A smart way to save BIG money, but is it safe?
An Online Buyer's Guide: What You Need to Know
Shopping online is cheaper! Luckily enough, we are at a time when online shopping is making it easier for home theater enthusiast to buy and own a home theater system at substantially reduced prices.
This Online Buyer's Guide will show how to become more educated about your online buying experience. In particular, it will show you how to manage the risks involved while still enjoying the benefits.
The Internet offers great benefits when it comes to buying your HDTV, AV receiver, or in that case anything you can dream of, online. The truth is that electronic shopping has become a reality that is not only more cost-effective, but equally important, provides a more convenient shopping experience.
Convenience is in fact the primary advantage associated with shopping online. You can literally shop from within the comfort of your bedroom, living room, etc., 24-hours a day seven days a week. You can access your favorite storefront whenever you feel like.
Equally important, the internet gives you the possibility to access all the information you need, check manufacturers sites, compare products using one of the many comparison search engines, read customer reviews, and more.
And this comes at a cost advantage! Shopping online represents a cost effective solution that can lead to substantial savings over traditional shopping. The main reason behind the cheaper price tag is that it is cheaper to run an online store than a brick-and-mortar one. Hence, what may be expensive from a high street retail store often becomes affordable when purchased online.
Shopping online has its disadvantageous as well. You cannot have a firsthand feel of the product, nor you can be 100% sure that your online purchase is going to work. Instead, when purchasing direct from a retail shop, you have the advantage of being able to view and inspect the product prior to your purchase; therefore, the probability that your retail purchase works is higher.
You have to exercise great care when shopping online. However, through an educated online buying process, you can manage the risks involved while saving time and money.
Managing the risks when shopping online should not be difficult as long as you know what to check and look for. To help you in the process, we are presenting a detailed checklist to ensure your online shopping experience is both time-and-cost-effective as well as safe-and-secure.
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Issues worth considering when shopping online:
Be selective with the vendor:
All home theater gear - video projectors, TVs, AV receivers, etc - are expensive items; hence, you have to be more selective with the vendor when shopping online.
Are queries responded to promptly, and what about customer support? Does the merchant provide complete contact information: e-mail, phone number, location address?
Check also the vendor rating with organizations such as the Better Business Bureau.
Major stores like AMAZON, Best Buy, and B&H are among the best we can recommend, but there are many others, so choose the one you feel comfortable with - in particular, if you already had a previous positive shopping experience with the vendor of your choice.
Research both the product and the vendor:
Few good shopping experiences are complete without at least a little research, and this is even more so when it comes to shopping online.
Always check the manufacturer website for additional direct information on the product - in particular product specifications and compliance with industry standards.
Equally important, check that the product you are buying online is designed to operate within your market - avoid buying a product designed for the US market if you live in Europe. Not only, you may end up with a product that does not comply with your local industry standards, there is also a good chance that you end up with a void warranty.
Find out what others are saying when shopping online. Check what other customers had to say about the product, manufacturer and the vendor. Most major online retail stores allow shoppers to post in product reviews and any other related comments on message boards. In particular, the customer reviews at amazon can be extremely enlightening in regard to product performance and manufacturer support. Always read these customer reviews, but then evaluate objectively.
If you want to get the best price, part of your online search should be to compare prices between different stores. One possible way forward when shopping online is to visit several retailers, or access a price comparison search engine.
AMAZON is one of the best online stores in this respect in that it gives you the possibility to choose the best deal from the different retailers featured on the amazon storefront.
Buying Refurbished Electronics:
Do not ignore the possibility of buying refurbished gear. When shopping online, buying refurbished electronics is relatively easy, and represents a possible option to knock a sizeable chunk off the retail price. However, you need to exercise vigilance when buying refurbished goods since you are getting a bit of a hit on product warranty.
For more information on this subject, please check our Guide to Buying Refurbished Electronics.
Try to get a feel of the product:
Admittedly, this is not easy when shopping online but it would be great if prior to buying online, you would check the product in person at some high street shop to make sure it is exactly the one you want.
Ordering, Warranties, and Return Policies:
Before confirming your purchase when shopping online, be sure to look for any extra or hidden charges, including shipping, handling, express delivery charges, taxes, transaction fees for overseas orders, return arrangements, etc.
Check also the vendor website to determine its policies, especially on returns. Not all vendors allow for returns on TVs and other bulky electronics; you may have to deal directly with the manufacturer in case you need to return the product.
Do not proceed with the order before reading the small print. Check delivery dates and order cancellations conditions.
It is important to know that the law is on your side even when shopping online. Unless otherwise stated, a product ordered online should be shipped within a maximum of 30-days. If the product cannot be shipped within the stipulated time frame, the merchant is obliged by law to provide a revised shipment date and explain your right to cancel the order - in which case, you are entitled for a prompt and complete refund.
Make sure the warranty will be honored; some manufacturers will not honor warranties on products purchased from so-called unauthorized vendors; call the manufacturer and ask should it need be.
When shopping online, ensure that you make use of a secure server connection to effect payment. This type of connection is normally denoted by either a lock or key symbol on your internet browser. Alternatively, check that the URL (web address) of the web server begins with https://. A secure server connection will encrypt all your personal information as it moves across the internet.
Please note that sending your billing information, credit cards details, etc in an e-mail message is not secure and may be easily intercepted by hackers.
It is also important to be aware here that some small e-businesses make use a third party secure server set-up for payment purposes. These third party companies may have totally different policies to the vendor you are purchasing your product from; therefore always check the small print when effecting payment and note any extra processing fees.
It would be inappropriate to conclude this Online Buyer's Guide without reminding you to check everything once the product arrives.
Open the package immediately and carefully check its contents in the presence of the delivery persons before they leave. DO NOT sign anything if you suspect that the product is damaged or that it is not the product ordered.
It is hoped that the guidelines detailed in this 'Online Buyer's Guide' will prove useful when shopping online. However, always remember that your best guarantee to a great online shopping experience is to choose a respectable vendor.