Shopping Online when Traveling

There have been solutions to problems as well as problems presented in the last few months regarding the issues that full time travelers face when trying to order online. We hope to provide our own take on these issues.

Safety and security.

One of the first issues that must be faced is the fear that some people still have about doing “any” kind of business online, which in nearly every case that I have ever heard, is a totally unfounded fear. Most of the problems I have heard or read about is because the purchaser did not follow the simple instructions on their screen!

Here’s a case in point from one of our personal friends: she wanted to order something online from a vendor that uses PayPal as their processor, but did not have enough money in her PayPal account to make the purchase, so her daughter offered to go online and buy it for her. The mistake was in the fact that her daughter used her mother’s computer to make the purchase from the vendor, and then did not read the instructions on how to switch from PayPal to a credit card!

All computers store cookies, so they can remember users, passwords, last sites visited, etc. In this case, the mother’s computer was recognized by PayPal as a normal user, and defaulted to the PayPal checkout process, which is normal. All the daughter had to do was click a button to take her to the section where she could use a normal credit card, and then it would have been charged to the daughter’s credit card. Instead, she went ahead and checked out with PayPal (note: she would have had to know her mother’s password, which is entirely possible, but that should have been a huge red flag, had she been paying attention!), and it got billed to her mother’s PayPal account anyway! With not enough funds in PayPal it pulled funds from the bank account associated with it! This is NOT the fault of PayPal. It is the fault of the user not knowing how the system works and not paying attention to the simple instructions onscreen!

But now the mother is down on PayPal, and with all vendors online, saying she doesn’t trust “any” of them, and will never buy online again! IT ISN’T THE VENDOR’S FAULT, NOR THAT OF THE PAYMENT PROCESSOR! IT’s the USER’S FAULT! Computers have a far superior brain than any human has. It is the human’s fault if they don’t understand or follow the procedures necessary to allow it to do it’s job! Like the old saying goes… “(if you put) garbage in, (you will get) garbage out”.

We have been purchasing online since 1999, and have never had a problem with a checkout process. I read several years ago a report about the online payment processing industry, that the standard encryption process that ALL payment processors use is 40 times greater than the military radio transmission encryption used in operation “Desert Storm”. If the government feels safe enough to keep information out of the hands of our enemies with their technology, then what have you got to worry about with a credit card?  Your chances of having your card (or number) stolen by a face to face transaction with someone like a restaurant employee or convenience store is probably 10,000 times LESS secure than online! It only takes them less than two seconds to imprint your card into a piece of clay and memorize the three digit code on the back, or scratch it into that piece of clay by hand! That will never happen with the kinds of encrypted processing used online!

And if you never learn any more about using a computer than (barely) knowing how to manage your email account, then you are only using less than a tenth of a percent of what an average person “could” be using a computer for! And that lack of knowledge is costing you money in so many ways that I can’t begin to think of them all!

It’s a total waste of money if you never learn anything but email on it! If you learn how to use it properly, you will find a whole new world open to you! If you refuse to learn, then you only have yourself to blame if you have no extra money or when things go wrong!

Receiving your physical purchases while traveling.

Obviously, digital products, and things like memberships, can be delivered to your computer anywhere you can get internet service. Physical packages are the problem.

The first thing that people need to realize is that not all vendors allow you a choice in how your purchase will be shipped. Some, even though the purchase is very small, will still use a service like UPS or FedEx, because they have accounts with those services and do enough shipping to get a substantial discount on shipping costs. With built-in tracking, it makes it comparable in price to First Class Mail with Delivery Confirmation added. As a purchaser you need to know what method they use before you make that purchase! It will usually tell you in the checkout process. If there is not a method listed there that you can use, then back out of the transaction and go somewhere else! YOU must make that choice!

The problem is that many travelers use General Delivery at a nearby Post Office to receive their forwarded mail, and that works great for Post Office mail. But most other shippers will not deliver to a Post Office for “any” reason or by “any” method! Even if they “would” deliver it there, you have paid your fee to the shipping company, and yet the Post Office is getting nothing for receiving your package and storing it for you until you can pick it up! So why would they want to mess with it without getting paid for it? You nor I wouldn’t do that, so why expect them to do it?

