Shopping around online for a good deal will often mean coming across shops which you’ve never bought from before…or even heard of! If in doubt, I’ll always buy from the place I can trust rather than the absolute cheapest place. But if I can do a bit of snooping to satisfy myself that a shop is trustworthy, and get the best bargain, I will. Here are the things I do (I don’t do them all every time, but I’ll want to see results from at least 2 of these checks):
ps. I’m using the example of Topclasscarpentry, who I bought a back door from after using these tips, although I’d never heard of them before. Turned out to be a great door! And a bargain.
If you get no joy there, then you might find a few reviews underneath the listing which comes up on the right when you just search Google for the shop name.
Another place to try is Topcashback. You don’t need to login, just click “I Just Want to Browse”. Then put the shop name in the search box: if it’s listed then click on the name and read any reviews.
2. Real-World Details.
Check if the website has a landline telephone number and an address. If they do, this is a good sign (but you shouldn’t trust that alone).
See if they’re also selling on Ebay by putting this in the Google search box: XYZ Ebay (instead of XYZ you use the name of the website you are researching). If they’re on Ebay – great, read their feedback. Consider buying from them via Ebay as you will have the protective measures which Ebay and Paypal offer, and the seller knows that you can leave feedback. Also, retailers often sell for a different price on Ebay – it might be cheaper.
See if they’re on Facebook. (Look for a link on their website or use Google again, putting this in the Google search box: XYZ Facebook). Hopefully they are active on there and you’ll get an idea of what people think of them by reading people’s comments.
Put this in the Google search box: Mumsnet XYZ. Mumsnet is such a useful forum, even if you’re not a mum (or not even female). Quite often you will find that at least one person has discussed the shop you are thinking of using.
Remember that if something does go wrong, paying by credit card and debit card offers safety measures for buyers, as does Paypal so be sure to chase it up. But the rule of thumb is if in doubt, don’t. Always use the cheapest retailer who you also feel safe with.