Buying Stuff Locally

by Bob Seidel

As many people do these days, I buy a lot of my stuff on the Internet. There are advantages and disadvantages to doing that. But the biggest disadvantage is that you can't actually see and feel the product you want to buy. So, there are times when a local store comes in handy.

But, I very much dislike people who go to the local store, take their salesperson's time to view and explain the product, not buy, and then go home and purchase on the Internet. If enough people did this, there would be no local stores, because they wouldn't be making any dough.

If I do utilize the local stores, I try to give them every opportunity to make the sale. This means that the salesperson has to do a good, knowledgeable job, they have to have at least an acceptable price, and they should have the item in stock.

With that philosophy in mind, I ventured forth last Sunday to Wilmington to buy a new PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) - otherwise known as a Palm Pilot to the uninitiated. My years old Palm III model was telling me in no uncertain terms that it was on its last leg. I don't want to spend a lot of space here explaining all the different models and types, but suffice it to say that I wanted a PocketPC type (this uses a Microsoft operating system based on Windows) as opposed to a Palm-type unit. The main advantage of the PocketPC is that it has the best capabilities to synchronize with a desktop using Microsoft Outlook, and they also have version of Microsoft Word and Excel included. Palm units are generally less expensive, are easier to use, and have a lot more free software you can get for them, but don't have Word or Excel and don't synchronize as well.

I walked into Local Electronics Store #1. They didn't have much of a selection. A salesperson approached me, but wasn't too helpful. He didn't know what they had in stock, said he was looking behind the display unit for more, but eventually just walked away. They didn't have many units to show - most of the holders designed to display the units were empty. Oh well, on to the next store.

Local Electronics Store #2 had much more of a selection. A fairly knowledgeable salesperson showed up; my (unbeknownst to him) test questions were mostly answered correctly. I found a model I liked; some time during the discussion I asked him if he had the unit in stock - the answer was "Yes". One small fluke: the unit display card said it used Pocket PC 2003. But there IS no such version available yet - the rumor mill says it will ship at the end of June. He didn't know that, and said that in fact the unit had the 2003 version.

However, this was a minor problem. I picked out some accessories while he opened the locked cabinet to get the unit. Whoops. Sorry. We don't have it in stock - that was a different model that he saw earlier. He then went to his computer terminal to check the warehouse. Nope - none in stock either. So, I departed with cash still in pocket.

Actually, I shouldn't be too critical. If I read between the lines, they were probably saying "Hey - that is now an old model and about be superceded. Just wait." OK - so why did the display card say "Advertised Special" if they didn't have any and couldn't get any. Please don't waste my time.

After that, my wife and I went to the Local Discount Store to get some other stuff. There we saw new, boxed Compaq Presario PC systems that included a very capable processor, plenty of RAM, a fairly large hard drive, a CD writer, 17" CRT monitor, keyboard, speakers, and mouse for $497! I have made the point recently that I think that upgrading an old computer just isn't worth the money. Now with computers becoming commodity items, you just throw the old one away, or donate it.

Speaking of which, there may soon be an opportunity to donate your old computer to a locally organized charity drive. Stay tuned...

(Bob Seidel is a local computer consultant in the Southport / Oak Island area. You can visit his website at or e-mail him at