Around this time last year, the nation began enjoying outdoor Christmas markets and the festive lights of the high street. But this Christmas will likely be very different.
The pandemic has forced us indoors and online – and many of us are having to shop online for the first time.
To help you get started, here are Money Mail's step-by-step instructions on how to buy online …
Online shoppers: The pandemic has forced us indoors – and many of us are having to do our Christmas shopping online for the first time
Anyone with a laptop, tablet, PC or smartphone can shop online. You need an email address and a bank card. Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook all offer free email services.
A strong password should contain at least ten characters and contain numbers, symbols and upper and lower case letters.
Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software installed on your computer. Free programs include Microsoft Defender Antivirus and Kaspersky Security Cloud.
You can shop online at almost all major high street retailers such as Argos, Boots, and Marks & Spencer.
Set up an account by registering your contact details and address. Then click on the items you want and add them to your shopping cart. When you're done, look for the checkout button, which is often a basket or cart icon.
Register for email notifications on price tracking websites like pricepy.co.uk and alertr.co.uk to notify you when the price of items goes down.
You can also check the price history to see if a discount is as good as it claims to be. For example, Camelcamelcamel.com monitors prices on Amazon.
Cashback websites like topcashback.co.uk and quidco.com reward you for shopping through these websites. TopCashback currently offers up to 25 percent cashback at Currys PC World. You should also check if discount codes are available using vouchercodes.co.uk for example.
Deal Radar: Register for email alerts on price tracking websites like pricepy.co.uk and alertr.co.uk notifying you when the price of items goes down
If you pay with your credit card for goods that cost more than £ 100, you are protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means that if the goods are not as described or the retailer goes broke, your lender will refund you.
If you use a debit card, you will have coverage from your bank for an amount under the chargeback rules, but this is not guaranteed.
Never pay by wire transfer as it will be more difficult to get your money back.
Many stores allow you to use free payment services like PayPal so you don't have to give your payment details to the retailer.
PayPal also promises to give you a refund if your order does not arrive or is not as described.
For security reasons, you may be required to enter a six-digit code before payment is processed. This will usually be sent to you via email or SMS to your mobile phone.
Be a high street hero
Struggling smaller retailers have had to adapt since the pandemic, and many have launched new websites.
To find out if a local business has an online listing, simply enter the shop name into the Google search engine. Some regions even have their own online directories, e.g. B. support yourlocalleeds.com, which lists Leeds companies, or localbrighton.co.uk, which also does the same for Brighton.
It's also worth checking neighborhood groups on nextdoor.co.uk and Facebook for recommendations.
When ordering books, try websites like hive.co.uk and uk.bookshop.org that support local bookstores.
You can also try etsy.com for handmade gifts from independent sellers.
For plant gifts for the green fingers, visit Plantera (plantera.com), which was set up to sell plants to be grouped together after garden centers close. It delivers to zones 1 through 5 in London.
Alternatively, check out other reputable suppliers of the plants you are looking for through the Royal Horticultural Society: rhs.org. uk / plants / search form. You can also purchase gifts directly from the RHS website.
However, you will lose the protection under Section 75 if you purchase goods through a third party provider such as PayPal.
Standard delivery is usually the cheapest. For example, John Lewis charges £ 3.50 for orders under £ 50. However, it can take up to seven working days for the goods to arrive. You have to pay more for faster orders.
Some retailers, including Ikea, Sainsbury & # 39; s and John Lewis, offer a "click and collect" service. This allows you to order goods online and collect them in a store.
If you change your mind about an online order, you have 14 days to inform the seller in accordance with the consumer contract provisions. You then have another 14 days to return the item.
You should be reimbursed for the cost of the item plus the standard shipping cost. You will usually have to pay postage to return it unless the item was faulty, although some retailers offer free return labels.
If you are shopping through marketplaces like Amazon or eBay, which have a lot of overseas sellers, having to return something can prove to be very expensive.
The 14-day cooling-off period does not apply to goods bought by individuals such as private sellers on eBay. Perishable, personalized, and digital items are usually also excluded.
If items arrive faulty or damaged, you have 30 days to return them for a full refund. If you find a fault within the first six months, the dealer should offer you a repair or replacement.
Stick with retailers you know. The City of London Police remove nearly 1,700 fraudulent websites every month and warn that scammers step up their activities before busy shopping times like the pre-Christmas season.
If the price is too good to be true, it usually is. Real websites contain reviews from previous customers. But these can also be forged.
Look for consistent spelling mistakes or ratings that sound like an ad. Also, check that there is a UK address and return policy.
Standard delivery is usually the cheapest. For example, John Lewis charges £ 3.50 for orders under £ 50. However, it can take up to seven working days for the goods to arrive
Some retailers allow customers to order over the phone, although lines may be busy before Christmas.
According to John Lewis, shoppers can call 03456 049 449. The Body Shop also takes orders by phone on 0800 092 90 90 but says some products may not be available.
The jeweler Pandora takes orders on 0808 234 5431, while Angling Direct offers a call and collect service in 30 branches.
Post from home
If you want to wrap and send your gifts from home, Royal Mail will now collect up to five packages from your doorstep. The service costs 72 pence on top of normal shipping costs. You must book before midnight to be picked up the next day.
Other couriers offer similar services – you can compare costs at myparceldelivery.com and worldwide-parcelservices.com.
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