Online shopping on the rise

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You can do it in your underwear.

Who knows how many people do, but online shopping has established itself as part of the American way of life, and the number of people who make online purchases is projected to continue rising.

Online shopping easily beat the common brick-and-mortar retail store in the University of Michigan’s annual American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Americans gave a higher rating to online shopping sites than to retail stores, according to the index, released Feb. 20.

The highest-rated shopping location was www.barnesandnoble.com. The runner up was its competitor Amazon.com.

But online shoppers still need to be careful and learn about a company before committing to a sale, according to www.cnbc.com.

Sites like Yahoo Shopping, MSN Shopping, eBay’s Shopping.com or Shopzilla can ease consumers’ fears through their merchant ratings. Yahoo, for example, handles shoppers’ credit card information and sends the payment – not the credit card number – to the merchant.

During the 2006 holiday season, online sales were on track to reach $32 billion for the year, 18 to 20 percent higher than in 2005, according to Jupiter Research, a New York-based market research firm.

Jayme Brown, administrative assistant for the Department of Housing and Dining and non-traditional student in business administration, said she occasionally shops online during the year but makes more online purchases during the holidays.

“It seems to be better than fighting the crowds at the stores,” she said, “but people need to realize that not all deals online are great ones. You must remember that there are shipping costs.”

As consumers migrate to the Internet, they also are increasing the total amount of their online purchases, according to Jupiter’s research. The average shopper is expected to spend $281 on the Internet this year, up from $251 last year.

On Facebook.com, a group called Student Superstore is open to students. The group is sponsored by half.com and powered by eBay. The group sells everything from textbooks to the new Nintendo Wii at prices students can afford. Sarah Cossidente, junior in hotel and restaurant management, is an avid online shopper. She said she never has had a problem with fraud or return policies.

“I shop online everyday, but I don’t buy anything unless I really need it,” she said. “It’s very convenient, and I usually shop at clothing stores that we don’t have here in Manhattan.”

Mike Pilcher, junior in pre-medicine, said he shops online for lower prices.

“I just got a one-gigabyte flash drive the size of a pocket knife for $7,” he said. “But know your local prices and keep two to three different online stores handy for price comparisons.”

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