There's simply no need to pay retail prices these days. In our top tech discounts series we're outlining the myriad of ways in which you can pay less for technology.
They used to be bastions of overcharging, but bricks-and-mortar retailers have come a long way as they watch smaller and nimbler online merchants dance rings around them.
Technology staff and technical support from physical retailers may range from limited to significant, and their selection may be constrained by retail space, but they're also extremely keen to move boxes and, depending on the store, may well be working on a commission basis. And that's something you can use to your advantage.
First and foremost, use online price comparators to find the best price you can. This will give you an idea of the margins the store is working on, and the wiggle room you have when you're negotiating with the friendly salesperson. During this stage, it's also important to shop around: compare prices at David Jones and Myer, which tend to charge near or at RRP, and discounters like JB Hi-Fi and Bing Lee. They will all match or beat each other.
Print out the full price sheet from the vendor with the lowest price you find – preferably a nearby shop so you can lend weight to your threat to leave if they won't match your price. Then go in, play around with the gadgets you're interested in, and get into a friendly chat with the sales staff. Ask what's the best price they can do for you, then wait as they pretend to go agonise over it and come back with a number. Then, assuming that number is higher than yours, whip out the price list and tell them you can get it from Competitor X for whatever price you've found.
If they really want your sale, they'll match or beat it. They may also throw in sweeteners such as gift cards, bonus accessories or the like; indeed, many retail salespeople can offer a better overall discount if you're planning to buy accessories – for example, a car charger, notebook bag, extra battery and so on. They may have a maximum discount per product, but be happy to apply healthy discounts across all the products that effectively give you a competitive overall price.
Don't just run away if they refuse to match your price, however: there are many advantages to buying from a bricks-and-mortar shop. Support, of course, is one of them, since the big stores aren’t likely to disappear overnight and they tend to be obliging when it comes to returns and exchanges. Physical access is another, since if you have any issues it's easy to bring most gadgets with you and figure out what to do with them in the store. Credit card costs are yet another benefit that you may not consider: many online outlets and computer shops charge credit-card fees (and more for AMEX or Diners Club) that can add $30 to a $1,000 purchase, whereas big-name retailers take all cards with a smile.
Finally, never underestimate the power of gift cards: it's easy to get retail-store vouchers based on incidental credit-card spending, then use these to bring down the effective price of your in-store purchases.
Put it all together and you can do pretty well in retail these days. We recently found a $799 Sony Blu-ray home-theatre system selling for $598 at Costco; we asked our local Myer salesperson to beat it, which he did with a smile – and threw in $50 worth of Myer vouchers. Throw in $170 worth of gift cards obtained after cashing in points that were lying around on a credit card, and that Blu-ray system cost just $420 out of pocket.Pros: Easy physical access; generous return and exchange policies; eager to please; flexible gift-card arrangements; no shipping charges or credit-card fees
.Cons: Limited technical knowledge; limited range of products