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All Contents © 2017The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Bob Niedt, Online Editor
| November 2016
Best Buy is the retailer that sits atop the list for many of us when we’re on the hunt for new electronics, especially televisions, sound systems, laptops and yes, for the few primitives still roaming the planet, compact discs and DVDs (though that once humongous section is a mere shadow of itself nowadays).
And for the hail and hearty, Best Buy is the first stop on Black Friday to score an unbelievable deal or two.
But Black Friday is just one day. Bargain hunting is a year-round sport, and you never know when the tech bug may bite you. Since Best Buy is pretty much the lone wolf of national brick-and-mortar electronics retailers, we thought we’d fire off some skills for you to deploy next time you’re roaming the aisles.
“Watch the price tags,” advises Tracie Fobes, who runs PennyPinchinMom.com, a website that offers savings advice and deals. “They tell you so much.” Just as we informed you about the secrets hidden in Kohl’s price tags, there are secrets hidden in Best Buy’s price tags, too. You just have to know how to decipher the code.
Here’s what Fobes knows: Prices that end in “.92” indicate that a product is at or below Best Buy’s cost. “Definitely a deal to grab,” says Fobes. If the price ends in “.96,” it means the price has already been adjusted to match a competitor’s price on that product. One more: If there’s a “C” in the lower right corner of the price tag, it means the item is on clearance and no longer stocked, says Fobes.
Ah, and hunt down a manager when you scarf that “C” deal. He or she has the authority to give you an even bigger price break.
Are you spending a nice chunk of change buying a curved screen, 65-inch 4K TV? See if Best Buy will knock down the price if you add on a wall mount, sound bar, TV stand or Blu-ray DVD player. It’s called bundling, and it’s known to happen.
“If you need a printer and computer, ask if you can get a 20% discount if you purchase both items,” says Fobes. “You may not get what you want, but you should get at least 8%-to-10% savings.”
Speaking of which, the Best Buy employees I've talked to over the years say store managers are often open to negotiating prices, especially on big-ticket items they know you’re going to hunt down elsewhere (did I hear “warehouse club”?).
SEE ALSO: 12 Secrets Costco Shoppers Need to Know
Oh, and very often, your salesperson guiding you on your tour of TV Land will point out certain brands. It’s not necessarily because they are the best; it’s because the prices on those brands are negotiable. Listen carefully.
Speaking of salespeople, managers and hot deals: It pays to shop at Best Buy at the end of the month. “Visit your store on the 30th or 31st and try to negotiate prices down,” says Fobes. “The store is trying to hit sales goals for the month and may be more willing to negotiate with you.”
According to deals experts, certain times of year can be advantageous for electronics purchases, too. Prices on laptops, for example, dip in August and September during back-to-school sales. And you’ll see some of the deepest discounts on computers – especially on select low-end models – during Thanksgiving-Black Friday-Cyber Monday sales. The days leading up to the Super Bowl feature some of the best prices of the year on a variety of big-screen TVs from name-brand manufacturers. In 2017, the game is scheduled to be played on February 5.
SEE ALSO: Best Times to Buy 15 Big-Ticket Items
Very often, an unboxed item on display can be purchased at a cheaper price than the identical item never unboxed sitting in the storeroom. But you probably need to ask: “How much are you willing to sell the floor model for?” And if there’s already a price tag on a floor model itself, negotiate. The price tag usually means the manager is eager to sell it to make room for a new display.
Similarly, open-box items in Best Buy stores can be real bargains. These are purchases returned unused by customers for a variety of reasons other than the item being defective. Perhaps the box didn’t fit through the front door (it happens), the color was wrong or a significant other nixed the impulse purchase on delivery.
You can also haggle for a lower price if you find an item on a store shelf that has damaged packaging. “If the box is dented, ripped or been opened, you can negotiate the price down,” says Fobes of PennyPinchinMom.com. “Start at asking for a 25% discount and see what happens. You can usually get at least another 10% off.”
SEE ALSO: 8 Ways Retailers Get Us to Spend More (Hint: Beware Mannequin Eye Contact)
Best Buy aims exclusive deals at the college crowd. Surf over to the Student Hub on Best Buy’s website, enter your email address and wait for the special coupons to come rolling in to your inbox. They can be used at the register of a physical store or online (click on “payment method” and enter the promotional codes).
