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Guide to Shopping for Computers and Peripherals Online

February 2nd, 2010

computer-buying-guide.jpgMany sites and guides cover online shopping in detail, but very few actually cover what to look for. Granted, most are proprietary and only cover that one site. Eventually, however, you’ll see that most of them have the same design structures or functionality. Where the sites differ is where your focus should be.

There are several aspects of computer and peripheral shopping which are much neglected, but are still very important. They include shipping, add-on costs, and recommended items and services. Keep these in mind when searching for an online retailer to shop at, because it could end up saving you a lot of money.

Recommended items and services: Most online configurators look and feel the same. Where they differ is what happens after you click the system or item you want. Very few sites will go to the configurator or check-out with only what you clicked. Most will include recommended parts and/or services which increase the price. For example: You click on a Pentium 4 system with memory, DVD-R/RW, hard drive, and video card for 249.99 USD. When the configurator or check-out comes up, you see that the price is now 399.87 USD. You scroll down looking for why the price has changed, when you notice that the site has automatically included memory coolers, upgraded heat sink for the processor, extended warranty, assembly, and testing. That’s not including any shipping charges which may apply.

You may have to go to several sites before finding one that doesn’t do this, or allows you to change those options they automatically added. Patience usually does pay off.

Shipping: Many sites offer free shipping on orders which are over a certain amount, or on a specific item. Watch carefully, and read their “free” shipping policy. Some sites will offer free shipping on a specific item, but not on the items which come with it (or are needed to make it work). For example: You click on an external hard drive which is advertised as being 49.99 USD and has free shipping. Although the hard drive itself has free shipping, the wires and cords to make it work don’t. In the end you’ll wind up paying over 20.00 USD more to get them. Usually the shipping of those small items will be more than it would cost to ship the whole package.

They get away with this because technically they aren’t misrepresenting or falsely advertising the free shipping on the main item. It may be obvious to everyone, but legally they are fulfilling the contract you have to agree to before purchasing the item.

So, shop around. Not all websites are the same, and the chances of finding that same computer or peripheral with everything included in the price with free shipping is usually pretty good. Even if you don’t, you may find one with more included for around the same price.

Add-ons: This is the practice of charging extra for parts, cables, and services. It’s much like the above example, except it’s an actual charge instead of a lofty shipping charge. For example: You find a 500GB external USB hard drive for 39.99 USD and comes with free shipping, as do all their products with a purchase of over 30.00 USD. You click it, and find that you’re automatically charged 6.99 USD for the USB cable, 7.99 USD for a power cord, and 6.99 USD for assembly and testing. You also find that you can’t remove these extra costs.

This is very common with online computer and peripheral retailers, especially those companies that deal with a lot of refurbished or used parts and systems. Ironically, many people will still buy the system or item only thinking about the original price. These types of retailers thrive on apathy and impatience.

Again, shop around. It shouldn’t take you long to find a site that doesn’t do this. Many computer and peripheral buyers already have the cables, cords, and drivers. All they really need is a replacement item to make everything work.

This article was supplied to us by Barry Davidson from Constant Content.

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