Thursday, May 10, 2007


Everyone is looking to get the best deal possible, right? From grocery shopping, to tech shopping, retailers are always trying to bring in sales with cool specials, ads, and even some base tricks that even the most basically educated person shouldn’t fall for. One of those tricks, what I like to call "One-Armed Bandit Buying" (because you'd be luckier on a slot machine than with this trick) is “DISPLAY MODEL ON SALE!” You see, this post comes out of a discussion that cropped up over at a couple days back, and being of some interest to me, I thought I’d discuss it with a few people I know who work in retail, and some new friends as well.

The question originally revolved around a Big-Box Store listing MacBook Pros as being out of their system (not being reordered), and how that could signal that there’s a new model coming. What was of interest to me was the musing about that location’s display models of the MacBook Pros going up for sale. Now display models are deeply discounted, and always look to be a good deal…but not so. Think of the abuse those poor MacBook Pros went through there: People slamming their covers shut, over and over again. Lord knows how many people touching them and getting whatever germs and skin and hair (ok I may worry about these kinds of things) all over them. But the most important thing, that they’re on for 8-12 hours a day STRAIGHT. That can’t be healthy for those poor screens, and will degrade the length of their lives.

In the case of one location I frequent, I asked an employee if they had any display laptops that were going up for sale. He showed me two…one of which he warned me away from because (and he WHISPERED to me) that he knew the keyboard wasn’t working right, as he’d seen it being replaced in the back office by a manager. Yea, I’m going to buy a laptop that may have been monkeyed with by a store’s management. I cannot roll my eyes here enough, people! One of my friends, David, mentioned that one of the bigger problems with display models is the software that gets installed on them in the stores to run ads, in-store demonstrations and the like on them. The majority of the computers he knew about at his store had to be rebooted several times a day because of the programs clashing with the operating system. (Now while this happens with those Vista computers –blech!- it likely doesn’t happen with the Macs.)

The only upside (thank you again David) that can be found is using a display model purchase as a “test drive” for a laptop you want to purchase. I say this because most Big Box stores will not charge a restocking fee for a returned display model. So you’ll be able to take that Macbook Pro through it’s tasks and your daily use of it rather easily, without losing any real money on them. (DO remember to check with the store to see if they charge a restocking fee on display item purchases.) Also, in the past I have purchased display models, from stereos to DVD players. In fact, I had a DVD player for 6 years that was a display model, and it worked very well for that entire 6 years. Sometimes you CAN luck out, but I’ve always found that it’s best not to test your luck against some of the larger electronics stores…sometimes it’s better to go to your favorite casino and play blackjack…you’ll have better odds.

-Mike Leader

(ps: I've got 1-2 more posts coming today to make up for the past couple of days)

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