20 Things They Don't Want You to Know
You Never Have to Pay Full Price
With so many ways to shop online, finding the best deal can be difficult--even at a major retailer such as Dell. The Bottom Line: If you're patient, or even just willing to look around, you should never have to pay full price for most tech products. Here are my favorite tips:
- When shopping at Dell, always check both the Home & Home Office and the Small Business sections. Prices for the same item often differ because independently operated business units manage these sections. Neither one consistently offers better deals, so when looking for specific items, check both areas periodically.
- If the product you're looking for isn't on sale, wait. Dell rotates promotional offers with blinding speed. Dell-branded products go on sale more often than items by other manufacturers do, but none of the products I tracked stayed at full price for longer than three weeks.
- The maximum discounts I've seen Dell offer--around 35 percent on its own items--are rare. But discounts of up to 20 percent on Dell-branded products and 10 percent on third-party items appear frequently.
- Deals on desktop and notebook PCs can be tough to evaluate, since Dell may also offer specials or free upgrades for included components (typically RAM, hard drives, and optical drives), making it difficult to calculate total savings on a system purchase. But sometimes you can find both discounts and free upgrades: In late July, for example, Dell offered a 34 percent discount on its XPS Gen 5 desktop, as well as a free upgrade from 512MB to 1GB of RAM.
- Check sites such as StealDeals.net and Techbargains.com (full disclosure: Techbargains powers PCWorld.com's Bargain Finder), which track day-to-day bargains on lots of shopping sites and which also list coupon codes that can augment the deals you find.
Not all deals are as good as they initially sound. Dell, for example, sometimes offers as much as $750 off notebooks that originally cost $1500 and up. But check the configuration and prices for notebook components carefully: Often the cost of adding RAM or a DVD burner will rise sharply during the deal period, cutting into your savings.
And before heading to a brick-and-mortar store, check the prices on its Web site at home, because local managers for chains such as Best Buy sometimes run in-store promotions that can produce prices different from those you'd see outside the store.