Shopping Online Anonymously

Shopping onlineThis is the real nuts-and-bolts problem for many crossdressers whose families don’t know of their activities.    More and more shopping is being done online, but how do you pay for and receive items without others knowing?     While there is no one perfect answer that fits all situations, we offer a variety of information and suggestions here to help you figure out what works best for you.

The two main problems when wishing to shop online anonymously are paying for the purchase and having a place to receive it.    We’re going to discuss these in the opposite order, because knowing in advance what address you’ll be using will be necessary when it comes to the information you give the merchant.

Receiving the Package

If you have a friend who will receive packages for you, that’s obviously the best solution, but most of us aren’t that lucky.    We need to go to Plan B, which is probably to arrange for a mail box somewhere.

Mail Boxes 2Renting a mailbox will entail your giving your real, i.e. “official”,  name because in today’s security-conscious environment you’ll need to provide identification when you apply for the box.    This information is not for public consumption, though, so don’t let the application process put you off.    On the form you fill out you’ll be asked to provide the names of all persons who will be receiving mail at this box, so that’s the place to put your femme name if you receive items in that name.

As for paying for the box, you can pay in cash in person.    In fact, that’s a very common way of paying since I’m not even sure these places send bills.    You can also choose the frequency of payment, at least with the USPS.

Where should you get a P O Box?    The U.S. Post Office is one obvious choice, and they’re a perfectly good option.     Beyond that,  there are places like UPS Store (Mailboxes, Etc.)  who also offer mailboxes for rent.    These are very popular places in some locations, so they can be quite strict about promptly picking up packages that don’t fit into your box.     Some will start adding a fine after 3-5 days, but if you’re local, picking up in a timely way shouldn’t be a problem.    If you look around your community you’ll probably spot different businesses who have mailboxes to rent.

What about privacy?    Well, employees at these locations are supposed to be tight-lipped, but frankly, if you live in a small community I’d suggest going a bit afield to rent a box.    If your wife’s Aunt Thelma is the post mistress at your small town post office, betting on her to not say anything is probably foolhardy.   Also, if it’s a small community you have the additional problem of running into people you know while visiting your box.    If you have home delivery, their little minds will start whirring as they imagine all the reasons why you need your own box.   Unless you live in a fairly anonymous urban area, try to find a box that’s not in your own backyard and maybe is convenient to where you work.

FedEx officeThere are a few other options, but they don’t work for all packages.    If you’re receiving an express company shipment, for example, you can arrange to pick up the package yourself once it’s in your area.    After you get a tracking number, go online and request that it be sent to a convenient service center to be held for pick-up.    You’ll probably need to show some ID, though, so the order should be in a name that has some identity to go with it.

Then there’s the option of having packages delivered to you at work.   This obviously depends on your work situation and isn’t a solution for everyone, but more and more people are having packages sent to the office as they’re not home during the day to receive them.    As with the other possibilities, this may be a “sometimes” solution.    Having to explain your Silkies package to your fellow firehouse workers could be a bit awkward.    You can claim it’s a surprise for your wife, but only if she’s not 10 sizes smaller, as your friends might want to see what you’ve ordered.    Also, there’s a limit to how many “surprises” are believable in any given year.

While you can see that there are various ways to receive packages other than at home, the most reliable option is having your own mailbox in a facility not too close to home.     It’s something that you don’t have to monitor all the time and that allows you to have packages or other mail sent using your femme name.    You’ll wonder how you ever got along without being able to receive mail of all kinds with some privacy.

Buying Anonymously

There are many books out there that go into great detail about methods to maintain your anonymity while buying online.    These are usually far more involved and in search of a level of privacy that most of our members don’t need.  We’re only trying to keep our families blissfully unaware, not go underground from society.   To that end giving your own name or other ID information in the kinds of transactions we talk about below is not normally a problem as you’re not setting up permanent accounts or other relationships that might cause difficulty were they to come to light.

Gift Card-1 One very good way to buy online is to use prepaid debit cards that can be purchased on the gift card racks found in most grocery stores, pharmacies, and big box stores.    You’ll want to stick with the Visa or MasterCard ones because for some reason many retailers who take American Express don’t take the AmEx prepaid debit cards.    Be sure you read the information that comes with the card, because many require online registration of the card before it can be used to shop on the internet.  It’s just a way to know that someone didn’t pick it up on the sidewalk and also it gives the merchant a way to “verify” an address, so don’t let this deter you.   It’s one of those harmless registrations that is purely administrative and will not come home to haunt you.     It’s a one-off that leaves nothing to turn up in a home mailbox or answering machine.

