If you're looking for a new TV, should you shop at a giant warehouse store like Costco, or are you better off at an independent electronics store? Consumer Reports' just-released survey of its subscribers can help you decide.
"Your local independent stores tend to have a very good selection of products, and they tend to have high-quality products, higher than some of the other walk-in or big-chain stores have," said Carol Mangis of Consumer Reports.
And customer service at independent stores is often top-notch. But Costco topped the ratings in prices and has a generous return policy for electronics.
"But what you should be aware of is that you do have to pay for a membership, and also their customer service leaves a little to be desired," said Mangis.
Among all the stores in the ratings, Wal-Mart came in at the bottom of the chart. It got low marks for customer service and selection, though overall its customers were generally satisfied.
If you want to let your fingers do the shopping, there's good news. Consumer Reports found websites outdid walk-in stores for quality, selection and price. bhphotovideo.com and Crutchfield.com were among the standouts. And Crutchfield ranked high for customer service.
"They make it quite easy for you to get in touch with them if you have questions. You can call them directly or e-mail them, or you can open up a live chat window as you shop," said Mangis.
And there are no long checkout lines to keep you waiting.
And another tip from Consumer Reports - whether you're shopping in a store or online, it pays to ask for a better deal. The survey showed that shoppers who bargained were successful most of the time.