6 strange ways online shopping has changed the world

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If you prefer online shopping to in-store purchases, you're not alone. According to Business Insider, about 78% of the U.S. population age 15 and older fancies themselves a few clicks and a quick checkout when buying something new. While that's all well and good — and incredibly convenient — this new American pastime does have its downsides. Check out a few of these strange ways online shopping has changed the world — not necessarily for the better. (See also: 8 Ways Retailers Use Big Data to Track You)

1. Consumer Reviews Can Make or Break a Product

Before online shopping became commonplace, consumers had few ways to learn about the pros and cons of a product. They could rely on word-of-mouth if someone they knew had purchased the same item, or they could listen to what the media said about it, perhaps on consumer-related nightly news piece or in magazines, like Good Housekeeping. Because information on how well — or not well — a product worked was sparse, consumer unhappiness was limited. Retailers were relatively safe from gaining a poor reputation unless its products were outright duds that caught attention en masse. But that all changed with online shopping, which gave consumers the voice they had been looking for. Today, reviews of a product are trusted more than personal recommendations, according to research. In fact, a whopping 92% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they would a friend or family member, or perhaps even more.

2. There Are No True Holidays Anymore

Remember when we were kids and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas meant that virtually no retail stores would be open? We'd drive through town on the way to our relatives' house for supper and there was nary a car in any of the stores' parking lots. That's all changed thanks to online shopping, much to many people's dismay. Each year, it seems, Black Friday hours are pushed earlier and earlier, creeping into Thanksgiving, with some stores opening on Thanksgiving Day even. Last year, Kmart said to hell with the entire holiday and opened at 6 a.m. the fourth Thursday of November, the earliest among major retailers. It was beat out by one other chain, however, though not a competitor: Victoria's Secret opened its doors from 12 a.m. to 12 a.m. Thanksgiving Day (a full 24 hours!), because, ya know, who isn't in the mood for sexy lingerie after stuffing themselves silly with turkey and mashed potatoes?

RELATED: 10 things you should never buy online:

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Items you should never buy online

Flowers

Although it may be more convenient to purchase flowers online, if you have time, it's best to locate a local florist near the person you want to send flowers to. According to a study by Cheapism.com, you're more likely to pay less and receive a better bouquet for your money when you use a local florist. 

Photo credit: Getty

Furniture 

You may not realize it, but when you purchase furniture online, you also have to pay for delivery and surcharge fees. In order to avoid paying these unwanted costs, it's easier to get it in person. For example, when buying furniture in-store, you're able to negotiate a better price and maybe even convince the salesperson to throw in free delivery. 

Photo credit: Getty

Groceries 

Much like shopping for flowers, it is best to purchase your groceries at an actual grocery store. When you purchase them in person, you have the opportunity ensure you are choosing the best meats, produce, etc. -- something you can't do when ordering online.

 Photo credit: Getty

Swimwear 

As beach season rapidly approaches, you probably want to invest in a few new swimsuits. However, before you make that online purchase you'll want to heed this warning. Trae Bodge, senior editor at RetailMeNot, says, " Fit can fluctuate even among suits from the same brand...  and many online retailers don’t allow swimsuit returns if the packaging has been opened or there’s evidence the suit has been worn." 

Photo credit: Getty

Social Media Followers 
We get it, social media is addicting.  While it may be cool to have over 10,000 followers, buying them can be risky. Depending on the social media site you are using, the followers you purchase can be deleted if they are considered spam accounts. 

Photo credit: Getty

Prescriptions 
Unless advised by your doctor, you should avoid buying medicine online at all costs. It can be tempting to get off-brand products, but you may be unknowingly purchasing illegal or counterfeit drugs. 

Photo credit: Getty

Cars
The internet has made it possible to cut out the middleman when dealing with major purchases, but sometimes, that salesperson is needed. If you're buying a car for the first time, it may be best to get it at a dealership. When you get a car online, you're taking away the opportunity to test it out first and negotiate a better deal. 

Photo credit: Getty

Knockoff Accessories 
While getting counterfeit bags and jewelry is cheaper than buying the real thing, you should do so with much caution. Oftentimes, these items are sold on unsecured sites which can lead to either your computer getting a virus or your identity being stolen. 

Photo credit: Getty

Pets
While you can find an array of pets being sold online, it is always safest to purchase one in person. Much like furniture, you may have to deal with excessive delivery fees, and what's more, your pet can get sick or even worse. 

