The 1999 Online Shopping Guide

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    Rating the Sites
    New online stores crop up every day, and it's tough to know which to trust. These comparison sites give you the lowdown:

    ranks more than 1,700 online retailers from evaluation forms that customers fill out at each participating site's checkout.

    rates sites on criteria like convenience and breadth of content, but you must be a paying subscriber to get their ratings.

    relies on reviews by e-commerce experts in categories like ease of use and on-site resources.

    Finding the Deal
    Comparing prices between online merchants for the best buy can take time. These shopping bots do the work:

    searches a deep database of products, and its Quick Search lets you hop to popular products fast.

    is an easy-to-use tool that pulls prices from more than 2,000 merchants in categories like flowers, books and toys.

    compiles a list of more than 40 bots, including some that focus only on CDs, books or auctions.

    Placing Your Bid
    If someone on your shopping list is a collector or a fan of quirky gifts, an online auction might be your best bet:

    sees 250,000 new items put up for auction every day. Buyers rate sellers on their honesty and speed.

    is part outlet store, part liquidator's auction. Its Bid Watch feature lets you monitor several auctions at once.

    is the joint venture of the 255-year-old auction house and the e-commerce Goliath. Items start at $100.

    Making a Wish List
    Online gift registries allow you to create a list of your holiday wants from several e-stores and e-mail it to friends and family:

    lets you fill your wish list with gifts from retail partners like and Gap. When shoppers come to view the list and buy, Della processes the purchase at its own site.

    partners with popular sites like the Sharper Image and .

    lets you pick your dream presents from any site. You can also make donations to charities.

    Making It Easier
    A big e-shopping hassle is re-entering your billing and shipping data at every site. These digital wallets do it for you:

    database of 10,000 Web-based forms is designed to handle online checkout with one click.

    is a wallet that resides on a server out in cyberspace, not on your hard drive, so you can access your personal data from any computer.

    is Microsoft's wallet. It fills forms at a group of participating websites, including and .

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