Originally published June 12, 2013
Online shopping, my favourite thing, ever. I remember as a child watching The Jetsons’ and there was a scene where they ordered something on the phone and it arrived in a portal instantly. Insert epiphany angel music! I thought that was the coolest thing ever, and surely I will live to see such a miraculous creation? Enter online shopping. Ok, so its not exactly instantaneous, but with overnight shipping, it almost is! A pretty box arrives all wrapped up and ready to open, it’s just like Christmas! And typically, the item is cheaper than it was in the store, especially for us Canadians.
I’ve gathered my years of experience and many transactions (more than I’d like to admit), to share with you useful and handy online shopping tips. Things to keep in mind like shipping costs, customs & duties and payment methods. I’ve also included a list of my favourite stores, ones I like to frequent and have great customer service.
Did you know many online stores price match? Even if they don’t advertise it, it doesn’t hurt to shoot them an email to ask. My absolute favourite store is Revolve Clothing along with its sister stores FORWARD by Elyse Walker (stocks higher end lines such as Alexander Wang and Rag & Bone) and REVERSE (their discount outlet for clearance items). These three stores almost always price match any other online store (if it’s the same identical product).
All you need to do is shoot them an email with a link of the discounted item on the other store and ask if they could do a price match. You’ll then forward them your invoice and a refund will be processed. Shopbop (stocks brands similar to Revolve Clothing and FORWARD) also does price matching, but on a case-by-case basis (they’re more fickle). Call in or live chat (no emails) to ask for a price match and if they can do it, you’ll have to make the purchase immediately. Shopbop often has more stock (sizes and colour choices), but are more strict with their price matching policy – the size of your item needs to be in-stock at the competitor’s store. Revolve Clothing (and its sister stores) and Shopbop are a staple for me, with their price matching policies, free shipping and good return policies. .
Being in Canada puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to online shopping because the best online stores are based in the US and most offer free domestic shipping, but tack on a hefty fee when it comes to shipping across the border to us (boo!). I tend to gravitate towards stores that offer free shipping to Canada. For me, it just doesn’t make sense to spend extra money on shipping when I’m already paying for the product, plus whatever taxes that come with it. I find it a big turn off when I have to calculate whether it is worth buying that $20 tee when the shipping is $10 and half the price of the item.
Revolve Clothing offers free shipping to Canada with no minimum, so does Shopbop, Solestruck, and ASOS. Other stores I frequent offer a low minimum purchase for free shipping, or a low shipping cost of no more than $10, are GAP (they have great sales online that you don’t get in stores), Sephora, and Aritzia (free return shipping too)!
Customs and Duties
Being that most of the best online stores are US based, our parcels of happiness will most likely arrive with an annoying little fee tacked on. Here’s a tip: it’s a bit of a hit or miss, technically if the value of your purchase exceeds $50 you will get charged a $15 handling fee plus your province’s sales tax, if shipping is free, you are better off buying items separately to keep it at a lower cost to avoid the fee. That being said, my customs agent seems to be lenient, and my purchases below $100 usually come without the customs charge, it’s at the discretion of the person handling your parcel in transit.
Another option is to choose the shipping option that allows you to prepay your customs and duties, which I would recommend for more expensive items. Shopbop has this option, and so do LUISAVIAROMA and Farfetch. Chances are (especially with LVR and Farfetch) you are getting the items at a lower price than in store anyway, so it works out being worth it.
One big drawback to shopping online is having to hand over your credit card information. It can definitely be a worry, especially if it is your first time dealing with a particular store, which is why it is important that the store you are dealing with has a good reputation and offer great customer service. A good way to protect yourself and your financial information is PayPal. A lot of stores offer payment through PayPal nowadays, and that way not only do the stores not get to see your financial information (never know if it might fall into the wrong hands), but you are doubly protected by PayPal’s protection policy as well as your credit card company if anything ever goes wrong.
Customer Service and Return Policy
Last but not least, shopping online eliminates physical interaction and the ability to just drop by the store for a quick refund. Making returns for an online purchase (however generous their policy) always be more time consuming – so make sure the store offers good, quick, and responsive customer service (as you will be corresponding with them via email, nothing worse than buying something that does not arrive and realizing that there isn’t even a contact number on the website, it happens). Be sure to double check what the return policy is, since we are buying ‘blind’ so to speak, if the item turns out to be less than what we expected, we want to know whether we can send it back and how. If possible, I often go into brick and mortar stores to try on the exact item for size and then resort to online shopping for the better prices, that way you eliminate the chances of the getting the wrong size, and won’t have to deal with the lengthy return process.
Fave Stores & Online Shopping Cheat Sheet
Revolve Clothing, FORWARD by Elyse Walker and Reverse
Use code “TULIP” for 10% off your order valid anytime (all three sites). Use code “STYLEPOP” for 20% at Revolve Clothing (limited time). At Revolve Clothing, first time shoppers get 30% off their first order – just email them to ask, they’ll refund you after purchase with invoice. All three sites offer free shipping to Canada and do price matching.
$8 for shipping within Canada, but they offer a free return label.
Free shipping on orders over $75 and you get tonnes samples and if you sign up for their email subscription, you get more codes for mini gifts.
Free shipping to Canada and competitive prices.
Free shipping over $50, free returns to brick and mortar stores. They also have tons of good sales online that you don’t get in store.
Free shipping internationally.
Low shipping costs. Great prices and prices all include customs and duties.
Free shipping for purchases over $100, and prices all include customs and duties.