When it comes to shopping for appliances, it's not just about the
big retail stores anymore. Online stores, independent retailers and
even QVC (the TV-shopping channel) have been among the most satisfying
places to buy appliances, according to survey responses from more than
16,000 Consumer Reports® subscribers.
The research found that overall, 92 percent of respondents were highly
satisfied buying small appliances online. As for walk-in stores, over
three-quarters (77 percent) were highly satisfied.
Abt Electronics, which is based in the Chicago area and ships nationwide,
was among the top retailers for large appliances. It reaped praise from
shoppers who bought one or more appliances in the past year. CR didn't
have enough responses to report on every appliance retailer, but Sears
and Best Buy in particular received low grades for returns.
For small-appliance purchases, Amazon and QVC topped the list. Amazon
received high marks overall from shoppers and was a standout for selection,
while QVC also had among the highest scores for customer satisfaction.
CR did learn of some criticism from respondents who'd shopped for small
appliances such as vacuum cleaners, gas grills and coffee makers. Product
selection, service at the time of purchase, and the checkout experience
were particular sore points, especially at Wal-Mart and its warehouse-club
sibling, Sam's Club.
Tips for Appliance Shopping
Overall, people were generally happy with their experiences shopping
for appliances, especially compared with other consumer services CR
measures. But some strategies they tried made shopping more successful:
Plan ahead to get good prices. Almost 30 percent of those shopping
for major appliances looked up buying advice on retailers' websites
before making their purchase. Of those shoppers, 75 percent found
it helpful. Sign up on a retailer's website weeks before a purchase
to receive e-mail coupons and other promotional deals such as rebates,
free shipping and so-called VIP sales. And try haggling. According
to 35 percent of major-appliance shoppers who tried to negotiate prices,
72 percent were successful with a median savings of $97.
Choose a store for its selection. Survey respondents who bought
major appliances praised Abt Electronics and the Best Buy-owned Pacific
Sales for having an ample selection. Home Depot got low marks for
its selection of small and major appliances. Amazon received high
marks overall from shoppers for small appliances and was a standout
for selection, while Costco and Sam's Club, the two warehouse clubs
in the survey, received low scores for small-appliance selection.
Consumers search for service. Independent retailers earned high
marks from shoppers for major and small appliances. Abt got top marks
among shoppers of major appliances, and independent retailers had
the highest marks from small-appliance shoppers at walk-in stores.
All the other venues except Sears had low scores.
Watch out for warranties. Eighty-three percent of shoppers for
major appliances said their checkout didn't conclude without at least
a suggestion that they purchase an extended warranty. The median price
paid for an extended warranty or service contract was $113 for a major
appliance and $40 for a small appliance. CR doesn't recommend purchasing
a warranty or service contract because most repairs do not occur during
the limited time period covered by the extended warranty. Consumers
who do purchase one should be sure to understand the terms, particularly
how it differs from the standard warranty and which years it covers.
Visit the Consumer Reports Web site at www.consumerreports.org.