Why You Should Never Buy Cables (or anything else) from your local electronics store

You need a cable. A car charger. A case for your phone. Anything. You get in the car and head over to your local store, right?

Absolutely not. Would you buy bread, eggs or milk from 7-11? Of course not. Those are convenience stores – they’re convenient to get to, but you pay a premium for going there.

Electronics stores are the same way. You pay a premium for going to a store and walking out with what you want. Don’t believe me?

Take a cable, as an example. (We’ll use a couple of cables, since they’re so notoriously expensive from stores.) You bought a printer, but there’s no USB cable included in the box. (There never is.) Good news – a USB cable costs $14.99, maybe even $17.99. Not bad, right? Sure, unless you know what they cost.

A USB cable costs about $1, maybe less. Just because you need one doesn’t mean that you need to pay a 1500% markup. So what’s your alternative?
Online cable retailers have great prices, and often include free shipping. Meritline.com or Monoprice.com offer the same USB cable for $3.29 with free shipping. Sure, they’re making a profit. But subtract their shipping costs, add your wasted time and energy, and it starts to make more sense. Only want to use an online retailer you trust? Buy.com has them for $4.99 with free shipping. Amazon.com has them for $4.53, and if your order totals $25, shipping is free.

What about cables that aren’t USB? HDMI cables are necessary for that perfect HDTV signal – and if you’re getting your TV from a store, why not get the cable while you’re there? If you feel like wasting an extra $75, go ahead. Don’t believe me? Walk from the TV section to the computer section, and you’ll find the same $80 cable for $20. Ask how a walk across the store can save you 300%.  Or, go home, go to the same sites mentioned above, and try to find the same cable for more than $5, just for fun.

Well, there must be a difference between the cables right? Unfortunately, there isn’t. No matter how much the salesman may pressure you, tell you that the cable is “gold-plated” or “higher rated”, there’s just no difference. If it’s a cable, it works, or it doesn’t. If it’s digital, it doesn’t matter how expensive it is – it’s just a cable.

Phone accessories are even worse. Typically, stores get items like that for anywhere between $0.50 and $1.00 – and sell everything for $29.99, no matter what it is. I recently went into Best Buy and saw a phone screen protector (cost – $0.50), car charger (cost – $1.00) and case (cost – $1.50) for $49.99 as a “Sale”.

What about other items? Well, any place that’s willing to rip you off that much (remember the 1500% markup!) shouldn’t really get much of your business, should it? That’s for you to decide. In a pinch, sometimes you need things – for times like that, I recommend places like the MicroCenter. But a few minutes of searching online can really make the savings start to add up.

This time of year, electronics stores create huge amounts of buzz by using “Black Friday deals” to lure customers in. Truth be told, those deals are usually not that great, and never worth getting up early for.  In 2007, my wife and I got up early to get a LCD TV. We heard about how great the deals were, and although we didn’t stay out all night, we did get there around 5AM, and we did get a TV. However, I searched when we got home, and found the TV for $100 less online, with free shipping.  I returned the unopened TV that same day, and chalked it up a colossal waste of time.

Next time, learn from my mistake.  If you happen to be in the store, use Google Goggles to find cheaper prices online.