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Are you in the market for a new refrigerator or maybe a laptop? During our recent surveys, tens of thousands of CONSUMER REPORTS subscribers revealed what they thought were the best walk-in and online retailers for appliances and computers.
Appliance stores: Price vs. selection
You buy gallon jars of mayonnaise, best-selling books, and even tires at a national big-box store. But should you consider buying a refrigerator there? Our readers say yes--at least if you value low prices. That's just one of the findings from our latest Appliance Store Shopper Satisfaction Survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. We analyzed the experiences of more than 17,000 subscribers who reported on some 32,500 purchases of large and small appliances. Here are some of the ways our readers' experiences can help you save money--and grief--at the store:
Go online for the smaller stuff. Shopping for a window air conditioner, gas grill, or vacuum cleaner? Let your fingers do the clicking. The online retail powerhouse Amazon.com had the highest shopper-satisfaction score in our survey for the second straight year. While you can't try before you buy, you're likely to get great prices and selection as well as high quality.
For bigger stuff, hit big-box stores and the independents. Costco aced everyone else for low prices on big-ticket items. But our readers found mom-and-pop stores hard to beat when it comes to selection, service, and shopping ease. Sears and Lowe's were also among the winners for sheer choice, though none stood out in other categories.
TIPS FOR APPLIANCE SHOPPING
Our readers were at least fairly well satisfied with their experiences at every retailer. But not every retailer works for everyone. To find the best selection of appliances, much depends on what type of appliance you're seeking and whether you're looking to replace an entire kitchen or just one or two items. At a local big-box store, for instance, we found just four electric dryers, two washers, and four full-sized refrigerators. A salesperson told us that the online and in-store selections often differ.
When we called the seven big-box stores that the company's Web site said were within a 20-mile radius of our Yonkers, N.Y., headquarters, we found that only three had appliances on the showroom floor.
Whatever you're looking for and wherever you decide to shop, follow these tips for the best selection of appliances and the best price and service:
Walk the Web. Even when you plan to buy a product in a store, retailer and manufacturer Web sites have become an indispensable source of promotions, rebates, closeout specials, and other limited-time offers. At one site we found a kitchen-appliance sale with a choice of five different rebates. Another offered gift cards ranging from $150 to $500 for combined purchases. Manufacturer and …