Black Friday is rapidly approaching. The supposed “biggest shopping day of the year,” which officially kicks off the chaotic holiday shopping season, is exactly two weeks away. With this in mind, many people – especially students and parents – will be thinking of purchasing a new computer or some other electronics. Which brings me nicely to the issue I wanted to address: the purchasing experience. In the Santa Barbara area, we are extremely limited in the stores we can go to. There is the UCSB Bookstore, CompUSA, Costco and Best Buy in Oxnard or the option of shopping online.

For many, CompUSA will be the closest and most well-known place to buy your electronics. I’ve had the great privilege of being a “team member,” so I have some tips I would like to share with you.

First off, it’s a fact too many people go to CompUSA salesmen with the mindset that these people are “trained experts.” Let me set the record straight: not even close. The only real training they receive is on how to sell effectively and then “upsell” you more stuff. While this might sound a bit negative, the salesmen at CompUSA are in actuality just doing their jobs and can be knowledgeable. However, I would strongly suggest doing a little research before running around the store like a headless chicken. While we are on the subject of asking a salesman for advice, don’t question their knowledge if they say something you don’t want to hear. This is incredibly rude – shame on you.

Most of the electronics stores will also try and sell you Technology Assurance Program service plans. WTF is TAP? Now don’t get all excited – it is just an upgraded service plan for the electronics you purchase. Companies like CompUSA tend to push these plans hard because they have high profit margins. But for most of the time they are no-brainers, since TAP only costs a fraction of the price of your item. However, when it comes to the more significant purchases – computers, televisions, laptops – take a step back to think about it. Some plans might be worth the extra cost, while for other things, they may not be. For example, the most expensive TAP plan for laptops includes battery exchange, internal component repair and screen replacement. The screen protection alone is worth the cost of the plan. Television plans for plasmas and Digital Light Processing projectors might be worth it because they tend to be more fragile, but falling costs for LCD televisions might not justify the need for TAP. Monitor TAP is a must-purchase. If you don’t think you should buy the $30, two-year plan that covers full, undepreciated replacement, then someone needs to slap the ignorance out of you. Prices of electronics fall… think of all that can happen in two whole years. Those people who think their electronics will never break are only kidding themselves.

As for finding the lowest prices, check out However, there are those of you who go into the stores to physically check something out, knowing the entire time you are just going to buy it online. There is something deeply wrong about this practice – it just does not seem right. Also, salesmen can pick you out like an Asian kid at a UCSB frat party, so please try to refrain from being that guy.

Basically what I am trying to say is the salesmen at these electronic resell chains do not get the proper training you would hope for. Do some homework before you venture out there. Also, don’t brush off the salesman when they put their ego on the line to pitch you these “protection plans.” Think about it logically and see if it really is something that can be of benefit to you. Most likely you will be better off with it. One last point: Being a salesman is hard work. Please don’t treat them like shit and remember at the end of the day, they are people, too.