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Hints for successful online shopping
An insider's guide to getting what you want,
when you want it

As online shopping continues to expand, there are many things a buyer can do to ensure that your item arrives promptly, with no surprises or delays. As online sellers since 2003, Lake Country Books and More offers these tips to make your online experience a positive one. Even if you're an online-shopping veteran, we bet you'll find a few helpful ideas below.

Selecting your item - Getting what you want

1. Use ISBN or UPC numbers to search whenever possible. If you are looking for a specific title or model of an item, having these numbers will make sure you get what you want. Most search features, on a web browser or within a specific web site, will take you directly to the item you want.

2. Read the description. While this may seem obvious, you'd be surprised how often this is overlooked. Don't depend on the title and picture alone. Many sites use stock photography for their images, which may not be 100% correct. And if you're shopping on your phone, it may take a few more taps to get to the details and full description. Consider these points:
  • Is the item NEW or USED? If you're shopping for your own use, you may not care, but if it's a gift, you will. For gifts, if a New copy isn't available, try to choose a Used - Like New or Near Fine copy . Those listed as Very Good or lesser conditions will have obvious flaws and aren't usually appropriate for gift-giving.
  • Make sure, if it's a book, that it's the binding you want (hardcover, paperback, spiral bound, etc.).
  • Double check the edition, especially if you're shopping for textbooks.
  • For recorded media, is it the FORMAT you want? We've had concert DVDs returned because someone thought they were buying a CD. If you're buying a movie, is it a DVD, Blu-Ray, 4K, and do you have the appropriate player?

3. Ask questions. If, after reading the description, you're still uncertain that the item you're looking at is exactly what you want, contact the seller. Most sites have a contact link. If they don't, or if they don't answer your question promptly, you may want to reconsider trying to buy from that site. But always ask questions BEFORE you make a purchase.

Placing your order - Getting it when you want it

1. Verify the item is in stock. If you've arrived at a web page through a search engine, understand that search engines don't purge items once they've sold out. If there is no quantity shown as available, or no "add to cart" option/button, chances are that item is no longer available from that seller. The best way to make sure an item is available is to search from within a specific web site, rather than a broad web search. Some sites also take special orders or pre-orders with extended delivery delays. If you need it now, make sure the site states the item is in stock.

2. MOST IMPORTANT: Verify the shipping address on the USPS.com web site. Remember that almost all book and media sellers use the US Postal Service - not UPS or FedEx - as their shipping service. Do this even with your OWN mailing address to make sure the address you're using on your order is formatted in a way the USPS recognizes, and copy and paste that information EXACTLY (including the ZIP+4) into the shipping information for your order. To do this, go here: https://tools.usps.com/zip-code-lookup.htm?byaddress. This is actually the zip code lookup, but the results will be the format the USPS has in its database for the street address as well. If you're not getting any results, check the abbreviations in your address, and spell out words like "highway," "route," "Northeast," etc. The USPS will abbreviate to their system standards. Also, this is not the time to be "cute" with the recipient name. Use your (or your recipient's) real, legal name - first and last - so if there is a problem with your address the seller can possibly find you in a web search, and the mail carrier knows they're delivering to the correct person. Expensive items may require a signature; the carrier is going to have a hard time getting a legitimate signature when the package is addressed to "Pookie Bear" for example.

3. Cover your bases with the address. If you're not sure if the seller is using USPS or another carrier, and your mailing address (such as a PO Box) is different than your street address, put BOTH on your order, with the street address on the first address line and the mailing address on the second. The Postal Service "reads" addresses from the bottom up, so from a routing standpoint it will start with your zip (which tells them city and state) and then go to the next line up. If you have the undeliverable street address on that line, your package could get bounced back to the sender.

3. If time is a factor, buy from a seller who is as close as possible to you geographically. While this is not a guarantee in times of high mail volumes, pandemics or natural disasters, it might help you shave a day or two off of delivery time.

4. Another time-sensitive tip: choose expedited delivery options. There are some warnings here as well: Do NOT expect Priority Mail packages to take two days to get ANYWHERE. Expect 3 days MINIMUM, and longer distances can easily be 4-5. Also, consider that the shipper needs time to prepare your item for shipment, so you need to factor in a day or two for that too.

5. Place your orders early in the day. The earlier you order, the better chances you have that your order will ship the same day. If you wait until 4 pm, it's likely going to take another day to process.

6. WATCH YOUR EMAIL AFTER YOU PLACE AN ORDER. We're always surprised how many folks place an order and then don't check their email at least once or twice in the next 24-48 hours for any messages from the seller. They may need to contact you about a shipping address (not necessary if you read tip #2), or any number of details to clarify an order. Since many online sites require sellers to ship in 1-2 days, you risk having your order cancelled if you don't respond promptly. Also, many sellers (like us) provide a shipping confirmation e-mail that includes a Delivery Confirmation number, which allows you to track the progress of your package. Doing your own tracking will get you answers more quickly than contacting the seller, who will have no more information than what you can retrieve yourself through the USPS web site.

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