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Start with Canadian sites, experts tell online shoppers
Start with Canadian sites, experts tell online shoppers

Start with Canadian sites, experts tell online shoppers Add to ...

Canadian retailers have climbed en masse on to the Black Friday/Cyber Monday bandwagon, with all kinds of online deals that mirror the discounting at U.S outlets.

That means Canadians who want to participate in the U.S. Thanksgiving shopping hysteria don’t have to jump in their cars and suffer cross-border lineups and packed malls, and they can even avoid electronic cross-border hassles.

“I would certainly recommend that Canadians start in Canada and look at what’s available locally,” said Derek Szeto, founder of Redflagdeals.com, a website that links to online deals. In the case of electronics and computers, the sale prices on Canadian websites will be close to what U.S. retailers charge, he said, particularly if the exchange rate and shipping costs are taken into account.

Still, many people will always look across the border, particularly for clothing, he said, because there is a larger selection in the United States and some brands are just not available in Canada.

Some U.S. retailers have made it easier for Canadian shoppers, including Canadian pricing and detailed information on duties and taxes. “You know the all-in price at your door,” Mr. Szeto said. “There are no surprises.”

Overstock.com, for example, has a Canadian portal, where it prices its products in Canadian dollars and gives a guaranteed delivery cost, including duties, when an order is placed.

Nicky Mezo, head of marketing for Pay Pal Canada, said it is worthwhile for Canadian shoppers to look at the Canadian websites of U.S. retailers, such as Toysrus.ca or homedepot.ca, because much the same stock will be available as on the U.S. sites, and there will be fewer unknown costs, such as cross-border duties. This will also eliminate worries about warranty coverage.

Overall, “a lot of Canadian e-retailers have really figured Cyber Monday out,” Ms. Mezo said. “They have equally as deep discounts because they want Canadians to be shopping with them, and not shopping across the border.”

It may also be much easier to make returns if the item is bought on the Canadian version of a site, she noted.

If you do go to a U.S.-based website, take some simple precautions, suggests Stephanie Wallat, head of e-commerce at Visa Canada.

First, take the time to completely read the delivery and return policies, along with the privacy policy, she said, as there could be some surprises. And watch for fine print, such as offers of “free” delivery that might not apply to orders from Canada.

Ms. Wallat also said online shoppers should be careful of pre-ticked boxes when filling out an order form, where they might inadvertently sign up for a subscription they don’t want, or share personal information.

She also suggests keeping a detailed record of online purchases, and said you should check your credit-card bill to make sure the amounts match.

According to Visa’s research, as many as one-third of Canadian online shoppers intend to use U.S. websites over this weekend.

There is one other issue of note for Canadians who want to save money by shopping over the next few days. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are both working days in Canada, so if you insist on sending in your order during the day, you might be doing it on company time.

According to a survey from personnel consultants Robert Half Technology, 57 per cent of Canadian companies block their employees’ access to online shopping sites, up from 40 per cent a year ago. About 30 per cent allow access but monitor for excessive use of online shopping.

That’s because the activity “is definitely something that has gotten out of hand ... and is affecting productivity,” said Robert Half division director Chris Brady. He advised employees to “remain professional and play by the company’s rules.”

The key is to make a quick purchase and get back to work, rather than wasting time browsing, he said.

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