Thursday, July 10, 2014

Frugal Online Shopping

Thursday, July 10, 2014
I've been working on this post for a while, and since I've recently turned into some kind of online fashion shopper guru, I figured I could give some sound advices to my fellow ladies who love fashion but kindaaaa needs to be frugal about it. Here's what I have to say:

Fashion need not be expensive! Be wise, ladies. Listen up if you want to learn the trick of the trade in online fashion shopping!

Chanel, Gucci, Prada, LV, Dior, YSL (now Saint Laurent), Balenciaga, Miu Miu, Givenchy, Lanvin, McQueen, Oscar de la Renta, Manolo Blahnik, Fendi, Valentino... and a whole other litany of revered fashion houses in the world... They are to me like the people who wear them -- beautiful, interesting, but almost unattainable. Almost.

Those fashion houses' apparel are way way way out of budget for a girl like me but that's not stopping me from trying to look crisp. There are some very viable alternatives one can take, which you can utilize so you'd look as spruce as you want or need to be. So long as you're creative enough and you know yourself enough. And no, I don't mean Zara, Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Ever New, Miss Selfridge.... not even Forever 21. I'm talking about the hidden gems... little online shops in little corners. Of course it has to be stressed that what I meant by FRUGAL is NOT buying a piece of clothing over Php 400. This only includes shirts, tops, skirts, and pants. Since I am a shoe addict, I always give more leeway for shoes. But that's a topic for next time. So here are some questions people usually ask me about my shopping habits. Continued after the jump ;)

  • Where do I get my clothes?
Simple answer to this is that recently, a huge portion of my closet is sourced from various online shops in Instagram. That, or I get them from Zalora or the Marketplace, which is basically sells the same stuff from Instagram but good thing is that it's more consolidated for easier viewing.
  • How do I find them?
I use hashtags. Some of the best hashtags to use are: #dressph, #topsph, #lookingforph, #skirtsph. The key is to describe the item you are looking for then add "ph" to make your search more filtered. Be warned though. Sometimes it really takes a ton of patience sifting through all the other Instagram posts which are not even related to the hashtags. Sellers like to abuse the hashtags a lot so they can gain more exposure. The whole ordeal sometimes feels like being in one of the shopping malls of Bangkok - overwhelming. You will notice that a lot of them, if not most, sell the exact same styles BUT FOR DIFFERENT PRICES. You have to be patient in comparing the prices between stores. Sometimes a skirt is priced at Php350 for a certain store but you scroll down a bit more then you realize this shop is selling the same thing for only Php200. What a bargain! It pays to be vigilant :)
  • How do I know my size?
Usually the dimensions are provided for by the seller. But if you're inept at spatial visualization like me, then by all means, do ask the seller to furnish a "when worn" photo of the product. But usually if the seller can't wear it or model it for you for some reason or another, and you're not really sure if it would fit you, I would advice NOT TO BUY the product.
  • How do I order?
Common modes of communication are SMS, Viber, WeChat. But I do notice that more and more use Viber over SMS. So, better to download the app called Viber.
  • How do I pay?
Modes of payment vary from one shop to another. I usually just deposit cash in the bank. The usual banking options are BDO and BPI. However, inquire the seller about additional fees as these sometimes show up randomly. Like, make sure you're buying from Manila if you're from Manila to avoid service charge for when the seller is from the provinces. Other modes of payment like cash on delivery are available at the bigger shops like Zalora. This is very convenient because when you reach Php 1000, the shipping is also for free. It's very hassle-free shopping. Other people also allow using LBC as cash on delivery but I believe extra charges apply. The reason why I use cash deposit is because I feel that it's more secure than other modes. While some have the Paypal option, I know people who have been victims of having their money stolen from their Paypal account. So please beware!
  • How do I make sure the seller is legit?
As in every industry, there are always bad elements who pretend to be sellers. But usually there are ways to ensure that sellers are "legit". First is to check their page for feedbacks. If they have a lot of those feedbacks with actual photos of people with their products, then that's a good sign. But do also check the comments section of their pages or check how often they reply. Usually you can spot the legitimacy of the business by looking at how diligent they are. If you see complaints about customers not receiving their package whatnot, then I highly recommend NOT buying from that shop.
  • Shipping
The common thing in online shopping is that the customers bear the shipping fee, but it's the sellers who dictate which courier to use. There are many couriers which the seller can use in order to send your product. The most common are Xend, JRS Express, AIR 21, LBC. Know the rates of each of these couriers, and ask the seller which courier they are using so you'll know if you are over-charged. Xend: unli-weight, Php60 for Metro Manila and Php 100 for outside MM. For the larger packages, it reaches Php80 for MM and Php 150 for outside MM. CON for this is that it takes longer. You will only receive your package 2-3 days from pick-up even though it says 1-3 days. I have never received my packages from Xend earlier than 2 days. So, if you're in a hurry to get your packages, schedule your purchases accordingly. JRS: no unli-weight but cheaper and faster. Php50 for Metro Manila. Outside Metro Manila, the rates would be about a 10-20 pesos higher. Usually, it's already out of their hands if the courier takes too long in sending your product so be patient about that. knowing when the seller is charging too much. You can't blame them, but try to look for other shops first
  • Other notes
PRE-ORDERS. Tried this one for a pair of shoes from @thepreppybee. Very happy about it. Took around 2 weeks. But there are other popular shops with "pre-order" scheme. Haven't tried those, and not to sure about the quality either because these shops tend to use pictures from celebrities and it's very hard to assess if the quality will be the same when you receive your package. But some people seem to have dared buy from such, and according to some shops' feedbacks they are happy with their purchase.... So here's when I will say "BUY AT YOUR OWN RISK". 
SHOE SHOPPING. This is tricky. When buying shoes, you want to make sure they fit right and are COMFY. I have had the experience of buying a pair of shoes in the right size... but it turns out that they run small! I was so sad. I would have had it exchanged with the shop but I already wore the pair out. So, lesson learned about this is make sure they fit well according to usual shoe size. Ask the seller. Ask, ask, ask! Be meticulous. And if they reply curtly to your questions, or worse, they do not reply at all, DO NOT BUY FROM THEM. Sometimes we encounter very snobby and unaccommodating sellers. Stay away from them. 
PRODUCTS. You will notice that people on Instagram sell the same things since usually the items are sourced from China and there's this one giant seller who sells all these things to the online shops. But the thing is, these online shops don't sell them at uniform prices. So, the trick is to look for the shops with the lowest prices. The more popular shops tend to sell items at higher prices because some customers don't know about other small shops. But there are usually pros and cons. Smaller shops tend to have less stocks than the big ones, so the things you buy are just incremental. Whereas in the bigger shops, they have almost all colors. But this is not usually the case. I am not saying it is uniform for all. The key still is to be diligent in looking for the right product at the right price. Ask about the quality, the material, etc. Always ask. 
HAGGLING. Don't be afraid to haggle. Once, I tried haggling for a pair of shoes. I was able to get my pair at free shipping. Happy girl, happy feet indeed.
So, there. That's just some of my tips for online shopping. Next time, I'll share with you my favorite online shops and the things I bought from them. :) If you have any other suggestions to add to the list, by all means, share them by commenting. Thanks, thanks!

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