Tips for Safe Online Shopping

Not just the trend of buying goods and availing services online, but even the frauds associated with it are on rise. Technological advancement has given a major boost to e-commerce and other similar concepts, which revolve around computers and, more importantly, the Internet. The concept of online shopping is no more alien to anybody in the world.

Millions of people log onto shopping websites in order to make shopping a convenient affair. What they fail to understand though, is the fact that they are compromising on their security by not abiding by the rules that they need to follow. With so many cases of online frauds coming to light every other day, it is surprising to see people go on an online shopping spree without paying heed to their security.

Online Shopping Safety Tips

Online shopping fraud is a broad concept, which includes a range of activities, right from hidden charges and phishing to credit card scams and identity theft. Given below are some simple precautions that you can take to keep yourself safe.

Carry out your transactions from a secured PC: You need to make sure that the PC you are using for shopping online and related transactions is up-to-date with security measures, like anti-virus software and firewall. Being one of the most important advice as far as safe online shopping is concerned, this will help you keep those malicious programs out of your transactions.

Be well-versed with the website you use: You need to make sure that the website from which you are buying goods or availing services is authentic. Never go to random sites that feature in search engine results, or ones that you have never heard of before. Always go for popular websites, as the chances of you getting caught in any sort of web of deceit on such websites are negligent.

Never give away your personal information: You will have to provide some information while shopping online, however, you need to make sure that this is just the general information, like your name or contact number. Never give out confidential information, like your social security number, on online shopping websites. More importantly, never fill in any sort of information in pop-up windows, even if you trust the website. Maintaining privacy while shopping online is a must, as giving away confidential information can make you vulnerable to identity theft.

Go through the privacy policy of the company: A trusted website is bound to have its privacy policy covering all the points whereby the website would be legally bound to keep your personal details confidential and giving away the same to the third party would mean breach of contract with possible legal implications. If any website doesn’t have their privacy policy in place, it is better off to stay away from it.

Paying by credit card is wiser: Always resort to credit card for payment options. Though many of us prefer to use debit cards for shopping online, they don’t have all the security features that credit cards do. More importantly, if your debit card number gets stolen, it will give hackers total access to your account and result in even more difficult situations for you.

Before you order the product: You need to make sure that the transactions are secured and the shipping policy of the company is in the place. Cross checking the actual price of the product and the shipping charges with other companies can help you get the best deal. Make sure that there are no hidden costs in the shipping charges. You will have to take into consideration the actual price of the item as well as shipping charges, handling fees, and sales tax.

After you order the product: Never reply to confirmation mails which ask for your personal details. Make sure that you take the print outs of all the online transaction records, which you can eventually use as proof. Other than all your transactions with the company, it is wise to save the product description as well. Lastly, you will have to monitor the time required for shipping. It is very important to get well-versed with terms and conditions before you buy any product online.

If, by chance, you do end up having a bad experience, you can report the company to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the consumer protection agency in your area of jurisdiction. Considering that there are a number of phishing websites out there in the guise of shopping websites, it will take efforts from all of us to come together and make online shopping safe and secure.

Pros and Cons of Online Shopping

With increased use of Internet, more and more people are drawn towards online shopping. This means of buying products has gained immense popularity in today’s times. Earlier, Internet was only accessible to people of developed countries, but recent revolution has made it accessible to almost all parts of the world. With increased awareness, people now flock towards Internet for shopping. The concept of shopping goods through online services has been highly recognized and accepted, as it provides several benefits to the customer. However, every good aspect has a bad side to it and this is applicable to online shopping as well. The advantages and disadvantages of this kind of convenience shopping are listed below.

Advantages
The best part of online shopping is that you can shop from home. There is no need to go to the mall to purchase the item you need. You just need to order and it will be available right at your doorstep.
As you shop from the comfort of your home, you save on gas and time that would otherwise have been spent to reach to the nearest store and look for the desired product.
It is convenient and easy! You do not need any degree to learn online shopping. All you have got to do is, visit the website, search for your product and buy it. Your product is just a click away!
Shopping online gives you the privilege to shop whenever you want. The stores are never closed and you can do your shopping 24×7.
It provides variety to the buyer. You don’t need to jump from shop to shop to look for varieties of a product available in the market. The options available online are many and this is one of the best features of online shopping.
Shopping from malls and stores makes it difficult to compare between features and prices of products. Shopping through websites provides simplified comparison of products and helps in deciding which one should be purchased.
Many websites device special discount schemes from time to time to attract customers. You can always buy products under such schemes and save a lot of money.
It keeps annoying salesperson at bay. Aggressive salesmen often pressurize you to buy their products. This harassment can be simply escaped by shopping using the Internet.
Disadvantages
The first disadvantage is that there is a time lag between you making the payment and the delivery of the product.
You cannot try out the product before buying it. Many people like to try things out before making the payment. This feature remains missing when you buy a product online.
High shipping costs often add up to the total cost of the product. Companies usually set very high shipping costs, which add to the total expenditure. Also, if the product is shipped from another country, you are liable to pay extra taxes for it.
The payment mode may not be secure. With increased security issues, making online payment through debit or credit cards might be an insecure mode of transaction. It is therefore important to check whether the payment gateway is secured or not.
Possibility of product damage while shipping cannot be nullified. If the product received is damaged, it may again take several days for replacement or the company may not provide any replacement at all.
The ease of shopping can be extremely dangerous for shopaholics, as they may get provoked to buy many items at a time leading to unwanted expenditure.
The incidence of billing errors is high and if you encounter one, you will again have to follow a long procedure and wait for several days before the error gets resolved.
You need to have a debit or credit card to make a purchase. Very few websites give you the option of paying cash or check on delivery.
If you are trying this shopping method for the first time, I will advise you to get some tips for safe online shopping from your friends and relatives who have already tried it out, so that you do not make any mistakes. Also, weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself whether you would like to go for it or not.

