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How to Get That Hard-to-Find Thing Your Kid Needs

Have you ever gone from store to store to find something? The more specific and unusual an item is, the harder it will be to find in a local store. Kids sporting activities often require gear that is specific to that sport and can be difficult to find. Luckily, we no longer have to find things locally or drive to the nearest big city to shop. There are more online stores than ever before, and since they serve a nationwide or worldwide customer base they are able to offer products that wouldn’t sell in enough quantities in one geographical area.

I ran into this problem recently when I tried to get a swimsuit for my daughter for a junior lifeguard program. It needs to be red and strong enough to stay in place no matter what she does. My daughter also wants a two-piece. This shouldn’t be too hard, right?  We started at a local swim shop that specializes in gear for competitive swimming and water polo. They have all kinds of good stuff for water sports. Unfortunately, they don’t have a red two-piece suit in my daughter’s size. The sales lady was very nice and tried to help. When it became apparent that they didn’t have what we needed, she asked if it had to be red. Yes, it does. We’re looking for something very specific. I understand if they don’t have it in stock. How many red two-piece competitive swimsuits in this particular size can they sell in South Orange County?  If they carried everything that anyone might want, their inventory would have to be huge. The more specific the item you’re looking for, the more likely it is that shopping online will save you time and money. What if you need goal keeper gloves, a swim parka, or kid sized golf clubs? If you do find them at a local brick and mortar store, you’re going to pay whatever price the store asks. If you shop online, you have the opportunity to compare prices at your leisure.

We’ve tried Sports Chalet, Big 5 and Chick’s (now Dick’s) with no luck. So I went looking online and found several good online stores that sell swimwear. But there are some things you need to do in order to make the most of your online shopping experience.

You must shop early. If you need it tomorrow, shopping online is not the right answer. You need to be organized enough to shop ahead of time. A few weeks is optimal. You can shop a few days before you need something if you’re willing to pay for expedited shipping and you’re positive that it’s going to be the right thing the first time.

Make sure that you’re shopping on a secure website. Look at the url or the website address. It should be at the top of your browser and it usually starts with http. When you get to the page where you need to enter private information, like your credit card number, it should start with https://  That means that there are standard security features in place so that your private info won’t get hacked. How secure is it? Well, I don’t know the technical details of how the security certificate works, but I know that major reputable online stores like Amazon and iTunes use it successfully. I have been making online purchases at a variety of places for at least 5 years and have never run into a problem having my data stolen.

Speaking of reputable stores, you need to make sure that the store you buy from has a good track record. Fortunately that information is available at your fingertips too. Go to the Better Business Bureau’s site and type in the website address. If the BBB has received any complaints about the business, you’ll be able to see what the complaint was about and whether the company addressed it to the customer’s satisfaction. The BBB report may also tell you how long they’ve been in business.  If they don’t have any information on the store, at least you know that they haven’t received any complaints about them. If you have doubts and you’re willing to do a little extra research, you can check out how long that domain name has been registered by doing a whois search on Godaddy. If a site has been registered for only a few months, the fact that it has no complaints probably doesn’t mean much. In fact, unscrupulous store owners would be smart to just go register a new domain name when their old one gets complaints.

Before you hit the checkout button, be sure to check the store’s return policy. This is doubly important if it’s something like clothing and you aren’t positive that it will fit correctly.

Check the shipping / handling cost too. There is a wide range of prices for shipping because many stores mark up the shipping cost that they’ve negotiated with their vendor. One of the biggest benefits to buying online is the ability to compare prices on the same item at different stores. But make sure you include the shipping costs in your comparison.

Last but not least, look for Coupons. There are many sites out there that list coupon codes for online stores. The easiest way to find out if there is a coupon for the store you’re looking at is to do a search on “storename coupon”. You might not find anything, but if you do it’s well worth the extra few minutes.

If you haven’t shopped online before it may seem a little scary, but more and more people are doing it with great results. Give it a try!