Let’s face it—geeks have been the notorious champions of gadgets in the past, but today, gadgets are fair game for everyone. In fact, we maintain that they’ve become—dare we say it?—cool. Because seriously, who wouldn’t want a motion activated toilet nightlight, a self-stirring mug, or a Star Trek phone case?
Okay, maybe the last one not so much, but the point is, the mass appeal of gadgets today has expanded far beyond Trekkies and comic junkies to reach a wider audience that, frankly, can’t get enough.
Evidence to support the theory? Hundreds of websites selling gadgets! And if websites are selling, people must be buying.
Let’s Be Fair
Okay, some gadget websites (ThinkGeek, Firebox, and JINX) do cater to a “niche crowd,” with products that revolve around video games, comic books, and science fiction themes.
But many websites are also totally mainstream (Amazon, eBay, Bestbuy.com, Newegg, and Frys.com), often sell standard electronics in addition to gadgets, and are frequented by consumers who would not necessarily describe themselves as “geeks.”
In all fairness, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a self-affirmed geek or someone who simply loves tech accessories—what matters is that you know where to go to get what you want.
So...if you’re shopping online, how can you figure out which gadgets site is best for you?
Are You a Geek?
As mentioned above, some gadgets sites are very much about geek/game culture—so if that’s your deal, you know where to go. For non-geeks who love gadgets, there is a larger selection.
Non-Geeks: Where to Start?
If you’re into gadgets but not necessarily into geek/game culture, you have loads of options in front of you. One place you may consider starting is CoolThings, a curated site that features only the coolest gadgets, selected by a group of people who take this stuff seriously.
If you prefer to find cool stuff on your own, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding which gadgets site to shop at.
There are two kinds of reviews out there: website reviews, and gadget reviews. Google is your friend when it comes to finding reviews of websites, as is the fine print to find out about each site’s policies (more about that later).
As for gadget reviews, the best part about shopping online is that you can read reviews from (often) hundreds of purchasers, as opposed to shopping in stores, where you have to take the seller’s word for it. Reviews can give you insight into how the product works in real life, not just how it looks on your screen.
The only caveat about reading product reviews is to be aware that some may not be real. For example, many businesses on Amazon pay users to write positive reviews (even though it’s not ethical). On eBay, reviews are more likely to be genuine since the sellers tend to be individuals, not companies. Of course, this is a generalization—there are real reviews on Amazon and fake ones on eBay—the point is, be a smart shopper!
What the heck are you looking for? If you’re looking for gadgets for cell phones, computers, video games, and cameras, chances are you will find same or similar products on a number of sites. In this case, the site you buy from will probably depend on price, customer service, return policies, or ease-of-use.
However, if you’re looking for off-the-beaten-track gadgets, you may find that you prefer specific websites. For example, Firebox and ThinkGeek actually create products that are not sold anywhere else. If you absolutely love the products on one of these sites, that’s a pretty good reason to shop at there!
Prices can vary greatly when it comes to gadgets, so it’s worthwhile to compare pricing when looking for something generic. Some gadgets, however, are exclusive to certain websites, which means that if you want it, you’ll pay whatever they’re asking. This is just business. The important thing is to know is whether the product is sold exclusively at a certain site or whether you can find a less-expensive version somewhere else (eBay, cough cough).
Additionally, many sites offer promo codes, coupons, and daily sales that can significantly reduce the total cost, so that’s something to keep in mind when it comes to deciding where to order from. Frys.com and Bestbuy.com even have a match program, in which they guarantee to match a lower-priced item on another site (if you find one).
Another factor to take into account when reviewing prices is shipping. For example, many people like Amazon because they can get free shipping with Prime. But other websites also offer free shipping occasionally or for orders over a certain limit.
Aliexpress offers free shipping all the time, along with significantly good deals on phones and other gadgets. The catch here is that most products come from China, so delivery can take a few months and there is virtually no customer service.
Which brings us to the next point.
Site Policies and Customer Service
Before purchasing anything, anywhere, always check out what the store’s exchange/return policy is—will they give you a hard time if you want to return? Will they charge you extra? Will you have to pay for return shipping? Furthermore, if you have questions about the product before you buy, will someone be able to answer you?
Remember that certain sites, including Amazon, Aliexpress, and eBay, will have site policies, and then the individual sellers will have their own policies. Make sure to read the fine print for both if you anticipate wanting to return or exchange your product. Other sites like Firebox, Frys.com, and Bestbuy.com don’t have individual sellers, so you can just read each store’s policies—all of which are fairly, well, fair.
Have you decided where to shop for gadgets yet?
Well, if you’re a real gadget junkie, you may find yourself hopping around from site to site and not sticking with any one in particular. And that’s cool...we mean geeky. Gadgets tend to be things that are useful but that we don’t really need, so this is your chance to shop for them without pressure or urgency. Instead, sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience! Because gadgets are really all about fun, aren’t they?