Buy early. "Rule No. 1 is put your order in early," says Anthony Liuzzo, professor of business and economics at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Many of last year's delivery problems stemmed from last-minute purchases.
Deal with reputable firms. If you haven't heard of the online retailer before, spend an extra minute to see if they're listed in search engines and certified by Trust-e or another ratings system.
Check delivery procedures. Does the retailer give you an estimate when your item will ship? Will it keep you updated by e-mail when it actually does ship?
Guard your privacy. Read the company's policy to see how your personal information will be used, counsels Hans Peter Brondmo, author of "The Eng@ged Customer."
Look for deals. With less to spend on advertising, Web retailers are eager to attract their established customers with special offers, such as 10 percent off for recommending a friend, Mr. Brondmo says.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society