With the advent of affordable and direct online shopping, there’s never been a better time to skip the physical stores and find all your wishlist items on the web. But the internet is, in many ways, still like the wild west. It lacks the standards of in-person commerce and scammers lurk behind every corner. For these reasons, let’s learn about 10 products you should never buy online. (More specifically, here are 10 things you should never buy on Amazon.)
To compile a list of the items you should never buy online, 24/7 Tempo consulted a range of consumer databases and investment websites such as Money Crashers. From there, we selected items from a broad range of industries to reflect a variety. After that, we consulted studies and public service announcements to give a data background to claims.
Sure, it’s often cheaper to buy older-generation electronics than brand-new devices. Combine that with the convenience of buying online, and it seems like a win-win. That’s far from the case, however, as buying used electronics online is always a gamble, and usually one that doesn’t pay off.
Many sellers on online marketplaces like Craigslist or eBay will advertise older electronics as working or in pristine condition. So, you order it, and then it arrives, but it doesn’t work at all. You may be able to get a refund, but the process is one of compounding headaches. That’s why it’s much better to test out used electronics in person before you buy. (Learn about gadgets from the 90s that no one uses anymore.)
One of the products you should never buy online is a car. Sure, there are plenty of services like eBay or CarMax listing thousands of cars that can be delivered to your home, but the convenience ends there. Even a dozen pictures of a car listed online do little to give you a feel for the car, much less its driving capability.
Vehicles are too big of a purchase to trust with an online seller. You won’t get a sense of how the car functions and you won’t be able to test drive it, but you may come away with an expensive purchase that disappoints. Even Carfax, a website dedicated to used car listings, recommends you try out any car before you buy it.
Much like ordering a child from the internet, there is a litany of ethical and logistical reasons to never buy a pet from an online seller. A few pictures and breeding stats can only take you so far in finding your perfect furry companion. Combine that with the idea of shipping a living thing across potentially the entire country, and you quickly find yourself in a moral grey zone.
Plus, many of the pets advertised online aren’t even real, especially if it’s a popular breed. According to the Better Business Bureau, up to 80% of online pet-selling ads are the work of scammers. If you are in the market for a pet, there is an untold number of good choices in need of homes at shelters and other sanctuaries in your local area.
Another product you should never buy online is a musical instrument. Even though there are dozens upon dozens of websites dedicated to selling instruments and some with pretty good reputations, it is too complex and multifaceted of a product to not feel in your hands before buying.
Be it a guitar or a concert-ready cello, the sound of the instrument is what matters most. Besides a sample clip or two of the item’s tone on a website, if you buy an instrument online there is almost no way to know how it will sound once it arrives at your door. Considering two of the same instruments may have subtle tonal differences, even when tried in person, nothing good can come from shelling out half a grand for a guitar that won’t deliver the type of sound you’re looking for.
As with most products that are advertised online, looks can be deceiving. That is one reason why you should never buy paint online, especially if it’s for a larger addition to a home or building remodel. Let’s say you find the perfect color swatch to match your newly redesigned kitchen.
What happens is, you order the paint, it arrives, you lather the walls with it, and then it hits you. This color is slightly different than the one you ordered, or perhaps, the resolution of your computer screen subtly changed the color tone. Now you are out a couple hundred dollars with a kitchen painted in a color you didn’t want. For that reason, you’re better off heading to a local store to make sure the swatch matches the actual paint.
It’s understandable why people want to order prescription medication online. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it type purchase, showing up right at your door instead of making you wait in a miserably long line at the pharmacy for a medication that may be swapped out with a generic. You should never buy prescription medication online, however, because it can be dangerous.
According to the California State Board of Consumer Affairs, more than half of all prescriptions sold online are either counterfeit or are not up to the standards of licensed pharmacies. What’s worse, many drugs listed online contain dangerous substances like boric acid or even drywall. For the sake of your health, it’s much safer to source your prescriptions from a doctor or pharmacist you can trust.
Another thing you should never buy online is any kind of taxidermy piece. Though this type of product may only appeal to those with spooky or macabre sensibilities, it’s important to know that there is a complex constellation of laws that can affect any taxidermy purchase online.
Let’s say you find yourself in a hunting store in your local area and notice a sweet, mounted buck. Not only can you get a proper sense of its dimensions, chances are, the laws are the same regarding the usage of said item. When buying that buck online, however, is where things get trickier. It very well may be that a mounted head you buy online comes from a different state with different laws where selling said item out of state is illegal.
Much like prescription medication, prescription glasses are another product you should never buy online. If you’re in the market for prescription bifocals, there’s a good chance it’s an item you will have to wear every day. The problem with buying glasses online is there’s no way to know if any pair will fit well on your face.
You’ll be able to look at hundreds of pictures of different lenses, but there’s no way to try any of them on. Unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, if you buy prescription glasses you run a big risk in selecting a pair that sits badly on your face. Pictures can only tell you so much, especially with a product that allows you to see those pictures in the first place. (Discover 10 things to never buy at Target.)
As with any product that fits onto your body, a bra is one you should never buy online. Though there is a standardized measurement system for bra sizes, the devil is in the details, with many bras in the same size but sold by different companies being wildly different sizes.
According to a study by Yopto regarding consumer satisfaction with online fashion purchases, the most commonly used words in an online fashion purchase review are “size,” “quality,” and “fit.” It can be inferred from this that people who do buy bras from the internet come away either pleasantly surprised or deeply disappointed. For that reason alone, avoid such online gambling, and try your bras on for size in person. (Discover what to never buy at Sam’s Club.)
With the advent of online sellers of food, ready-to-make meals, and fresh produce, it seems like a viable business model that leaves consumers satisfied. This is not always the case, however, especially with online purchased fresh produce. Anything perishable can and will rot, sometimes quicker than expected, too.
You should never buy fresh produce online because the risk of receiving bruised or even rotting produce is far too high. Especially if the online produce seller is shipping items from states away, there’s a good chance you’ll receive at least a couple of unusable perishables. For that reason alone, you’re better off making a quick trip to the grocer to inspect the produce yourself. (Learn about other foods you should never order for delivery.)