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For best deals on gadgets, wait and research

by Sierra Millman
January 19, 2006

You wanted it, you bought it, you own it -- but is the latest technology all it promised to be?

"The average person makes an impulse purchase without doing the research first," said James Ruffer III, the director of business services at On Deck Tech, a national technology consulting service based in Chicago.

For Ruffer, teaching technology is all about assessing the gravity of the buyer's need or maybe just the intensity of their desire. "As far as entertainment or luxury items go, I would want to give them a time frame or I would say buy it -- buy it and play with it."

"There's a lot of reasons why people buy the first round," said Bill Carson, the owner of national technology consulting firm 3 Geeks and a Mouse. "Some of it's to beat the Joneses."

Those willing to wait can save more than the Joneses, taking advantage of the post-holiday sales period, Carson said. "End of the year, beginning of the year -- there's some good times to buy technology."

Of course, individuals may be able to afford the premium cost of the newest technology, but businesses will want to make sure that the rewards top the risk, Ruffer said, and fellow technology consultants agree.

"If it's our business clients, then we have them hold off and we do all sorts of testing and stuff like that before we actually implement the new technology," said Dustin Templeton, director of sales for MacSpecialist, an Apple specialist in Villa Park. While consumers may be running four or five computer applications at once, businesses could be running hundreds, Templeton said. Consumer products are generally simple, he added. They usually "seem to work a little bit better out of the box."

Technology consultants with Gurus2Go, a Dallas-based national computer repair center that calls the Chicago area a top market, recommend waiting on new technology. "It's usually more prudent to watch it as it's rolled out and not be the first," said J.D. Bryant, the company's owner. "Unless there's a significant competitive advantage that the technology will provide the business."

Shoppers determined to have the latest gadget may need a competitive advantage, especially around the holiday season. The popular Xbox 360 arrived in stores on Nov. 22, and quickly sold out; as demand drove up prices, eBay vendors were able to ask the most determined shoppers for more than $1,000 for the Xbox with hard drive, which retailed at $399, according to USA Today.

About this time of year, the gifts have been unwrapped, the holiday papers have been recycled and people are ready to put their technology to use. "We usually see it about the second week of January to the third week of January -- consumers are fed up dealing with India, trying to get this new technology to work," said Gurus2Go's Bryant. "And at that point, they'll call in our experts to assist them. And it really is traditional every year."

In the aftermath of the dot-com boom, customers may be more likely to call a geek than an expert. "The dot-com era caused the geek to have class, because they all got wealthy," said Carson, who chose the name 3 Geeks and a Mouse when his company went national.

Other geeks serving the area include At Home Geeks and Computer Geeks. Best Buy introduced its own national technical support team, the Geek Squad, in October of 2002.

But for some companies, the stigma hasn't quite faded away. "We like to pride ourselves on the skills our guys in the field have," said Gurus2Go's Bryant. "And we really didn't feel that geek was an appropriate term. We're not guys with glasses with tape in the middle."

Whether they're geeks, gurus or something else entirely, these specialists unite in recommending that confused customers take advantage of the information superhighway, potholes and all, where they can find articles and reviews, forums and associations.

"Just start reading away," MacSpecialist's Templeton said. Then you can go shopping.

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