For the just-released November issue, the editors surveyed more than 28,000 subscribers to come up with the best and the worst online retailers.
For example, flowers can make a beautiful gift. But Consumer Reports discovered that ordering them online can be pretty unpleasant. A survey of subscribers about their experiences shopping at the 52 of the largest retail websites puts online florists 1-800-Flowers and FTD near the bottom of the ratings.
"They had low marks for value, and there were lots of complaints about high shipping charges and customers having to wait longer than expected," said Tony Giorgianni with Consumer Reports.
Ticketmaster doesn't have a lot to cheer about either. It was at the bottom of Consumer Reports' ratings and got the lowest marks of all for customer support.
"A good online retailer should offer great value, have good products and services, and deliver them on time," Giorgianni said. "It also should have great customer support."
Among the highest-rated sites were B&H Photo, Zappos, Costco, Nordstrong, L.L. Beab, NewEgg (for electronics) and REI, for outdoor gear and clothing.
REI stands out with its guarantee that shoppers can return or replace items any time at the store or online. There's no expiration date.
"Zappos also has a good return policy. You have a year to return something, and Zappos picks up the cost," Giorgianni said.
Another way to save on shipping is to shop at sites like WalMart, that don't charge if you have the item delivered to the store for pick-up.
Shopping online can be really convenient, but it often results in a ton of follow-up email spam trying to sell you more. One way to deal with this is to set up a separate e-mail address for all your online purchases.