Online Shopping Trends

Online shopping―what was once frowned upon has now managed to gain acceptance with open wallets! Yes, while in the past we hesitated ordering things online, and most importantly questioned the safety of letting out our credit/debit card details on the Internet, now due to the safe and secure online market, the skepticism has vanished to a great extent. A recent study done by eMarketer confirms the truth of this statement. Their analysis predicts the growth of online sales in the United States to USD 434.2 billion by 2017, from USD 225.5 billion in 2012.

The year 2009 saw an extraordinary trend. While most industries suffered significant losses due to recession, the U.S. saw a significant rise in online retail of 11%, according to a report by Forrester Research published in March 2010. This just shows the popularity of the trend of online shopping in the past few years.

Online Shopping: From a Luxury to a Trend to a Necessity

The 90s proved to be historical for Internet shopping when the world was introduced to the ‘World Wide Web’. The pioneering online shopping sites such as Amazon and eBay were launched in 1995, and they still continue to reign the kingdom of online retail market. Among the initial steps in Internet selling was the selling of books. What started as a trial-and-error strategy―with many people wondering the feasibility of the success of web shopping―today, has become a revolutionary industry worth billions!

With the consumer population becoming more and more tech-savvy, and with the technological excellence that has led to safe, secure, reliable, and satisfactory online transactions in the recent past, most people prefer to avoid the chaotic crowd of shopping malls, and opt for shopping from the comfort of their homes.

The Internet was once an option, and is now a necessity. Likewise, the virtual market has become more than a facility; it is now, in fact, a necessity. With irresistible advantages such as 24X7 access to shopping, free shipment, and home delivery, the online retailers have managed to acquire some loyal customers. Forrester Research state that the United States online retail industry is likely to be worth USD 279 billion in 2015.

Factors That Have Made Online Shopping a Trend

From the 90s till now, gradually people have accepted virtual shopping to be an easy and affordable way to get hold of things ranging from luxury items such as smartphones and laptops, to everyday items such as grocery and stationery. More and more stores are opening their own websites to enable consumers to shop online. There are various external factors that have contributed to the rising inclination towards virtual shopping.

The Social Media: While browsing through social network sites such as Facebook, have you noticed the ads that are displayed on the right hand corner of the webpage … attracting you towards the trendy branded clothes, jewelry, scents, and footwear? With sellers joining the social networking sites and creating their own pages, a study shows that almost 60% of online buyers used social media to discover, like, and follow retail sites in the past year. This strategy definitely helps increase the pace of product exposure with features such as like, share, recommend a friend, reviews, and more.

Smartphones and Tablets: With the increasing user base of smartphones and tablets, online shopping is not just confined to sitting in front of a PC. If you know what you want, shopping can be done while eating your lunch, while traveling to your work … while on the move! Another survey depicts that almost 10-15% of Internet traffic comes through mobile devices. A trend known as “show rooming” has been on the up lately. The buyers visit the physical retail stores to check out the products, browse the products online, compare prices, check the reviews on the websites, and buy the same product from an online retailer offering the best deal. Mobile apps of these retail stores also help the consumers know about the latest stock and sale going on, subsequently increasing the customer database and sales.

Crowded Shopping Destinations: While researching on shopping trends during Black Fridays, I came across various consumers who preferred shopping online rather than going out in the crowd with no parking spaces! This just shows that customers not only find it more comfortable, but also less chaotic to shop online rather than traveling all the way to the rushed shopping destinations, especially during sales. This drift has encouraged physical stores to focus more towards their service and hospitality to make customers’ shopping experience more comfortable and satisfactory.

Tech-savvy Users: Another contributing factor towards the hype in online shopping, is the majority of population becoming increasingly tech savvy. A fair amount of credit goes to the effort of sellers making online shopping not only a comfortable, but an overall safe and fun experience with alluring features such as cash on delivery, free home delivery, replacement plans, low price guarantee, gift cards, customer reviews, and more. In fact, many online retailers also give consumers an option to try their selected clothes, apparels, and footwear at home, and offer to do the necessary changes. There are also customer service numbers which enable the consumers to contact these retailers to clarify their queries. With all these features, online shopping has made the experience less complicated and tiresome for the users.

No Geographical Limitations: The one factor that has worked the most in favor of virtual shopping is the fact that users have multiple options that are not confined to any geographical boundaries, as is the case with physical stores. For example, if a book you need is not available in your city, you have no other option but to wait. In case of online shopping, if one website doesn’t have that book in stock, you will definitely get it on other websites. Also, online retail stores give you an option to set an e-mail alert when the product is in stock, so that you may complete your purchase.

What Lies Ahead …

By analyzing the aforementioned factors, it is evident that the virtual trend of shopping would only flourish in the near future. Unless the bricks-and-mortar stores don’t adapt to recent trends in e-commerce, and prepare themselves for the competitive strategies to attract online buyers, the future of traditional shopping seems to be under a potential threat. It is inevitable that online stores will have to become a compulsory feature of each and every traditional store that wants to be in the competition. In fact, a business website―which was an “added feature” till the recent past―has now become a prerequisite. Each and every business, other than retail stores is launching user-friendly and attractive websites to enable their customers to ask queries, make appointments, sales, cancellations, and the like, all through the website. With these strategic changes, buying and selling online is transforming from a luxury to a necessity.

