Be A Smart Shopper With These 5 Tips
Anyone can go shopping. But it’s how you shop that matters.
Gone are the days when people just popped in to the store, browsed through the place passively, and picked up something they liked in an instant. Nowadays, you have the pre-shopping experience where you actually browse for the product online, the post-shopping experience, where you study about the company and its practices, and everything else in between.
Nowadays people watch online reviews of products and even test them out before buying them. They read reviews about how the company treats its customers and all the other aspects that come with the experience. Customers are more aware of their rights nowadays and refuse to be taken for a ride by corporations.
Then there is the actual shopping experience where consumers are becoming more conscious than ever. They’re eschewing fast consumerism, buying only from environmentally friendly brands that are also ‘fair-trade’ certified, reducing plastic, and taking other significant measures to have as little negative impact on the planet as possible.
So whether you’re shopping for jewellery, clothing, interior decor, or hiking boots, it would be in your best interest to follow these 5 tips while shopping for a more pleasant and delightful experience.
Here are 5 tips on how to be a smart, responsible shopper:
Carry your own shopping bags
Be a hero of the living world. Don’t purchase plastic bags for shopping yet again on your next jaunt. Thousands upon thousands of discarded plastic bags dot our forests, oceans, lakes, rivers, natural jungle streams and inland waterways, polluting and suffocating the life out of them. You don’t want to be the owner of the bag that suffocated a turtle to death, do you? No. The last thing you need is blood on your hands. So be smart and carry your own bags the next time you go shopping. They could be made of cloth, paper, or any other sustainable, sturdy material that can be used for a long period of time.
If you’re someone who goes therapy shopping, or someone who makes impulse purchases every now and then, it would be prudent to keep some bags stored in your car at all times so that you never run out. I don’t indulge in unplanned shopping much. But when it happens, I’m assured that I don’t have to pay for shopping bags because there’s always a bunch of them stashed somewhere in the boot of my scooter.
So whether you’re a conscious shopper who shops mindfully only at sustainable brands, or someone who indulges in fast shopping every month for retail therapy, be sensible and always carry a set of shopping bags with you.
Ask for E-receipts instead of paper receipts
How many people go shopping every day? How many crore rupees worth of goods are sold on a given day? How many paper receipts must be getting printed for all these purchases? Have you ever given it a thought? Now you don’t have to. Thanks to improvements made in software and technology, you can now receive receipts without harming the environment, directly to your phone or computer.
So from now on, do not accept paper receipts from the brands you shop at. Demand an electronic receipt which could be sent to your phone or email, or don’t take a receipt at all. That means proactively telling the checkout clerk not to print one before they even begin billing. After all, there’s no point in telling them you don't want a receipt after they’ve already gone ahead and printed one. It’s just going to end up in their garbage instead of yours. So make sure you inform them well in advance.
Receipts are usually required for legal purposes in case of high-end goods and services, basically to facilitate returns, exchanges, refunds, and for filing consumer complaints. But for small ticket items, they can absolutely be foregone.
Think about it. Do you really need to collect a receipt each time you shop for groceries and household essentials?
You’re just going to go home and throw it in the trash anyway.
Do your research — product wise
Smart shopping entails not just being smart while shopping, but even before and after it. Let's talk about the former. This mainly applies to high value purchases as you’ll be shelling out more for them, and they’re generally intended for long term use. The last thing you want is to make an unnecessary trip to the mall to exchange it with something else, destroying the environment you so carefully saved carrying your own bags, commuting by public transport, and not accepting paper receipts.
This is why it would be prudent to make judicious use of the resources available to you at home and conduct a thorough research on the product well in advance before stepping out to make a purchase. Read the reviews posted on online forums, watch unboxing videos, and try getting as many perspectives on the product as possible (especially those with the same use case as yours). Be patient. Listen to what the content creator has to say about the product for the entirety of the video. Don’t skip sections of the video just because it's slow and dragging. You might miss some crucial information regarding the product squished somewhere in between all those “boring” sections.
Going through these steps prior to purchase will save you precious time and energy, and the mental agony that comes with exchanging products, which isn’t always a smooth and hassle-free procedure.
Even whilst at the store, inspect the product fully and thoroughly to your satisfaction. Don’t just go by what the sales rep says. They’ve been trained to schmooze you into buying and to convert a prospect into a sale in the shortest time possible. That’s their job! However, not being pressurized and hurried up by them is in your very own hands. It’s up to you to take control of the situation. So get a feel for the product as much as you can, no pressure!
Remember, you’re the one shelling out money here, not them.
