It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, many Americans didn’t feel comfortable shopping online. Now, according to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, almost half (46.7 percent) of shoppers are willing to buy online, and they plan to do about 36 percent of their holiday shopping on the Internet. It seems all those original fears of identity theft and credit card fraud have been assuaged by third-party services like VeriSign, which means shoppers have now come to consider buying online pretty much like going to a brick-and-mortar store. Until, that is, a shopper has questions about a product or needs to return or exchange what he or she bought. While sites like Yelp.com offer customer reviews and feedback, until recently there were few (if any) third-party, impartial and reliable customer-service-rating systems for online retailers. That’s where StellaService comes in. Founded by Bucknell University buddies Jordy Leiser and John Ernsberger a year ago, the site uses undercover shoppers to test more than 300 different elements of the online customer experience by buying and returning merchandise in various categories including clothing, electronics, jewelry and sporting goods. “Everybody says they have great prices, great selection and world-class customer service,” Leiser says. “But that’s often not the case. As a brand, we want to highlight the stars of the community, and more than 50 percent of the companies we rate do not qualify. Any site with a StellaService seal means it has been road-tested and you should expect a good customer experience.” Among the top-rated stores are Zappos.com
, Neiman Marcus, American Eagle Outfitters, Newegg.com
, Fry’s Electronics, Zales and REI. Visit StellaService.com
to see if your favorites made the cut.