Considering online shopping to be a solution for all shopping-related hassles would not be right. Like any other area, virtual market has its own cons, the most important one being the lack of a “physical presence”. At the end of the day, we humans are social beings, and shopping is considered by many, a means to socialize. It is normal for us to want the presence of someone who would approve with our choices, or help us make the right choice among the many options before us. Virtual shopping makes us “physically” more isolated.

Who would’ve thought, a few years ago, that the Internet would evolve from being something physically non-existent, to something that has now become an integral part of all the dominating aspects of our physical lives? The unlimited access that the Internet has provided to its users has made them more aware about the market. When it comes to online shopping, the most powerful marketing tool―the word of mouth―is what works the best. With social media, mobile apps, review sites, and sharing features, online buyers have become significant contributors in the total sales revenue. The target of the market is to find buyers and follow them where they are. Promotional ads and coupons are sent to consumers online; while offline, mobile messages are steadily delivered to their inbox, keeping them aware about what is “in store” for them. The world is functioning the quick and smart way, and e-commerce is a perfect example for reaching out to consumers even while they are busy and on the move.

Things You Should Never Buy Online

‘Have money, will spend’, is the mantra of today’s consumers. They have become savvier. They believe that money can buy happiness, and turn to retail therapy very often. Bummer, I know! But this is the truth, and with the boom of eCommerce, shopping has become very easy. No more trying out clothes or those nosy salespeople. Just pure indulgence without burning a drop of fuel.

But there are some things which cannot be bought through the virtual window, and you will have to visit a brick and mortar store for such items. You may ask ‘Why’? Well, it is because, at these stores, you physically get to see, touch, and feel the products, and even can haggle a little. But with online shopping, you miss out on this experience.

I agree that ‘most’ of the products that you get online most probably have a better price. True! But most, not all! Therefore, to save you from the pitfall, Buzzle has made a list of things you should never buy online.

Clothes

Shopping online for clothing can really be a bad experience. You don’t get to see the actual colors, you don’t get to feel the material, you cannot try out the outfit, nor can you bargain. I don’t see any point in giving up all these experiences, just to wrestle with an online-ordered pair of jeans that won’t ride up past the knees. Apart from the humiliating feeling that the ill-fitting clothes leave us with, there comes another ‘easier-said-than-done’ task of returning the clothes and getting the money back.

I won’t say that you will run into bad or badly-fitting clothing every time. Some websites are authentic, and provide ample information so that you can make correct choices. But picture this! You walk into a clothing store, and just walk out with the first pair of jeans you see. Does this happen? Absolutely not! You go through a strenuous process of choosing the perfect length, width, and fit, by trying them out. I’m left with no choice but to wonder, how this process can be bypassed with a click of a button.

The above-mentioned scenario is applicable for all types of clothing. But I would like to make a special mention for intimate clothing. They are meant to fit snugly, and can be quite a nuisance if they don’t. Therefore, when it comes to clothes, as far as possible, try to stay from online shopping.

Footwear

Footwear is something that can make or break your entire look, and is really tricky. You need to have precise judgment of the correct size. While choosing the correct size of footwear is important, comfort level is also equally essential. These are the two determining factors for choosing the right footwear.

When surfing through shopping websites, you may have come across conversion charts for sizes, as they are used in different countries. You know that your shoe size is 8. But what you may not know is that, shoe size 8 with one brand can be 8½ or 7½ with another brand. And you would only come to know about the ½-inch difference, when you receive the big box in your mail. The ½-inch difference would be nothing less than torture, when you stand or walk in your brand new shoes.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that footwear should be tried out properly before purchasing. Through the virtual shopping screen, you can only ‘see’ the size and ‘guess’ the comfort level, right?

Makeup

While most websites promote clothing and footwear as their primary selling points, makeup comes in as a close third. Makeup should always be tested for the correct shade or the right color, before finalizing the deal. And this is especially true for the cosmetics that are required to be applied on the face. If you select a shade of foundation that is either too light or too dark, you may end up looking like a painted stork. The idea is to look natural and not made-up.

Secondly, if you see a new product and order it, chances are, the product may not suit you. Your skin may break out into a reaction or allergy. This is the main reason a patch test is always recommended. While there are policies where you can return the product and get your money back, the discomfort caused to the skin cannot be compensated.

The only case where you can safely grab a deal is, when you know a particular brand and a particular shade suits you properly, and you have used it before.

Big Brands

Flaunting a ‘Givenchy’ clutch or a ‘Dolce & Gabbana’ tote gives a boost to the ego, and you feel as if you are on top of the world. But these brands are ridiculously expensive, and owning them is a pain. But what if you get a ‘non-Saint Laurent’ bag in less than $200, which would pass off as an original? You would quiver with joy and order it impromptu.

The same rule applies for luxury brands in perfumes and sunglasses. You can never make out the difference between an original and a knock-off. The reason I’m saying this is, if it was an original, how would something that costs $1,600 be sold at just $160?

But as I said earlier, not all websites are misleading. Many of them are authentic. If you are planning to buy a luxury brand, make sure you visit their official website and order from there. Do not opt for third-party websites. But the best bet would be visiting a store in person, and buying it directly.

