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Shopping for home electronics and personal gadgets doesn't have to be an intimidating or frustrating experience. Here's how to cut through the salesperson's hype and walk out of the store with what you really want.
- Major electronics retailers have finally awakened to the idea that you matter. If a salesperson doesn't immediately spend time with you, walk out the door. Don't beg for service.
- Great technology allows conversations, relationships, and sharing. When you go into a store, don't listen to somebody's pitch about "power and speed." Force them to talk instead about "interoperability." This is also known as "I want my TV to talk to my computer," or, "I want my camera to talk to my printer."
- Go in armed with questions that matter to you -- and that the salesperson should ask you but probably won't. For example, "Where do I want to use this device? The kitchen? The office? On vacation?" and "How often will I use it?" If you like to run, even in the rain, make sure you mention that to the salesperson; that way, the MP3 player you buy will be waterproof, or it will have a plastic accessory case that makes it so.
- Look for technology the same way you look for a mate -- if you're looking for everything in one package, you'll almost certainly be disappointed. The more realistic you are up front about your specific needs, the more likely you'll find exactly what you're looking for. Just because your phone can do your taxes, doesn't mean you need it to. Also, admit it -- looks matter, at least a little.
- These days, product style matters to the manufacturers, so if you're looking for a big, flat-screen TV, for example, you can legitimately ask a salesperson "Is there an equivalent to this one that looks better? Or, does this come in black?" Often, the answer will be yes.
- If you go for style, you may have to compromise -- a small, sleek, willowy cell phone may not have some of the features that larger phones do, like a removable memory card that lets you share pictures.
- Impulse buying is dangerous when it comes to shoes, but can be lethal when it comes to electronics. Waiting six months usually means the bugs in the new whiz-bang technology have been worked out, and the price will most likely have dropped.
- When you're thinking about an email, phone or music service, consider the major brand names. They'll have the best chance of talking to your friends' email, phone or music services. And in the case of cell phones, that service (friend-to-friend) might even be free.
- Like it or not, you'll need to learn some of the lingo. Go to Google or Wikipedia or, if you're bold, Howstuffworks.com. Know what USB means. Same with megapixel. And flash memory. And nanotech.
- You know how to network: Ask your friends. Ask your pals. They'll tell you honestly whether or not something works, and why.