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5 Steps you should take before buying any product over $100

by The Review CrewApril 17, 2012

So you are probably thinking… really dude?  $100 isn’t much, why would I want to take five steps before I do that?  You are right.  $100 isn’t much.  BUT!!  How many times have you seen something at the store for $125 or a couple hundred bucks and thought OH WOW I have to have that!! It’s the best invention I’ve ever seen!!! I NEED THIS COOL GADGET I SAW IT ON TELEVISION!!!  Then… you get it home and after the initial WHOOT I HAVE THIS NEW GADGET wears off you realize you don’t really need it, or it didn’t work like you thought, or there was a hidden catch… 6 months later a buddy is over and points at it on your shelf in your garage covered with dust and oil grime… and you… look down and say… “yeah I got that… but wow I never use it…”

Those experiences use to happen to me at least 10 times a year… and $100 here, $300 there, $500 here… it all adds up over a few years you are looking at some serious scratch you could have put into something that you REALLY wanted… that you would actually STILL be using…  So let me share the 5 Steps I use to avoid this:

1) Do I really need this right now? (As in TODAY)

If the answer is yes, then pull our your cell phone, go over to the office chair section and cop a squat.  Download Shopsavvy (android or iPhone) and look up your product (you can scan the barcode with your phone if you bring the product over to the chair where you are).  Now you will know three things when you finish this process.  1) How much the store you are in is selling the item for.  2) How much stores around YOU are selling the product for (you might find it down the street for considerably less), and 3) How much you can get it online for (roughly, there are better deals than Shopsavvy offers available online, but it is a great indicator).  Shopsavvy is an invaluable tool it has saved me tens of thousands of dollars in the few years I’ve been using it.  Armed with pricing information you can do a few things… Which leads to #2.

2) Don’t  be afraid to haggle even in a big store like Walmart or Target.  A lot of them price match.  If you went through Step 1 you are now armed with information, ask to speak to the manager on duty and show them shopsavvy.  Show them you can purchase the item for considerably less and ask them to beat the price (yes, I said beat it, price matching is fine, but you know what?  You are still paying tax unless you live in the few States like New Hampshire that doesn’t have sales tax.) There is little reason to pay MORE just to have it NOW unless you REALLY need it NOW and make sure you don’t indicate that to the manager.  If they smell blood (your desire to have to have it NOW) they will not budge on the price.  I’ve had managers at many places slash as much as $800 off a price tag right there on the spot to get my business.  It works.

3) Don’t be afraid to walk away.  There are a lot of other stores in the area, you can always go back in and get it later.     Do not be afraid to walk away if the store won’t price match.  Life will not end.

4) Do some research.  I know what you are thinking… isn’t it a little late for that?  No it’s not.  Chances are you wanted that item for a particular reason.  If you are hot for it, then you will likely regret not buying it right out of the gate.  If you have somehow failed to do so because you found the price was too high, the manager wouldn’t negotiate, or some other reason… now is the time to stop, take a step back and think about what you are doing rationally.  The first thing I like to do is look for product reviews (yes here is the plug to come to reviewboard.com and use our search field to find the product you are looking for).  It’s also a great time to see what other review organizations are saying.  There is a lot of reason to listen to professional reviews over that of a general consumer and I’ll tell you why.  A normal consumer suffers from a few weak spots when conducting a review:

  •  They don’t do it for a living so they are not detached from the product.   I’m going to qualify this.  I review several hundred products a year and I rarely get excited about any product. It’s a side-effect of the business and I’ve been doing it for 15 years.  It allows me to evaluate something on its merit and not because I’m excited about it and I WANT it to work a certain way.  People generally spend their money on a product they believe in, so they go into it with a “fan” like mentality instead of a measured open minded logical approach.
  • When they have a problem with something they generally want to blame the product.  Sometimes they are right, but more often than not they didn’t read or understand the requirements and just want it to work “out of the box”.  This generally results in a lot of bad mouthing the product when it is clearly a user issue.  One (actual) example is a tech support ticket a friend of mine told me about.  He was on the phone with a customer trying to help them fix the issue with their computer.  It wasn’t booting up.  They called enraged because they just purchased the computer a few days ago, it worked fine for 2 days and now won’t even turn on.  They were swearing, threatening him with litigation, and so on…   The problem was fixed in just 3 minutes.  2 of which were used waiting for the customer to calm down enough to talk to them. The first question he asked was… “is the unit plugged in?”.  The customer started laughing, said sorry and hung up the phone.  You think it’s odd?  He told me that kind of things happens every day (maybe not a plug, but it is generally something small that wasn’t through through… a little change someone made and forgot, etc… it causes confusion, frustration, then anger (I feel like Yoda now… “frustration turns to anger, anger turned to hatred…”)
  • When a consumer has a problem they are very quick to write on their blog, or the forum that something is screwed up, but you never hear the follow up about how they realized they didn’t have some required thing and they fixed it by doing such and such…  A professional reviewer will not write there is an issue with something until they speak with the manufacturer, go through a series of trouble shooting, and more than likely swap the unit out with a new one and experience the same issue.
  • So when you take in to account the value of “Real user reviews”, you need to temper that with the idea that the majority of them are suspect.  I personally go with a 85/15 split (I rely on 85% of my information from several professional reviews, and 15% of it from avg consumer response).

5) Check out the support.  This is easy to do and your best resource here is those same users.  Support is support and good support will address everyone equally and with respect.  Go to the manufacturer support forums and look for a few 2 things.  ACTIVITY and RESPONSE.  An active forum is a good forum, that means people are exchanging ideas, and helping each other out.  Look for problems on the forums and look for how many answers are staff answers, and how many are users helping other users out.  You want a good mix of at least 35% staff responses and 65% user responses.  If you see a bunch of users providing support and the staff not doing anything PUSH ON.  DO NOT TOUCH THAT PRODUCT.  It’s great that users are willing to spend their time helping other users out, but if the company can’t hire a few people to sit on the forums and answer their customers, they don’t care about you and that is bad news.

These simple steps have really helped me save a bunch of money and hassle.  I hope they help you as much as they have helped me.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.
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