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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Understanding PC Sources, Vendors and Prices ]

Vendor Evaluation Factors

Now that we have looked at the PC industry, discussed the different sources available for equipment, and talked about some of the ways you can do research on vendors and prices, we come to the heart of the matter: choosing a vendor. There are many different characteristics of vendors and how they do business that should be assessed in order to choose the best possible one.

In this section I will discuss all of the various factors you should consider when selecting a source. This includes the vendor's reputation and past history; pricing and selection; policies for handling various situations; customer service; and issues related to returns, guarantees and support. The factors are broken into general categories to keep them more manageable. I conclude with a listing of vendor "danger signals" that you should peruse and keep in mind when you are shopping, to help warn you of the few "bad apples" out there.

I must apologize for the size of this section--there's just a lot of knowledge related to assessing vendors that I want to share with you. Please don't be put off by the number of different factors discussed here. I am not suggesting you need to take a spreadsheet with you and evaluate every vendor on every one of these characteristics. They are listed as information for you to use as you see fit; I decided to be thorough, but I realize that can at times seem overwhelming. Just reading them should plant the "seeds" that will help you be a better consumer.

In most cases, not all of these evaluation factors will apply to every shopping situation, and how important one is relative to the others depends a great deal on your personality and your priorities. Read more about those areas that concern you more. I would say generally that the more money you are looking to spend, the more you need to consider all these factors.

Next: Reputation and History

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