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Online and independent retailers top Consumer Reports ratings of electronics retailers

Posted Saturday, November 11, 2006

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Insider tips from Consumer Reports secret shoppers

Yonkers, NY — Online merchants and independent local stores may be the best bet for buying electronics, according to the nearly 20,000 readers surveyed by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

Online venues earned higher satisfaction scores overall. In every product category, Consumer Reports survey respondents reported higher satisfaction rates shopping online (89 out of 100) than those who bought in traditional brick and mortar stores (81 out of 100). earned top marks across the board, except for price, where it was average. For rock-bottom prices, was a top choice, and it has a liberal, unlimited return policy for many products. Among walk-in stores, local independent stores scored highest, followed by Costco, Ritz Camera, Tweeter, and Ultimate Electronics.

The Consumer Reports survey results, which appear in the December 2006 issue on newsstands now, cover nearly 30,000 shopping experiences at 29 retailers. The survey asked readers about their shopping experiences covering the period between January 2005 and June 2006.


Insider Tips from Secret Shoppers

Consumer Reports professional shoppers, who buy some $850,000 worth of electronics products every year, offered the following insider tips on shopping for electronics:
  • Time your shoppingConsumer Reports’ secret shoppers say that consumers will find the sparsest crowds and best selection in stores in the morning right after opening. The worst time to shop is around lunchtime.
  • Take a hybrid approach – Often shoppers may find the most efficient tactic is to buy a product online for pickup at the nearest store. That way, consumers may receive the product sooner as well as avoid shipping charges.
  • Think twice about rebates – Some advertised prices are accompanied by fine print indicating that the price is “after rebate.” That means that a consumer will have to pay the full price at the register, and then send in for the rebate, which will usually take at least six weeks to arrive.
  • Watch out for refurbished items – If the price that’s quoted in an ad or online seems unusually low, look at the fine print to see whether the product has been refurbished.
  • Skip the extended warranty – Electronics retailers now make much of their profit, sometimes all of it, by selling extended warranties. Consumer Reports has found that these warranties are almost always a waste of money.
Shoppers can log onto to see the full report and to access Consumer Reports latest ratings of LCD and plasma TVs, digital cameras, digital video recorders, and many other popular electronics items.
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