In a physical bike store, you walk in and receive your goods in return for payment. With an online store however you pay and wait which creates an element of risk.
Here are a few tips to tell whether or not a bike shops is genuine:
• Physical address – If there is a post office box or the shop is based in an ‘exotic’ country, take care. With a physical stree address you can check on google maps and google street view and see if the building exists.
• Phone Number – A genuine business without a phone number is unusual. If they don’t have one you can start asking ‘why’?
• Cross Check the Address – Google to the recue, see if the address is listed in google. Many countries have online telephone directories with business listings and the retailer should be listed in a number of these.
• Shop Reputation – The effective way to see if an online bike shop is questionable is to search for the shop name with additional keywords such as “bad”, “problems” or “scam”. For example:
“ABC Bikes” +problems
While any shop will invariably also have bad customers, you will be able to judge how serious the problems are, often you will see search results with cycling forums and blogs and comments
• Use WOT (Web Of Trust) browser plugin which relies on community aggregation to rate good sites and suspicious sites. This can also highlight any other website which you visit which has been flagged. WAT is still in its early days so not foolproof however is growing in popularity. Available from: mywot.com
• Reliable Payment – Avoid “Western Union” payment and shy away from bank transfers unless you know and have used the online retailer. Instead, credit card and paypal have more reliable security and customer protection. Make sure payment is secure -the padlock symbol should appear and the web address start with https:// (and not http:// without the ‘s’).
There are more tell-tale signs, if a bike shop fails any of these criteria, then be cautious.