We promise we’re not being contrarian. We promise we’re not being luddites. We promise we’re not old people yelling at clouds. But here’s a radical idea: sometimes, it’s better to buy your electronics in person, in a real brick-and-mortar store, instead of online. Here’s why.
Sometimes prices are higher just because they’re online. Meet dynamic pricing. Instead of just setting a price at a certain point, merchants will enable a dynamic-pricing algorithm to change their price based on data they’re getting about demand.
What does that mean in simpler terms? Merchants are letting computer programs set their prices based on what other people are willing to pay and letting them rise accordingly. Let’s say you’re looking at TVs online. After you go through your shortlist and return to the one you want to buy, you notice the price has gone up. That might be because lots of other people have decided it’s a good buy too, so dynamic pricing makes the price go up.
Let’s go back to that hypothetical TV. You’d think that you’d get the best possible price by buying directly from the manufacturer’s website. You’d be surprised how often that isn’t the case. It’s true that some vendors, such as Apple, stick to a rigid price structure. But many do not. One of your local brick-and-mortar retailers might have gotten a deal on TVs, or they might be trying to clear out space for new inventory, or they might put their TVs on sale so you show up and buy other stuff, like a sweet new sound system so you can better hear movie dialogue. Likewise, online retailers might think that so many people default to shopping online that they don’t know retail stores might be cheaper. They might think (rightly) that many people just prefer the convenience of online shopping or that online shoppers are less inclined to put the work in to find a deal.
Speaking of Deals . . .
Salespeople get a bad rap, but sometimes they will give you deals, especially if you make it clear that you’re looking at multiple stores. Take their cards, make notes in your phone, do the whole song and dance. Again, going back to our hypothetical TV, you might get some money knocked off the price, you might get a better warranty, you might get cheaper installation, or you might even get free peripherals.
Those Limited-Stock Warnings Are Usually False
Hurray, there’s just five remaining TVs, so order yours now!
You’ve probably guessed that’s just a tactic, and you’re right.
. . . But Their Website Knows You’re Looking
Chances are, your online retailer has a little profile of you. At the very least, they can see what you’re looking at just based on your cookies, so they know what models you like, what your price point is, and how long you spend looking at specific models. And they can use that information to push you towards the most expensive purchase they can get away with. Of course, if you have an online profile with a retailer, they have much more information about you, such as your buying history. Again, this is all information they can use to nudge you to pay more than you want.
And Their Website Uses Your Location
If you have a VPN, try a little trick. Set your location to Toronto and look at that hypothetical TV we’ve been talking about. Close your browser, then set your location to Saskatoon, then look at it again. Some retailers set cheaper prices in some places because they know that’s what the market will bear. And the information they use can be very granular. Say you live in a more expensive neighbourhood. Your IP address may make an online retailer more inclined to jack up their prices just for you.
Have you ever bought a great-looking deal on a big online store, only to receive a knockoff in the mail? Well, now that basically anyone can set up shop on online platforms, scams and frauds are becoming more common.
So, Do Stores Always Have Better Deals?
No. It’s not that you can always get a better price going to brick-and-mortar retailers instead of online stores. It’s just that you might get a better deal than you’d think, more often than you’d think. So the next time you’re in the market for a new TV, computer, printer, sound system, kitchen appliance, or other electronics, don’t begin and end your search online. See what’s available in the real world, and maybe save a few bucks while you’re at it.