Top Reasons Why You Should Start Shopping Online

Saturday, February 23, 2013

As the founder of one the first online jewelry wholesale and retail boutiques in the United Arab Emirates, I invested a great deal of my time learning about the ever-changing world of e-commerce.

It all began in 2006 when a war erupted in my country, making refugees out of me and my family. Luckily, we were one of the few who were able to evacuate the war-torn nation and we ended up in Virginia State, USA.

I still remember the first time I popped my online shopping cherry: it was a Sony digital camera from I remember inputting my credit card information, paying a little bit more for expedited shipping and getting a quick confirmation that my order was ready. My mom was livid: “How can you put your credit card information on a website?! We are going to be robbed!”  Lo and behold, the very next day, I received my package at my door step. And no, we were not robbed and our identities were not stolen.

Once I discovered just how easy and convenient it can be, I decided there was no way I would shop in a traditional brick-and-mortar store ever again. My utter obsession led to the creation of, my online jewelry boutique.

During my stay in the US, I worked part time at a retail store in one of the best malls in Virginia. A few weeks into my job and something became blatantly obvious: people have gone mad with online shopping and our sales were being hit badly!

A customer would come into the store, check the product they liked, then would visit or and purchased the same product at a fraction of the price. That was very upsetting since I worked on commission. And, as I found out later, it was upsetting for the owners as well because they went bankrupt a short while later.

I have spent thousands of dollars and hours browsing and paying for the latest styles, trends and sales so my friends and coworkers began calling me an “expert”.

I have bought all kinds of things online: shoes, bags, clothes, sex toys (dubbed “personal massager” but whom are we kidding?), and very recently, even groceries!

One of the main benefits of shifting to online is the convenience. The United Arab Emirates is famous for grandiose malls and shopping centers but something about them puts me off: maybe it’s the crowds or the loud noises. Maybe it’s the screaming children or the long queues at the fitting rooms. All of these make me wonder why I even bothered going to the mall to run errands.Walk into the Dubai Mall and there is a queue just to go into Louis Vuitton. Tourists and Khaliji fashionistas were being let in the store one at a time by a bouncer. Another example is Zara or H&M. Lord knows those queues last for days! The crowds are so bad that I’ve seen women try on clothes in the middle of the store just to avoid standing in line.

A lot of people wouldn’t try online shopping because, like my mom, they have a misconceived notion that online payments are unsafe. While this might be true in some rare cases, in my years of online shopping I have yet to have my credit card information stolen (and used in another purchase). I have never paid for something online and never got in the mail. I have never paid for something then gotten the bill for much higher. My identity has never been stolen.

While I know that many have been defrauded online, I am not one of them because I always did my homework and never shopped on a site that looked shady or illegitimate.  I will write another blog post for how to safe guard yourself while online shopping.

Another reason why I favor online shopping is that in 9 cases out of 10, you are getting a good deal. I always share this anecdote with pessimists and naysayers:

It was 2012 and I have just moved to Dubai with my husband. It took me a few months to find my dream job as a financial controller in one of the biggest market research firms in the world. Seeing that my career was picking up, I decided to treat myself to a designer bag. This was my first big purchase and I spent days at the mall picking the perfect one. I finally decided on a beautiful tote bag. Now, I won’t say from what store because I don’t want to be accused of libel. Suffice to say it was a huge and glamorous high- end designer brand. I picked up the purse and went to the register to pay. It was a whopping 9,000 dirhams (around 2,500 USD). Being a notorious for my frugality, I winced at the price. I pulled out my debit card to pay but my gut feeling was to hold off since 9,000 dirhams could be someone’s entire monthly salary and I can’t simply squander it without looking at alternatives.

At that time, I never purchased something that expensive online but decided to check out online boutiques just in case. After browsing for a few hours, I stumbled upon the bag I so badly wanted. I was shocked to see that it was a whopping 2500 dirhams (680 USD) cheaper! And that’s with customs AND shipping. I printed out a screen shot of my bag and went back to the store. I showed them the drastic difference in price and the saleswoman offered a few less-than-convincing arguments: “Oh it’s a fake!” or “It’s probably a smaller size”.

When I got my bag in the mail a few days later, I realized it was none of the above. It was an authentic bag in the exact size I wanted. I am not sure why it was so much more expensive, but ever since that day, I learned my lesson.

I have several other stories with the same outcome, which I will share with you in later posts.


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