Electrical Appliances

Large and fragile, that is what they are! Electrical appliances usually cost a fortune, and imagine spending on something that you haven’t seen or even touched. One more thing that needs to be kept in mind is, if you would be using the appliance everyday, it should be tested before it reaches your doorstep.

You also need to be aware of the fact that, if the website is cutting down the price on a product, it may make up for it by including an exorbitant shipping and delivery charge. If you must buy online, select trusted websites, and check the reviews of the product. Also make sure that you inquire about the ‘damage during transition’ expenses, and the ‘return back’ policy, as some websites do not cover these.

Heavy Items

When I say heavy items, I want to include all those products which you plan to spend the big bucks on. Furniture, cars, and all other heavyweight items that are difficult and expensive to deliver, should never be purchased online. Furniture needs to be checked in person, and a car should be test-driven before purchasing.

There is another drawback with heavyweight items. If after getting it delivered, you find that the product is damaged or faulty, you can return it and get your money back. But what you will not get back is the shipping charges. Therefore, if an item is expensive to get delivered, and equally expensive to return, you will incur a loss and have nothing left in hand to show for.

Medicines

Even if you go wrong with the above-mentioned items, the mistake wouldn’t be as major as the one that would occur if you go wrong with medicines. Buying medicines online is a complete no-no. You are going to risk your life if you do so.

There is just no way to ensure their safety, the seals could be broken, they could be tampered with, contaminated, or even fake. Worse still, the website selling these medicines could be unlicensed. You never know what you may be consuming, and from where they are coming.

Your browser can buy medicines, but it doesn’t have the degree. So, let the doctor and the local medical store be the best option. Bottom line-never purchase medicines online, even if they are over-the-counter drugs, and you are very familiar with them.

Online shopping need not be stayed away from completely. This write-up is only to encourage you to think twice before finalizing a purchase, and be very certain of what you are buying online.

Tips for Buying Kids’ Toys Online

If you have ever been to a toy store with a child, especially during the holiday season, you would know the hassles of choosing the perfect toy for the kid. The crowds, your screaming kid, searching a particular toy from the millions available, and the long lines at the counter are sure to drive any parent crazy. Moreover, at the end of it all, you probably realize that you ended up buying a toy that you did not want. Instead of facing all these hassles in a brick and mortar toy store, a good alternative is to sit at home and order the toys online.

With a few mouse clicks, you can find the best toys for your child at really good prices. You can research the different types of toys based on the child’s age group, know about their popularity, check for safety and recalls, and compare prices to get the best deal. The best part is that you can do all this from the convenience of your own home. While buying kids’ toys online is quite easy, there are certain tips that can help you make a better choice. So, whether you are looking for a hot new holiday toy or looking for the perfect birthday present, here are some things that you need to consider when buying online.

What to Consider When Buying Toys Online

What and For Whom Do You Want To Buy

Since there are thousands of toys for children, the first thing that you need to do is decide for whom are you buying the toy for, and what you want to get. This eliminates the possibility of picking up a random item that the child may not even like. You need to pick a toy that is age appropriate. Toy references and gender of the child can also help you narrow down the choices and makes it easier for you to search the toy online. You also need to establish a budget before you start shopping online.

Browse Good Online Toy Stores

Look for a good online toy store that has a good selection of toys and is easy to use. Some popular online toy stores such as Fat Brain Toys have facilities such as ‘The Gift Bot’ which allows you to choose gender, price, age, and even where the toy is manufactured. A good online toy store should have:

▣ A wide selection of toys
▣ Extensive features and easy to use
▣ Search features that let you select a toy based on age, gender, price, brands, category, interests, and theme
▣ Related products such as party items, décor items, and toy storage
▣ Safety and recall information of the toys
▣ Wide variety of payment options such as online payment, gift cards, credit cards, or cash on delivery
▣ User reviews and ratings
▣ Help and support features such as live chat, email, online help, local phone number, and customer loyalty programs

Check Toy Safety and Recalls

When buying a toy, do check the product safety and watch out for recalled items. Most of the popular online toy stores have toy safety warnings and recall information. For example: A toy with small parts will have a ‘Choking Hazard’ warning. Some stores also accept returns on recalled items as long as you have the proof of purchase. Check the recall/return policy while shopping for toys online. You can also check websites such as recalls.gov, nhtsa.gov, and cpsc.gov for product safety and toy recalls.

Compare the Prices and Deals

Check different toy store websites as some sites may have discounts on the product. Some toy sellers also keep a lower profit margin, and hence, offer the same product at a huge price difference. While checking the prices you will also want to keep an eye on discount coupons. Most of these coupons are highlighted on the seller’s website itself.

Check the Shipping and Payment Options

When shopping online, you need to consider the shipping charges as well. Some sites have lower shipping charges or shipping discounts on the purchase of multiple items. Other factors that influence the shipping cost are the distance and weight of the product. While some online stores offer a flat shipping rate, others can charge variable shipping fees based on the product weight and the distance. You also need to consider the payment options such as credit cards, online payment, and Paypal.

How to Buy Toys Online

Add to Wish List or Cart

Browse the site to select the toy you want to buy. Once you have zeroed in on the toy you want, click the ‘Add to Cart’ option. If you are planning to buy the toy later, then save it to your wish list by clicking the ‘Add to Wish List’ tab.

