Living in the age of online shopping and m-commerce, it has become arguably harder for stores without an online presence to compete with the lower prices of many online merchants. But still, according to MainStreet, there are five products you should never buy online. Consumers are advised to buy heavy items, groceries, and clothing in-store to avoid hidden costs, and to achieve the biggest savings via sales and coupons.
But we beg to differ. We've combed through the dealnews archives and believe that the prevalence of free shipping, coupon codes, and online sales are valuable enough to make shopping online for almost anything completely feasible.
Lots of sites offer free shipping, whether it be on an everyday basis (newegg), with a minimum purchase (Soap.com), at a premium (Amazon Prime), or through a promotion or coupon code. What's more, even big ticket items like furniture and appliances frequently qualify for free shipping. For example, right now Home Depot is cutting 10% off a selection of appliances of $397 or more — plus offering free shipping. You could just as easily head to your local Home Depot and mingle with the home improvement crowd, or you could do your research, take your space measurements, and order this Maytag 30" Self-Cleaning Electric Range ($584.10 with free shipping, a low by $78), from the comforts of your couch.
MainStreet points out, however, that smaller retailers are often guilty of charging exorbitant shipping costs on heavy items. That's because even if smaller online retailers offer competitive prices, they frequently can't afford to comp shipping charges. Consumers therefore need to be aware of how shipping and handling costs can skew small vendors' rock-bottom prices. Not all lowest-priced goods are the lowest total price available, especially if recent hikes in UPS and FedEx shipping rates affect delivery fees from these vendors.
It's admittedly hard to find coupon codes for Fresh Direct and Peapod (once you've placed your first order), but that doesn't mean buying groceries online isn't sometimes economical. Consider Amazon's Subscribe & Save program, which not only offers free shipping, but takes up to 15% off everyday foodstuffs. We like stocking up on things like KIND Mini Bars (12-pack for $13.29 with free shipping, a low by $8) and SeaBear Ready-To-Eat Wild Smoked Salmon (3-pack for $19.32 with free shipping, a low by $11).
We do, however, see a plethora of coupons on apparel and footwear, ranging from higher-end to oh-so-affordable. Right now, Banana Republic is offering 30% off men's and women's full-priced items via coupon code "BREXTRA30", and you can take an additional 30% off any item (including sale items) at Ann Taylor via coupon code "ENJOYANN". We also frequently see coupons that sweeten Victoria's Secret purchases, like $15 off orders over $100. Plus, the current Famous Footwear sale takes an extra 15% off all items via coupon code "FFCANVAS" — makes it easy to keep pace in the fashion world.
What's more, dealcoupon houses thousands of promotional codes for popular online stores, and is updated daily with the newest and most popular discounts. From Coldwater Creek to Hot Topic and more, you'll find savings with just a few keystrokes.
Everyday Sales and Clearance
For some people, seeking out coupon codes and comparison shopping can be daunting. (Those people should read dealnews, by the way.) Merchants like Walmart (and formerly JCPenney) thus cater to this concern by offering "everyday low prices" — both in-store and online. And if you're a savvy consumer who isn't afraid of "looking around," the internet makes comparison shopping much easier.
We're also always happy to see frequent clearance sales from stores like Nordstrom and Target, both of which have brick-and-mortar operations and are always discounting merchandise to the clearance racks. But these "inventory-motivated sales" also show up online, and often yield better deals than in-store offers thanks to stacking coupon codes. Consumers also tend to benefit from greater centralized stock when shopping online; instead of riffling through sale racks for the right size shirt, all products' available sizes are clearly laid out, making for a simpler shopping experience. And, so long as purchases aren't final sale, returns can be made in-store to avoid any return shipping costs. Plus, sometimes even within a single chain, prices can vary from store to store, so there's no guarantee that buying in-store means you're even getting the best price from that retailer.
Even though this MainStreet article makes some valid points, we do think the ease and convenience of online shopping should be taken into consideration. You can shop at work or at home, from your desktop or your smartphone. Even if you're buying less expensive items, like shampoo online, consider the opportunity cost of having gone to the store just to find out your brand of hair care is out of stock.
However, despite sales, coupon codes, and promotional discounts, we wonder, are there any items that you refuse to buy online? Or are there goods that you know are always cheaper to buy at your local market or department store? Sound off in the comments section below.
Note that this feature has been updated since it was originally published last year.