Six tech items you should never buy in-store

What's the one thing that traditional retail stores, even discount stores like Walmart, don't want you to know? They're charging way more for tech accessories than they need to.

Jae C. Hong/AP/File
A Walmart store in La Habra, Calif.

What's the one thing that traditional retail stores, even discount stores like Walmart, don't want you to know? They're charging WAY more for tech accessories than they need to.

Typically, stores that sell tech products make very little on big ticket items like HDTVs, and because of this, they price the cables and other accessories at a premium. The goal is to get a better profit margin off the accessories by upcharging, making it seem essential and urgent that you buy these things now, and hoping that you load up on them on your way out the door.

As a retail tech expert, I implore you not to fall into this trap. Buying certain kinds of tech accessories in-store is a huge waste of money. Buy online instead and you'll get the same products without the added in-store cost. Here are my picks for six kinds of items to ALWAYS buy online.


Cables are probably the number one item that stores overcharge for. Even before the dawn of the internet, savvy tech shoppers knew that you were better off ordering cables from a catalog rather than shelling out too much for them at RadioShack. Whether you are buying a speaker wire, a USB cord, an HDMI cord or Apple lightning cables, you are much better off looking for cable online at sites like AmazonNewegg, or at low-overhead direct-to-consumer companies like Monoprice.

For example, at Monoprice, you can get a 10ft HDMI Cable for $3.99 (plus around $2 for shipping), which is 50% less than even Amazon for a similar cable. The cheapest 10ft cable you can find at Best Buy? $39.99! That's a 10x markup for the same product!

Phone and tablet cases

We know, the sales folks at phone stores are really good at making you feel like you need to have a phone case before you walk out the door, lest you drop and break your new iPhone on your way to the car! But answer me this, has that EVER happened to you? Stay strong, friend. Put your new phone in your bag and leave it un-cased for the time being. You can get one later, for much, much less, online.

If you're not picky, you can find tons of generic plastic cases on Amazon and eBay, often for just a few dollars, such as this non-brand hard case iPhone 6 for $5.49 shipped.

But if you are more discriminating, even top brands can be found on those sites for less. For example, we found this Mophie Juice Pack Battery Case for Samsung Galaxy S5 (with a built-in 3,000 mAh Battery) for $19.99 shipped. It costs at least $37 anywhere else. Even brands like Otterbox and Body Glove sometimes run special discounts on their own direct sales sites that result in lower-than-retail prices. All it takes is a little searching for what you want and you'll save money.

Glass screen protectors

In the same vein, Brad's Deals blogger Caroline Thompson fell for this trap last year, when she upgraded to an iPhone 6S:

"The guy at T-Mobile made it seem like I NEEDED to buy this $39 glass screen protector because, after two years of wear and tear, my previous iPhone had a small crack in the screen. He 'sweetened' the deal by putting the cost of the screen protector on my bill, which was fine until the end of the month, when I had to pay $30 extra on my already pricy phone bill. After about a year, the screen protector was cracked, so I decided to look online for a new one. I found a deal for TWO of these glass screen protectors on Amazon for $7.99, and felt like an idiot for paying 10x more than I needed to the first time."

Computer accessories

Computers are like cars; once you get one, you realize there are all sorts of other items you need to make it run smoothly. Computer retailers are of course hoping you will buy that stuff from them: don't. Beyond just the markup, there's much more variety in both pricing and brands online. Brand variety is key. Most brick-in-mortar stores, in an effort to keep inventory manageable, will only carry a few of the many good brands out there for things like WiFi routers, modems, or back up drives. If you're not sure about a brand, keep an eye on customer reviews to avoid the lemons.

Of course, Amazon is a natural online contender and often you will find good prices there. Right now, you can get this Logitech wireless mouse on Amazon for $12.81, which is more than 50 percent less than its price any other store.

But be careful! Amazon is not always the cheapest. Do your research and check out other online retailers that also carry large selections, such as Newegg and B&H Photo. Oddly enough, even Staples' weekly deals section can have some best of web pricing on computer accessories that they only offer online. For example, this popular Apple Airport Time Capsule 2TB router and backup drive, is, at the the time of this article, $199. That's $75 less than anywhere else online.

HDTV screen cleaning kits

We can't even begin to tell you how ridiculously overpriced these things are! Do yourself a favor and just make your own. Seriously, it's just 50 percent distilled water (distilled is key) and 50 percent clear white vinegar. That's it. Even Walmart will charge you $9 for just a few measly ounces of the stuff, whereas you can make a gallon for just a few bucks. Even the cleaning cloths are not special. All you need is a microfiber cleaning cloth, which you may already have on hand, or which you can get in bulk for a as low as $6 and use for a variety of things around the house.

Laptop bags and backpacks

A good carrying case for your laptop or tablet is a common purchase that everyone has to make at some point. The problem is, the retailers know this. As with computer accessories, the brand selection is lacking and the deals are few and far between when you shop in store. This is not so when you shop online.

The deals on these can be in unusual places. For example, this I found this Samsonite laptop bag on the official Samsonite eBay store for only $14.99 with free shipping. This would sell for $40 or more anywhere else. Other online stores that often run great deals on laptop bags are BuyDigAdorama and Academy Sports. And all of those stores offer free shipping.

This story originally appeared on Brad's Deals.

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