Read an Excerpt
- The store offers a secure area for ordering, to protect your personal and
- The store guarantees that it will not pass along your personal
information to any other company. Period.
- The site offers a fast and accurate search system.
- The site lets you find products by looking through categories, without
having to plunge down, down, down through a lot of levels.
- The store actually sells the items it says it does, and they're easy to
locate on the site.
- The product descriptions are rich, with components such as good photos
(small and large), lists of features and benefits, pricing, shipping
information, manufacturer's name and warranty, samples, suggestions for
add-on products, and reviews by critics and customers.
- Prices are easy to determine.
- Prices are low to mid-range, and if the store does not offer serious
discounts, there is a reasonable explanation or compensating value on the
site (extra information, super service, free shipping).
- The store offers extensive instruction on how to order, how to pick
shipping, how to return products.
- The store posts its customer service phone number and email prominently,
so you know how to get in touch with them.
- The ordering system is easy to find and use.
- Shipping choices are visible early, on the product description or in the
shopping cart before you order.
- Orders are immediately confirmed with a detailed page or email, or both.
- You can opt out of receiving email announcing their sales.
- Return policies are clear and reasonable.
- The layout looks good.
- Navigation iseasy.
Of course, not every site in our book manages to do all these things well,
but to qualify for our book, a site has to be outstanding in many of these
So, welcome to our book! We hope we can help you find great products online,
explore some fascinating sites, discover amazing bargains, and get what you
want, fast. Oh, and one other thing: With these stores, we think you're
going to have a heck of a lot of fun!
How to Get the Most Out of Our Book
Please make our book your own. Scribble in the margins, highlight favorites,
circle stores you might want to visit. We wrote this book for your
convenience--so you can quickly find an online store that sells just what you
want, for less. So here's how to get the most out of this book when you feel
like taking an online shopping trip.
How to find a particular store.
You can locate a store three ways:
- If you have no idea what store to shop in, go to the Contents, look up
the category that seems like the best fit, and browse through that chapter.
You'll find descriptions of the best stores in that category, and the stores'
- If you want to zip right to a particular store, look it up in our list of
store addresses in the appendix at the back of the book, get the store's URL
(Web address), type that in your browser, and go.
- If you know the name of the Web store, or have a particular product
category in mind, look that up in the index, and you'll find out which pages
explore stores carrying that kind of product.
How to pick the best store for you
Each chapter offers our picks of the best stores in a particular product
category, such as pet supplies or consumer electronics. Here's how to browse
a chapter for the store that's right for you:
- If you wonder what a store feels like, or what kind of products it
focuses on, start with our description. You'll get a sense of the store's
atmosphere, size, emphasis, pricing, and shipping.
- Want to window-shop, to see some examples of the products sold at a
store? Skim the list of sample products right after the description.
- If you want help finding a product within a big collection, look at
Search to see if the store offers a way of looking products up with a search
- Need to get a picture of the products? Check Photos, to see if the store
shows you what the products look like.
- Want to know if you can order in different ways? Check Ordering to see
how to order, whether that's online, or by phone, fax, or email.
- Need a gift pronto? Check Gift Wrap to see if the store will wrap your
purchase for you.
- Want to know how fast you can expect to get your purchases? Check
Delivery to see what shipping options a store offers.
You may very well find several stores that look promising. Just put a check
mark next to each name, circle it (remember--it's YOUR book), or, if you
don't want to mark up the book yet, just put a yellow sticky next to the
description. Then, when you're ready, go online and use the Web address (at
the top of the description) to browse through the stores you thought most
How to find a particular service fast.
We know that sometimes you need to find something in a hurry and you don't
want to do a lot of reading. Maybe you're looking for a store that can send
out an item, gift-wrapped and delivered the next day. That*s what those
little categories are for at the end of each store description. You can skim
through every store in the chapter, just checking Delivery, say, or Gift
Wrapping, to find which store offers the services you need--and then read the
Analyzing the stores
We added analytical summaries so that you can skim through a chapter looking
for a particular service, one that may mean all the difference in the world.
For example, if you positively have to have it overnight, you can just look
at the Delivery line for every store, to see which stores offer Overnight
Here are explanations of the services we cover in these summaries.
- Search: Most of the good stores have some kind of search mechanism to
make locating a product easier and faster. With some stores, a good search is
essential, because they carry such a big inventory. With others, it doesn't
matter much. But we thought this could be something you might be concerned
with, especially if you want to find something fast at a particular store.
"Yes" means it does have a search. "No" means it doesn't.
- Photos: Personally, we like photos. Seeing a picture of the product
helps us make up our minds to buy or skip on by. But sometimes you have
already made up your mind exactly what brand and model you want, so you don't
care so much about the picture; or you have a slow connection and prefer
sites that are mostly text. So we've listed which stores have photos of their
inventory and which do not. With a few stores, you'll see that we've written
in "Some," meaning that they've put up pictures of some of their products but
- Ordering: We thought you'd like to know what your options are. We prefer
online ordering. Secure online ordering is the safest method. With a click of
the mouse you can select which products you want sent to your home. You don't
need to print anything out or use another phone line to call in your order
while you look at what's available on the computer screen. (In fact, any
store that doesn't offer secure online ordering was eliminated from
consideration.) But there may be times when online ordering is inconvenient,
or you just don't feel comfortable with it.
1. Online--Order immediately, using your credit card.
2. Phone--Call in your order using the number the store gives you on its Web
3. Fax--Print out the order form, fill it in, and then fax it to the store.
4. Email--Write out your order and then email the order to the store.
- Gift Wrap: If you want to send a gift to someone, this category is very
important. That's why we've broken this category down into three answers.
This is what they mean:
1. No--The store offers no wrapping services whatsoever.
2. Yes--Your gift will either be wrapped with paper or placed in a gift box
with a bow and a card. If wrapping is critical for you, consider the shops
that specialize in Gifts or Gift Baskets.
3. Card--The store does not offer gift wrapping, but your present will be
sent with a card if you wish. Usually the order form has a space where you
can type your personal message for the card. Sometimes, when stores offer
this service, they also put a bow on the gift.
- Delivery: When you need something ordered and delivered pronto, look for
a store that offers Overnight delivery. But be aware that Overnight doesn't
always mean overnight. Some stores will tell you up front how long it takes
for a product to leave their store (sometimes the product is shipped within
an hour or so, but sometimes the store may take two to three days to process
your order). So Overnight means that your purchase will be delivered
overnight--once it leaves the store. But still, Overnight is the fastest (and
most expensive). If you're not in a hurry, save yourself some money and
select a slower method. This is what the different shipping options mean:
1. Ground--This is the slowest and cheapest method. It usually (but not
always) means UPS Ground service. Figure about a week from the time your
order leaves the store. When a store says that they offer free shipping,
well, this is the kind of shipping they are talking about.
2. 3rd Day--This is often U.S. Priority Mail or a more inexpensive service
from one of delivery services, such as DHL or UPS. Your order will arrive
three days after it leaves the store.
3. 2nd Day--This is a reasonably fast service, when you do not have an urgent
need for speed. This is a good option to choose when you don't need delivery
yesterday because it will save you considerable money over the Overnight
option. Your package will arrive two days after it leaves the store.
4. Overnight--Look for this option when you need something fast. Many stores
will be able to accommodate your overnight order if you order before 12 noon.
However, this cutoff time does vary from store to store. If you really need
something overnight, make sure you check the store's shipping policy, usually
located behind a button such as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Help, How
to Order, or Shipping. Some stores offer two forms of Overnight delivery: one
the next morning, and the other, well, sometime during the next day.