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Smart holiday shopping tips you may not have considered

Consumer Reports News: November 22, 2011 11:23 AM

Planning to give hot-ticket electronics gifts this year? You can shop smart by following a couple of steps you may not have considered yet, such as making your purchases at highly rated retailers, and trying your hand at haggling.

Buy online: In our report on where to buy electronics,,,, and all received strong marks from readers who responded to our electronics retailer survey. Those four were also standouts for shipping and home delivery.

Overall, online merchants did better than walk-in retailers, even for big-ticket items like TVs. For walk-in stores, independent retailers topped our Ratings (available to subscribers). The Apple Store, Costco, and Staples also got high scores.

A separate survey of computer buyers found more overall satisfaction with online vendors than with walk-in stores (Ratings available to subscribers.) Just 2 percent of computer shoppers who dealt with online retailers said they paid more than expected, but more than half of walk-in buyers spent more than expected. Highest-rated walk-in stores for computers were the Apple Store, Micro Center, and Costco. was the only retailer in our electronics-shopping survey to receive top marks for price. stood alone among online retailers for having top-of-the-line customer service.

Haggle: Just 13 percent of shoppers said they tried haggling at walk-in stores. But those who did saved an average of $82. Shoppers saved a median of $105 on televisions, $53 on digital cameras, and $43 on DVD/Blu-ray players.

Four in five hagglers negotiated the price of their purchases at HHGregg, P.C. Richard & Son, and independent walk-in stores. At Best Buy and Sears, at least three in five hagglers shaved dollars off the prices they paid. Hagglers for computers were successful more than half the time; the average savings was a whopping $103.

You can also haggle for a discount online. Our survey found that nearly three of five were successful in scoring a price break, even though few even think to try in the first place. A third of them negotiated with a retailer by phone vs. 29 percent through e-mail messages and 13 percent by online chat. Two-thirds of computer buyers who negotiated directly with manufacturers got a lower price.

For more advice check out 7 tips for organized and hassle-free holiday shopping. Plus you can read the full article: Tips to help you—and your finances—survive the holidays, first published in Consumer Reports Money Advisor.

Maggie Shader

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