. Be a nomad

You could always live out of a backpack and just have two pairs of pants, five shirts, and some socks and underwear. Hey, it’s an option.

How do you compensate for lack of clothing storage?

Multifunctional clothing: The cozy

Cardigan Cozy

It’s a cardigan.  It’s a jacket.  It’s a cowl neck sweater.  It’s off the shoulder.  It’s even a scarf.  More than ten sweaters that take up the space of only one — interested?

As minimalists, we strive to detach from the need to obtain physical items to make us happy.  Giving up fashion trends is one way we can clear out our mental clutter.  If your closet is full of stylish cuts in neutral tones and/or colors that work for you, why stress over what’s in this season?   Relax in the knowledge that being comfortable and looking good is always in style, even if you don’t rush to the stores with the changing of seasons.

However, one article of clothing that appeals to me as a minimalist

Off-the-shoulder Cozy

is this sweater.  It is the Swiss Army Knife of outerwear.

If you have six minutes of your life to spare, I invite you to watch this video that shows the multitude of ways in which the DKNY Cozy can be worn.

As fall approaches, I am getting excited about wearing sweaters.  This Cozy has me daydreaming about how I could replace two or three items from my closet with just one, and that definitely appeals to me.  In my wardrobe now are two sweaters, two cardigan-style long sleeved tops to go over layers, and one black shawl.  I could easily replace one of those items (possibly more than one) with a Cozy.

Jacket Cozy — One of my favorites.

I ordered a less expensive version from Amazon, and I like it.  I’m not exactly the size of this model so I can’t do a lot of the wraparound styles, but I have so far been successful with the cardigan, cowl neck, and a front-tie.  I will get some photos up soon — I was unable to get some in time for this post!

Does anyone have a DKNY Cozy? What do you like about it?  Is it worth the investment? 

Photos from the DKNY Cozy App for iPhone.

New closet, new rules

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As described in an earlier post, Cleaning out the closet, I pared down my wardrobe to 50-ish items before moving from my mother’s house to my own flat.  I am slightly ashamed to say that I did rescue one sweater from the purge pile, but I did add another shirt to the purge pile in its place.  I also have a plan to make sure I only possess the articles of clothing I actually wear.  I am going to share that strategy with you now!

I put my hangers in backwards.  Every article of clothing in my closet went in on a backwards hanger.  As I take out items to wear them, and they go back into the closet, the hanger gets reversed to the “normal” position.  At the end of a certain period of time, whatever is still on a backwards hanger gets donated or sold, because I’m clearly not wearing it, so someone else should get the chance.  Some of the things in this closet have the tags on, and they were purchased months ago. Yikes.

Tee shirts are in an under-bed storage bin, all facing down.  As I wear them, they can get put away facing up.  I rarely wear tee shirts so that should be an easy purge in a few months.

Typically, I sort by color, but I sorted my clothes by type this time.  Tank tops, short-sleeve blouses, pants/shorts, dresses, sweaters, dress clothes.  I think, for dresses, pants, shorts, tanks, and short-sleeves, I will re-evaluate in six months and take a look at what I wore and what I didn’t.  For sweaters, obviously I’ll need some colder weather before I evaluate that. Ideally I would like to own only one suit, but my mother (she should get her own tag) assures me that, in case one pair of dress pants rips, I should have a backup.  And a backup for my backup.

I’ll wait a few months and probably pare down the dress clothes too.

I would like to — ideally — end up with a color palette of “stuff that goes with black” or “stuff that goes with brown” and not have to deal with both… for now, I have blacks and browns and I love them both.  Baby steps.

Cleaning out the closet

I started my journey to less with my closet. And dresser. And chest of “off season” clothes.  I have too many articles of clothing.  Pants and tops that don’t fit — and haven’t in years, pants too long that I meant to hem, clothes I bought so I could get over $25 to use a coupon in a store, clothes my mom suggested and that I went along with because, according to her, they looked good, but that weren’t my style in the first place and I have subsequently only worn each of them once.

I enlisted my sister to help and we went through all of my (clean) clothes.  I didn’t count the dirty hamper, I figured I actually wore the stuff in there so it was pretty safe.  My goal: To pare down my wardrobe to 50 articles of clothing.  Socks, underwear, and bras don’t count.

Started with: 11 tank tops, 15 short-sleeved tops, 9 long-sleeved tops, 24 tee shirts, 3 blazers, 1 suit, 10 pairs of dress slacks, 1 pair of khaki pants, 5 pair of jeans, 10 sweaters, 5 sweatshirts, 1 vest, 3 shawls, 4 dresses, 6 cardigan-ish coverups, 1 pair of leggings, 4 pairs of shorts, and 1 satin cape.

Ended with: 5 tank tops, 8 short-sleeved tops, 7 tee shirts, 2 blazers, 3 pairs of slacks, 3 pairs of jeans, 5 sweaters, 1 vest, 1 shawl, 3 dresses, 3 coverups, 1 pair of leggings, 2 pairs of shorts.

After doing laundry I will post the final count, but for now I have pared down my wardrobe from 114 articles to 44.  Mission accomplished.

The most surprising thing about my clothing purge was that it wasn’t even difficult.  I had been holding onto sweatshirts and tee shirts (I found a whole cache of them in storage in the basement that weren’t counted here – probably 15 more) from high school and college and graduate school, always intending to turn them into a memory quilt.  But I finally realized that if I hadn’t gotten to making that quilt over the past several years, I probably wouldn’t ever get around to it.  So I tossed the sweatshirts and tee shirts.  I don’t even really like sweatshirts!

The items I kept are items that I can layer for different looks and occasions, and that are simply designed – I only kept a few tops with patterns.  Part of the reason I had so many blouses and pairs of slacks is that my graduate degree is in educational administration and I had intended to end up in an office at a college or university, rather than the jeans-and-sneakers every day position I wound up in an office at a chemical manufacturing plant!

The ease of the clothing purge was inspirational, and I thought I could finally tackle my growing library of books taking up several boxes in my mom’s basement.