It can be a cruel, cruel beast.

Words by

Tara Smith

Online shopping can be a cruel beast. 

Some have tamed it, others haven’t.

It’s the one place you can find the most incred designer dress at 80% off in an online flash sale with free shipping.

It’s also where you can pay $100 for a potato sack, thinking you’ve bought a nice dress for your birthday.

If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation take advice from me, a real life victim-turned-hero.

Years of experience have taught me a few valuable lessons (commandments) to abide by when shopping online.

Follow them religiously and you just might avoid the classic potato sack mistake, because we’ve all been there.

1. Measure twice, order once

My dad always used to say ‘measure twice, cut once’, but I don’t think he was talking about the same thing. It’s imperative you check out the garment measurements and measure yourself to avoid the mishap of an ill-fitting purchase. Knowing your size is the difference between a 10/10 outfit and wearing a mailbag.

2. Order with PayPal, activate ‘refunded returns’ and never* pay for a return again

If you pay for your item through PayPal and have this service activated, they’ll cover return costs of any item up to $45. Worldwide. This is particularly amazing because return postage overseas is damn steep, so it takes away the risk. 

3. Shop around so you can see alternative photos of the item

I made the mistake of believing a bright yellow dress I purchased online would actually be bright yellow. How foolish of me. I instead received a hideous lime smock that deserved to burn in the fires of hell. Which it eventually did.

4. Leave makeup purchases for in-store, unless you already know your colour

Because colour matching through a computer screen is not just hard, it’s impossible. Shop assistants match foundation to my skin in-store and still get it wrong, so there’s just no way it can be done through a screen. Soz.

5. Get your own online debit card so you don’t compromise your mum’s financial security

Back when I lived at home and depended on my parents for everything, I would use my mum’s credit card to make online purchases. One day, my mum received a call from her bank, who noticed she had spent $6000 on car repairs in the US. Needless to say that transaction was not my mum, resulting in me being banned from all future uses of the credit card.  

6. Still at uni? Sign up to Myunidays for precious student discounts

Because paying full price is for chumps. Myunidays is partnered with big e-retailers like ASOS, The Iconic and Glue Store, so you’re in pretty good hands.

7. Beware sale items, because you can’t return them

You’d better be 110% sure you like it and it fits, because majority of sale items can’t be returned. Purchase at your own risk.

8. Remember: express shipping is everything

If it’s urgent and you haven’t ordered express, you’re pretty much screwed. Plus, express shipping comes with tracking. An extra $10 at the end of the checkout isn’t too much of a stretch if it means your item will actually arrive.

9. Research the material

Silk, rayon or polyester? Genuine leather or PU? It’s important to know your fabrics so you can tell if you’re getting ripped off or not. If you find yourself eyeing off a PU leather jacket for $300, you’re pushing it. Plus, different fabrics allow different levels of stretch, which helps to determine how an item will fit. 

10. It won’t always work out, so make friends with the tailor

Sometimes you’ll do all the measuring right but it just won’t fit. Next time something is a little too big or small but not worth sending back, consider your friendly neighbourhood tailor. These people are magicians and can probably turn your hemp sack into a ball gown.

*By never, we mean up to eight times a year, but that’s still pretty good. 

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