 While you’re thumbing through the gift card racks you might see other gift cards like Kohl‘s that you’d like to have.   Or, if you have a local Kohl’s, Catherine’s , or Lane Bryant, you can simply go in person to buy a gift card from them.  You might wonder why you want to shop online if you have a local store, but most retailers now offer much more online than they do in their brick-and-mortar shops.

Payless  is another example of a store that often has things on their site identified as Online Only.    Of course your generic Visa or MasterCard prepaid debit cards should work on these sites as well, so it’s up to you whether you want to diversify your cards.    Stores are usually less picky about accepting their own cards, but once you know that your prepaid Visa or MasterCard will work, it may be simpler to stick with one type of card.    Be sure when you register these cards online that, if they ask for an address, you use the one you’ve decided on for receiving your package.

Money Order-1Paying by money order is another option.    At one point this seemed on its way out for mainstream retailers, but it’s seen a resurgence as more people have ended up with rocky credit.  Sites who accept this method of payment will either ask that you call them so they can give you instructions or else simply tell you up front how to pay in this way.   Basically you complete your order, check money order as the method of payment, and complete the order process.   Then you go to a post office or customer service desk that does money orders and buy an MO for the exact amount you need.    Mail that along with a copy of your online order to the merchant, and as soon as they receive your payment they’ll ship your goodies.    It’s like in the old days when we had to wait for a merchant to receive our check before they’d ship.   (Be sure you remember to tear off the receipt stub on the MO before you mail it.)    The addenda to this article lists the Sister House advertisers that we could confirm accept money orders.

WU PayOther methods of cash payment have also been created recently.    One of the more popular ones is called  WU Pay, with WU standing for Western Union.    Yes, they’re still around, often inside grocery stores but also free-standing.  Check online for your nearest location   Some fairly large retailers have started accepting WU Pay for orders.    It works very similarly to a money order but in this case Western Union will do the mailing for you.   After you place your order online and check WUPay as your method of payment, take a printout of the order to a WU office and give them cash for the amount owed.   They charge between $2.95 to $6.95 for this service, depending on the amount involved, with the highest charge for amounts of $250 or over.   They’ll forward everything to the merchant who will then ship your order.   Obviously money orders or WU Pay aren’t quite as speedy as completing the whole transaction online, but they also don’t leave any suspicious items on your public-use credit cards.    The addenda lists the Sister House partners that we could confirm accept WU Pay.

Once you start thinking in terms of out-of-sight possibilities, you may well think of different solutions.   MoneyGram offers money transfer services.    Or you might investigate setting up your own paperless bank account in a virtual (online-only) bank and then use its associated debit card or open a PayPal account using your online-only bank account. If you should decide to do something like this, try to find an account that doesn’t pay any interest so it won’t be a problem at tax time. Strangely enough, that’s easier said than done as online-only banks are more generous with benefits.  Also remember that banking activities need to be carried out in your own name.   This shouldn’t be a privacy problem since the account is paperless and in any case would be associated with the mailing address you’ve decided to use outside your own home.

So now that you have some options for paying, how do you know what forms of payment a merchant will take?     Most sites have a place called something like Payment Methods, Payment Information, or Payment Options although often it’s buried deep inside another section.   If it’s not listed on its own at the bottom of the page it will probably be found in Customer Service, FAQs, Shipping Information, Shoppers6Help, or even Returns.  There is no uniformity here, and unfortunately there’s a handful of merchants who don’t even bother to put this information on their sites, so for them you’ll probably have to call, send an email, or open a chat.

If you’re a newbie when it comes to online shopping, this all may sound very complicated, but in reality it’s not.    Prepaid- and gift cards are everyday methods of payment now, and if you choose the WU Pay or money order method, it’s simply letting a third party write a check for you.  Private payment and shipping methods without worrisome trails equals a win-win situation for our community!

So, what can we say but Happy Shopping!

Your privacy is important to us at Sister House when shopping in the Boutique or through our merchant links. You can read about Sister House’s privacy policies here and here

ADDENDA

The following merchants used by Sister House state on their sites that they accept WU Pay:

 Catherine’s 

Full Beauty

Jessica London

Lane Bryant

 Rakuten (Buy.com)

Roaman’s 

 Sally Beauty

  Woman Within

The following merchants used by Sister House state on their sites that they accept money orders:

Alight

Bluegala

 Body Candy

 Bubbles Bodywear

 Emitations Jewelry  

 Hips & Curves 

Make Me Heal (transformation items)

 Plus Size Lingerie Boutique

 Shavonne

  Silk & Sable

 Sydney’s Closet

 Unique Vintage

One thought on “Shopping Online Anonymously

  1. I also am a Viet vet. Was there ’66-’67. Don’t know how I managed not to crossdress for more than a year!

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