Best Buy’s definition of a college student is loose: Technically, you only need to be enrolled in one class to qualify. The retailer does ask you to identify the school you are attending when you sign up, but at least initially there’s no further proof required about where you are enrolled.
SEE ALSO: 8 Things Not to Keep In Your Wallet During the Holidays
Best Buy’s loyalty program didn’t go away; it just got rebranded. Veteran shoppers may still refer to it as the Reward Zone, but the retailer has redubbed the program My Best Buy. Considering membership is free, it’s worth signing up. For every 250 points you accumulate via your membership, you get $5 worth of Best Buy certificates, which can be redeemed at BestBuy.com or in stores. Basic members also get free two-day shipping on items bought online (minimum $35 order), and there are members-only deals, early access to special sale events and more.
There are tiered levels of membership, based on annual spending, but be aware that changes went into effect on August 28, 2016, that reduced benefits at some levels. For example, basic My Best Buy members now receive 0.5 points for every dollar spent (it had been one point per dollar spent). Those who spend at least $1,500 in a year can become My Best Buy Elite members and receive one point for every dollar spent (down from 1.1. points). The top tier is My Best Buy Elite Plus, peopled by the fat cats who spend $3,500 or more per year. Those members receive 1.25 points for every dollar spent (unchanged from pre-August 28 levels). Elite and Elite Plus members get free shipping with no minimum purchase required, plus extra time to make returns.
Speaking of shipping, Best Buy is offering free holiday shipping on many items, whether or not you are a My Best Buy member, through December 24.
SEE ALSO: 13 Ways to Waste Money During the Holidays
Showrooming is the act of checking out merchandise in a physical store, then purchasing the item from someone else online at a discounted price. You’ve probably done it yourself, even if you didn’t realize it has an official name. Brick-and-mortar retailers loathe the practice, of course.
Best Buy is trying to turn browsing showroomers into paying customers. If you’re in one of its stores and find an item you love, but you also find that the price is lower on Amazon.com, talk to a salesperson or manager. They may be able to match the price -- or even come in lower. It’s a win-win: Best Buy gets the sale, and you get to the instant gratification of taking your purchase home immediately. There’s no waiting two days (or more) for delivery and no extra shipping charges.
SEE ALSO: 5 Ways Shopping Malls Are Changing
Yeah, we didn’t know about the Best Buy store on eBay, either. Actually, it’s a fragmenting and expansion of Best Buy’s own online store. The retailer is simply hoping to catch more eyes, and clicks, by landing its web store on another site. Will you get better deals there? It depends on what Best Buy’s data-mining team decides.
Tread carefully, though. We spot-checked a 32-inch Insignia LED HDTV that was on sale on Best Buy's eBay site for $113.99. Deal, right? Yet, what appeared to be the exact same set was selling for $109.99 on BestBuy.com.
As far as the online Best Buy Outlet store, serious deals abound on open-box items, clearance items and, if you have the stomach for it, refurbished and pre-owned items. Hundreds of products sell for 50% off or more. Pay careful attention to warranties on Outlet purchases. New items on clearance are covered by manufacturer warranties, but warranty coverage will vary for open-box and refurbished items. Many pre-owned products include a limited warranty through Best Buy.
SEE ALSO: 9 Worst Things to Buy Online
Best Buy takes in tons of electronics you no longer want, including computers, televisions, cell phones, speakers, appliances, video games and systems, cameras, rechargeable batteries and so much more. Best of all, there’s no charge to recycle most items – even if you didn’t purchase them at Best Buy. Among the few exceptions: There’s a $14.99 fee in most states to haul away old TVs and appliances if you buy a replacement from Best Buy; the fee is $99.99 for up to two TVs or appliances if you didn’t buy replacements.
You can even profit from your unwanted electronics. If you bring in a used printer for recycling, you’ll get a 15% discount on a new HP inkjet printer. Some stores will give discounts on ink and toner, too, when you recycle old cartridges. Got a gadget that still works? Trade it in for a Best Buy gift card. Popular trade-in items include Apple and Samsung smartphones, Apple notebooks and iPads, and video games and gaming hardware.
Oh, and if you do decide to trade in or recycle electronics that contain personal information, be sure to wipe them clean. Best Buy provides instructions on how to erase the hard drive of a Windows computer. Apple offers instructions on wiping data from its devices.
SEE ALSO: 9 Money-Saving Hacks for Amazon Shoppers
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