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Safety, Convenience, Price, and Selection ... and that's just for starters.
The Advantages of Shopping Online

Illustration: A couple enjoys a romantic evening at a neighborhood cafe.
Just A Few of the Joys of Shopping Online

When you shop online, you can shop when you want. If you want to shop for Swarovski Crystal JewelrySwarovski Crystal Jewelry at 3 a.m. on New Year's Day, do it online, and never have to worry about impatient clerks or a store's "closing time" ... you can shop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

If you don't feel so great today but need to buy someone a present anyway, do it online. If you happen to get tired during your online shopping session, you don't have to worry about "getting home." You're already there!

The rules are different when you can shop in the comfort and safety of your own home. Don't feel like getting dressed today? So shop in your pajamas, if that's more comfortable. Or shop naked, if you want to!

If it's too hot outside, you don't have to go out in the heat. And if there is two feet of ice and snow on the roads and you can't get out, you can still go shopping.

You won't have to get stressed out fighting traffic and risking an accident in the mall parking lot. You also won't have to worry about muggers, robbers, carjackers or purse-snatchers.

You'll find an ever-changing variety of places to shop at the BFC Cyber~Mall, all within a few clicks of your mouse. This is especially important for those users who have few stores in their neighborhood or who have challenges physically navigating a huge shopping mall.

Comparison shopping is extremely easy when shopping online. Let's say a friend has told you that she would really, really like a few classic Jack Nicholson movies iconfor her birthday. Finding such classic videos is much easier when you shop online. The other option (jumping in the car and running around to a bunch of local video stores) is much more hassle. Online, you can compare prices quickly by checking out several retailers and comparing their prices on a particular video. This takes a few minutes online, but it would probably take an evening to accomplish if you were shopping at brick and mortar stores

Discount coupons are more readily available online than anywhere else. For example, if you are planning to buy a book at a brick and mortar bookstore, you are unlikely to find a coupon to reduce the cost of the book. However, many online bookstores , like other types of online stores, offer discount coupons. We found a coupon for $5 off a $40 book at one online bookstore and used that coupon to purchase that same book through another bookstore.

Forget Crowds, Cranky People, and Calling the Babysitter

Unlike the mall, there are no lines to wait in and no cranky people to deal with. For just about all of us, this is great, especially during the holiday season when lines and tempers can both flare. Also, we all have days when we are "out of sorts" ... and when we shop online, no one has to deal with US.

You don't need to hire a baby-sitter and you don't have to drag the kids all over the place. When our kids were little, many of us working in this office wish that we'd had the easy availability of online shopping. It can be a real challenge to shop with several little "consumers" who become cranky the moment they have to leave the store's toy department.

You can use anyone's credit card online (assuming that you have their permission to use it). But careful clerks will not allow you to do this in the store. However, there are times when the card's actual owner is not available in spite of the fact that they approved your purchase. Some of us here have let our kids use our credit cards online many times. If those same kids had wanted to buy the same merchandise in the store, their parents would have needed to go shopping with them. And that is not always convenient.

You can listen to whatever music you like while shopping online. Or, you can listen to the TV, talk on the phone, or listen to nothing at all and shop in quiet solitude, if you like.

On the other hand, if you go shopping at the mall, you may have to endure the excessive ebullience of exuberant children; or the maddening monotony of non-stop Christmas music from September through January; or hear other noise that maybe you just don't want to listen to.

Shopping online would also be especially suitable for people who do not celebrate Christmas. None of us here can imagine how it would be for a shopper who is a Buddhist (for example) being forced to listen to "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" six times during a two-hour shopping session.

You Can Buy the Gifts Online, and Have Someone Else Wrap and Mail Them for You

Online shopping is perfect for buying gifts you want to send to distant friends or relatives. Most of the online stores will even wrap the gift for you before sending it. Furthermore, you can tell the seller that your purchase is a gift and the invoice will not be included with the item. Buying gifts online is very convenient since you don't have to wrap the gift, properly package it, and then drag it to the post office yourself and wait in line. Most online sellers will be happy to handle these tasks for you, and your gifts will get delivered on time.

You really can have privacy as you shop. There are times when privacy really matters for many people. For example, lets say that someone needs to buy personal items: "Depends", condoms, or Viagra, for example. Many people experience embarrassment when buying these items in a store where they have to face at least one other person who knows what they are buying. When buying these items online, that embarrassment is minimized or completely eliminated.

You can get online and find almost anything you might need or want. We have sampled all kinds of gourmet foods from all over the world because we shop online. And we're not just talking about some Americanized version of imported foods and beverages, but exotic foods from their countries of origin as well.

Shop Online and Save Money When You Travel

Online grocery stores are also great to use when on vacation or business trips. When we stay in downtown hotels, we may not have time to take a cab to a grocery store. So, a few days before we leave, we place an order with an online food store and have it delivered to our destination. Then when we arrive there, our groceries are waiting. And we can have most of our meals and snacks more efficiently, and usually much cheaper than eating every meal in a crowded hotel restaurant.

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