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June 05, 2008

MY EARLIER POST on buying big items on Amazon produced an email shortly afterward from reader Scott Milner, who wrote:

Who knew that a simple post about Amazon's sale on fitness equipment would be such a boon to your readers?

A month ago my wife and I ordered a Whirlpool double oven from Best Buy to complete our kitchen renovation. Delivery was scheduled yesterday and, sure enough, the delivery guys showed up with the item. They were in and out in a flash. Unfortunately, the oven had endured some abuse at some point and so it arrived in an unusable condition. I called Best Buy and the only promise they could make was that a replacement would be on its way with an expected arrival date some four weeks from now. Not a huge deal except we'd already discarded the old oven and... we're listing the house for sale today!

I remembered your post regarding Amazon and large items/appliances so I logged in and found the identical item. A quick call to the vendor (their 1-800 number was listed on Amazon's site) and I was able to speak to an eminently helpful salesman. He had the item in stock and could guarantee delivery by Tuesday of next week. He also promised to physically check the item before it shipped to ensure that it was undamaged. The biggest surprise is that I can buy this oven, identical to the one I bought at Best Buy, free of sales tax and for more than $300 less than BB's price, shipping included.

It's not an ideal situation, having to show the house to potential buyers without having a working oven, but this independent wholesaler working in conjunction with a major online retailer has saved me hundreds of dollars and was virtually instantly able to remedy a huge headache AND help with the sale of my home.

Best Buy, as well as Lowe's and Home Depot, have, without fail, dropped the ball on every custom order item we have purchased through them in the last four months. My wife's new mantra is that we will not shop at those places for anything that we cannot carry out of the store that day. Amazon, by simply making the introductions between customers and vendors, will hand the big box stores their collective lunch... and I'll smile because they deserve it.

I followed up and asked him how it went a while later, and he replied:

The oven arrived yesterday in perfect condition. The delivery crew called the day before and gave me a delivery window of about an hour and a half (which beats the hell out the 4 hour or larger windows of most utilities and Best Buy's own delivery team by a long shot). The gentlemen were courteous, careful and even unpacked the oven and took the material away for disposal.

I'll say it again, I will not shop at Best Buy, Lowe's or Home Depot for anything that I cannot carry out of the store that day. Independent retailers who can provide the kind of service I received for the price I paid will eat the big guys' collective lunch.

Cool. Then I followed up several weeks later to see how it was going, and he replied: "Everything is working great! Thanks again for the inspiration to try Amazon." I wish I owned stock.

Meanwhile, reader Tom Ganley sends this report about buying tires on the Internet:

I recently bought a set of tires for my son's 2006 Mazda 3. I bought the tires from www.tirerack.com. They also have a nationwide network of recommended installers. I called the one closest to my house and had the tires shipped directly to them. When they came in (a couple of days) I took the car down and had them mounted, balanced and installed.

Bottom line, I saved $110, or about 20%.

Cons: By not buying from the installer, I didn't get free life of the tire balancing, flat repair, or rotation.

Pros: The biggest pro is the time saved by not having to call around and find the best prices and availability. I'm a compulsive bargain shopper and I've spent days doing this in the past, calling people, waiting for call backs, looking for better prices etc. It was a quick and painless process and I saved over a $100.

I've bought tires from The Tire Rack several times before and always had good luck. Plus, this puts pressure on local retailers to do a better job, benefiting even those who don't buy online.

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