Create an Account

If you do not have an account with the online store, you will need to create an account. To do so, you need to provide your email address, phone number, and the address for billing and delivery. Once you have registered, you can log in using your password.

Payment

Choose your preferred payment option. Most sites offer credit card or PayPal payment. If you have a gift coupon or a discount coupon, then the details need to be entered as well. Most sites also accept gift cards. When processing the payment, the shipping costs would be added to the price of the product.

Order Confirmation

Once the payment is done, the order is confirmed, and you get a payment summary and confirmation code. In many cases, a copy of this information is sent to your mailbox as well.

Track and Cancel Orders

You can track your order by providing the order number and your details. The order details are stored in your account section of the website. In case you need to cancel the order, do check the site’s policy about cancellation and refunds. Call the customer service representative and keep the order confirmation code handy when canceling the order.

Return and Refund Policies

Check the stores refund and return policy. This is extremely important if you are buying the toy as a gift. Most stores will accept refund as long as the item is in its original packing, and you have the confirmation slip.

Popular Online Toy Stores

★ Toys “R” Us
★ Fat Brain Toys
★ Disney Store
★ All Aboard Toys
★ Ty’s Toy Box

Of course, you can always shop at Amazon, or find some great deals online on Walmart and Target websites. With online shopping becoming so easy and convenient, it is apparent why people, across all income scales and age groups, prefer buying toys online. Since web toy retailers are jostling to gain popularity, prices are pushed down. This certainly is good news for all the bargain hunters out there who want to buy the best toys at attractive prices.

10 Online Clothing Stores Like Hot Topic

Why do we love Hot Topic so much? The answer strikes in a heartbeat― Hot Topic was one of the first stores to offer us apparel and accessories that were different from what we were used to. Music-inspired clothing, and clothes that reflected our love for comics, movies, retro culture, grunge, and other awesome stuff were exactly what Hot Topic gave us, and it is no wonder that Hot Topic has such a loyal fan base today.

The story of Hot Topic goes back to 1988, when the founders knew something different was exactly what was needed to revolutionize the world of teenage apparel. They were right! Hot Topic clothes are popular among people of all ages today, all over the world, as these clothes are perfect for those who love standing out from the crowd. However, this brings us back to our original question, what happens if we have a lot of friends who own the same Hot Topic apparel as us? Sometimes it may feel a little strange if we run into people wearing the same clothes as us. The answer is, like we said, alternatives to Hot Topic. These stores are similar, and yet different, and some are more affordable than Hot Topic. Read on for a list of alternative online clothing stores, in no particular order.

Spencer’s
What originally began as a mail-order catalog in Easton, PA, is now a major retailer brand that has over 500 stores across the US and Canada. Spencer’s offers amazing and quirky apparel and accessories for boys and girls hovering in the 18-24 age group. From hilariously captioned t-shirts to superhero pajamas, this store has it all.

Start shopping @ Spencer’s

Plasticland
If Hot Topic is for teenagers, Plasticland is for quirky adults who prefer being different wherever they are, be it at a party, or even at work. Plasticland prides on its amazingly stylish apparel and accessories with a hint of the rock, pop, and retro cultures. Started in San Diego, California, more than a decade ago, Plasticland is for women who don’t like to stay limited. Check out their awesome jewelry collection!

Start shopping @ Plasticland

Romwe
Looking for a store that offers both classy as well as edgy clothing? If yes, then look no further. Romwe offers some seriously cute apparel for girls who aren’t afraid to explore the different styles of fashion. If you’re not interested in buying clothes at the moment, this store has phone cases, bags, sunglasses, swim-wear, and jewelry too! Based in China, Romwe offers free shipping all over the world. No minimum purchase required. OMG!

Start shopping @ Romwe

Too Fast
“Wanna fit in? Shop elsewhere.” Wow! With a motto like this, everything here is sure to be different and edgy, and to totally make you stand out. Punk clothing, tattoo t-shirts, and apparel for both boys and girls that’s inspired from vintage, rock-n-roll, and army styles is what this cool brand specializes in. Too Fast is also involved in resale of stuff that is really hard to find now, and they have a wholesale site as well!

Start shopping @ Too Fast

Glamour Kills
If you feel put off by the name, feel un-put off immediately. Set up by a fresh high school graduate 9 years ago in a modest New York basement, Glamour Kills today is a successful brand offering cool apparel for both boys and girls. This brand is definitely your source for vibrant, edgy, and yet subtle clothing. As they say themselves, their work reflects a rock-n-roll edge with chic modernism. With a catchy name and catchier designs, you’re sure to enjoy shopping here.

Start shopping @ Glamour Kills

Merchnow
This store is for those music lovers who are only looking for music-inspired clothing and accessories, and nothing else. Merchnow is a popular online store specializing in everything that is inspired by different music genres such as punk, rock, metal, and indie, from apparel, to CDs, to posters. This store has something to offer for both boys and girls.

Start shopping @ Merchnow

ToastyCo.
Witty captions, funny prints, quirky designs, and chic styles for men and women― that’s what this store is all about. Another very remarkable and catchy thing about ToastyCo. is that they give their customers a free packet of Skittles with orders of t-shirts and sweatshirts! Yes, you read right! How’s that for a sweet deal?

Start shopping @ ToastyCo.

Blue Banana
Since 1997, Blue Banana has tried and succeeded at providing clothing and accessories that are seriously un-mainstream. (Yeah okay, I just made the word up!) This store calls itself the home of alternative fashion and specializes in clothing that is inspired by punk, rock, goth, and street styles. Blue Banana also has countless music-inspired apparel choices for music lovers.

