Sunday, November 12, 2006

Adventures In Bargain Hunting

The Setup

Today I went shopping with a friend for a laptop (for her, not me). Along the way, I decided I would comparison shop for the best price on a new digital camera I wanted to buy. I had already done my homework, so it was just a matter of finding the right place to buy.

It turns out that all the stores I looked at had the same price for the camera: $299. This was good news to me - it meant that to get a good deal, I just needed to find one person who would want me to buy in their store badly enough as to give me a discount. Not a huge discount, just one large enough to keep me from walking out.

Here's the experience I had at each store.

Best Buy #1

Yes, I know I already complained about them once. But I was back at the store again, and thought I'd try to have them impress me again. I explained to Mike K. that he and Target had the same price on the camera. And that I would buy it from him if he could just give me the right price. His response: we price match, but don't price beat. Sorry. He suggested I go to Target, and then come back to him with a lower price.

When I asked Mike K. why I should buy at Best Buy and not target, he informed me that "the ambiance here is better." Good point. But not quite good enough.

Target

I explained to the lady at the counter my predicament: I wanted to buy the camera from someone who would beat the price of their competitor. At first she was kinda snippy, and explained that they just don't do that. Not even against Walmart!. We simply agreed that it wasn't that important for me to buy the camera there, and if I didn't, someone else would.

In the end, she suggested I talk to her manager. He was sorry, but there was nothing he could do. He simply couldn't price match.

Cost Co.

OK, now we are really getting away from standard places to buy electronics. But I figured, what the heck. If Cost Co. had a good deal (on both the laptop we were searching for, and/or the camera) I'd be all set.

Turns out, Cost Co. did have the camera - they had for an incredibly low price of $254.00. The catch: they were out of them. The guy I spoke to was really nice, but didn't have any documentation at all saying that was the price. I was just supposed to trust him that in a few days the camera's would be back in stock at that price.

At that point, I used my Sidekick to visit Costco.com and did a search on it for "Canon SD630." Turns out, the guy I spoke to was telling the truth: the price was $254.00.

Best Buy #2

Turns out, there was a Best Buy right next to Cost Co., so we checked that one out. I spoke to a very nice sales representative, who explained to me that she recommended that I buy the camera from Cost Co. After all, their prices can't be beat.

How clever of her, to use reverse psychology on me (You want me to buy a Cost Co.? Never! I'll take two models at your price instead.). Unfortunately for her, I'm just not that clever and left the store.

Staples

On our way from Best Buy #1 to Target, we passed a Staples. I know Staples has some electronics, so I thought I'd go in. Not so much to buy, but to get more data points. I was right not to think that I would buy it there: the camera had a price tag of $329.00. Worse than both Target and Best Buy.

By now I had my routine down pat: I asked if they would beat $254.00 (the new price to beat after Cost Co.), the sales rep would laugh at me. I'd go on my way, thinking that I'm trying just a bit to hard to save a few dollars.

But this last time, something remarkable happened: I explained my situation to the sales rep and he said that they do indeed price beat competitors, and that they considered Cost Co. a competitor. All I needed to do was show him that Cost Co. had the item.

All I could do was to show him my sidekick screen with the price and info on. I literally showed him the following screen:

And do you want he said? "No problem. We'll be glad to beat that price."

I was nearly speechless. I was just happy to find someone who cared enough about their own business to fight for me to shop there. Sure enough, they changed the price to $254.00 and then gave me 10% off.

Today, Staples won my business. They may have lost a few pennies on a single camera, but they've earned a glowing blog entry, a customer who will now consider them for an electronics purchase ahead of Best Buy and lots of Good Will.

Way to go Staples. I didn't know you had it in you.

Oh, and my friend ended up getting a sweet deal at Staples on a laptop today too - it was priced below what Best Buy had. So they clearly made out just fine.

Here's proof that an actual camera was purchased:

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