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After Last Year's Online Shopping Hassles, Consumers Hope This Year Will Be Different

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CHAPEL HILL — Many of us are avoiding holiday traffic by shopping on the Internet, but some people experienced bumps in the road when they took that route last year. Consumers and companies alike are holding out hope that this year will be different.

Wayne Rileysays he is glad he only ordered a pair of Christmas presents fromToys 'R Us.com. Last year, the company e-mailed him three days before the holiday saying the gifts would not be delivered in time.

"They told me I was going to have the toys I ordered, and they basically didn't hold up to their word," he says.

This year, Toys 'R Us.com tried to make amends through an e-mail offer.

"I kind of took offense with it," he says. "They thought they could buy my loyalty back for like a $10 coupon and free shipping."

However, Riley says, if anything, his family will buy more gifts on the Internet than they did last year.

"One bad experience with one poor retailer is not really a reflection on the Internet," he says.

A good example of how retailers are responding to increased Internet sales can be found atA Southern Season, a Triangle gourmet food specialty company.

The Chapel Hill store has an increasing number of its sales on the Internet. There were so many orders last year that it had to limit orders to just a handful of products.

"We melted down. We came in one day and had more Internet orders than we could fulfill," says Web manager Deborah Miller.

This year, A Southern Season hired more warehouse and customer service help for the holidays, and it brought thosw workers on board months ago. The company also pre-packaged 91,000 of its most popular gifts.

"We think we're prepared. We hope we're prepared," she says.

If you are buying online, here are a few tips you should know:
  • If you are buying online, pay with a credit card. It offers extra protection in a dispute.
  • Make sure you know the company's return policy, your shipping options and delivery schedule.
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