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Find the Best Deals Online

One of the most common questions I’m asked is “How do I find the best deal on the Internet?” The web certainly offers consumers an avenue of research that was not available in the realm of shopping before its invention. But with so many choices, how can you know you really are getting the best price on a product and that you’re buying from someone you can trust?

The best first step in the research process is to find price search engines that you can trust. If you simply search for products in search engines such as Google or Yahoo, you will most likely end up with a wide variety of search results, some of which are companies that are out to take advantage of you. Some reputable price search engines can be found on Web Renown’s shopping page. Engines like www.shopper.com (by CNET, a trusted technology publisher) and www.pricegrabber.com are good places to start. But there are some lesser known engines that you’ll want to make use of. Pricewatch is one such engine that has become a favorite of mine. They provide results that include some of the lowest prices out there on computer and technology related products. Another is PriceScan. However, make sure you look at the individual store’s ratings. If the approval rating is anything below 90%, read some of the reviews to get a feel for what people are saying. Keep in mind that every company has a few disgruntled customers. The way reviews are worded reveal a lot about individual’s intentions. Look for problems that seem to be repeated. If you see that a company is making several people mad over the same issue, beware. But if the problems seem random, they may still be trustworthy.

Another element of research is individual product research. Sites like Shopper.com and PriceGrabber both have reviews by customers. Read what customers are saying. Note that more customers are more likely to take the time to write a review if they’ve had a bad experience than the ones who are happy with the product. So try to balance the good and the bad. Also look for professional reviews on these and other sites. These are often more objective. But do keep in mind that publishers of these reviews often have their own bents toward certain manufacturers. Another thing you’ll want to do is look in Google and Yahoo (or your favorite search engine) for professional sites that have reviewed the product you’re interested in, especially sites that don’t sell anything. But do watch out for sponsored matches on search engines. These are usually listed at the top or to the side of the results and should be noted as "sponsored." These listings are sold to the highest bidder and are often a lure. Use good sense when clicking on these.

Finally, do some research on the company you’re looking to buy from. Look for customer service reviews. Do they solve problems? Do they have a simple return policy? Do they charge restocking fees or other hidden fees? It’s worth paying a little more money for a product to buy it from a reputable source. Furthermore, buying from the same company has its perks. You don’t have to create additional user Ids and passwords, and if you do have a problem you can show the customer representative that they have something to lose if they don’t take care of you. And be willing to take your time. Don’t fall for marketing gimmicks or sales. And remember this important online rule, “If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.” Happy shopping!

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