Google Trusted Stores: online retailers reviewed, service guaranteed (Cyber Monday tips)

I love to shop online, and I'm willing to buy from a site outside my comfort zone. I did this a lot while shopping for wedding supplies, hoping to find the item for the cheapest price possible. Thanks to reviews and gut instincts about the site, I never had any trouble. However, you just don't know how reputable a company is based on their website. Anyone can make a website look good. It doesn't answer the basic questions — will the company deliver quality products and on time? It's hard to know. Google is trying to make this guessing game a little easier with their Trusted partner sites.

While buying rose petals for the wedding aisle, which ended up just blowing away (it was a good thought), I noticed the website promoting its a Google Trusted partner. I didn't really know what it was, and I was already going to buy from this site. I will admit having the backing of Google did affirm my decision to purchase from this company even if I didn't fully understand the program.

Google allows companies who meet certain shipping and customer service guidelines to participate in the Google Trusted Store program for free. The products must ship within the specified timeframe, and it must be quick. Issues must be resolved, and a low number of customers may receive help. Look for the logo on websites. Hover over that badge to see key stats on the merchant's shipping and customer service. You'll also see how many transactions that data is based on.

In the case of the rose petals, the store got an A based on 50,000 transactions. That's good data for the consumer available at your fingertips. You don't have to read reviews or search online for other customer feedback. It's right on the front page of the website.

Of course, soon there will be imposters. Google has a "Verify" link that allows you to make sure that's a legitimate badge and reliability data.

You not only have confidence making that order, if there is a problem Google will back you up under certain conditions.  Google offers purchase protection for these trusted stores. You must opt in to this free protection. It protects you if there is a problem with your order and you can't resolve it with the company. You may be eligible for a refund in the amount you paid during purchase minus any refunds you receive. There is a lifetime maximum of $1,000. Only purchases shipping with the United States are eligible for this protection.

When you opt into this protection, understand the merchant will share your order information and email address with Google. Then, you'll get an email from Google with your order details, contact information for the merchant, and a link to Google if there is a problem you can't resolve.  Certain items are restricted. Click here to read about these (prescriptions, miracle cures, online gaming, etc.).

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