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Experiences buying online vs. brick and mortar stores? (1 Viewer)

Phil Carter

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Hey folks,

Resurfacing after a few years of lurking, as I'm about to make the move to Blu-Ray and HDTV. I've done some pretty extensive research and am about ready to purchase my plasma set (probably Panasonic TH-50PZ800U or 850U, or Samsung PN50A650 / A550; I'd like a Pioneer Kuro PDP-55020FD but those may be out of my price range). Anywho, I'm already well aware that big-box stores are not going to offer me the best testing / demo environment. I tried visiting a few of the local stores, but the pics on the various sets at the local Fry's Electronics and Best Buy were wildly diverging, exactly what I expected.

If I'm not demoing the picture that way and am buying mostly on the strength of reviews and recommendations, then there's no real reason I can see to buy from a brick-and-mortar store, where prices are going to be higher anyway. There are a few local specialty home theater stores which'll have knowledgeable staff and good viewing environments, but those are all going to have MUCH higher prices. I've checked some of the more reputable dealers like Tiger Direct, NewEgg and so on, and on the exact same model most of them are $400 or even $600 cheaper than, say, a local big-box store like Fry's Electronics or Best Buy; a lot of them even have free shipping.

So -- I'm curious as to how many of you plasma owners have bought your sets online vs. how many of you have bought them locally. Were you able to find a local store that had knowledgeable staff and a decent viewing environment? Or did you buy online, sight unseen? What kind of service or reassurances did you get from your online retailer or your local store?

Inquiring minds want to know! I've settled on the WHAT, now all I need to settle on is the "WHEN" and "HOW".
htf_images_smilies_smile.gif


cheers,
Phil
 

Dan Driscoll

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If you buy from a reputable on-line dealer with a good customer satisfaction rating you should be OK. I purchased my 53" CRT based Pioneer RPTV from OneCall.com it was delivered via freight transport curbside and arrived without a scratch and in perfect condition.
 

Phil Carter

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Thanks for the reply, Dan! Has it lasted you well over the past couple years? (You said "RPTV" and I know there aren't many of those still being sold). Have you had to call for repairs or anything? If so, how'd they treat you?

cheers,
Phil
 

GeorgeAB

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If you appreciate a local store where you can find a decent demo setup, and want to be confident of receiving local support for your purchase, you must pay the extra cost. They have overhead to supply those benefits.
 

Mark:F

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Had excellent experience with Vann's online.
Sony 46" XBR5 LCD was several hundred dollars below anyone else.
Placing order, tracking shipment, delivery on correct date, all went fine.
TV was packed very well.
Good return policy too.
This was one year ago, no service needs yet, TV is awesome.
 

Dan Driscoll

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I agree with you, except he specifically said he wasn't looking for those things, he was planning to buy based on reviews and recommendations, not on dealer demos. Since he's not planning to demo at a B&M there's no reason not to buy on-line, as long as he is comfortable doing so.
 

Dan Driscoll

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Actually, it's been about 6 years and the set has held up fine. I've made a number of other, smaller purchases from OneCall and each has been fine. The one time I did need to make a return there were no problems or hassles.

A power supply board did fail after 3 years, but that turned out to be a faily common failure for those sets and had nothing to do with OneCall. Fortunately I did pop for the extended warranty and it was covered.
 

Phil Carter

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George, I'd be happy to support a local home theater store if I could afford the outlay. There are a few specialty shops in this area but all of them have mostly high end products for audio (names I barely even recognize like Vienna Acoustics, Marantz, Velodyne and so on) and their prices for TVs, speakers and receivers are a good $600 more than even the big box stores. I simply can't afford that.

I'd buy from a local big-box store but the three I've been to (one Fry's Electronics, two Best Buy) have had lousy setups for most of the TVs in poor lighting conditions and most of them weren't even running a 1080p input. What good to demo a 1080p set if it's only receiving a 1080i signal from a coax cable?

I may yet wind up paying the extra at a big-box store if I can get them to set up a set exactly as I would be using it and then use that to demo it. I guess that'll depend on how bad the salesguy wants the commission....

cheers,
Phil
 

MikeGee

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I've bought lots of stuff online and lots of stuff in actual stores. Some good some bad experiences.
Now if it is a costly item (TV, speakers, amps) I will buy online only if it is from a local store that I can return it if there is a problem.

A couple of years ago I bought from Dayton Electronics and bought my 15" Quatro with my 240 watt amp, which i was completely gouged on shipping and duty charges since i'm in Canada. Almost cost me double the amount which I found out the hard way. Not only that but my amp crapped out on me and even though it is "guaranteed" the hassle of shipping and customs charges again is really not worth it for me.
Comparing that experience to anything I've had with any local store here on any of my home theater gizmo's and i've never had one problem.
 

steveWil

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Phil,
I bought a Sony KDL-52v4100 online at BuyDig.comI saved over $500.00 as compared to the Best Buy down the street. The trucking company called and set up delivery time. The tv arrived in perfect condition. I also checked out the companies rating from past customers,this online merchant was reccomended in the new Consumers Report as one of the top five consumer electronic stores online.
 

Phil Carter

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So far what I'm hearing is that if you buy from a reputable dealer (and I am thinking about doing so -- either from Vann's, or NewEgg, or Amazon) then you should have no issues. This is reassuring. The idea of saving $400 and more by shopping online is a powerful incentive.....

Thanks to all who've posted their experiences!

cheers,
Phil
 

Carl Gaff

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Jan 26, 2002
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I purchase items from both local stores and online and am not always driven by price. Example: I purchase my Martin Logan speakers from a small local dealer in Pasadena, CA (VS Best Buy) because the store has an excellent sales staff that knows their product and has excellent rooms for demos. But, back in March I purchased a a Panasonic TH-65PZ750U from an online dealer out of New York. Why? I went to local stores and the price difference between online and local was over $2000. So, I purchased online, received my plasma in less than a week and it was deliverd to my door without a scratch. Haven't had to have any service work but if I did it is covered under the Panasonic warranty.

A couple of things you have to be careful of when buying online though. Always make sure you are not getting a refurb or grey market item. Also, it's always best to buy from a dealer who is an authorized dealer for that company. Some electronics makers can be very difficult to deal with when it comes to warranty work if you purchase one of their products from a dealer who is not one of their approved dealers.
 

Gregg Loewen

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a major thing to consider it dead pixels.
What is the vendor's policy relating to it ? Who pays for return shipping?
The above is a MAJOR reason to purchase from a local company with a good return policy.
 

Phil Carter

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True enough, Gregg. All of the places I'd be willing to buy from online (Vann's, Amazon, NewEgg) stand behind the merchandise they sell and I've read multiple reviews stating that the few times they had to return their stuff that the place was more than accommodating.

Or I may just sit back and wait a few weeks for the holiday season to hit. Prices at the local BB have been fluctuating wildly over the past two weeks; one Panny I've been considering went from $2999 to $2399 in four days, and a Samsung that's on my list went from $1999 to $1599.

(There was also the Pioneer Kuro that went from $2999 UP to $3699.......*sigh*)

cheers,
Phil
 

Gregg Loewen

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Actually...you are wrong on that...ie: NewEgg....read their return policies relating to large electronics.

Also you have to inquire as to who will pay the return shipping (and then the new shipping charges for the replacement unit..if they will allow the return). Most large companies want you to deal with the manufacturer relating to repairs (and even shipping damage).
 

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