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Knowing when to trust an online merchant [08/23/2006]

Knowing when to trust an online merchant

By Rick Rahim

While there is no definitive way to know whether you can trust an online merchant; there are a few simple things any consumer can do to quickly eliminate most of the "bad sites" out there.

Most people would not provide their credit card information to a poorly dressed person selling products out of an old car on the side of the road. Likewise, we shouldn't trust shabby websites that have obvious red flags.

If there are obvious spelling and grammar errors on a company's website, this may be a large indication of the professionalism of the people running the site. If they cannot even spell-check their own website, do you really want to give them your money?

How about a "professional look and feel" on the website? We all know a good looking website from a shabby one. Is it obvious the website owner takes pride in his or her business? Or was the site thrown together quickly with no regard for a clean and professional image?

Lastly, does the website provide easy contact information? Any truly professional organization should easily be able to provide a working phone number, email contact system, and address. Any company who does not want to be easily contacted is most likely not going to be responsive to you once they have your money.

Just like we can all usually judge a person by the way he dresses and speaks, we can use the same skills to judge a website when we first consider buying from it. While there is still no way to be sure you have found a quality merchant just by the look of the website, you can certainly eliminate the obvious "bad apples" at first glance.

Remember that once you have found a website you are considering doing business with; be sure you check their rating at the Online Business Bureau!

Rick Rahim is the President of the Online Business Bureau and a Consumer Advocate Author.

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