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How To Buy And How To Protect Yourself
How you make your purchase is as important as what you purchase and from whom you do
it. Here are some issues to keep in mind as you do your shopping:
- Avoid The Blind Leading The Blind: Most computer shows feature a large number of
folks who know they want to buy something but can't quite figure out what. They congregate
in dense masses, especially near tables selling complex components like motherboards, and
mill around like a techie rugby scrum. If you ask for help from these people you may get
some useful information, but you also risk proving the old adage: "free advice is
worth exactly what you pay for it".
- Get A Receipt: Get a receipt for every purchase you make. Make sure that the
receipt has the following written on it: the name of the company, its address and phone
number; the date of the sale; the items purchased and the price paid. It should also
indicate the form of payment. Some companies at shows get very busy and will
"forget" to give receipts if you don't remind them. Some will just scribble a
few words on a piece of paper and give it to you. Without a proper receipt you have little
recourse in the event of a problem.
- Beware the Gray Market: The term gray market refers to products that are sold
through "unofficial" channels. For example, some products are manufactured
outside the United States by a company intending to sell them abroad, but are subsequently
diverted to the U.S. and sold there at a lower price than the product officially intended
for the domestic market. It is not illegal to buy or own these items, however the original
manufacturer often will refuse to provide any support for them whatever. These items are
often found at computer shows, and it can be very hard to identify them as gray market.
Choosing a trustworthy vendor is your best protection here, as is using the "sniff
test" on anything that seems too good to be true.
- Consider Credit Cards: For big-ticket items, consider using a credit card. You
will lose the "cash discount" but the purchase is much less risky this way.
- Warranties and Returns: Be especially certain to determine in advance
what the vendor's warranty and return policy are. If you have a problem with the item you
purchased, contact the vendor, and in most cases they will be cooperative. This is also
where buying local will really benefit you.
- Enlist the Help of the Promoter: If you have a problem with an uncooperative
vendor, especially in the event that you were misled in your purchase or the item turned
out to be defective, the show promoter can often be a useful ally. The company putting on
the show usually wants to know about problems with vendors because this is a black eye for
the entire show; further, if you have had trouble with this vendor, chances are others
have as well. Contact the promoter and describe the situation. They will often mediate the
dispute and help to resolve it. They also have the power to ban the vendor from future
shows, something the vendor of course would not want to happen.
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