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WARNING: Do not buy a computer until you read this – or you might get ripped off
By Helen Cho

On a perfect summer day in 1997, life as I knew it was changed forever. I lost all trust in the human race, and felt my life was over -- but I vowed to seek vendetta in the most violent way. Yes, the taste of blood was in my mouth…

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite as melodramatic as all that – but I sure was seething mad.

I had been ripped off to the tune of $2800 by a scam artist who "sold" me a Gateway laptop over the Internet.

I’d tell you the details, but they’re just too painful to relive. And frankly, I feel more than a little embarrassed for being conned.

After that distasteful experience, I embarked on a personal crusade not only to expose the deceptive sales practices in the computer industry, but also to scour the globe for the best computer deals in the world.

I voraciously read computer manuals, specs, ads -- and scrutinized anything that even remotely resembled a PC. My brain became the Geiger counter for computer-buying information.

As a result, I’ve become the Head Purchasing Manager for a worldwide non-profit organization consisting of 7000+ members – in charge of purchasing computer equipment for overseas branches in South Korea, Russia, the Philippines, China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Europe.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Flashback to 1997.

Back then, I learned quite a few things about computer-buying that very few people on this planet know about. I’m going to reveal some sneaky -- and in some instances, illegal -- things that computer vendors do to bilk you out of your hard earned cash.

1) Bait and Switch - Computer vendors generally resort to any means to get you to their website or store first. The most common way is to lure you there with the promise of the lowest prices. When you fall for the bait, and visit their website or store, you’ll find that their prices are higher than they advertised. They feed you the story that the advertised price was last week’s price, or that price doesn’t include this component or that peripheral. Vendors do this because, in the highly competitive business of computer sales, this is sometimes the only way they get a shot at showing you their wares. Then, they do the usual song-and-dance routine: “But while you’re here, have I got a deal for you…” hoping you won’t go looking elsewhere.

2) Bankruptcy Routine - This trick consists of opening a ‘new’ computer outlet, selling product for a few months, shipping only a portion of the orders, and then declaring bankruptcy and taking most of the customer’s money. The people who do this are real crooks, and typically engage in this practice many times.

3) Opportunistic Pricing - This is something very few people know about. Mail order companies change their prices and specifications regularly. They have a complex pricing policy where they employ experts whose only job is to determine exactly how much the market will be willing to pay for a specific model.

4) Delayed Shipments - Some firms charge your credit card, and ship your order within a week -- but since it is a legal requirement that the goods are shipped to you within 30 days, it could take all of 30 days before your goods leave their warehouse. And you may not be able to cancel your order. They are, of course, earning interest on your money.

5) Shared Memory - As a cost cutting measure, some systems are designed for the video card to share memory with the system itself and not to have its own dedicated memory. Therefore a system with 64 MB RAM advertised with a 4 MB card has only 60 MB of free RAM after the video card’s requirements. On budget systems, this is common but you should be told about it. You could end up buying a computer that has 64 MB of RAM and then find that you only really have 58 MB -- and you can't run a program that needs 64MB.

6) What You See Isn’t What You Get - As the components that go into a machine are numerous and constantly changing, you may find that the machine you receive is rarely the exact machine you ordered. These differences are caused by the frequent non-availability of various components. Additionally, some big name mail order firms’ sales reps get into the habit of "forgetting" what price they gave you for the equipment you asked for – and, as a result, you get sent a system that’s missing parts that you wanted.

Now, before you go running to the first “reputable” computer store thinking it’s your safest bet, you have to know that those big players also have a slew of deceptive practices up their sleeves. Furthermore, they go to great lengths to hire professional salespeople. Quite frankly, unless you’re one of the small percentage of people who possess computer-buying savvy, you are putty in the hands of trained computer salespeople. They know exactly how to manipulate you, entice you, allay your fears and, most importantly, close the deal. How about you – are you a trained computer buyer?

Do you know for instance….

…what day of the week it’s best to buy a computer to get the best prices?

…the closely-guarded tactic to saving at least $500 on your next computer purchase?

…what advertised feature you should never pay a single dime for when buying a computer?

…when it’s OK to buy "clones" or generic brands?

…why you should beware of advertisements that scream “Free Printer”, “Free Scanner” and “Free Software”?

My friend, Mark Joyner, and I reveal those secrets for free in another article.

I don’t want you thinking there are no happy endings in the world of computer buying. It's absolutely mind-blowing what astronomical margins some firms make on PCs, and how incredibly simple it is for buyers to get huge discounts on those prices - if they know how.

Epilogue: I have a recent success story of my own to tell. I just bought myself a new laptop -- a beautiful IBM Thinkpad T20 with all the bells and whistles at about $1400 below listed price!

All I can say is, beating the computer bullies at their own game is the best revenge.

Helen Cho is the author of “Computer Buying Secrets Revealed!”, the only book of its kind that shows how anyone can save at least $500 on their next computer purchase.

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