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How To Buy Stuff Online
April 17, 2002

We all know the 'net is a great research tool, but do you really know how to find information about a product online?

How can you be sure you're getting the best price?

Are there any good places for Canadians to shop online? How can us canucks avoid the outrageous broker fees imposed by some shippers?

Alright, I know what I want, now how do I get the best price?

I haven't found a better price comparison engine than, so start there first. Type in the name of the product you're looking for, and make a note of the lowest price it finds, and where it was found.

Next, head over to and see if you can find it cheaper on there. Great thing about Amazon is the review system they have as well.

If what you're looking for is computer related, also check out, which is what all hardcore geeks use to make sure they're not overpaying for something.

Last, I would check out Ebay, just to see. Remember to compare only auctions for new items.

These sites can even be handy if you're planning on buying the product locally. Some smaller vendors might match your price if you mention that you can buy the product online for a lower price. Hopefully by now you will have an idea of what the cheapest price should be for the product you're looking for.

What about researching products?

They've got some of those annoying pop-ups now, but Epinions still has no equal when it comes to consumer product review.

Products are given a percentage rating based on the number of positive & negative reviews. You can also filter by price (Epinions is also a 'price searching' site).

So, if you want to find the best digital camera for under $400, this is the site you need. Epinions has ratings for all kinds of things, including travel packages, books, music, you name it!

Once you've decided on a product you're thinking of buying, you should figure out it's model #. Most electronics have these. For instance, the Samsung N2000 DVD player or the Nokia 5150 cell phone.

With your model number stop by Google (world's greatest search engine) and search for manufacturer name model # review. For example, Nokia 5150 review.

What about us Canadians? Are there any good places for us to shop online?

By the time you factor in shipping costs, customs fees, and the exchange rate you're usually better off looking locally.

However, not everyone lives in a big city where the selection is better. Also, some products are hard to find even in bigger cities.

The best site to buy Books & DVDs online for Canadians is at Indigo Chapters. They have a HUGE selection, and it's only $3.95 per order for shipping, plus $1.95 per item.

Let's compare what it would cost for a Canadian to get a new DVD, Spy Game, from both Amazon and Indigo Chapters.

Amazon: $21.24 U.S. + $3.49 U.S. per shipment + $1.49 U.S. per item + $5 CDN customs fee = $26.22 U.S. x 1.5731 = $46.25 Canadian.

Indigo Chapters: $30.58 + $3.95 per order + $1.95 per item = $36.48 CDN

Also, at Indigo Chapters you can sign up for a discount card, which is 20 bucks. The minimum discount you receive on each product is 10%, so I think it's worth it for most people.

I've heard horror stories about Canadians being charged outrageous customs fees when they order things from the U.S. Is this true?

Yes, it happened to me. I ordered some electronics once from the U.S., and had it shipped via FedEx. Now FedEx is great, don't get me wrong, but they have a ridiculous $35 U.S. broker fee if they need to have someone declare the value of an imported product.

After this, I did some research, and found out that FedEx, UPS, and other couriers all have this fee. The only one that doesn't is USPS, the United States Postal Service. When you ship with them, the products are declared by the Canadian Postal Service, which charges a much more reasonable $5 Canadian.

Due to the free trade agreement, almost every product is duty free. If you ship with USPS from the U.S., you'll pay the $5 customs fee, and any applicable provincial tax (based on the assessed value of the product).