Who Do You Trust when Buying Electronics: Web Reviews or a Salesperson?One of the biggest changes in our digital lives is the way that most of us do our shopping. Many of us, including me, spend our time shopping online for the products that we wish to purchase. One of the main reasons for our compulsion with online buying is that there is no need to be involved with a salesperson. No offense to those in the retail business, but I would rather depend on my own analysis and judgment in making a purchase than on your limited advice, no matter how well meaning it may be.

It is ironic how some situations in our lives can affect others. I submitted a request to Chris to write about this subject and he sent me back this response:

Good one. I just walked into a Verizon store today to ask if they had any more 64 GB 4G iPads in stock, and they said “nobody” had them. So, I walked farther into the mall to the Apple Store only to ask the same question. To my surprise, the Apple Store had Verizon 64 GB 4G iPads in stock. Never, ever trust a salesperson.

As more of us become what I call ‘techie shoppers’ — that is, shoppers who use devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones, or other devices to buy more toys online — the need for brick and mortar stores and salespeople are becoming obsolete. Or are they?

I must admit that I personally do the majority of my shopping online. It is rare that I go to a retail store or shopping center unless it’s out of sheer necessity. I did go to a retailer to buy the tires for my SUV and two recliners for our living room, but that is about it for shopping offline. As I look around my home, the majority of my purchases came from online with the bulk of the items from retailer Amazon where I have a Prime account. I enjoy shopping at Amazon for two reasons: no sales tax (thus far) and free shipping with my Prime account.

But is this lack of contact with real people going to polarize us techie shoppers from the real world? Will we lose contact with the remainder of the human race? I don’t believe we will. We still have sufficient opportunities to stay in contact with people in other ways. Social networking sites such as Facebook or Google+ have brought us in contact with family and friends we may not otherwise have contacted.

So can we trust Web reviews? This all depends on who is providing the review. We have all read those reviews that compliment the performance or features of a device in an attempt to make one believe it is the best of the best. Some reviews are paid for by companies in which they expect the reviewer to provide a glowing report of their product. On websites that sell products, these reviews normally are an excess of description — they are long, concise, and exceptionally well-written.

On the flip side are the extremely critical reviews that some write, even when not having used the product. There is a way to balance the reviews and determine just how good or bad a review might be, especially on websites like Amazon or Best Buy. If you throw out the overzealous reviews from long-winded writers and also the over-critical reviews, you normally can than determine which reviews are honest and useful. I normally check on various websites before buying electronics by using sites such as Newegg, Best Buy, eBay, Amazon, or trusted blogging sites like LockerGnome for unbiased reviews of products.

When dealing with brick and mortar salespeople, remember that their knowledge of a certain product may be as limited as yours. You can also circumvent their lack of knowledge by supplementing your knowledge with online reviews as well as recommendations from friends, family, and co-workers and enter into the retail store armed with your own thoughts and opinion. You can sometimes also take advantage of online sale notifications and discounts. In addition, you can sometimes also check a store’s inventory to determine if an item is currently in stock and available for purchase.

Does this help? I recall an incident that happened when I went to buy a HDTV at Best Buy. I located the item I wanted to purchase that was an unadvertised special. I also downloaded and printed an additional $100 off coupon. Upon arriving at the store I presented the salesperson with the name, brand, and SKU# for the product I wished to buy and he told me it was out of stock. I asked him if he would kindly check the item again since I had personally checked the inventory online less than 20 minutes ago and there were five units in stock. He did check again and sure enough he suddenly found the product and I asked him to scan the $100 off coupon, which he also found to be valid. I subsequently saved about $500 on the purchase, which made me very happy.

Recently I bought new tires for my SUV and knew exactly the brand and style of tire I wanted. I went to the company’s website to set up a time to buy them, and I also ordered service that included tire change, disposal fee, new valves, stems, and balancing, and was provided with a confirmed price online. However, when I went to the dealer, the price the clerk rang up was over $200 more. I didn’t say anything until the tires were mounted and I was ready to pick up the vehicle. I then presented my online-confirmed pricing, which he honored. I also applied for a credit card the company was offering and saved an additional $160. Total savings was $326 when I was done with the purchase.

I am sure that most everyone knows that knowledge is power and the more knowledgeable you are before you buy, the more savings you could accrue. Shop smart; be smart. You deserve to save as much of your hard-earned money as possible.

Comments welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Tricia Wang.