Shopping: Electronics

This is the part I like most about US: Electronics. They are dirt cheap (compared to India at-least). And there’s a whole variety of brands and products. On top of that, they are on sale throughout the year in one store or another.

There are two ways of buying electronic items: In store and online

In Store Purchase:

Some of the well known stores for buying electronics are Circuit City, Best buy, CompUSA and Wal-Mart. Office supply stores like Office Depot, OfficeMax and Staples also carry limited items. In these stores, you can buy everything from kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, music players, TV, DVD players and computers. Generally you can find most of the brands, from the cheapest to the most expensive ones in all the stores. You can purchase the same stuff online, from the store’s website too.

Online purchase:

Online shopping has it’s own advantages. You can order stuff sitting at home, you can compare prices in different stores in a minute. Generally you get better price if you purchase something online, compared to buying it from store… and you can place your order at 3 o’clock at night ;). Some of the merchants, like Amazon, Buy.com sell things only through their website and don’t have any physical stores.

Things to keep in mind when buying an expensive item:

  • Make sure you know what you are buying. This applies especially to computers. Check all the specifications and don’t take anything for granted.
  • Check the merchant’s Return Policy. Find out how many days after the purchase can you return the item.
  • For online shopping, merchants generally start counting the days from the day item was shipped and not when you received it. Let’s say you placed an order on 1st of August. It was shipped on 3rd and you received it on 10th. If the merchant/product had a 30 day return period, it starts from 3rd and not from 10th.
  • Check for the warranty of the product. Services are very expensive in US. So if your gadget stops working, you might have to spend a lot to get it repaired or may have to buy a new one altogether. So don’t forget to check for the warranty period of your product. Warranty is generally provided by the manufacturer and not the merchant.

Return Policy

  • Most of the big stores have return policies, so you can return the product you purchased within a designated time period. These policies vary from store to store and also depend on the product category. Wal-Mart is da king in this, with a 90 day return period for most of its products.
  • If you want to buy something to try it out, make it a point to find out the return period for that product.
  • You will need the original sales receipt to make a return.
  • Try to keep all the packaging that came with the product for few days or weeks, in case you have to return it. Most online retailers demand the original packaging if you have to return something.
  • Some merchants may also charge a restocking fee which might be a fraction of the original cost of the product.

How to get a good deal?

There is no better feeling than saving a few bucks in a sale. Though each store has something or other on sale throughout the year, it is a good idea to do some research before you buy expensive stuff like computer, mp3 players etc. Here are some tips on how you can save the moolah.

  1. Deals Websites
    This is the easiest and most effective way of shopping. Most of these websites are updated several times a day and carry delas in different categories (mostly electronics and computer related). Some common ones are Deals2Buy.com,edealinfo.comslickdeals.net.
  2. Online price search
    This is helpful if you are looking for a specific product and want to compare prices on different websites. But you need to be cautious of the merchants listed on these websites as some of them advertise wrong prices on the price search websites. Some of the popular price comparison websites are bizrate.comshopper.cnet.com, Google’s Froogle and pricegrabber.com
  3. Weekly ads
    Most chain stores have their weekly ads in which they advertise items on sale during that week. You can go to the store’s website and search for link “Weekly ad” or “Weekly circular”, enter your zip code and find deals in your area
  4. Online Auctions
    This is good if you are looking for something very specific or used items. ebay ofcourse is the only popular auction website. Once again, you need to be cautious of what you are buying and who you are buying from. Most items don’t come with a return policy so be sure you need the item you bid for.

Common Chain/Online Stores:

  • Wal-Mart
  • Circuit City
  • Bestbuy
  • CompUSA
  • Radio Shack
  • Staples
  • Office Depot
  • Officemax
  • Target

Common Online Only Stores :

  • Amazon.com
  • Buy.com
  • Dell.com
October 5, 2013