There are several good reasons to shop for your next computer online. There are almost none for shopping in a store. Here’s why.
Ah, the internet. Is there nothing you can’t do? To paraphrase Homer Simpson: “The internet: cause of and solution to all of life’s problems”
He was actually talking about alcohol in the original quote. But nonetheless that brings us around to the actual topic: shopping for a new laptop–which can drive even the most tee-totaling Mormon to drink.
For one thing, there are just so many choices these days. For PC people especially, you can drive yourself mad trying to parse all the options available. And god help you if you’re one of the insane people who prefer to build your own from scratch–motherboards, RAM, video cards, hard drives–whatever money you might have saved by buying the components separately is flushed down the toilet in the form of your wasted time figuring out which ones are the best for you.
But even if we’re talking pre-assembled laptops, the options are downright baffling at times. Between manufacturers, screen sizes, drive sizes and types, and processor speeds, even experienced computer users can get a confused, alphabet soup glaze over their eyes trying to make sense of it all.
No, if you’re in the market for a new computer, you should begin your search online. And end it there too. The only reason to set foot inside a computer store is to get an actual physical feel for the machine you’re thinking about buying. And you can do that in five minutes. Other than that, you should curl up with a cup of coffee or a cold beer, and do your computer shopping from the comfort of your sofa.
- Time – Online you can take all the time you want to go over the specs of the new machine. You can copy and paste specs from several different machines and look at them side by side. This takes time. If you are trying to make a quick stop in Best Buy to grab a computer on your way to dinner, you are either very rich or very dumb or both. A purchase like a computer requires a great deal of thought and consideration, and that is not something easily found in the context of a store. Which brings up:
- Shopping is hell – Okay, sure: there are some genetic mutants out there who relish the chance to circle round and round a mall or big box store, poking around in every bin and peering into the very deepest recesses of every shelf hunting for some elusive miracle bargain that will change their meaningless lives forever. But for most of us, acquiring the thing you need with the lowest possible stress in the least amount of time and with minimal inconvenience is the goal.
Elbowing your way through a crowd, waiting in interminable lines, trying to retain some portion of your hearing function in the face of nonstop screeching toddlers is right up there with going to the DMV. On top of that add in how obnoxious it is to try to look at computers in that atmosphere. If you can even manage to flag down a “team member” or whatever tortured, phony title these poor bastards have been gifted by their management, the only kind of help you’re likely to get is the kind where they run your credit card and try to push you into buying a useless five-year warranty. When the sales people aren’t actively lying to you, they are either completely clueless about computers, or they put on a jaded know-it-all air. Or, most likely, both. You might as well ask the pope for directions to a whorehouse. There are far better resources. Which brings us to:
- Reviews, reviews, reviews – One of the greatest and most awful innovations that has emerged as a result of the world being more or less universally wired is there are reviews of everything everywhere. Especially when it comes to electronics, there are forums and message boards and all kinds of user reviews of nearly everything under the sun, because we’ve all been told that our opinions really, really matter. And computer users are no different.
From category: Buyer's Guide
And we can use modern narcissism to our advantage. The great thing about the eruption of online reviews in recent years – and online computer reviews in particular – is they have created an atmosphere in which manufacturers can’t get away with stiffing their customers as maybe they once could, at least not for long. No company is allowed to be a fly-by-night operation any more, due to the fact that on the internet there is nowhere to fly. At least nowhere that your reviews can’t follow. If you treat your customers badly, or if you sell shoddy products or give awful or non-existent customer service, the voices of internet outrage will find you, and they will hound you, and they will exact their revenge.
Granted, this plays out from time to time in unfair ways. But by and large the law of averages works out. If a manufacturer or a specific model of laptop has consistently bad reviews, there is probably good reason.
The other great thing this dynamic creates is a conversation. Think of reviews as a rolling, endless conversation across thousands of miles and across time. Customers can share their experiences, help other people work out problems, and help with decision-making for potential new customers. This is something you will never experience in a big box store. Imagine some random guy coming up to you in Best Buy and telling you all about his experience with a certain model of computer you were looking at.
But online? I’m definitely interested in what that guy has to say.
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From category: Laptop Reviews
Another great development in this arena is that the conversation is often also vertical. Whenever I am thinking about downloading a new app on my phone, I love to see creators’ responses to commenters. The same thing can happen with online computer reviews. Whether they can ultimately help or not isn’t the most important thing. Them being engaged at all on this granular, individual customer level tells you manufacturers are interested in what people think, they are interested in keeping the customers they already have. Perhaps most importantly, they are interested in keeping those customers happy. They are not solely focused on getting new customers, which is refreshing in this brutally bottom-line focused world.
The bottom line for us is there are really no good reasons for shopping in person for a computer, and many good reasons not to.
Photo Credit: 101ecommerce.com