We all worry to some extent about safety, but the confidence we feel in order to mix with any crowd is probably foreshadowed by previous experiences. In my youth I occasionally went with friends to an ice-skating rink which on a Saturday night was renowned for the rough crowd that gathered there. To this day it probably evokes as vivid a picture as any of the fears and dangers that many of us perceive to be lurking on the Web in wait for our unguarded ‘click’.
Others have their own vision of this menacing crowd and might recall it just as they are about to click the ‘pay now’ button on an online shopping site.
Right here is where I should mention that I have mostly gotten over my fear of shopping online by finding crowds that I trust, either by recommendation or research of my own, and by looking for key indicators that the site is safe. I look for things like the presence of a padlock symbol and ‘https’ (it indicates the site is using a secure connection) in the first part of the website address in the top left of the address bar. Also, I always make sure that my computer is running up to date anti-virus protection.
These things, but mainly my knowledge of the site or recommendation from others, is what reassures me that it is safe to proceed. If you don’t know where to get reliable recommendations then start with people you know that have similar interests. They might already have experience with the sites you are looking at, and remember that the online crowd can help too. Find forums discussing your interests and look for common recommendations.
All of this underlines the fact that when we shop or do anything online it isn’t computers, but the people that we imagine to be behind them that bring up our feelings related to trust. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that when we deal with people, we also deal with the stereo-types that we hold on to.
This was brought home when after purchasing some technical books online I found myself waiting, and waiting for their arrival. Let me quickly pull two stereo-types out of the air for you – American’s know nothing about geography outside of their own boarders, and German’s are the world’s most efficient people. Like all stereo-types, we all have our own stories that re-enforce them as fact, but the experience with my book order gave me an opportunity to laugh at confirmation of these two favourites.
I’ve attached a picture of the package which finally arrived. I blurred most of the image but enlarged three key pieces of information. The from – UNITED STATES, where it went – DEUTSCHLAND, where it was correctly addressed to when originally dispatched from within America - AUSTRALIA.
The trip that my parcel took must have been; supplier to post office in US, from there I can only assume that a US post office worker somehow confused Australia (Southern Hemisphere) with Austria (Europe). What did I say about stereotypes?
From here the parcel was received in Germany where an efficient German postal worker re-dispatched it correctly, and generously (much like a ship’s captain rescuing another floundering vessel at sea) and sent onward to Australia. So not only have they been to Europe for a holiday, something I haven’t done in years, but for technical books they provided more of a laugh than I expected while underlining that Web services are driven by people.
I know this brings me back to the first point about how do you trust people, and especially people that you can’t see, but when you buy a car you don’t know the guy that put the steering wheel on either do you. So you follow recommendations and buy a brand that you have confidence in, same as online.