Consumer questions: Online shopping

November 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Michael Finney answers your questions on self-service checkouts, online shopping and credit card use over the phone.

Is self-service a growing trend:

Question: " I was just wondering, there's a lot of self service going around with shopping markets, there's Home depot, IKEA, you know all those places. Is that a continuing trend, is it going to grow even more? Why is that? It seems like I have to do everything myself. There's no one there to help me."

Answer: It is a continuing trend and it's going to get worse with our economy going down. Americans prefer price not service, so retailers are going to work to keep the price down. It's a balancing act of how little service will the customer put up with in order to get a certain price.

Credit card use over the phone:

Question: " I'm wondering is it safe to give my credit card information over the phone when I'm ordering something?"

Answer: It is safe as long as you're the person who has placed the call and it's someone you've done business with before. Even if it's something you order regularly and they call you, tell them you'll call them back instead.

Online shopping dangers?

Question: " What are some of the dangers involved with online shopping?"

Answer: When shopping online there are two things you have to look out for: your identity and your money on the individual purchase. To prevent identity theft, you want to give out as little information as possible. Don't give out your Social Security number. If they ask lifestyle questions about your family income, etc., don't answer them. It's best to use one credit card only for online purchases, so that you can keep track of it more easily. You definitely want to use a credit card because you have a 60-day charge back in the event the information gets stolen. Stay away from amateur looking sites that may contain misspellings. Also, if they don't give out a phone number or physical address, stay away from those as well.

For more of Michael Finney's consumer stories and advice, visit 7 On Your Side.