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Shopping by mail.

Shopping by Mail

Discover the ease and convenience of mail-order shopping -- but know your rights when problems arise!

Mail-order shopping -- what could be more convenient? You can browse leisurely through garden tools while lounging in your bathrobe, shop for a new blouse in the comfort of your arm chair, and accomplish your Christmas shopping at 2 a.m. All without the hassle of driving from store to store, pushing through crowds of shoppers and waiting in long lines.

For people with arthritis, shopping by mail has an added bonus because it saves them from the fatigue and stress shopping can cause. If you have arthritis, you've probably learned by now that three hours of shopping can leave you exhausted for the next three days.

There are mail-order catalogs offering almost anything by mail today, from household items and clothes to gardening supplies, gourmet foods and novelty gifts. There are even mail-order companies that specialize in self-help items for people with disabilities. How to receive mail-order catalogs? Simple. Place just one order with a mail-order company, and soon you will be receiving catalogs from a dozen or more!

With the holidays just a few months away, it pays to shop by mail for gifts now, while there's plenty of time for them to reach you before Christmas. But before you curl up in your easy chair with a stack of catalogs, make sure you know how to protect yourself against problems that can arise from mail order shopping.

Know Your Rights

How reliable are the firms you deal with? Find out from the companies you order from what their policies are regarding warranties, exchanges and refunds on unsatisfactory goods. Then make your payment in the form of a money order, check or credit card -- anything but cash. This will provide you with a record of your purchase as well as proof of payment.

Make a note of the company name and address and the date of your order, so that this information will be handy if you should enter into a dispute with the company. If possible, hold on to the company advertisement for the product you order.

Look closely at the shipping charges before deciding to order something. The price of an item can mount up quickly if a company's shipping charges are steep.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, your purchase must be shipped to you within the time period advertised or promised by the company. If there is no mention of a time period, your order must be shipped within 30 days of the receipt of your order.

If there is any delay in shipment that results in the company mailing your items more than 30 days after receiving your order, you can choose to accept the later shipment date or you can opt for cancellation of the order and refund of your payment. Regardless of your choice, you must inform the company, in writing, of your decision. If you decide to cancel your order because of a delay in shipment, the company must refund your money within seven working days after receipt of your cancellation notice.

You cannot be pressured to pay for any item delivered to you via U.S. mail that you did not actually order. If you receive a product in an obviously damaged condition, or if it is an item you never ordered, you may send it back, unopened, to the company by writing the word REFUSED on the outside of the package. If the package arrived by regular mail, you will not need new postage to have it returned to the sender.

If you signed for the package because it was delivered by insured, registered or COD mail, you will need to add new postage before returning it. Or, if you open the package before determining that you do not want the contents, you will have to add new postage to sent it back. Check a company's return policy before ordering. Many will refund the price of an item and the shipping charges if you

return the item.

If you feel the company is not honoring its warranty policy or is quilty of misrepresentation or fraud, contact your local Postmaster or the Chief Postal Inspector, U.S. Postal Service, Room 3517, Washington, D.C. 20260, (202) 245-5445.

If you have a question or complaint about unordered merchandise or delay of your mail order, contact Consumer Inquiries, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580, (202) 523-3598.

But take heart. The majority of mail-order firms are legitimate and reliable. And by following the advice in this article, you can stand up for your rights as a consumer if you do have a problem with a particular firm. So relax, sit back and shop!

Roberta Sandler is a freelance writer living in Wellington, Fla.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Arthritis Foundation, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Sandler, Roberta
Publication:Arthritis Today
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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