Black Friday: Why big box stores drove me to the web

Sections: Business News, Gadgets / Other, HDTV, Home Audio, Household, Web

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“Bury me at sea!”

It was that time of the decade for me.  My fiancee and I decided to step out for some Black Friday TV shopping. I rarely shop in big box stores, so this was a step I took reluctantly.  Our main reasons for heading out were boredom and a desire to see the televisions in person. I also wanted to give service a chance.  After all, these firms spend millions of dollars a year in order to give customers a tailored experience.  I give my thoughts on the big box experience below.  I will not name stores–I don’t have an agenda against any one establishment.

“LED or LCD?”

This question perturbed me.  “LED” televisions do not have LED displays, but LED backlights.  The “screen” itself is an LCD.  This question causes a lot of confusion.  I personally believe that you could more effectively sell a LED TV if you flaunted its energy efficiency and better back-lighting.  Just calling it an LED puts one under the impression that millions of LEDs are responsible for the picture. For what its worth, that would be really expensive!

The Dreaded Up-sell

When I walk into a store, I have a specific budget I want to spend.  For me it was $1,500 dollars, $1,200 dollars and, after a swift nudge in the side, $1,000 dollars.  Anything more than $1,000 puts me in the financial danger zone and makes the purchase more irresponsible than it already is.  Still, I am pushed by salespeople to step out of my budget for features that are, in my humble opinion extraneous.

Extraneous Features

“Connected” TV and 3D are features that I will rarely use.  If I want to watch Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, or–for some ungodly reason– Youtube Keyboard Cat videos, I will simply  plug in my laptop or iPad.  These are devices that I already paid hundreds of dollars for.  Why spend another couple hundred for my TV to have these functions.  Plugging in a HDMI cable is not a huge inconvenience.  I’ve been doing it for some time (and it’s free).

3D functionality has not “arrived” yet.  It just isn’t very good.  If it survives, I am certain that every 3D TV currently on sale will not match the glistening new standard.  Your average HDTV from 2004 can’t display 1080p, can it?  My 3D TV experiences have been underwhelming and the fact that I wear glasses makes it an inconvenience for me.  Besides, Keyboard Cat in 3D is what nightmares are made of.

Retail Tricks

Retail can be a tough environment where a few bad apples can take advantage of uneducated consumers.  We were pretty excited when the salesperson informed us that a hard-to-find television was available.  We stared at it on the shelf as he went to confirm his stock.  When he came back he proudly said that the unit in stock is identical in every manner but design.  I questioned this, and asked him if every feature was identical.  He stated again that the unit was exactly the same.  My fiancee looked the TV up and noted that the reviews were positive.  We told him we’d take it.

When we were wrapping up the purchase I looked at the documentation.  The TV we were about to sign for had a lower refresh rate than the TV we originally wanted to purchase–clearly not the same TV.  The salesperson feigned shock and quickly noted that he can get us another brand with similar features.  We kindly declined and walked out.

Full Circle

My Fiancee and I spent roughly two hours of our time (between a couple of stores) and came up empty handed.  In 5 minutes we found the TV we wanted on the web. While we haven’t ordered it yet, we are confident that what we purchase will be what we get.  A spec sheet doesn’t lie.  Some of you may have had wonderful salesperson experiences.  The problem is the diversity of experiences you get at a big box store.  You can either get a great salesperson or one who is more concerned about making a quick sale.  I would rather not take the chance and buy online where the product information, user experiences, and comparison charts are right there.

No matter what you choose to do, stay informed and be sure that what you buy is the best possible investment for your price range.

Happy Shopping!

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  • Jonny Blaster

    The same mistakes can be made on the web and it isn’t so easy to return it !

  • Jeffrey Jones

    You’re absolutely right. I’d like to think that an online spec sheet will describe what I get, but that is not always the case! At least returning things online is a lot easier than the past.