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Home Theater Shopping Tip - Read Ads Carefully

Understand What Those Sunday Newspaper Shopping Ads Really Mean

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We are always looking for right product at the right price, but before you actually go out and buy that home theater system, blu-ray disc player, HDTV, or other gadget, you need to know how to buy. One important way to prepare for the home theater or consumer electronics shopping experience is to learn how to interpret the different types of Ads that clutter the Sunday Ad inserts in your newspaper.

Product Ads come in four basic types: The Door Buster Ad, The Step-up Ad, The Rebate Ad, and The Finance Promotion Ad.

The Door Buster (aka Doorbuster) or Limited Quantities Ad:

Be wary of the Door Buster and Limited Quantities Ads. These items are intended to bring bodies into the store; they are usually money losers, no name branded units that may not be a great consumer value either. Door Buster Ads and Limited Quantity Ads are very common during holiday shopping periods, such as Black Friday, the Day after Christmas, New Year's Day, July 4th, Labor Day, and also Grand Openings.

If you are looking for something for your home theater system, is that bargain TV going give you great picture quality? Does that $29 DVD player have all the needed outputs or features you need and play ALL types of DVDs, CD, CDrs and CDrws? For this I would bring a DVD and or CD/CDr to play on the demo unit to make sure.

Just because something is featured in an Ad as being on sale, it doesn't mean that the store has enough for everybody that wants to purchase the item that is being advertised. Although, it is "illegal" for a store to advertise something it doesn't have in stock, a store can specify in their Ad that the item is only available in Limited Quantities (look for phrases in an Ad, such as "minimum quantity X number per store), Doorbuster (item only available at advertised price for certain time period - common for Grand Opening and Black Friday Ads), or Limit 1 per customer.

Also, understand how Rainchecks work. If an item is specifically advertised as a Door Buster or Limited Quantity, there is no requirement that the store provide a raincheck to purchase the item at that price later. By the same token, even if the item is not advertised as a Doorbuster or Limited Quantity, the store might still state in the Ad that "No Rainchecks" are available for that item.

Another trick used by retailers, is advertising a product in generic terms. In other words, the Ad might say: "32-inch LCD TV" instead of "32-inch Brand X, Y, or Z LCD TV". This means that the retailer may not be offering a more well-known brand but a more "generic" or "no name brand". This also gives the retailer the flexibility to substitute brands if they run out of one brand due to customer demand. In this scenario, customers that come early might end up with a more well-known brand or more current model that customers who come in later. The only requirement on the retailer is that the items have approximately the same features - according to what is stated in the Ad.

The Step-up Ad:

Alongside the door buster Ads are Ads for "step-up" products that may suit your purposes better. The strategy here for this type of Ad the retailer hopes that the consumer will actually by the step-up product, rather than the door buster. Although, on the surface, this might be considered a "bait-and-switch" scheme, it is, and it isn't. Legally, as long as both products are in stock, the bait-and-switch issue is minimized, as long as you are not pressured into the step-up item.

A reasonable step-up item may actually represent a better value. These units are usually recognizable brands and have features and performance (such as a TV or DVD player with an HDMI connection, a home theater system with better speakers, or a Blu-ray Disc player with an internet connection) that will benefit the consumer more than the door buster.

This is where your previous product research comes in handy. Of course, these items are better money makers for the store. However, that is not a bad thing. The consumer can get a good value and, at the same time, the retailer can still make a little money; if not, the store eventually goes out of business.

The Rebate Ad:

Take note of any rebates or promotions that may be in an Ad. An ad may say BrandX DVD player for $29, but the fine print might say "after $50 mail-in rebate". You pay the $79 and the sales tax on the $79 at the register, and then get a coupon for the $50 mail-in rebate. Make sure the rebate coupon has a contact number or address that enables you to track your rebate. Rebates typically take 6-8 weeks to process.

Additional rebate or similar promotions that are offered by retailers may include:

- Free Satellite TV receiver with paid subscription to programming service for a specified period (similar to a cell phone contract).

- Free DVD player, DVD recorder, or even a Blu-ray Disc Player with purchase of big-screen LCD or Plasma television.

- Free Movies with purchase of Blu-ray Disc Player.

- Free Video Game with purchase of Sony Playstation 3, Xbox, Nintendo Wii, or other game console.

- Additional store gift certificate with purchase of a product above a certain dollar amount.

The Finance Promotion Ad:

Here is a type of Ad that you really need to look at carefully. Many times you will see an Ad, such as: "No Interest or Payments" for a specific time period, which can vary from 6 months to 2 years. However, this can be a fatal credit trap if you don't pay attention. The reason is that while it is true that you don't have to make any payments or pay interest during the specified time period mentioned in the Ad, interest still accrues during the time period, which can be quite substantial.

In other words, while you aren't required to make any principal or interest payments during the credit line period, make sure you make as many payments as possible, or pay the whole thing off, before the end of the credit period, otherwise you will start owing all of the interest charges accumulated since the date of purchase. This might be more that the price of the product.

For more tips on how to shop for home theater or consumer electronics products, check out my Practical Tips for Home Theater and Consumer Electronics Shopping and Holiday Shopping Survival Guide.

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