Normally, the only way to receive items from anyone other than the Post Office, is to have permission to ship to a physical address, such as the campground where you are staying. The catch there is that some will allow package delivery and some won’t. You HAVE to ask the manager before ordering something online! Sometimes it can be a matter of timing. If your current campground won’t allow package or mail delivery, then you may have to wait until you get to place that WILL allow it. If you call ahead and get permission, you may be able to place your order online so that it will arrive at the same time you do. With UPS and most other services you can use the tracking number to go online and verify the exact delivery date, so you know when you have to be there. Receiving packages is more of a problem for people that spend most of their time boon-docking. They may have to make a rare exception, and spend a night or two at a paid campground in order to receive a package there, as public parks, COE campgrounds and forest campgrounds won’t provide that service. But by verifying the delivery date, they won’t have to waste expense on extra night’s fees.

Having an address at a UPS store is OK, if you live in an area where you can visit the store regularly, but if you are traveling, that is not a good solution, either. They will forward mail to a Post Office for you, but they also charge extra for that service, in which case, you will be paying for shipping costs twice, plus the cost of their service.

So even if you use a mail forwarding service, which will usually forward to General Delivery at any Post Office, be aware of the problem with packages shipped by other services, learn what you have to do, THINK, and plan accordingly.

Savings.

Although having things delivered to your door is usually much cheaper than wasting gas and time to go get it, due to the issues above, it “may” be cheaper to wait for that trip to town, “IF” you can get what you want there. Many times you can’t get the item you want locally. The biggest mistake people make is that they don’t consider the delivery cost of goods purchased, and that also applies to your own picking it up and bringing it home! That is still “delivery cost”!

It isn’t just the gas you will spend on your vehicle… it is the entire operating cost that you have to consider! Regardless of what the IRS says is a legal tax deduction for mileage, it often runs way more than that, especially for RV’s and heavier trucks. As an example, when I was using our Dakota V8 Quad-Cab for business (not even a “heavy” truck), I kept track of every expense on it, from the mileage to the payments, to the maintenance to the insurance and taxes on it. The IRS lets you decide how you want to take your expenses on it, either by
(1) their standard mileage figure (which is often way too low on a newer vehicle), by
(2) actual expenses, or by
(3) calculated depreciation.

From our own records I found that our actual cost per mile at seventy-five cents, was the best way to go for us. So therefore, a ten mile trip (20 miles round trip total) to the store was actually costing $15 in total wear and tear on that vehicle, whereas the gas used was only about $4 worth! So when I hear people tell me that it “only” costs them a minimal amount for gas, and that they can’t afford shipping costs, I have to laugh to myself at their ignorance of basic finances! A vehicle costs WAY more to operate than just the gas! Every mile you put on it is costing you in the TOTAL expense of operating that vehicle, and people need to wake up to that fact!

And then there’s the factor of time. If you were paying an employee to go pick up that item, you would be paying for their time at an hourly rate. Many retired people don’t consider their time worth anything… but it is! Take whatever your yearly income is and divide it by 2080 (the number of working hours in a year) and that’s what your hourly time is worth! If you figure that trip to the store is going to take an hour to get there and back, and your time is worth $20 an hour, then you can also add that cost onto the “delivery cost”. Someone is making it! If it isn’t you, then it’s the Mail Carrier or the UPS driver, but someone is being paid to get that item to your door, even if it’s you yourself! If you have other, more profitable or more enjoyable things to with your time, then why “work” at doing a chore?

Even if you “could” buy what you want locally, you have to consider the hassles of it. Some people hate to shop, others may love it. Some may go just to get out of the house or RV and go do “something”. But regardless of personal reasons, the financial reasons will usually argue in favor of having it delivered to your door. It saves time and money.

Greater selection and savings.