Start shopping @ Blue Banana

Rock Rebel
Like the name suggests, Rock Rebel offers rock-inspired clothing for both men and women. Based in CA, this company has been popular for its alternative, rock-inspired fashion for over 10 years. Rock Rebel now encompasses several different brands, all of which are popular for their cutting-edge styles and totally cool image.

Start shopping @ Rock Rebel

Infectious Threads
Infectious Threads prides itself upon having limited collections which ensure that its customers don’t all end up owning the same things. Based in Nevada, Infectious Threads has been creating alternative fashion apparel and accessories for men and women since quite some time now. This store also prides itself upon its low prices and an amazing selection of alternative styles to choose from.

Start shopping @ Infectious Threads

Fashion is really an individual style, and if alternative is your thing, these stores are the way to go. The best part is that you can browse through all these and more from right where you are, and you’ll get them delivered at your doorstep as soon as possible! Plus, all these stores are very helpful and accommodating if and when you need to return or exchange a product. We hope our list of clothing stores like Hot Topic could help you. If we’ve missed out on any amazing store, you can of course let us know through the comments section below! Happy shopping!

10 Online Transaction Alternatives to PayPal

Handling cash transfers through the Internet is no longer a novelty since the meteoric rise of online payment solutions. Brilliantly organized, to begin with, they help you send money, receive money, make payments for shopping, pay the bills, etc. And while we are at it, undoubtedly, PayPal is one of the prominent names that pops up in our minds. Of late though, the Internet is ablaze with a number of alternative websites like PayPal, and judging by the consumer onslaught, by all means, they are almost as effective. If you intend to experiment with these options, go through some of the best PayPal alternatives enlisted in this write-up.

Online Payment Solutions
To begin with, understand the working of an online payment service.
To process payments online, you need a payment gateway and a merchant account.
A payment gateway is a go-between the bank system and the website. The financial and personal details of the consumer are provided through this medium.
The merchant account verifies the authenticity of the financial and personal details.
It also checks if there are enough funds available for transfer.
When a customer pays through the online system, the gateway sends the information securely to the merchant account.
Once the information is verified and proved correct, the payment is made and the consumer receives a notification.
PayPal, as already mentioned, is a renowned e-commerce service that allows easy payment transfers.
Alternative Solutions to PayPal

Payoneer

Established in 2005, Payoneer is currently used in more than 200 countries.
It provides refillable debit card service apart from online payment transfers.
You are provided with a reloadable prepaid MasterCard. Card activation requires a payment, though account creation is free.
A maintenance fee is also charged per year, around USD 30.
You can transfer cash from other credit cards and banks once your card is activated. The card can be directly used at ATMs and other purchase points.
Website: Payoneer

Paymate

Paymate was launched in 2001 in Australia.
Paymate OnTheGo is one of its innovations launched in 2012, and is a credit card reader that allows acceptance of MasterCard and Visa cards.
Payments are accepted in US, Australian, and New Zealand dollars as well as European and British currency.
It is highly recommended by eBay as a safer option than many other online payment systems.
It is primarily used by sellers in Australia and New Zealand to gain access to international buyers.
Ironically, buyers need not have an account here. Their financial details are handled with utmost security as well.
Sellers are required to pay a minority fee for using Paymate.
Website: Paymate

Skrill (Moneybookers)

Skrill was originally called Moneybookers and is based in the United Kingdom.
Launched in 2001, this e-commerce business boasts of attracting more than 2 million registered users within just one and a half years.
Payment transactions are allowed in more than 40 currencies.
Customers will be required to have an account with the company website, and register their personal details.
Skrill accounts recognize users through their email addresses. And once registered, the customer cannot alter the same; it can be done only by the site.
Skrill VP offers extra features, like earning points, multi-currency accounts, tokens, etc.
Skrill offers Escrow payments and fax-sending features as well.
Website: Skrill

Google Wallet

Google Wallet is mainly used in the US, and is primarily for merchants, i.e., money cannot be transferred to other users.
It is more of a mobile payment system, and is used extensively with the help of near field communication (NFC) for faster payments.
Not more than a year ago, Google Wallet and Gmail were integrated to allow payments via Gmail attachments.
It works with most of the mobile devices, including Apple, Motorola, LG, and Samsung.
It works with MasterCard and Visa, and has innumerable merchant locations.
It has a reasonable amount as fee, and money for transfers can be sent directly from your bank account.
Website: Google Wallet

Amazon Payments

This service was started by Amazon and is available for other sites as well.
It is a fairly good credit and debit card processing platform.
Reportedly, the site does not accept any other integrated payment system.
This payment method can be used by users to purchase goods from other sites.
The best part about Amazon Payments is that it does not charge you anything. You can transfer money via any account, send money to several retailers – everything is free.
The only seemingly minor drawback is that, you cannot withdraw an amount more than USD 10.
Users can checkout using their regular Amazon account, irrespective of the payment transactions.
Website: Amazon Payments

Stripe

Stripe accepts all kinds of payments.
Unfortunately, users may be required to have a little knowledge about website coding to understand the site better.
Also, for every successful transfer, you will be charged 2.9% of the amount in addition to 30 cents.
Stripe works brilliantly with most of the credit and debit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and more.
With Stripe, the checkout process takes place on your own site, i.e., you don’t have to go to the company site for the same.
Shopping carts like BigCommerce and Shopify are integrated with Stripe, and product transaction is made much simpler.
The site is brilliant for developers, and is customized accordingly.
Website: Stripe

