In today’s world, we are all consumers. Consumers of goods, consumers of services, consumers of entertainment and consumers of news, and all of these, in some form or other other, do require us to spend our money.
So it is in our own interests to be smarter consumers, making more efficient use of our time and money so as to obtain the maximum benefit. Here are a few tips for accomplishing this:
1. Buy from reputable sources
Whether it is goods or services, its always good to buy from a place you can trust. This does not have to mean buying from a large supermarket – neither are they always automatically reliable. Rather, establish trust with your retailer over a period of time and show yourself to be a discerning consumer. If buying online, check the rating of the seller (available separately from product rating) and prefer those with higher ratings, even if their prices are slightly higher.
2. Check references when hiring services
Similarly, when you are hiring a service provider, such as a contractor, interior decorator, even a nursing agency or gym trainer, do your research on his or her reputation. Finding someone who quotes a cheap rate is easy, but sometimes a bad contractor can end up doing damage that costs more to repair than the original estimate. Do your investigation before you hire.
3. For big ticket purchases, shop around
When purchasing a toothbrush or soap you may not care much what you pay, but if you’re buying something expensive that you want to last a long time, do your research and take multiple quotes. Dealers of electronic goods are in a healthy competition with each other, and will often try to match prices with each other. Do not be in a hurry or make an impulse purchase no matter how much the salesman tries to pressure you. Take at least 3 quotes before finally putting down the money.
4. Determine ‘cost per use’
The most important aspect of a purchase should not be the absolute cost, but rather the cost-per-use. When buying a watch, for instance, a costly watch may seem excessive, but the best brands of watches can last for decades, while cheap plastic barely lasts a year. Similarly a tailored suit invariably lasts much longer than an off-the-shelf piece. If the cost on a per-year or per-month basis is lower for the more expensive item, give serious consideration to buying that.
5. Ask the questions you need to – before you buy
Whether buying online or offline, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask before you make the purchase. In any case, after you have paid, it isn’t going to matter. So any questions you have about warranties, installation charges, refund policy or even whether the item you are buying is new or used, it should be asked upfront. Don’t let the seller stick you with an unpleasant surprise later!
6. If there is a contract, read it
If you have to sign a contract of any sort, whether it is for financing your purchase or for hiring a service provider or even as a part of the warranty conditions, do take the time to read it. This is especially true when you are buying any sort of insurance, continuous maintenance contract or similar. Often you will find some clauses unfavourable to you as the consumer hidden in there, and in such cases, do question them and re-consider whether you want to opt for this provider.
7. Keep the receipt
Whatever you buy, always keep the receipt, if possible for as long as the item is in use. Remember, customer service not only demands that you have a proof of purchase, but also needs it for their own records. A little paperwork goes a long way in making life easier in later life.
In summary, stop, think and question before you make any purchase. That’s what separates the smart consumer from the ordinary one.