Where to buy electronics and how to bargain for the lowest price

Buying electronics online was more pleasing for our readers than buying at a walk-in store, according to our survey on almost 30,000 buying experiences. And the proportion of major electronics purchases that readers made online more than doubled from 2006 to 2011.

How to get the best deal

How to get the best deal?

No wonder some big sorters are cutting back. Best Buy, the biggest remaining chain, said it would close 50 of its, 1,000 or so locations in 2012. Best Buy and Staples plan to shrink the size of many of their stores. Wal-Mart, after years of expanding its electronics offerings, has stopped selling Amazon’s Kindle tablets and e-book readers.

Retailers blame their sales woes in part on so-called showroooming, the consumer practice of checking products out firsthand in stores before buying them online. Some 18 percent of the 10,000-plus readers we surveyed who bought electronics products online fessed up to showrooming. More than half of that group eventually bought from Amazon.com, which accounted for almost two out of three online purchases in our survey.



Although online purchases have increased greatly in recent years, about twice as many respondents bought in stores as on the Internet. And though online shoppers were more satisfied overall, the best walk-in options got high marks, too, as the Ratings on the facing page reveal.

Wherever you shop, a few simple steps can help you get the best deal on a major electronics purchase.

Three ways to save

Consider coupons and gift cards. It’s worth checking sites such as Techbar-gains.com for coupons and other deals. Relatively few of the readers we surveyed searched for online coupons before shopping in stores or on the Internet, but one in four of those who did found it to be worthwhile. Another useful tactic: Check retailers’ ads and bargain sites to see whether they offer gift cards that can save you money on a future purchase from the retailer or manufacturer.



Haggling can pay off.

Negotiate for a major electronics item? Absolutely. Only one in eight of the in-store shoppers we surveyed tried, and those who did so this year were a bit less successful than in 2011. Bu hagglers who prevailed saved a median of $86. Negotiators for a TV set had the greatest savings, at $114, while those who bargained for a camera saved a healthy $63, up from $53 last year.

Negotiation was typically more successful at some stores, including independents, than others. Yet even one in four hagglers at Apple Stores, which are known for stable pricing, managed to get a break. You can also bargain online: 2 percent of online shoppers tried and half succeeded, most by phone or e-mail.

Our advice: go to a walk-in store armed with evidence of the lowest price you’ve found online and ask whether the store will match the pride or at least come close. You may have the greatest success in getting stores that also have websites to match their own online prices.

Skip the extra contracts.

It’s more likely than ever that you’ll be pushed to buy an extended warranty on your major electronics purchase; about three-quarters of in-store shippers were, up from two-thirds in 2011. P.C. Richard was again the pushiest retailer with those plans, which we think are seldom if ever a good buy.

P.C. Richard was again the pushiest retailer with those plans, which we think are seldom if ever a good buy.

P.C. Richard was again the pushiest retailer with those plans, which we think are seldom if ever a good buy.

At Best Buy, you might also be pitched on the chain’s paid Geek Squad technical support. More than three-quarters of respondents who bought such services in stores and used them judged them excellent or very good. But free retailer tech support services (offered by stores such as Costco and Apple Store) pleased 87 percent of those who tried them


With so many retailers highly rated for overall satisfaction, you can choose largely on the basis of scored attributes that matter most to you. The recommended retailers listed below stood out for the reasons cited.

Top all-around online choices

A1: Newegg.com

A2: BHPhotoVideo.com

A3: Amazon.com

Ratings Electronics stores- .A. Online Stores

Ratings Electronics store: A. Online Stores

 Some categories of products might be excluded from returns or subject to restocking fees.

 Policies may differ for some products

 Policies vary by store.

A1, A2, and A3 offer high satisfaction overall and had high marks for every rated attribute. But A1 has a 15 percent restocking fee on some returns (unless item is defective or unopened).



Top all-around walk-in choice

B3: Independents

Ratings Electronics store: B. Walk-in stores

Ratings Electronics store: B. Walk-in stores

No retail store got high marks across the board, but independents came close. And shoppers who negotiated prices at these stores were more successful on average than they were at Best Buy and Sears. B3 matched B1 for product quality and service and beat them on selection than B1, which sells only its own products.

Great products and service

A5: Apple.com

B1: Apple Store

While you can’t expect low prices from Apple, you can expect high-quality gear and hand-holding.

Apple.com & Apple store

Apple.com & Apple store

Low prices and high-quality products.

A4: Costco.com

B2: Costco

This membership warehouse club doesn’t pretend to do it all, but what it does it does well-selling quality products at competitive prices. Just don’t expect a wide selection of merchandise or top-notch in-store service.







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