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Can Novocastrians Still Trust Online Shopping?

Before Covid, online shopping was a thing. During Covid, it exploded and really became a THING! Consumers all over the world found this easier (and safer during Covid) way to get great stuff delivered right to their homes, maybe without even getting out of their chairs. Or beds. The truth is that online sales figures have gone ballistic. We’re all doing it.

The early concerns about credit card security and privacy have given way to a buoyant confidence in the online shopping mall protected by secure payment options. This has led to an online shopping spree of epic proportions.

This chart plots the growth of online shopping over recent years…

This year, in 2023, the size of the online shopping market is expected to hit somewhere around $56.2 billion dollars. Over FIFTY-SIX BILLION dollars!

Think about that. That’s an awful of money. Our money.

And where there’s a lot of money to be made, the vultures flock.

Since this avenue of criminal enterprise has blossomed to become so succulently and temptingly ripe, countless parasitic products are flooding social media platforms at a faster rate than the Kardashians, Beyonce and Miley Cyrus combined.

With society’s fixation on looking good and feeling good, we are being delivered black or purple teeth whitening miracles, transformational make-up magic, cures for hair reduction, hair growth, hair colouring, wavy hair, straight hair and there’s impossibly precise beard trimmers. There’s scientifically proven break-through anti-aging creams that only take six weeks to make you look ten years younger. There are exercise regimes that will give you perfect abs in just a month or irresistible massage devices to completely absolve your body of stress. There are, believe it or not, lollies that can make you lose weight. And the stuff you can do now to keep your ears clean! Wow!

There is no end to the AMAZING STUFF THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

And it’s tempting. There’s no point in denying it? Who doesn’t want to look better and feel better?

So, we here at Newcastle Live did some random shopping by responding to a series of online advertisements making outrageously attractive claims. We chose four particular categories, trying five products in total over period from a few days to a few weeks. Let’s see how we did.

PRODUCTCOMMENTSDID IT WORK?
Teeth Whitening: CharcoalBought and used for several daysNo
Teeth Whitening: PaintBought and used for 2 weeksNo
Personal MassagerBought and tried – worked once then stopped and won’t work again.No
Ear Cleaner (with video ‘pen’)Bought and works as describedYes
Weight Loss GummiesYum! But no weight loss.No

So, after buying five products that promised amazing things, we found one that worked. If this represents an average, just one out of five products (20%) worked. Conversely, this means that potentially 80% of the products that are offering these life-changing miracles don’t actually stand up to fulfil their outrageous claims.

So, when we are purchasing these products online, how do we know the good from the bad, the credible from the crap? In traditional media, like newspapers, radio and TV, it is illegal for merchants to make false claims in their advertising. It seems no such regulation applies to advertising on the internet and, in particular, social media. What?!?

While we are becoming more educated about identifying scammers that use email or the phone to try to dupe us, this is like having numerous gangs of unconscionable thieves roaming around Westfield stealing your parcels as you buy them. If it were in real life, the police would be called and the gangs arrested. In the digital sphere, though, it’s different. If you lose your hard-earned on some gimmicky thing that makes claims that are too good to be true, there’s few places to go as anonymous email addresses and fake websites stop responding to you. So, is it your fault. Are you the dumb one here?

Or, given that we are experiencing a veritable blizzard of online shopping nowadays, shouldn’t there be some type of regulation imposed by world leaders to stop these charlatans? If that doesn’t happen, every online retailer is taking a risk in the same way that purchasers are taking the risk now. Unless it’s a brand you know, all others are likely to lose our trust. If someone doesn’t put a stop to this free-for-all of thievery, we will all stop trusting any new online vendor?

As more and more of these miracle products are flooding our feeds, and more and more people are fleeced by these unscrupulous vendors, it can only erode our trust in start up retailers, existing brands and, ultimately, our trust in online shopping generally.

We have received many messages about people who have become victims of online shopping. Some of these stories are horrendous but, by the victims sharing their experiences, others have avoided the same fate.

One woman, who was a cancer sufferer, lost her hair, and subsequently her confidence, after radiation treatment. After being too self-conscious to go out in public, she finally came across an expensive product promising to regrow her hair. She even messaged the vendor numerous times to confirm that she would get results and every time she was guaranteed it would work. The price was out of her budget but she went ahead and bought it. After a month of using the product, nothing. Two months, nothing. Three months, not a follicle to be found. She also said that the feeling that these people would so heartlessly and fraudulently steal innocent people’s money made her lose trust in online shopping. And there are many more stories out there just like this one.

It is a particularly sad indictment on humanity.

Are you losing your trust in online shopping? If you’ve had a bad (or good) online shopping experience, let us know in the comments.