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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Understanding PC Sources, Vendors and Prices | Sources For PC Systems and Components | Retail Sources ]

Office Stores

Another category of retail store where you can buy PCs today is the office store. These are stores that sell primarily office supplies (paper, pens, office furniture and the like) and include chains like Staples, Office Max, and Office Depot. At one time, PCs were a "sideline" part of these stores. Today, as computers continue to play an increasingly important role in the office of nearly every business, these stores have expanded their selection of computers and computer-related peripherals greatly.

Office stores are a good place to shop for peripherals and supplies, though prices may not always be the best. For whole PC systems, you are limited to pre-packaged retail PCs, though selection is better than department or warehouse stores. The advantages of office stores include:

  • Personalized Shopping, No Shipping Costs, No Order Tracking Hassles, Relatively Easy Returns, Speed and "Instant Gratification": See the general discussion of retail sources for details.
  • Large Company Support: You can buy from one store and return the item at another store, and these companies often have good return policies. This is particularly useful if you ever move, or if you are buying a system for someone who lives in another town.
  • Generally Good Prices: These stores usually have competitive prices on many types of components and systems, though they are rarely the best, or as good as you can do online.
  • Reasonable Selection: You'll find a decent selection of hardware and software products at the larger office stores.

Tip: Some office stores will price match even the prices of online vendors, as long as you can prove what the online price is and that the item is in stock at the online store.

Disadvantages of office stores include:

  • Sales Tax, Overhead and Pricing: See the general discussion of retail sources for details. Pricing is usually relatively good for a retail source, but you may still pay more than if you shop online or at a store specializing in computers.
  • Poor Quality Systems, Imbalanced Systems: See the discussion of department stores for more details, but recognize that these concerns are a bit lower at these sorts of stores. The systems are still often of marginal quality and design compared to a custom-configured machine or a PC from a good mail-order source, but they are sometimes better than what is sold at department stores. They are also usually not outdated.
  • No Component Choices or Configurability: As with other retail PC sources, you have no choice over what is in the box; you get whatever the manufacturer supplied with the system.
  • Fairly Clueless Salespeople: The salespeople are often more knowledgeable than those of department or warehouse stores, though they are still pretty low on the computer expertise scale.
  • Little Technical Support: Support is provided by the manufacturer of the PC or component, though if you are lucky, there may be someone at the store who can assist with basic problems.
  • No Service: These stores also defer service to the manufacturer.

Office stores are a good choice if you want to buy a retail pre-packaged PC, especially if you have no stores in your area specializing in computers. I have had good experiences buying what I call "hands-on" components at these types of stores, especially printers and monitors. Prices are reasonable and you can see what you are buying before you put down your money.

Tip: Some of these stores are now offering the option of custom-building PCs. If you explore this option, you should assess this part of the store the same way you would consider any other local PC shop. (They usually don't have as much selection or expertise as local shops do though.)

Next: Electronics Stores

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