Dwolla

Dwolla is one of the best alternatives to PayPal.
It is one of the most cost-effective sites as it allows free transfer below USD 10 and charges just 25 cents for transfers above this limit.
It is very quick and allows immediate cash transfer.
However, the service is available only in the US, and requires both user accounts to be Dwolla accounts.
As per recent statistics, Dwolla has more than 6,00,000 customers.
Website: Dwolla

WePay

WePay is an excellent online payment site for small businesses.
It has the same fee structure as PayPal – it charges credit card payments with 2.9% of the transaction and 30 cents.
It is reputed to have outstanding fraud detection services, which makes it stand out from the others. It also has great customer service.
Customers can purchase goods and services without having to leave the site.
Users can create accounts very easily on WePay, and the checkout options are very convenient as well.
Website: WePay

Authorize.Net

Established in 1996, it is one of the oldest online payment gateways, and of late, has been used as a convenient option to PayPal.
This service allows users to access payments through their IP (Internet Protocol) connection.
The site has more than 4,00,000 merchant users.
It has fairly good fraud protection and security services.
Not surprisingly, the site has received the Achievement in Customer Excellence (ACE) award for five years in a row.
Website: Authorize.Net

Braintree

Established in the year 2007, Braintree basically caters to merchant accounts.
In the year 2013, the company was acquired by PayPal, in essence, eBay (PayPal is a subsidiary of eBay) in a multimillion deal. However, it still runs as a separate payment service.
It is reasonably priced and has a fairly simple user interface.
It is available for most of the globe and in almost all currencies.
It has some unique integrated features, like customer support, multiple language options, etc.
However, it requires the users to have some programming knowledge to configure the site and use it appropriately.
It has a quick checkout option and recurring billing services.
Website: Braintree

The above alternatives are purely based on consumer usage and are subject to variation, but they are quite reliable. However, Paypal is one of the most popular payment systems available online. You are completely at liberty to choose whatever payment service you wish to. A word of caution though, do not take a dramatic leap. Continue using PayPal while experimenting with the other sites. Once you are confident of the others, slowly reduce the dependence on PayPal.

A List of Top 9 Comparison Shopping Engines

Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs) are also called comparison shopping websites or price comparison websites. Let’s take a look at the top comparison shopping engines, which drive most of the product sales and revenue through search engine listings and web ads.

Comparison shopping engines list down products based on their price, and also lets the user filter them out based on features, shipping, and other options. CSEs list the products vertically, and hence, belong to the category of vertical search engines. To get listed, a seller must sign-up with them and then submit a desired product feed format. These websites can then automatically source and list data from these feeds into different listings.

Google Shopping
It was launched as Froogle in 2002, and is now the most popular CSE around, driving maximum clicks and revenue to the e-tailers listed on it. Advertisers not only benefit from the huge traffic that it receives, but also get enrolled in Google AdWords―a PPC advertising program―and their products get more exposure when they show up in the search engine results page (SERP).
Official Website: Google Shopping

Shopzilla
This was founded in 1996, and is considered as one of the top comparison shopping websites. It also features great bidding models such as zero bidding, allowing sellers to sell poor-converting products. Products listed on Shopzilla also receive the benefit of reviews done by Bizrate, and also show up in Google Search results.
Official Website: Shopzilla

PriceGrabber
This was launched in 1999, and was the first CSE to include tax and shipping cost information, thus giving a shopper a complete idea about the final price. Alongside price comparisons, it also features coupons and weekly specials. Merchants like PriceGrabber, as they can set the CPC to as low as USD 0.01, and also get the added benefit of being listed on Yahoo Shopping.
Official Website: PriceGrabber

Shopping.com
This is now owned by eBay Inc., but was founded in 1998 as dealtime.com. Dealtime still operates as a related but different website. Shopping.com also partners with TheFind, CNET, etc., to display its products and maximize product exposure for merchants. This results in better sales for merchants and more options for online shoppers.
Official Website: Shopping.com

Nextag
Nextag was founded in 1999, as a place where buyers and sellers can negotiate the prices of computer and electronic products. The range of items that Nextag allows merchants to list also includes event tickets and real estate.
Official Website: Nextag

Amazon Product Ads
Amazon Product Ads work on the PPC (pay-per-click) model. After signing up, merchants have to upload the information about their products via FTP, and then allocate the budget to be spent on ads. The ads show up on detail pages, search results, and even in the ‘buy box’ on Amazon.com, and thus provide more exposure to the items listed by the merchant on their own websites.
Official Website: Amazon Product Ads

Become
Become was founded in 2004, and includes some highly-desired features in a comparison shopping engine, like price comparison, user and expert reviews, buying guides, etc.
Official Website: Become

Pronto.com
Pronto was launched as a downloadable software in 2005, which ran in the background and let users know about the best deal on a product, by monitoring their activity on a product listing page. It was then moved to pronto.com, a CSE. Later on, it was updated with social features. Users can now buy products by checking user ratings and with the help of product buying guides on pronto.com.
Official Website: Pronto.com

