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E-Tailing Makes Retail Easy for Businesses of All Sizes

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RALEIGH — The marketplace is rapidly changing as most businesses, from mom and pop stores to major retailers, go online to sell their products.

It's called "e-tailing," and millions of people are buying online. However, there are some things you should know before you shop online.

Buyer beware is always good advice and particularly when you buy online.

Wall Street loves Internet companies and electronic commerce. E-commerce is booming with companies likeAmazon.com,E*Trade,eToys, and others.

Triangle companies includingOpenSite TechnologiesandHAHT Softwaretarget their products at electronic commerce. However, as consumers order more products and services online, horror stories spread about problems.

TheConsumerNet Web siteis a great primer for online shoppers. The site offers a great place to learn how online buying works, as well as the pitfalls and advantages.

How do you know which online merchants are trustworthy? How do you find the best price?BizRate.comis one of a few sites that rates e-commerce vendors.

The site surveys customers and rates sites on 10 categories, from price and ease of ordering to shipping and customer support.

Many people remain concerned about using credit cards on the Internet. Modern security measures used by major retailers make credit card use reasonably safe. However, it is not wise to use debit cards. Credit card companies usually cover losses from online theft, while banks may not cover money stolen from your checking account.

If you have problems, check outComplain.com. They help you complain to companies with which you are having trouble.

Several initiatives are under way to make e-commerce safer, easier and more customer friendly. There is no doubt the Internet is changing the way we shop; from food to cars, we are buying most anything and everything online.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Mark Copeland, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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