21 nov c net_shopping for tech gadgets online [update]
Shopping for tech gadgets online [update]If you arent a stranger to online shopping, the ongoing Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales would havealready tempted you into doing some (Internet browser) window shopping. Shopping online can be arelaxing experience, allowing shoppers to skip the crowds and long queues at the cashier during thisend-of-the-year holiday season.However, shopping for electronics online isnt always a straightforward affair--there can be heftyshipping costs, international taxes and unfavorable currency conversion rates that can all add up. Well,thats what this updated guide is for. Weve even added a new segment on cashing in on those fleetingBlack Friday online deals.Spotting the dealsBefore you can actually make a purchase, youll need to find the best online retailer to shop at. If youveever searched a product name and model number on Google, you might have noticed that pricerecommendations occasionally appear--usually giving quotes from various merchants. This is a goodplace to start but shouldnt be your only tool to snag a bargain.While Amazon.com would be the first online store to come to mind, there are other retailers as wellsuch as Newegg (computers, PC accessories and other electronics), B&H (mainly camera related gear)and DealExtreme (affordable computer accessories), too.If youre not sure which place has the best price, Amazon.com does offer deals from other retailers soyou should click on those if you arent satisfied with Amazons price--do note that smaller retailers maycharge extra for shipping and could be less reliable. Additionally, you can also browse sites that compilethe better online offers such as dealnews and GottaDeal.com, just to name a couple.For those of us that dont live in the US, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving (which falls on thefourth Thursday of November) that also marks the first day of the Christmas shopping season. Its alsotypically a day that major retailers reserve for some of the best bargains of the year. Cyber Monday, onthe other hand, is the Monday that follows and is the day that online retailers take advantage of theshopping frenzy.However, if youre shopping at online US merchants, the discounts can start showing up weeks beforeBlack Friday. Large online retailers such as Amazon.com and Newegg.com should already have somegood offers up, and so do the respective brands themselves. Many deals are available for a limited time,and some sites even state when certain deals will be available, so while the deals may be great, the
different time zone were in also means you may have to wake up in the wee hours of the morning toenjoy the discount.Keep in mind that many major online retailers do not ship electronics overseas while some dont evenaccept non-US credit cards. These limitations can sometimes be avoided with a good freight forwarder,which well cover a little further down.Adding stuff to your cartSo youve found exactly what you want at a great price. Its time to add stuff to your cart. Some tipswhen adding products to your cart-- ensure youve keyed in the correct quantity and check that theprice you saw on the product page matches that in your virtual cart. Some online sites even display abetter price after the product has been "carted". Do note that its better to already have an accountwith your online site of choice to avoid losing out on limited time offers (popular during Black Friday andCyber Monday) as registering can take a few minutes.Getting additional discountsWhile you may think you already have the best deal on that latest tech gadget, there are some sites thatprovide coupons for further discounts. These additional savings could apply to specific products boughtfrom a certain retailer or just give you free shipping. Sites such as RetailMeNot and Ultimate Couponscould be helpful in saving you a bit more cash. These sites are also great places to start shopping ifyoure just browsing for offers and dont have something specific in mind.Making the purchaseA little common sense goes a long way toward safe online shopping. You should always check for thecredibility of the site and that the site isnt a copycat version thats part of a phishing scam. The left sideof your browsers address bar is a good place to start--it should show https (a secure connection) or alock symbol in the payment page--so check for these if youre unsure. Also, as a general rule, stay awayfrom dodgy-looking sites youve never heard of.Some ways to make payment include using your credit card or PayPal account. These methods allow youto dispute charges should the merchant fail to deliver your package. However, do keep in mind thatcredit card companies may have different terms and conditions as well so do check with your own bankfor more information on this.Shipping your productIf youre buying from a local merchant, shipping and delivery should be effortless and usually cost verylittle. However, major online retailers in the US may not always ship their products to Asia, especiallywhen it comes to tech products. So there are two things you should check before making a purchase:Does the retailer ship that product to my country and how much it costs?
If your favorite online store doesnt ship to where you live, there are freight forwarders that can help dothat for you. These services work by giving you an address in the country youre buying from—thusmaking it a local delivery--and will ship the package to you from there. Companies such as Borderlinxand comGateway provide users with a unique address to ship their products to.While freight forwarders are a good idea, there are some things to keep in mind before using theseservices:Taxes: You will have to factor in local taxes in the country of purchase and where you live. However,freight forwarders such as Borderlinx will allow for purchases of up to a certain amount (its S$400 inSingapore) to be taxfree.Volumetric weight: Where possible, you should ask merchants to pack your goods in as small a packageas possible. You will be charged for both the weight and total size of a product.Prohibited items: You may not be allowed to ship certain products to your country of residence. While itgoes without saying that drugs and weapons will land you in trouble, do check with local customs onwhether there are restrictions on other products as well.What about eBay?Shopping online will land you some good bargains, but you do need to be a streetwise and be able to tellthe deals from the scams. Also, you may be wondering why we didnt include eBay. The auction site mayhave deals that are even better than online stores, but users will have to be more careful since mostsellers on eBay are individuals, not companies. There is also a higher chance that youll land yourself acounterfeit or defective product.But if you know what youre doing and find a good deal from a trustworthy seller, eBay does have alarge selection of electronics that could be yours for great prices. Just remember to check seller ratingsand watch out for offers that are too good to be true.Caveats of buying electronics from overseasWere sure that many tech shoppers in Asia are a little envious of the prices of gadgets in the US, butthere are some caveats you should be aware of before clicking the "Buy" button on your favorite onlineretailer. The most important one is obviously the lack of warranty support for most tech products, so ifyoure worried about that, buy a local set.Other things you should be aware of include compatibility with systems where you live, whether its thepower supply, telecommunications network or a power plug that wont fit your socket. Due to theseissues, we generally wouldnt recommend buying tech that needs to be plugged into a wall outlet towork (unless the savings are phenomenal); although rechargeable devices should be fine (USB ports cancharge many tablets, for instance). Phones are another purchase that may be problematic. The lastmajor issue is mass--the bigger and more expensive products may not be so cost-effective to ship. Heresa summary of what you should look out for in various products:
TVs: Power supply may not be compatible, hefty shipping costs, may lack Asian language support,possible TV system incompatibility (PAL or NTSC).Phones: Need to be unlocked, network incompatibility, language support.Cameras: Power adapter may not be universal, may lack Asian language support.Laptops and tablets: May lack Asian language support, larger models can be expensive to ship.Speakers: In-built power supply (for powered speaker and subwoofers) may be incompatible, largerspeakers are heavy and very expensive to ship.Blu-ray Discs: Region codes may not be compatible with disc players in some parts of Asia.E-book readers: Some e-book stores dont sell books to those without a local credit card.Solid state drives: Larger capacity drives are expensive and may incur high taxes when shipped,expensive to ship drive back if faulty.Household appliances: Power supply may be incompatible, large appliances are expensive to ship