Online selling, buying

By: Michael L. Tan - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | December 09,2020 - 08:00 AM

Several weeks back, my household helper told me she was leaving her job and returning to her home province to be with her children and help them with the challenges of online classes.

When my son found out, he went, “Did you know she has an online business selling clothing? She’s rich now!”

He was exaggerating, of course, about the instant wealth, but it was good to know our helper had managed to get into the new digital economy, one which is promising but which can be precarious, too, for both buyers and sellers.

Let’s start with online buying.

First and foremost, do be aware of the many online marketing gimmicks that work on your psychology. One strategy is to fabricate scarcity: “3 items left so buy now.” Or the bandwagon effect about how many thousands have been sold.

Another gimmick: As you scroll through a website, beware of the intentional changes in font size of the text, a slightly larger one making readers pause… and possibly buy.

There are so many other gimmicks, some unethical but tolerated even by reputable companies, an example being “chum boxes” or native advertising, which many media outfits allow on their sites. As you read a legitimate news article, you might get a box that looks like a news item—for example, “Filipino doctor discovers diabetes cure”—but which will bring you to a site offering products, some of very dubious quality.

Second, don’t let your guard down with big sellers like Lazada and Shopee, which are really digital supermalls, with thousands of “tenants” who depend on the two giants’ marketing campaigns to get people to pick from the many products of both manufacturers and sellers. In return, the “tenants” have to pay a certain percentage back to their “landlords.”

Both companies started out as Singaporean firms, but Lazada was bought by Alibaba, the Chinese multinational company of Jack Ma.

It is convenient to shop with these big companies, which end up offering products cheaper than in regular stores, at least most of the time, and with an assurance that the products are not fake. Given the large numbers of resellers, though, there will be dishonest ones who will slip through, so be on guard.

Something I find very annoying with Lazada and Shopee is their taking your order and then getting back to you and saying the supplier could not be contacted, or cannot provide the item. They refund you, but with a sizable deduction; for a recent purchase I made which could not be fulfilled, the amount I paid, P8,454, was refunded only P7,663.

Whenever you can, order COD (cash on delivery) to avoid those refund pains.

Large companies are not always more efficient. I’m holding my head in shame now for falling for the 11/11 (Nov. 11) sale of Rustan’s, which sent out part of my order quickly and then faltered. When I followed up three weeks later, they replied with a totally useless email about lockdowns causing delays and inviting me to avail of a “complimentary Beauty Addicts membership.”

I will keep readers informed on Rustan’s performance. With the prices they charge, you’d expect better service than to lure you with cheap marketing schemes.

Whenever possible, do patronize smaller sellers. When Shopee rejected one small supplier’s product because they could not provide the specified dimensions for a product I ordered, the supplier contacted me directly to apologize and asked if they could still provide me with what I needed. I said yes and they filled out the order within a week. I’ve gone back to them with additional orders.

And let’s not forget the gig economy of delivery services, the drivers of Lalamove, Grab, and others, who have been so badly affected by the pandemic. When I recently ordered some food, the seller texted me to say a Grab driver was on the way and to pay him P125. Minutes later, the seller texted again to say they were able to use a discount voucher and to pay the driver only P75. When the driver arrived, I paid him P125 and told him people shouldn’t be cutting down on their earnings.

Coming up: 12/12. One of my younger daughters is asking for an advance on her Christmas gift, in cash, so she can do online shopping that day.

The digital economy’s here to stay. Let’s help make it work for our still struggling entrepreneurs, and let’s make sure our kids are prepared as well to be smart consumers.

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TAGS: buying, Lazada, online classes, selling
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