Electronics: Online vs. Brick-and-Mortar
We covet many things in life other than thy neighbor's wife: nice houses, lucrative careers, a chic wardrobe. And yes, we covet other people's electronics. The devices of choice these days seem to be high-definition televisions, iPods and GPS devices for the car. But the question is -- where to buy them.
Luckily for Shop To It readers, I set out to find the answers at the big chains, small retailers and online shops. (You can all send me flowers later.) In the high-def television world, I searched for the Sony Bravia KDL-46S3000, which got high marks from Consumer Reports. I also shopped for the third generation 8-gigabyte iPod nano. And my GPS device of choice was the Garmin nuvi 660, also a Consumer Reports favorite. (The prices you see here don't include sales tax.)
Here's what I learned: If you can install a television on your own, not a small task, then buying online is the way to go. Many sites offer an in-home delivery service called White Glove Delivery, which provides the muscle to get the television in the house, unwrap it and set it on its stand. It's then up to you to figure out the tangle of wires and cords. Not a big deal for a Ph.D. in electrical engineering but for the rest of us mere mortals, a professional installation may be required.
Amazon.com and B&H, an online electronics retailer, blew others out of the water with their prices on this particular television. Amazon had the TV for $1,729; B&H had it priced at $1,732.95. (Both prices include the White Glove Delivery service.) If you're like me and can barely change a light bulb, go for a store that will do the connecting. Belmont TV, a small local chain with stores in Arlington, Wheaton and Laurel, had the same television for $1,866.50, which includes delivery and setup.
There was very little variation with the iPod nano; most stores sold it for $199. Amazon.com and Newegg.com, another online electronics retailer, both offered the nano for $5 cheaper, including free shipping. Newegg's price even includes three-day shipping.
The GPS device, which helps the directionally-challenged get to their destinations, had one of the most dramatic price variations. Amazon.com sold the Garmin model for $540.44, including shipping. Best Buy and Circuit City had it for $699 and Target sold it for $684.99.
Another thing I learned in my search is that many of the online sites require you to temporarily put the item in a shopping cart or click on a link to see the price. They claim that the manufacturer of the device doesn't want the sale price shown if it's dropped below a certain level. Yes, I'm scratching my head too. Also, some online prices were different than the in-store prices. Check out a brick-and-mortar store's Web site before whipping out your credit card.
So where have you found the best deals on electronics? And what do you plan to buy this holiday season?
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