I must admit that I'd be absolutely lost without the growing number of desktop and laptop computers, printers, digital cameras and all the other assorted electronic equipment in my house and home office. I know I once got along without all this gear, but that was back in the olden days, in the last millennium. Today I absolutely depend on it. What this means is that I buy a lot of stuff, and I have formed some definite opinions about where I do my shopping and what places I avoid like the plague.
I hate to say it, but #1 on my list of places to avoid are the big electronics chain stores. They are certainly convenient and their prices are usually in the ballpark. And all their glossy brochures have lured me more than once when I quickly needed some RAM, a disk, or a new inkjet printer. Problem is that their sales people are embarrassingly clueless and often only interested in selling extended service contracts. No thank you.
When I build a new desktop computer I occasionally buy the parts from a local electronics superstore. Those places are a geek's paradise, or they could be if it weren't for a couple of really annoying deal breakers. First, half of the boards don't work after I bring them home. And second, I absolutely refuse to buy things that are only a good deal after a mail-in rebate or two. I've been burned too many times with rebates. No more.
Office supply stores are stocking more and more electronic equipment. So when I go buy a ream of paper or some other small stuff I often end up looking at their laptops and digital cameras. And once I even bought a notebook computer there, something that I later regretted as there was, of course, no service or support. I actually like the office supply stores and have no problem buying things like laser printer cartridges there, but that's about it for computer stuff.
Another bad practice that's taking over is luring customers with low prices, make them wade through several order screens, and then break the bad news, like some gargantuan shipping charge or that, sadly, the item is not in stock. Do that to me once and I won't be back.
So where do I get most of my electronics gear? Online. I love being able to browse online stores at my leisure, without any sales pressure and usually with all the information I need. I like neat, clean just-the-facts stores that specialize in the kind of gear I want. I don't need useless "reviews" by folks who always seem to have an axe to grind or hate everything. And I don't need long lists of the 99 lowest prices on the web. All I want is information and a good selection. I do expect a degree of customer support in case I have questions, and most of the better online stores can handle that easily.
Had someone told me 10 or 15 years ago that some day I'd buy things like laptops, digital cameras, printers or even desktop computers online from some website far away, I'd have laughed. But that's where I get most of my electronic equipment and gadgets from these days, and I've rarely ever had a bad experience. Those online stores seem to try a lot harder, and that's good news for guys like me.