Understanding How Online Shopping Works

Search by Drug or Product Name

This guide will teach you how to safely purchase prescription medication from reputable online pharmacies, as well as how to identify a reliable online pharmacy versus a “rogue” pharmacy. You’ll learn how online shopping works, how to protect yourself from online fraud, and where you can go for more information.

Once you know how to safely browse and shop online and how to identify safe online pharmacies, you will enjoy the savings on prescription medications that online pharmacies can offer!
More people than ever are turning to online shopping to fulfill their needs. Just about anything your heart desires can be found online and delivered directly to your door, often for prices that can’t be beat by brick-and-mortar businesses.

A June 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal showed that in 2012 alone, online purchases grew by 15 percent and totaled $186 billion. Additionally, a survey conducted by comScore, a data analysis firm, showed that online customer satisfaction is at a whopping 83 percent, mostly thanks to the flexibility that online shopping allows and the cost savings consumers can enjoy.

If you’ve never purchased a product online before, it’s reasonable to have concerns and questions. Some of the most common concerns of people who haven’t shopped online include fears about computer and credit card security, apprehension about shopping at a retailer that may not be legitimate, and worry about how to handle disputes with online retailers. These concerns are certainly realistic, but honest online retailers have also taken these fears into account in order to provide you with a safe and enjoyable online shopping experience.

How E-Commerce Works

The act of purchasing items online has come to be known as e-commerce, and, as noted above, this method of doing business is exploding.

E-commerce is essentially the same principle as standard commerce — sellers and buyers working together to trade for goods. The only difference is that the trades are conducted electronically through the Internet. Have you ever perused a catalog or seen an ad on TV and then picked up the phone to call the toll-free number and purchase the product? The idea is the same, except that you can find exactly the item you are looking for by going to a website, selecting your item, adding it to what is often called your “shopping cart,” and then checking out by entering your credit card and shipping information into a secure form.

Fears and Misconceptions About E-Commerce

Most fears about e-commerce can be boiled down to six basic concerns. Perhaps the most pervasive fear about shopping online is that your credit card and other personal information will be stolen or mishandled. While identity theft is a very real concern, you can mitigate this risk by following some recommended steps to secure your computer and also make sure that you are shopping at a legitimate and trustworthy business. You can learn more about these recommendations in Chapter Three: Securing Your Browsing Environment and Chapter Five: Online Security and Trust Indicators.

Another common concern is that because the business may not exist in a brick-and-mortar location, the item itself may not exist and you may never receive it. Unfortunately, everyone has heard the horror stories about well-meaning buyers being ripped off by scam artists on popular auction or free-listing sites. You can reduce this worry when you are shopping for medication (or anything else) online by only purchasing your products from an online retailer with an actual physical location, a practice that we strongly recommend.

People who are new to online shopping are also often afraid of their information being sold to third parties, leaving them open to spam and other solicitous offers. This is an unethical practice, and carefully choosing the sites you do business with will help prevent this problem. When you are visiting a website you are considering doing business with, look for their privacy policy, terms and conditions, and opt-in options. Sometimes this is provided when you create an account with the website, but it should also be available elsewhere on the website. Use the site’s search box to type in “Terms and Conditions” or “Privacy Policy,” or scroll down. The information may also be available in the website’s “footer.” Although many people simply check the box that says that they read the terms and conditions because they are in a hurry, take the time to actually read through and review the information. The site may also automatically sign you up for emails and even regular mail, and this information will be in the terms and conditions wording.

One disadvantage that online shopping has over shopping in physical stores is that regular stores allow you to try on or try out a product before you buy it. This is especially a concern when purchasing clothing or electronic equipment. One consequence of this problem is that people today often go to physical retailers, try out or try on the item they wish to buy, and then go online and purchase the product, a practice sometimes referred to as “showrooming.” This problem is causing concern for physical retailers who are paying to display the product but are reaping none of the profit.

Many people worry that when buying products online, they will be all on their own with no salesperson to guide them. Most online retailers these days do have customer service representatives available to help you during business hours, and some even provide 24/7 online support. Reputable online pharmacies will always have customer support including medical and pharmaceutical professionals to counsel you.

Finally, consumers who are new to online retail are often worried that they have no recourse if they are unhappy with the product. Just like in the physical retail world, return policies vary from retailer to retailer, so make sure you read the return policy and guarantee before you purchase. This situation is a bit different when it comes to pharmaceutical products however. According to both American and Canadian law, medications that have been dispensed cannot be returned to inventory and resold, so sales through online pharmacies are always final.

The Benefits of E-Commerce

As you may have gathered, online retailers are sensitive to the concerns of consumers, both current and potential, and have taken steps to address those concerns to provide a safe and secure shopping experience. By taking steps to protect yourself as well and conducting business with reputable retailers, you’ll be able to enjoy the numerous benefits that shopping online has to offer.

One of the biggest benefits of online shopping — and the reason that most people turn to it for their products — is the convenience factor. You can shop online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year (366 on leap years!). People today are busier than ever, and it can be tricky to get out and get your shopping done in the scant time between leaving work and the stores closing for the night. One online shopping trend that is really taking off is online grocery shopping. More and more grocery stores are now offering this service, as is Amazon through the new program Amazon Fresh. Imagine never having to lug your grocery bags up your stairs again!

Another convenient aspect of online shopping is that you can almost always find the exact product you need. The days of driving all over town looking for the product you want or dealing with cranky salespeople over the phone are gone. A few clicks of the keyboard and mouse and you can find the item you want — even if it’s rare — and have it delivered to your door. If you live in a more rural area, this is especially valuable since the product you want may not even be sold nearby.