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All Vendors Are Not Created Equal

When at a computer show, choosing the right vendor is critical. Vendors differ greatly in terms of size, quality of parts carried, location, policies, and of course, price. Most vendors at computer shows are small retail companies; you won't find big-name manufacturers for example. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when selecting a vendor:

  • First Impressions Can Tell You A Lot: Assess the vendor's overall presentation. Do they have large, professionally-made signs? Is the name of the company prominently displayed, or do you approach the table wondering who you are dealing with? Is their booth several tables or just one? Are the people behind the tables dressed if not professionally, at least neatly, or do they look like they are wearing the same clothes they wore yesterday? Are their products displayed openly or hidden in boxes and behind the counter? These will provide some indication to you of the level of professionalism this vendor exhibits.
  • Go Local: If at all possible, buy from a local vendor. This is just common sense, but it is so important. In the event that there is a problem with the product you purchase, you have much more ability to get it resolved if the vendor is a short drive, instead of a long-distance call.
  • Do Not Buy On Price Alone: Amazingly, there are people who go to computer shows to buy components, scout around for an entire day, and then buy from whichever vendor has the lowest price. It should seem obvious that doing this is only asking for trouble. Sometimes the best vendor really is the one that has the best price, but you cannot determine this if the price tag is all you are examining.
  • Verify Pricing Structure: Due to the intense price competition at computer shows, most vendors try to use every way possible to lower their prices. Many will in fact advertise prices in big letters at their booth, without telling you until you go to purchase that these prices, for example, "reflect a 3% cash discount". If you plan to purchase using a credit card, find out if they are accepted in advance, and if so what the price for the item will be. Also verify that the advertised price is in fact the right one; if a vendor plays games with prices, or refuses to take anything but cash, you should consider that in your vendor selection decision. Finally, some dealers will haggle on price, so don't be too shy to ask if the prices are firm or flexible!
  • Determine Vendor Policies: Do not be afraid to ask the vendor about their various policies on such items as warranties, payment types, and returns. You may be surprised at how widely they vary between vendors.

Tip: For much, much more on selecting vendors in general, see this part of The PC Buyer's Guide.

Next: What To Buy...

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