Online Toy Shopping

Parents have become more apprehensive of online shopping after recalls put the quality of commercial toys in question. But there’s no need to give up the convenience of shopping online, as long as you take the right precautions. Here are some things you can do to ensure safe online toy shopping.

The recent spate of toy recalls has millions of parents in a freeze when it comes to buying new toys. Online toy shopping has been particularly slow—online sales in the US are said to have dropped by 60% on some days. It’s quite understandable, of course: with no way to ensure safety and quality beforehand, buying toys online has become rather risky.

But it really isn’t all that bad. Sure, online shopping has its risks, but there are several ways to get around them. If you take the right precautions, you can enjoy the convenience of online shopping while still ensuring top quality in your purchases. Get started with these six simple tips.

Research and buy. It’s never wise to buy something at first glance, even when you’re shopping offline. Always do a bit of research on the product you’re considering—whether it’s a good brand, how it works, how well it sells, how it compares to the competition. These little details can give you an idea of what makes a product worth your money. If there is limited information online, look for the toy in local stores and try it out yourself.

Validate stores. Type in “online toy shopping” and you’ll be led to a dozen different sites, all offering enough toys to keep you shopping all day. Unfortunately, not all of them are reliable—some are prone to online fraud, while others simply offer substandard products. Big names like Amazon.com are usually good, but be a bit more careful with small, independent online stores. Make sure they are accredited by authorities and have a good security system in place.

Read reviews. User reviews are a great way to learn more about a product. Because they’re written by actual users, you can be sure you’re getting a firsthand opinion and not some fluff piece you’d find in a magazine. Most online retailers have a user review feature, and some even have a forum where you can ask specific questions not covered in the reviews. Many users even talk about shipping, customer service, and other factors that tend to be left out.

Watch out for recalls. Recalled toys may still be sold online after the official notice is sent. Although you’ll still be covered, it’s best to avoid the hassle of talking to manufacturers and claiming your refunds. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sends out regular notices of toy recalls on its website, as well as a mailing list that keeps parents up to date. Sign up for free updates so you’ll know beforehand whether the toy you’re considering is safe.

Protect your personal information. Besides toy safety, online fraud is another major risk of online toy shopping. It’s the information age, after all—you never know when some hacker is on the other end of the line, waiting to steal your identity and credit card data. Small, lesser known sites are particularly risky. Stay safe by buying only from secure sites, and make sure the store uses up-to-date encryption systems. Secure sites are usually identified by a verification go on the page.

Consider shipping. Shipping and handling not only add to the total cost of the product, but may also affect quality and condition as it arrives on your doorstep. Make sure there’s a guarantee on shipping, especially if it’s long-distance shipping. Large toys may cost more to send over; some stores may offer only store pickup beyond certain weights. As much as possible, make your purchase from the nearest outlet to get cheaper and safer shipping options.

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