Buying your computer online for the price? Bad decision. Here’s why.

Traditionally, I had been the first to recommend that friends go online in order computers.  Typically, better prices could be found. If you were a high end user, you could configure it to your desired specs. Recently however, I was presented with a business problem that caused me to rethink my stance on where to buy computers.  The original problem was one of turnover.  We seek out high performance machines for our developers and they simply don’t carry those in your local Best Buy.  So online it is. But wait.  Most custom build shops on the web require at least 2 weeks of build time before it ships.  Most hires are two-week-notice scenarios, and even shorter if the person isn’t gainfully employed.  This leaves my new employee without a computer for over a week in the best case scenario.  I don’t know about your business but that simply wouldn’t do.

What if I don’t need my computer right away?  It’ll save me money to buy online right?

Nope.  Here’s why.  Parts are covered by manufacturers warranty typically for at least a year.  Online companies and brick and mortar alike typically offer the labor and service to replace and fix defective parts during this time.  So if both companies are repairing the machine, it all comes down to turnover and shipping.   If you purchase the computer at a brick and motor nearby, you simply take it in and pick it up the same or next day with no charge under warranty (assuming they keep items in inventory, otherwise they are ordering online just like you).  With that same computer purchased online, you have to pay to ship it back to them.  Knowing that you will be without a computer for several days or weeks prompts you to go running the nearest store to pick up another one to get you by in the meantime. Or worse, faced with this fact, you throw the computer in the corner, purchase a new computer, and tell yourself that you will return it later, which never happens.  The warranty that made you feel warm and fuzzy when you purchased the computer is now quietly expiring while your machine sits cold in the corner.

What’s the solution?  Find a custom builder locally that keeps an inventory of parts on hand at the store and has a parts and labor warranty.    Don’t go to Best Buy.  They only have consumer level configurations and if you do have to come back to them for support, be prepared for it to take weeks, after all they have 50 people with spyware problems ahead of you.  Also, even with the greatest service they wait for the defective item to be returned to the manufacturer instead of pulling an identical item off the shelf in order to get you up and running again.

Why am I writing this article?   Well since Dell figured out how to get the price of a pre-built system down to unseen levels, most of the custom builders have shifted into service revenue models and no longer keep an inventory.  I want you to support the mom and pops that provide this much needed service with your business so that they will still be around the next time that I’m looking for a new build.

If you are in the Birmingham or Trussville area, I recommend Microcomputer right across the street from the Lowe’s in Trussville behind the Hooters at the intersection of 459 and 59.  They have top end mobos, graphics cards and memory, and will configure a system for you on the fly.  Drives are imaged and ready to go.  I was pleasantly surprised to find their prices better than I was finding online.

If you know of any custom builders that keep an inventory on hand, have great prices and services, tell us. Let’s bring them out into the lime light, put them in the comments of this article and let us know about them.

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