How to protect your packages and find the best deals

Whether you’ve been ordering online for years or were forced to do so for the first time due to the pandemic, you’re no doubt enjoying all the advantages over brick-and-mortar retail shopping.

After all, with online shopping, you can shop 24/7 from the comfort of your pajamas; you don’t have to fight traffic to get to the mall and around the parking lot; you don’t get stuck behind someone in line at checkout counting the change (or pulling out the wrong credit card); it is easy to compare prices between several online retailers; and products are shipped right to your door, of course (hell, even groceries).

OK, so you’re already sold on it. “Mark, you are preaching to converts,” you think.

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Certainly, there are a few things you can do to make sure your online shopping experience goes smoothly.

A few suggestions:

Saving money (or making money)

Free shopping apps, websites and browser extensions are highly recommended.

Slickdeals, for example, is touted as the largest deal-sharing community online with around 12 million users and a simple goal: to publicize the best deals found on products, services, travel, and more.

All online or retail deals discussed are voted on by the community and the hottest ones move to the popular deals section (like 70% off an air fryer) and after being reviewed by Slickdeals editors, can skip to the app’s coveted home page. or website.

If you want to monitor the price of an item, you can sign up for “trade alerts” and be notified if such an offer is posted.

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The Slickdeals browser extension automatically flags available coupons and promotional codes at checkout.

Speaking of browser extensions, Honey can be added to your favorite web browser – be it Google Chrome, Safari, Edge, Firefox or Opera – and then you shop online as you normally would. Honey will detect where and what you are buying and let you know if there are any discount codes available to apply to your cart or if it finds the best price elsewhere.

You can also add items to your Honey “Droplist” to keep tabs on price drops.

As for cashback, sites like Rakuten (formerly eBates) and Ibotta repay members every time you shop online at participating retailers — and there are several hundred of them.

Once you’ve purchased the item from the store, you’ll start earning money which can be sent to you by check or deposited to a PayPal account (as often as every three months) or with Ibotta, receive a card- gift, if you prefer. The percentage you get back varies, but can really add up.

There’s also a free browser extension, if you’d rather have Rakuten automatically find and apply coupons (and compare prices), so you get the best deal.

Honey Gold Rewards is similar to Rakuten, where you can earn points for making purchases at participating sites.

Also consider saving money with Amazon Warehouse. Just like you might shop at a thrift or thrift store in person, Amazon also offers this lesser-known section with great deals on quality used or refurbished products.

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Here you can shop millions of used and open box items, including used computers and tablets, home and kitchen items, unlocked cell phones.

Even if you buy a discounted Amazon Warehouse product, many items are eligible for Prime or free shipping. Please note: these items generally do not come with a manufacturer’s warranty, but all are covered by Amazon’s liberal return policy.

Smarter deliveries

Now that we’re spending more time away from home – maybe you’re back in an office or planning to travel more this spring and summer – what can you do to make sure your packages are there? safe from “porch pirates” or damaged by bad weather?

You have a few options, but there are pros and cons to each.

For one, if you’re allowed to make deliveries at work, you might consider it for added peace of mind. Ok, so not so practical for groceries that include fresh or frozen food.

Free for Amazon Primer members, those with a garage can authorize an authorized Amazon courier to open your garage door to drop packages inside, then close it before you leave.  A compatible Chamberlain myQ garage system is required.

Alternatively, you have deliveries sent to a PO Box near you, but this will of course cost you rental fees and you will need to collect your parcels on the way home.

Instead, if you’re an Amazon shopper — and chances are you are — AmazonKey In-Garage Delivery is a super convenient (and secure) way to get Amazon packages and groceries delivered to your garage. – whether you are at home or on the go.

Free for Amazon Prime members ($139/year after free trial), just select “Free Key Delivery” at checkout and your package will be delivered to your compatible smart garage (like Chamberlain MyQ, for around $30). Drivers receive unique, verified access by scanning your package. (No need to share your garage PIN or open the door for them.)

Then you’ll get real-time notifications every step of the way and can even use an optional camera if you want to watch the driver place your goods right inside your garage door and then close it.

In the age of online deliveries, maybe you need a lockable parcel box?  Danby Parcel Guard has a standard lock box ($229) that can hold parcels up to 15

You can enter your postal code to see garage delivery services available in your area.

If you don’t have a garage, you can opt for a lockable mailbox on your porch for couriers and mail carriers. Some don’t have the smarts, like the Danby Parcel Guard Basic Mailbox ($229.00), a simple mailbox that can hold packages up to 15″ x 10″ x 8″ and has an anti-theft slot and a key lock so you can open it when you get home.

If desired, the mailbox can be bolted to the floor (fixings included) or additional weight can be added to the base of the unit (by adding sand or gravel).

But for $70 more there’s also the Danby Parcel Guard Smart Mailbox ($299.00), a Wi-Fi connected unit with motion sensor, camera and alarm. This mailbox can send you real-time notifications to your smartphone when a courier is there. To open the electronic lock to access the packages inside (up to 15 x 10 x 8 inches), use the keypad or app.

How to reduce the risk of fraud

Always use a secure internet connection when making a purchase. Reputable websites use technologies such as SSL (Secure Socket Layer) that encrypt data during transmission. You’ll see a little padlock icon in your browser (and usually “https” at the front of your address bar) to confirm it’s a secure connection.

Many cybersecurity experts say it’s safer (and faster) to buy from a store’s app than from the web.

Buy only from sites that accept secure payment methods, such as credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay or Google Pay. Personally, I use a Visa card with high cash back, as well as “zero liability” protection in the event of a dispute with your purchase (for example, if you didn’t receive it, that’s not what you ordered or in poor condition).

Never send cash or checks. Not even if a family online store asks for it.

Resist shopping at free public Wi-Fi hotspots. It could also put your credit card information and passwords at risk. Instead, use your smartphone’s cellular service or wait until you’re home.

About Anne Wurtsbach

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