Doing some online shopping for the holidays? Here’s a tip:

We’ve got a 4-month-old baby and our camcorder died. Well…it’s not 100% dead. It works occasionally. But when you have a 4-month-old…an occasionally working camcorder doesn’t cut the mustard.

So, being the tech-savvy dad that I am, I started the hunt for a new HD camcorder. With some sage advice from my buddy Rick, I narrowed it down to a Canon VIXIA HG20. It’s a mid-range consumer grade HD camcorder that gets great reviews from the trusted reviewers.

Great. So I know what I’m going to get. Now where am I going to get it? Advertised prices online range from $309 to around $650. Of course – the $309 sounds like the way to go, right? Wrong.

I found the $309 on a site called shopdigitaldirect.com. Notice that I didn’t make that a link. That’s because I don’t think anyone should ever go to that site.

I’ve done a lot of shopping online. A. LOT. So having experience helped me in this case. The ultra-low price was my first red flag. But I think the kicker for me was when I saw that they had the wrong product photo on the page that advertised the camera. Instead of just placing my order online, I decided to call their toll-free number to ask about the camera. I waited on hold for 10 minutes before I gave up and decided to Google “shopdigitaldirect reviews” and see if there was anything in the webisphere that would give me a better feeling about this vendor.

Quite the opposite.

2 clicks landed me on this website:

www.resellerratings.com

These guys have an open forum where the public can rate all sorts of online resellers. Shopdigitaldirect happened to earn a 0.76 out of 10 rating. That’s right. LESS than 1 out of 10 stars. Turns out they are a typical bait-and-switch outfit. The stories people have submitted about their experience with this place are enough to get anyone’s blood boiling.

Bullet dodged.

My second choice was soniccameras.com – $329. So I plugged that in and got 0.49 out of 10. Even worse.

Second bullet dodged.

Third choice – zoommania.com – $499. 3.87 out of 10. Getting closer. Judging by the reviews on resellerratings, they advertise single items for sale at a very good price – but if you try to order something their customer service department calls you and tells you that your item is out of stock unless you order it with an additional accessory kit and/or extended warranty. Definitely bait-and-switch (unless you wanted the accessories and warranty in the first place – I don’t)

So now I’m exhausted and fed up with deal-hunting. I have decided to go to my top 3 trusted electronics resellers.

bhphotovideo.com – $569.95 – in stock and free shipping
buydig.com – $575 – in stock and free shipping
jr.com – $629 – $5 off with Google checkout – $8.55 shipping

I decided to go with BuyDig because I’ve dealt with them several times in the past (bought my TV there) and they’re very trustworthy. They let you check out using PayPal – which is very secure and has lots of buyer protection features. Finally – they offer extended warranties – which I decided that I do want.

In the end – I got the best deal I could without taking a risk on shady online resellers.

And to address one obvious question: Why not just go to Best Buy and purchase it? Sales tax! On this particular transaction I would have paid close to $50 in sales tax (8.25% in TX). Since shipping was free – that savings made it worth shopping online.

-SD

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