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The WorldTravelDude Guide to Buying Online

[November 2013, Updated for Black Friday]

 

Yesterday I wrote about the best gadgets you can buy for traveling.

 

Today I’ll talk about buying things online.

 

We all know the only way to get the best price is to buy things online.

 

I’ve been buying things off the Internet for over ten years. I’ve never been ripped off, but as was detailed over the weekend in the New York Times, there are scams galore. Remember the old adage, “If its too good to be true, it probably is.”

If things online are more than 5% or 10% cheaper than buying from Amazon, then it’s certainly a scam.

And there’s nowhere better to start than with Amazon.

 

Rule #1: Buy from Amazon.

If you just want to make life easier, don’t mess around and just buy from Amazon.

If you don’t want to read the rest of this article, just go to Amazon, sign up for Amazon Prime, and you’re set.

Sure, Buy.com might have it $5 cheaper, or some other store might be a little less, but Amazon is the cheapest most times. Time is money.

It’s the idiot-proof way of buying online. Look at all the things you don’t have to worry about:

  • Shipping cost. Free!
  • Rip-offs? Never! The previously mentioned NYT article specifically mentions how Amazon screens their vendors.
  • Returns are easy as pie.
  • No Sales Tax (for most folks)

 

Rule #2: Get Amazon Prime

Enjoy Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime is Amazon’s amazing shipping service.

 

It’s free 2-day shipping. Order Monday, receive it Wednesday. It’s amazing.

 

You can sign-up and get a free 30-day trial. After 30 days, you are billed $80 for the entire year.

 

I had it for a year and I loved it. Want something? Just hop on Amazon and two days later, you had it. No stopping at Best Buy or Target on the way home from work. Just done.

 

Best of all, you avoid the, “I’m just going to Target for one or two things,” syndrome. Ya know, you mean to buy that cool cordless drill Target has on sale (for more than Amazon sells it…) for $20, and you walk out with $250 of stuff you didn’t need.

So get Amazon Prime. Save time, get the best price, spend less time in the store, buy only what you need and less of what you don’t, and save money.

Additional Notes:  Amazon Prime also includes free streaming of 41,000 TV shows and movies. It’s almost as good as NetFlix.

Rule #3: Use Price Comparison Sites

Hop onto either Google Shopping, Pricegrabber.com, or my favorite, ResellerRatings.com to find the best price.  These sites have come a long way – they now show reviews of the product, and rate the sellers, as well as showing the best price.

They still aren’t as good as Amazon.  Amazon shows what people eventually bought, and also shows the items other people bought with their purchases, such as cheap batteries for a camera.

But if price is all you care about – use one of these to check around.

Rule #4:  Use ResellerRatings.com to check the site you buy from

“FastEddiesCameras.com” might have a nice looking website, be “based in Brooklyn’s Camera District,” and be $50 less than anyone else.  So hop over to ResellerReviews.com and check him out.  If the seller has less than 3-Stars, beware.  Lots of places on the Web give you a cheap rate, only to call you later and “not have it in stock,” unless you pay expediting fees, or buy add-ons.  Scams!  Read the reviews on the 1-Star reviewed sites to see what the scams are.  Even your credit card won’t protect you at times.

So remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.  Also, beware of sites with very few reviews that isn’t very old.  Fast Eddie has friends, and can flood it with super positive reviews.  After Fast Eddie gets a few bad reviews, he just changes the name to SlickEddiesCameras.com and he’s at it again.

So if you haven’t heard of them before, please, please, just look them up on ResellerRatings.com.  It’s one of the best sites on the web.

Rule #5:  Minimize Sales Tax and Shipping

If an online merchant is in your state, or you are from New York, you’ll get hit with sales tax.  (Ahem:  Actually, you are supposed to report all your online sales in your state taxes.  It’s your conscience, not mine!)

Some sites are a bit sneaky about notifying you of the tax, but the comparison sites  (PriceGrabber and NexTag) usually include it in the total price if you put in your zip code.  So be sure to look for that before you click through.

Again, keeping with Amazon keeps it simple:  no sales tax and no shipping.

Rule #6:  Buy the previous model

The previous model is usually 95% as good.  Oh it might have a 3.8X zoom instead of a 4.0X zoom, or perhaps a 2.45ghz processor compared to a 2.50ghz processor.  But you might pay 30% less.  Remember, all this stuff wears out in 2 years anyway, so keep that 30% in your pocket and use it for the next one down the road.   Amazon makes it easy to find the previous models – they’re usually second or third in the “What People Bought Who Looked At This” list.  Or else the model number is just a few digits less.

Rule #7:  Don’t buy from the Apple Store – buy from Amazon.

Want something from Apple?  Apple has stores in every state so for that iPad you want so bad, don’t buy from Apple.  You’ll get hit with your 8% sales tax.  On top of that, Apple has a “restocking fee” of 5% or something for returns.  So why buy anything from the Apple Store?  Impulse buying!  If you’re an Internet shopper, you’ve learned to avoid the impulse, so use it here.

Now, the Apple Store has great service!  You can’t return something there, but you are free to use their Genius bar for any troubleshooting.

So you get the best of both worlds!

Apple Insider maintains an indespensible Mac Price Matrix that has the lowest Mac prices.  It also lists the usually better-value previous models.  Macconnection seems to be the best bet for price these days, but I forget if they charge tax and shipping.  Check it out.

Rule #8:  Stay out of brick-and-mortar stores

If you go in a store, walk out with one thing.  I dare you.  I know, it’s a trade-off.  Waiting a few days, or getting it right away.  Well, its your money.  And you’ll buy other stuff along with that one thing you want.  So just stay away.  Don’t let yourself go into a store unless you are looking at something you are interested in.

Rule #9:  Use RedLaser

The best phone app is RedLaser.   You just scan a bar-code and it finds all the prices online for ya.  Obviously you don’t get barcodes online, but if you’re out and about shopping (ie, breaking Rule #8), its indespensible (I was going to write invaluable, but what does that mean?).

My friends used the app at Best Buy.  BEEP!  They scanned all the bar-codes and smiled as the Best Buy guys matched all the prices.  I haven’t tried it, and you might not have luck in a super-croweded store where they figure they’ll sell it anyway, but who knows.   You can always buy it at Best Buy, then order online, and return the online one to Best Buy for a refund :)

Rule #10:  Buy from the Big Guys

Why mess around with ResellerRatings if ya don’t have to.  There are a few big names out there to buy from.  I close with a listing of sites I can recommend.  They’re almost always the cheapest, and they compete among themselves to be that way.  Their business is based on volume, so help them keep it up!

Amazon.com:  The best.

Buy.com:  Great for electronics, sometimes cheaper than Amazon.

Newegg.com:  Same as Buy.com

BHPhoto & Adorama & Abe’s of Maine:  Great for cameras.  Sometimes cheaper than Amazon.  If you’re getting a camera, go with these three or Amazon or Buy.com.  One of them isn’t open on Saturday because they’re Jewish.  Gotta respect them shutting down a web-site on the Sabbath!

Any Brick and Mortar place can be trusted, though you’ll pay sales tax

Happy Shopping!

 
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