FROM THE TUSTIN NEWS, THURSDAY, JUNE 26, 2003


THE DOC IS IN...

Buying a digital camera on the net

Buying on the Internet almost has become routine. That is, until I decided to shop for a digital camera. Then I found myself faced with a whole new set of choices.

Today almost everyone buys something on the Internet. We have become very comfortable purchasing books from Amazon (www.amazon.com). We seem to know all about them. Jeff Bezos is seen on television and numerous articles have appeared about him and his company. They are like old friends. I like it when I sign on to their web site and they greet me with "Welcome back Art." My credit card and shipping information is on file with them and shopping is easy and very safe.

I have purchased a number of computers from Dell on line (www.dell.com) with hardly any thought. I have a few other places where I purchase on line where I know the people and have no qualms about entering into a transaction.

When it came time to purchase a new digital camera all this changed. I knew that prices for cameras vary greatly. I knew the make and model of the camera I wanted but I didn't know where to buy it. Of course I first checked with MicroCenter here in Tustin. Roberto did not have the camera in stock but told me what would be their sale price. Then I looked on Amazon and eBay.

I decided that I would check other Internet prices. Google (www.google.com), the Internet search engine, yielded dozens of sites under the search, "compare camera prices." One site I visited was www.cnet.com. Under "Canon G-3," there were dozens of stores that featured this particular camera. Prices varied all over the place. Two stores had rather attractive prices. Cnet rates their stores, though I suspect they are paid advertisers. Nevertheless, I looked at the two high rated merchants with the lowest prices and compared shipping cost. One store had a rather high shipping cost. The other store had a slightly higher camera price but a more reasonable shipping price. My gut told me to go with the more reasonable shipping cost.

I chose BuyDigitalDirect at www.buydigitaldirect.com. I didn't know the store but knew from experience that if I purchased by credit card, my credit card company would stand behind the purchase if there were problems. I filled out their purchase form and submitted the transaction. One thing that impressed me was their statement that if the shipping address was different than my card address, I would have to have the approval of my credit card company. I had not seen this question before and thought this was a good safety check.

The next day I received an email from Justin at BuyDigitalDirect asking me to telephone. When I did, Justin wanted to confirm the order and ask me for the "secret" identification numbers on my credit card. These are the three digits that appear on the back of the card. Giving him these numbers confirmed that I had the card in my possession and further guaranteed that this was a legitimate transaction. A few days later my camera arrived via Federal Express, one day before the scheduled delivery. This purchase went flawlessly and I would have no hesitation buying from this store again though I might telephone Justin directly and save a day.

A few days later I again checked Internet prices and BuyDigitalDirect indicated a higher price for the same camera. I called Justin and he told me they have little control over how price comparisons get shown on the Internet. The new price shown was for the same camera but included a new accessory package.

All in all, it was a good experience even though there were some moments of doubt dealing with an unknown merchant. Internet comparison shopping works and credit card transactions are safe if you have a good credit card company.

If you would like to hear more about Internet shopping or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.

 _____________________________________________________________________________

Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: www.arholub.com. This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at: doc@arholub.com.


Return to Doc's Home Page