Last weekend, I went to a local computer specialty store to research a few items that I need to buy. I was surprised by how helpful my phone was in researching not only price, but other factors that went into my purchase decisions as well.
What I Was Looking For
I went into the store to look into buying three products. First, I needed a 2GB DDR2 laptop RAM upgrade for my netbook, next I looked into buying a new modem/router for my DSL internet, and third I looked into buying a network hard drive for redundant backup and media storage at home.
Going into the store, I had a rough idea of what the RAM should cost, but didn’t know much about the other two products.
Employees are Helpful
For the RAM, I knew exactly what I needed. I didn’t need any help deciding on the lowest cost ($25) 2GB DDR2 RAM upgrade. The price was very competitive compared to online retailers. I also know my way around the RAM aisle so picking a brand (go with the lowest cost, they are pretty much all the same) is not difficult.
When I went to look at the new modem/router, I needed help. I did research online, but CenturyLink makes it difficult to know which modems will actually work for their service. Of course, they want you to buy the Actiontec PK5000 from them, which costs more than anywhere else. Talking to a salesman at the store, I found out that MicroCenter, the store I was at, carried three other DSL all-in-one modem/router combos. I am replacing my Actiontec PK5000 because it is a piece of crap, so I had to ask for help on what would work for me.
After getting a lesson in the options, I pulled out my trusty phone and opened the Amazon.com app. I scanned away and was brought to the landing page for the router I had in mind. I was pleased to see that it cost $50 less and saw that the reviews were spot on to what I heard from the salesman. I also scanned it with Google Goggles to find outside reviews and pricing.
Sometimes, The Web is More Helpful
I made my way over to the external hard drive section and started looking into the wireless network hard drives. I asked another sales rep, who seemed helpful, and was told about the benefits, features, and reliability of the brands carried at the store.
After picking his brain for a few minutes, I learned that the more expensive brands were more reliable, which would not have shocked me. Before I trusted him, though, I wanted to do my own research. I pulled out my phone and scanned the boxes for the one that I was told was the best and the one that was cheapest.
To my surprise, the “best option” was not rated all that highly in consumer reviews. The cheapest option was $60 cheaper than Amazon.com and had fewer ratings, but they were more positive than the “better” brand.
For less than the one he suggested, and less than Amazon.com charges, I had a highly rated 2TB network hard drive in front of me. Because it is an expensive purchase and one that is not urgent, I decided to hold off on both the hard drive and router for my two-week impulse spending rule.
- Sales reps are usually very helpful, particularly when you are learning about a new product. However, still do your own research before buying.
- The web is often the cheapest place to buy, but not always.
- Don’t just look at price; look for quality and features as well.
- For some purchases, it is not worth saving $2 to buy online.
- The big box store is not dead. Yet.
How Do You Shop?
What methods do you use to make sure you get a high quality product at the best possible price? Do you research at home and then go to the store? Do you go to the store armed with a great smart phone app to assist? Please share your strategies and stories in the comments.
Image Joe+Jeanette Archie/flickr