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|Last April I was in the market for a new
digital camcorder; I did hours of web research, talked with a repair
technician and chose the Panasonic PV-GS320, a 3-chip miniDV digital
camcorder available from PanasonicDirect for $449.95 .
Surely I could do better than the
manufacturer's retail price.
Finally my turn came, the sales guru answered
questions, then he suggested I should buy one of the latest (and
much more expensive) hi-def camcorders, cautioning that I was
looking at a discontinued model.
I've bought a lot of stuff at Best Buy, from DVDs to laptops, but they didn't make this sale. I left the store empty-handed.
Next stop the web - I checked our advertisers first. B&H Photo Video was selling the camcorder for $344.95; Beach Camera in New Jersey was within $5 of B&H's price. Wow!
Buying from either camera store, I would save more than $50 compared to Best Buy's price. And I'd be spending $100 less than if I ordered my camcorder direct from the manufacturer. (Tip, buying direct from the camera manufacturer will almost never save you money.)
But wait, my savings were actually greater. B&H Photo in Manhattan doesn't collect sales tax on mail orders shipped outside New York State. The same is true for Beach Camera in New Jersey, for NYC's 42nd Street Photo and for other retailers with operations in a single state.
No sales tax makes a big difference.
Big box stores online such as Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Sears, Circuit City, and Costco must charge sales tax on mail orders because they have retail outlets or warehouses in all states. Considering an 8.9% state sales tax, buying from these chains adds $36 to a $400 purchase.
Shipping and handling? Reputable camera stores don't jack up the S&H to increase their profit margin. Shipping costs are based on weight, size, destination and insurance to cover loss in transit. Be sure to check the web store for free shipping specials on selected items. Uncomfortable with ordering online? These dealers have toll free order lines.
The bottom line - I saved a lot of money buying my new digital camcorder from a reputable camera store. Camera dealer prices won't beat big box stores on every item, but when you consider the no sales tax savings, you'll find big box stores are not always cheaper. Had a similar experience? Let me know.
While waiting for that Best
Buy salesman, I noticed the in-store prices for consumables like
blank miniDV tapes are more than a dollar higher per tape
than some online camera stores. Some online price checking shows many photo accessories at Best Buy are sold at manufacturers
list price, such as Canon, Nikon and pricey Sony lens filters, lens
caps and other items.
Warning! Beware of shills offering glowing too-good-to-be-true reviews on Reseller Ratings - don't read just one consumer's rating, read many. Reseller Ratings has damaged their credibility by allowing this practice.
As reported elsewhere on the web, be especially wary of online camera dealers with Brooklyn addresses and alphabet soup names like AAA, Discount, Best, Broadway, Tri-State and more.
So if you're ready for a new digital camera, camcorder, photo accessories, memory cards or any photo equipment, don't buy it from a big box dealer until you've checked prices at reputable online camera stores.
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Revised November 15, 2008