On my way into work last week I heard a Consumer Reports radio spot. It was one of those interstitial infomercials during the commercial break of another radio show.
They were talking about digital cameras. They recommended a few models. Then they recommended a few comparison pricing sites to find the best prices. It all sounded like good advice until I heard them say something like:
“Here’s a great tip: Make sure that you check out the cameras in person at a local store before you buy it online. This is a great way to get the best price and be sure you’re happy with what you’re buying.”
I’m paraphrasing, but that was the spirit of it. I find that advice unfortunate and disappointing. I’m surprised to hear it from Consumer Reports.
They are basically suggesting that you should take advantage of your local stores. Not take advantage as in taking advantage of buying locally and supporting your local economy, but as in taking advantage of them in a malicious way.
Local stores have to incur the costs of allowing you to enter their safe retail environment, see the product you want to buy, play with it, take a few shots with it, feel it, and, perhaps, ask a salesperson questions about it.
Providing an accessible and safe store also provides tremendous value to you, the customer. Consumer Reports values this value which is why they recommend you visit one of these stores before you purchase something online.
The right thing to do is to pay for that value by buying the item from the physical retailer. If you are going to use the retailer to “close the sale” then you should also make the sale there. If enough people continue to close the deal at the store, but make the deal elsewhere, the physical locations will dry up and that significant in-person value will go away.
I hope that Consumer Reports would reconsider their advice and instead suggest the right thing: If you go to a store to test out a product then buy the product from that store. Sure, it may be a little more money, but you’re also getting a little more value. That’s worth something.