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Tech Buying Tips {Online Versus Retail Store}

The following post is from Michelle of Tech Geek Girl:

Source: Jonas N

For many shoppers, the big question this time of year is whether to buy in-store or online.

When it comes right down to it, a lot of where and how you buy is really just a matter of preference. If you’re in the middle and love doing both, here are a few tips to help sort out the advantages and disadvantages to both when it comes to buying your tech gifts this holiday season.

Hands On

I really feel that for certain items, particularly laptops and tablets, it is important to at least try the device that you are looking at buying.

If you’re buying something for someone who already knows what they want, in-store personnel can listen to your questions and give you advice about any accessories or add-ons that you may be unaware of.

Price Comparison

During the holiday season, it seems like everyone is running some kind of promotional deal. Some big box stores may even have promotions that are only available at either their store or their website. How do you know you’re really getting the best price? If you’re lucky enough to have a smartphone, arm yourself with a price checking app like Amazon’s Price Check app (FREE, iOS and Android) or Consumer Reports Shopper 2012 ($4.99, iOS and Android) to help you make your decision. (PC Magazine also has a great list of other price comparison apps here.)

Beware the Ultra Bargain

Be especially wary of the too-good-to-believe bargain. This is true for everything but scammers are much more likely to pop up online, while browsing through various online shops, on banner ads or on auction sites like eBay. As tempting as getting a coveted tech gift for far under retail may seem, remember that if it seems too good to believe, then it probably is. Buy your tech from a reputable, online marketplace that you can trust.

Shipping Shock

When it comes to online shopping, nothing is more depressing than shipping shock. Maybe you’ve had the same experiences I have: getting all excited because you just found this really great deal on an item for lower than you know that it goes for at the local store. You place the item in your virtual shopping cart and as you prepare to check out, you realize that the shipping’s a lot more than you had initially expected. Suddenly, that bargain isn’t looking so great anymore.

The good news is that there are ways around shipping shock. For example, the Amazon Prime program gets you free shipping year round, among other things. If you buy a lot from Amazon, you will find that the Prime membership more than pays for itself during the holidays. Many retailers offer holiday shipping promotions, offering free or discounted shipping for a minimum purchase. If you have big ticket tech items on your holiday shopping list, you may easily make minimum requirements.

Shipping Delays

The great thing about buying in store is being able to get in and out with your product in hand. Not so with online ordering where you need to calculate shipping time along with everything else you need to keep track of during the holiday rush.

If you are buying a custom big ticket tech item like a laptop or desktop, be sure to allow time for assembly and customization.

Choose an online retailer that clearly states their shipping policies and expected shipping times. Many popular online retailers will have an alert about the last day to order from them in order for Christmas delivery. And speaking from past experience, it’s helpful to take into account your schedule when you’re ordering and deciding where to have the package delivered. A couple of years ago, I had a Christmas present shipped to my work address only to have it arrive a few days after I’d left on vacation. Oops.

Do you like buying your tech gifts online or in-store?

Michelle Mista is an IT professional, freelance writer and blogger. A lifelong geek, she blogs the latest in tech news, tips & tutorials at Tech Geek Girl and muses about motherhood at Mommy Misadventures. She is on the constant quest to balance life, work and geekery.