Yahoo! Shopping
Yahoo! Shopping is a price comparison engine which works using the Kelkoo Shopping price comparison service that it acquired back in 2004. It obtains its results from a wide range of retailers, meaning that the user is more likely to find the right deal on the item which he/she wishes to purchase. The huge list of vendors generated by Yahoo! Shopping is supplemented with user ratings and reviews listed next to each retailer, which helps the buyer in better identifying a reliable seller.
Official Website: Yahoo! Shopping

10 Craft Stores Like Hobby Lobby

Valentine’s Day is coming up and it’s probably a good idea to make presents this year instead of the standard box of chocolates or flowers. However, if you decide to make the presents, make sure they’re not a flar-lar-lar like the one Chandler makes in FRIENDS, which is, basically nothing! Getting back to the point, even if you’re not an artsy-craftsy kind of person, I’m pretty sure you still like shopping for the supplies. I mean, it’s very hard to resist the beautiful colors and all the gorgeous material when you’re standing in a store, surrounded by them. Plus, it’s almost as if they’re beseeching you to take a look at them! Whenever I go to any of these stores, I am awestruck by the wide range of choices. Every. Single. Time. Does this happen to you, too?

Hobby Lobby, as we all know, is a popular chain of crafts stores all over the United States and is a favorite among those who love to spend their day shopping for these cheerful, vibrant supplies. However, there are others who would prefer shopping at stores similar to Hobby Lobby for various reasons, and we have found the following 10 stores particularly delightful. We bring to you a list of Hobby Lobby alternatives, in no particular order.

Craft Stores Like Hobby Lobby

Michaels
With stores located all over America and an online store that boasts of thousands of products (and not just limited to crafts supplies!), Michaels is one of the most popular alternatives to Hobby Lobby. Along with a wide range of items to fulfill your art needs, Michaels also offers online classes, and a number of discounts and irresistible online deals that will definitely make your day. Don’t forget to check out their awesome blog!

Company Website: Michaels

Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores
Carefully selected products, a wide choice, and regular attractive deals are what make Jo-Ann the much-loved company that it is. Again, the products available at Jo-Ann are not limited to crafts, but also include baking essentials, fabrics, home décor, and a lot more. Jo-Ann also offers online classes in addition to unique, creative tips on their blog. If you’d prefer shopping online, Jo-Ann does ship products in the U.S. and Canada.

Company Website: Jo-Ann

A.C. Moore
Exclusively and passionately dedicated to arts and crafts supplies, A.C. Moore has 140 stores all over the East Coast, all offering an amazing collection of items that will satiate your creative hunger. For those who aren’t living on the East Coast, don’t fret! A.C. Moore has an online store, with just the same amount of choices, so you can definitely sit at home and order whatever you want. Visit their website for special sales and discounts, too.

Company Website: AC Moore

Pat Catan’s
We can trace the history of Pat Catan’s Arts and Crafts stores back to 1954, when a former WWII pilot, Pat Catan, opened the first store of this family-owned company that would go on to expand to 28 stores over the years. Along with an assortment of the best brands of crafts supplies, Pat Catan’s also offers ready-to-wear fashion accessories. Though they don’t have an online store yet, it is worth paying one of their stores a visit.

Company Website: Pat Catan’s

Artist and Craftsman Supply
It’s all in the name, need I say any more? What started as a store opened mainly out of anger in 1985, A&C Supply has today expanded to having 23 stores located in 14 states in the U.S., as well as an online store. For great deals and discounts, check out the website of this ’employee-owned store’ that offers only the best.

Company Website: Artist and Craftsman Supply

Factory Direct Craft
Factory Direct Craft is a successful family-owned company that offers a lot more than just crafts supplies, but also home décor, decoration material for holidays and festivals, and wedding supplies, to name a few. Established in 1985, FDC has today expanded to a successful company that delivers countless delightful products practically all over the world. Yep, that’s right! Check out their website for more information.

Company Website: Factory Direct Craft

Plaid Enterprises
Plaid Enterprises is considered to be among the world’s best manufacturers of creative material, especially of items that can be used in unique DIY projects. Though Plaid does not have its own stores, it does have a large online one that offers a massive choice of creative items, in addition to making its products available through several retails stores all over the U.S.

Company Website: Plaid Enterprises

CreateForLess
With its motto etched clearly in its name, CreateForLess is the ideal choice for those looking to buy supplies in fairly large quantities. Teachers, designers, and professionals, this online store is for you! Create For Less operates online and offers a wide range of arts and crafts supplies at discounted rates. Their quick and reliable shipping policies are like the cherry on a cake!

Company Website: CreateForLess

The Hobby Company of San Francisco
Though The Hobby Company of San Francisco has only one store located at 16th Avenue, San Francisco, it does have an online store where people from all over the country can browse through and choose to purchase a variety of attractive arts and crafts products. The Hobby Company has been in this business for over three decades, making it truly an expert in knowing what we require to get our creativity buzz. Pay them a visit, or check them out online, they’re worth it.

Company Website: The Hobby Co.

Sunshine Discount Crafts
Sunshine Discount Crafts is another crafts store that, like Hobby Lobby, offers a wide variety of arts and crafts supplies. However, this company runs online and does not have a physical store as such. Sunshine Discount Crafts is one of the few companies that delivers its products all over the world, and hence, is a favorite among international customers. Plus, it has a discount right in its name, so you can’t go wrong with the prices!

Company Website: Sunshine Discount Crafts

Now that you have not one, but ten Hobby Lobby alternatives to choose from, what are you waiting for? Let that creative spark take over and help you make whatever it is that you’ve always wanted! Happy creating!