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[ The PC Guide | Articles and Editorials | There's No Business, Like Show Business... ]

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.

Next: Conclusion

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