Don’t search for freebies and discounts
Okay, I don’t mean you should categorically stop searching for discounts. Rather, do your due diligence when buying something that’s discounted or has a free item attached to it. More often than not, the price of the product is bumped up to include the cost of the freebie, and lured in by the shiny freebie, unwitting customers fall for the trick.
Most of the time, goods (usually FMCG products) are discounted just to get rid of unsold stock nearing their expiry date. This especially seems to happen at online marketplaces. With the spurt of e-commerce and online shopping, there is no scope for the buyer to hold the product physically in his hands and check for production or expiry dates. All one can do is place an order, and wait for the product to arrive.
Since customers cannot check for expiry dates online, manufacturers and distributors tend to redirect all their unsold stock from physical stores to warehouses servicing online markets. It’s only after they’ve received the product that the customer realizes they’ve been duped. And no one has the time, patience, or energy to raise a complaint and sort the issue out with the company to get a replacement. This issue has been brought up time and again with E-commerce portals, but this unscrupulous sales tactic continues to be in used in some online marketplaces.
If there is an actual discount on something that you need, and if you’ve already verified that it’s a genuine discount, by all means go for it. But if you’re buying something just because there’s a freebie on offer, the store actually managed to trick you and made you spend money on a product you usually wouldn’t buy.
You didn’t get something for free. You purchased something you wouldn’t open your wallet for in the first place.
Now, some people would call that unfair. 😉
Do your research — Aftersales, Returns, and Exchanges.
Since we spoke about doing product research one point above, let’s talk about researching a bit about the brand and it’s attitudes towards customers, particularly how they’re treated after purchasing the companies products. This too needs to be done prior to shopping only. However, it is regarding things that might happen post-purchase, such as after sales service, returns, exchanges, and refunds. Here, you’ll be finding out how the company treats its customers post product purchase rather than about the product itself.
You’ll need to check for reviews that talk about after sales customer service, product exchange experience, as well as customers’ experience with the company while dealing with returns and refunds.
Very few companies hold themselves to high standards nowadays, and the moment money changes hands, you’re as good as a stranger to them. A reputable business that respects and values its customers will stand by them through and through, instead of shooing them away and neglecting them once those green bills have hit their bank accounts.
- Did customers have a smooth experience with aftersales service?
- Does the brand even provide after sales service in the first place?
- What are their policies regarding returns and exchanges?
- How long did customers have to wait for the store to facilitate their refund in case of damaged goods or negligent service?
- How long are discount coupons valid for, and what are their terms and conditions?
- Is the brand reliable?
- Is there any negative product review or bad news about the company online?
This is a general idea of the questions one needs to ask before making a purchase. But it is much more exhaustive than that.
Just two weeks ago, I purchased an indoor water fountain from Amazon. However, since the past few days, an irritating mechanical sound has been coming out of the motor every few minutes. But since I purchased this product online at a very low price, I have no other recourse but to just grin and bear it.
Things might appear cheaper online, but you pay the real price when they fail, and there’s no one around to fix them.
Bonus point number six — Be aware of your rights
This is just a subset of the above point. When it comes to returns, exchanges, refunds, or any other kind of aftersales service, unscrupulous brands try to avoid consumers as much as possible. They’ll call your bluff every single time, assuming you’re unaware of your rights, thinking you won’t go to the consumer protection forum and file a complaint. They’ll try cutting corners by not providing you with replacements for faulty and broken items. They’ll try not apologizing for their horrendous behaviour. And they’ll try not sending you the freebies they promised in their offer. Stand your ground! No matter how much they scream, argue, and beat their chests, you must stand your ground.
They’ll try their level best in avoiding anything that has to do with them losing product or money. That could range from anything like asking for an exchange for a pair of shoes a week into use because they don’t fit well, returning a defective microwave oven, or even asking for accessories to electronics which they failed to provide.
If you know you’re in the right, stand your ground, don’t incriminate yourself, and make sure you send out the message that you’re a consumer who’s well aware of their rights.
Whether it is conducting thorough product research prior to purchase, carrying your own bags to the store, saying No to printed receipts, or standing your ground against unscrupulous brands, there are many ways we can inculcate smart shopping habits within ourselves. Habits that not only make us happier, but make for an overall smooth and hassle-free experience, both for the customer, as well as the seller.
Whether you’re a shopaholic, or someone who just shops on a need basis, you have to be smart, knowledgeable, and aware of your rights as a consumer. Unethical brands are ready to take their customers for a ride the moment they drop their guard. It’s high time we stopped bowing down to pressure from large organizations and realize our joint consumer powers. Collectively, we’re more powerful than any organization out there.
And we better inculcate that mindset while shopping.
Do let me know your thoughts in the comments bar to the side.