No store, even such giants as Walmart, stock everything in the store that they list online. Regional stores in different areas carry different items, so people that may have moved (or are on the move) may not find what they want at a different store. But online, you can find nearly anything you want! Also, many online stores offer free shipping, if not across the board, then on certain things or on an order of a certain size. So ordering online doesn’t “have” to cost more if you shop wisely!

Our new office computer is a good example. This was an online ONLY special purchase through Walmart. It was not available in ANY of the stores. This is a MSRP $450 computer that we bought for about $300 online and had it delivered to our local store for pick-up, so there was no shipping costs on it! Since my wife works there, it was not an extra trip to pick it up. There are hundreds of thousands of deals like this available every day online, so those who refuse to buy online are spending money needlessly and foolishly!

And even more money can be saved by buying from places like eBay! Very seldom will you ever see anything listed on eBay at it’s normal store price. Our printer cartidges are a good example. We buy only OEM (not remanufactured) cartridges in orginal packaging for sometimes one-fourth of what we would pay in the stores! Some are simply past their expiration date to legally sell in the stores, but let’s face it… ink doesn’t dry out that fast! We haven’t found one yet that doesn’t work as good as new! In these uncertain times, you need to stop wasting money, and put it in your own pocket… not someone else’s!

Other reasons for shopping online.

Someone we know has a physical disability, and they need assistance walking. They still do their own shopping and can walk and stand for short periods of time, but it’s difficult, and getting up and down steps is difficult. They have steps between their house and garage, so the fewer trips they have to make to get purchased items into the house (especially groceries) the better off they are. They also sometimes work long hours at their regular job, and don’t have time to shop. Here’s how they solved that problem…

…they order all their non-perishables online (paper goods, cleaning supplies, boxed goods, canned goods, hardware, etc.) and have them delivered to their door. It not only saves a tremendous amount of time,  it costs them LESS than it costs them in the store, because they can find things online that their local store doesn’t stock! Many people don’t realize it but you can order anything you want from Walmart online … including groceries…and have it delivered to your local store for pick up, and you pay NOTHING for shipping! If you want it delivered to your door, all you have to do is make sure your order totals $45, and they will deliver it to your door… for FREE! So now, instead of several bags to carry and try to walk with a cane at the same time, they have only a couple of bags. Think how that cuts down on the physical pain of walking and standing time! They can get in and out of the store in minutes now, instead of an hour or more!

You can have a better selection of any items… groceries, appliances, clothing, office supplies or whatever… by going online to shop than you will EVER have at ANY one store! Our friend still buys her fresh and frozen items at the store (produce, breads, meats, etc.), but now she is going in through our links and ordering everything else online to save her the pain of walking, standing and getting up and down her steps… and at the same time, she is saving money by getting “specials” she wouldn’t find in her local store. And since she does us the courtesy of using our links to go online in appreciation for our waking her up to these methods, we are getting a nice “referral fee” from Walmart for sending her there to shop! It’s a win/win  situation for all concerned!

If you live in an area where your Walmart is not a “Super Store” and does not have a grocery or deli department… guess what? You can STILL go online and save money by buying your groceries through Walmart, and have them delivered! Even if you still have to buy the fresh stuff from somewhere else, the savings on all your non-persihables will be worthwhile!

The other thing great about Walmart is that you no longer have to use a credit card to shop! If you have the item delivered to a local store for pick-up, you can pay when you get there! Now… how can you beat that? How many more lame excuses are you going to come up with before you realize what you are missing, and how much money you could be saving?

If you are out traveling in your RV, and plan to stop at a Walmart overnight, You can place your order… even for things that they may not have at that store… and have it delivered there so that it will save you time when you get there! All you have to do is go to the
“site to store” area (sometimes at the back of the store) to pick up your order. Please verify that the particular Walmart store where you plan to park overninght allows RV parking overnight, but even if they don’t, you can still pick up your order there, even if just passing through. Also check the delivery date of your order coming in. Usually it will tell you during the checkout process when you can expect it. Make sure the delivery date fits within your plans.

So what are you waiting for? Get into the 21st century shopping methods and go save some money!