Christmas shopping online

As my last article before Christmas, I had big plans of somehow tying the subject of Computing and Christmas together but unfortunately the two don’t seem to compliment each other too fashionably so instead I have opted to answer a couple of readers questions.

I regularly read your article in the H & E and although as one of the older generation and not being very conversant with all the IT technology/terminology I find it very informative and helpful.I have been able to use my son’s computer whilst he has been away and have decided to purchase a system however my concern is that I am unsure whether to purchase via one of the large companies or would it be more sensible to use a smaller reputable local company who are able to give me local back up if required?I’m not even sure if you actually sell systems.

I am not very conversant with all the technical jargon and unsure of the best way to go about this; I know what I want to use it for but need the help of someone to give me honest advice not sales tactics - more as an knowledgeable friend than a salesman who can recommend a local reliable company if this is the way to go as so many small businesses seem to be here today and gone tomorrow.

Carole Lamont, via E-mail

Also on the same subject was the e-mail received below:

I value the benefit I get firm your advice in the Herald Express and would be grateful if you could spare a moment to help me.I am thinking of spending about £800 on a new computer and would like to buy from a local firm to take advantage of the local support this would bring.I know of several small firms in the Torquay area who build computers and have no idea how to choose between them as I know no-one with any experience of them.I appreciate that you cannot recommend or condemn any particular firm, but any general advice would be appreciated.

Jean Birkett, via E-mail

There is no right answer to either of these questions as going to a local company will not necessarily offer you better support than going to a national chain; many of the customers that I gained in my time repairing computers were patrons of local shops that had either stopped trading or who refused to offer support in a particular circumstance.Having said that, there are plenty of reputable suppliers in the bay that will offer you excellent customer support but I feel loathed to recommend one in this column as I’ve had very little experience dealing with directly with them and any advice I give would be based mainly on conjecture and hearsay.

If you were thinking of going national then there are a few national suppliers such as Dell who have built up a good reputation but I overall I’d say that on the whole the larger companies are pretty poor when it comes to support; often charging you 50p a minute when you phone up to discuss a problem you are having with your machine.Don’t bother with getting an extended warranty as usually they are extremely overpriced as by the machines standard one year warranty runs out, it will probably only be worth what you paid for it anyway.Don’t think that you’re insuring a £1000 machine as in reality you’re insuring a machine that will be worth £500 by the time the mandatory one year warranty runs out.

If you were to go to a local supplier then one of the first questions you should ask is how long they have been in business for as I have seen far too many fly by night companies.Many good local suppliers will also have a list of customers you could look at that are impressed with their service and are willing to testify so; speaking to past customers will usually give you a good idea of how their after sales service squares up.Finally, get an idea in your head of roughly what it is that you want and then phone up a few companies and ask for quotes to see how their pricing compares.Finally, when you have chosen a company, don’t be forced into paying upfront for the machine although obviously you may be required to leave a deposit.

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.