#2. Bullshit Shipping Costs
If you are completely removed from any responsibility in life, do me a favor. Grab four light bulbs from your house, pack them as carefully as you can, and then mail them to a random location a few states away. Go ahead, I'll wait. I lied, I'm not waiting. How much was the shipping? A couple of bucks, right? I've mailed out books that weigh several times as much for less than $2. Now check this shit out:
Notice the section in the middle that says "Shipping & handling: $21.96"? I wasn't just throwing light bulbs out there at random in my above scenario. That's actually what I bought. The shipping and handling was almost as much as the bulbs themselves. Now, I don't mind paying it, because the type of bulbs I needed were hard to find ... but it sure as fuck shouldn't be doubling the price of my fucking order to get them to me.
Given, my complaint isn't always correct. Let's say that instead of ordering my lights from the largest lighting supplier in the world, I was ordering it from Tito's Love Monkey Emporium and Also Lights. It's run by Tito and his lovely wife, Chad Woman. They're too small of a business to have FedEx stop by weekly for pickup, and they don't ship out enough merchandise to keep tons of packing material on hand. This means that they have to pay for the box, the packing material (bubble wrap, Styrofoam), the gas they'll be burning to get to and from the post office, and the minimum wage employee's hourly wage to take it there. By the time they're finished nickel and diming, they've added a couple of dollars to the deal. Fucking drug dealers are more efficient than that.
"That'll be $4 million."
Regardless of whether shipping prices are inflated or not, you have to factor them in, even though you most likely won't know what that price is until you hit the checkout window. This is especially true with electronics, which can have extremely high shipping costs that factor in insurance and pretty heavy packages (much like my crotch -- OOOOH!). It's for this reason that I have to be really careful when buying online, because my debit card, like many people's, has a daily spending cap. If I go even one penny over that amount, my card will be rejected and I'll have to find an option that's one cent less than all the bullshit I just went through. Or call my bank and have them temporarily raise the limit, wait a couple of hours for that to be processed (if I even catch them before they close), wait to see if they've called the police after my stream of violent threats, and redo the whole order.
#1. Read the Customer Reviews
Nothing in the world compares to customer reviews, but they can be a bit tricky. First, you have to figure out if what you're reading even came from a customer and not some bullshit company shill. It's not always obvious, but one way you can tell at a glance is if their glowing, five-star review sounds more like a commercial than a critique: "I absolutely love my Windows Phone with Windows 8 technology! The whole world is now at my fingertips, allowing me to download and play tons of music and movies with a simple-" Go fuck yourself. Nobody speaks like that, you ignorant twat.
The other thing to avoid is fanboys. You'll find them scattered around from time to time, trashing computers or software with one-star "reviews" like "Should have bought a Mac," or a video game system with "PlayStation is way better." Most of them are pretty easy to spot because they don't contain a single word of useful information on the product. Ignore them like you would any other complete fucking idiot in the real world.
"U R SUTPID! BUY MAC BCUZ iT BETTR! BLAAAhhRRG!"
But you don't have to be a master of psychoanalysis to figure out that if 20 reviews are all complaining about the same thing, even with another 20 fanboys and shills mixed in, it's probably an actual issue that you should take into consideration.
Keep in mind that you're not just looking at the rating of the product. A four-and-a-half-star rating is great and worth looking at, but it doesn't hold much weight if it's only been reviewed by one or two people. And for some reason, people have an extremely fucking stupid habit of trashing a product in the text and then giving it an absurdly high rating. In this string of reviews, a guy complained about an improperly seated hard drive and a broken VGA port on the motherboard, yet he still gave it three stars, because evidently that's an above-average computer. On the same page, another customer had a broken DVD player and never got a response from customer support: four stars. In fact, there are several reviews on that page that complain of broken parts, bad customer service, and improper construction ... but you'd never know it if you just looked at the rating system:
Holy shit, a four-star review! This computer must operate on magic!
The name of the game is research. Yes, it's going to take a little extra time away from raid-prepping your Druid and begging for tits on 4chan, but it's better to spend that time before you hand over the money than to spend 10 times as long plowing through paperwork, shipping, and the headache of dealing with customer service, who you just know is making a jack-off hand motion while you're explaining your problem.
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