Photo credit: Getty

Fragile Items
If you're truly invested in a fragile or irreplaceable item, it's highly recommended to buy and pick it up in the store. This cuts out any chances of a delivery person dropping and breaking your prized possession. 

Photo credit: Getty

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3. Shopping Malls Are Becoming Ruins

Shopping malls were huge in the 1980s and '90s, so much so that they defined an entire generation. But by the 2000s, attendance at malls around the country started to dwindle. Many factors have contributed to the decline (not the least of which was that they had become locales of violence), including the rise of online shopping. Bustling hubs of commerce and social activity that once stood proud are now in ruin, relics of the past that serve as a stark reminder that American life isn't what it used to be.

"Dozens of malls have shuttered since 2010, with hundreds more on the brink," says Benjamin Glaser, features editor with DealNews. The few shopping centers that have been built in the last decade usually aren't traditional, enclosed malls, but larger complexes with a wider dining and entertainment options, and often open-air areas. To compete with online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers are trying to create experiences.

This fate doesn't paint a pretty picture of what was left in the wake of the downturn or for current mall owners. Those that have already heard its final cash register cha-ching now look like sets for The Walking Dead, and those that still exist are being murdered by debt.

4. Dog Bites Have Increased

Family dogs and mail carriers have had a rocky relationship for decades, but recently our friendly canines have been acting out in droves — all because that pesky USPS employee is stopping by more often with your online packages.

According to AdAge, dog bites were up 14% last year, reaching a total of 6,549 incidents. The most attacks were in Houston, which had 77, while San Diego and Cleveland clocked in at 58 each.

RELATED: 8 money-saving onilne shopping hacks:

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Money-saving online shopping hacks

1. Clear your browser history

Some retailers might sneakily increase prices based on your browsing patterns and demand - so make sure to always clear your history and cookies before shopping! 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

2. Use an alternate email address

When you log in to a retailer's site with a new email address, retailers will often welcome you as a new customer with exciting new promotions and discounts. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

3. Note price changes throughout the week

Another pro tip: Prices and deals can fluctuate based on the day of the week. For instance, if you're purchasing a flight, monitor prices for around a week to see if they take a dip on any particular day before purchasing. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

4. Let items linger in your cart

Here's a hack: Add items to your cart, but let them sit for 24 hours before purchasing. The retailer might attempt to lure you back with additional discounts.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

5. Check out multiple sites

Do some research! Don't settle for the first price you see - poke around on a search engine and find the best deal. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

6. Bargain with customer service

Use customer service to your advantage. If you ask (politely!) about an expired coupon, you'll often find yourself pleasantly surprised by an extension or new code! 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

7. Don't purchase impulsively

Try this shopping hack - don't buy that shiny, new toy right away. Step away for a few hours, and if you find yourself itching to go back and click 'purchase', then you know you won't regret your investment!

Photo credit: FogStock

8. Avoid shipping fees

Take advantage of free shipping! If you are a few dollars below the free shipping price point, add a low-cost filler item you need anyway (like socks!) and make the math work out in your favor. 

Photo credit: Alamy

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5. Identity Theft Is Out of Control

Before online shopping became everybody's go-to method of buying everything from clothing to groceries, it was difficult for an identity thief to target a large amount of data. Sure, your credit card could be stolen by a single thief and charged up until the bank caught wind of suspicious activity, but the consequences pale in comparison to a million-accounts data breach that could throw your entire life out of whack. USA Todayreports that credit-card data theft has increased 50% from 2005 to 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Likewise, because your credit card numbers can be worth hundreds of dollar a piece to resellers — the number of malicious programs written to steal your information has grown from about 1 million in 2007 to an estimated 130 million today. So basically, no one is safe, and you should take even more precautions — like not storing your credit cards with retailers online — to avoid becoming a victim.

6. Some Online Orders Are Now Being Delivered by Drones

Future moving too fast for you? Then you won't be elated to hear the news that drones may start arriving at your home or office to deliver your online shopping orders. Yep, flying robots are entering the friendly skies all over the world, and they could be landing in your front yard soon if Amazon has its way. Its PrimeAir program is gearing up for its first consumer flights that promise to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less. China and Australia have already implemented similar services, which has its benefits, especially to those in hard-to-reach rural areas, or for medical purposes, but we can all probably agree that nobody needs their piping-hot burrito dropped from the sky.

More from WiseBread:
8 Ways Retailers Use Big Data to Track You
12 Everyday Money Tasks You've Been Doing Wrong
EpiPens and Other Ways Companies Have Profited From Your Pain

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