Monday, January 14, 2008

Location, Location, Location

When it comes to buying online, even though the Internet brings companies far away right into your home, the location of the merchant is still important. This is especially true when it comes to the purchase of computer and technology items.

We strongly recommend buying from a merchant in the USA when you can. Not just because it helps our nation's economy, but because it also helps you- the consumer. Some things to keep in mind about location when buying online:

1. Transit time- Merchants overseas may sometimes have an item a couple of dollars cheaper. But it may take a lot longer to receive the item as International Post tends to take a lot longer than regular domestic shipments. Check to see what method of shipping the merchant uses and go to the shipping company's web site to check time in transit. Also find out if there will be a tracking number or if you just have to check your mailbox each day.

2. Customer service/language- Some US companies can give poor customer service too, I know that from experience, so always check any seller's online feedback before buying. Keep in mind that in some countries where English is not the primary language, you may have difficulty getting the customer service you need. This could result in some headaches for you. Also take note when buying from a US company that outsources their customer support to overseas contractors who don't speak English well.

3. Return policies- often times products from outside the USA do not have the typical 14 or 30 day return policy many US companies have. If they do, check the fine print to make sure you aren't responsible for the shipping costs both ways. While many US merchants, including Rokland, don't refund shipping costs on returns unless due to merchant error, merchants overseas with the same policy may mean that you pay a high price if you need to return an item. It also means if you do have to return due to a defect, because of long transit times there and back, it could be several weeks before you have a working product. Also, on more expensive purchases, remember that when buying in the USA you can take actions against the merchant if there is an error on their part they do not resolve (consumer affairs, or a BBB report for example). With overseas merchants, unless they also have locations here in the USA, generally these outlets are not available.

3. Piracy and fraud- while many overseas vendors are good companies, products that come from some areas of the world may not be legitimate, or the sale may be fraudulent. This can be the case with some companies in the US too, so always do a background check on any company before buying, but again as noted in point #3, there are outlets available if you encounter an issue with a purchase made in the USA that are not available to you when you buy from other countries.

Sometimes buying outside of the USA might be the best way to go. More often than not though, a US company is more attractive for consumers living in the USA.

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