What Your TV Salesman Won’t Tell You

TV Salesman© Jochen Sand/Digital Vision/Thinkstock
1. Buy your new TV in September or January. That’s when the new models come out and the prices go way down on discontinued models. Another time to get a deal: Black Friday, if you’re willing to brave the crowds.

2. Shoppers’ questions boil down to this: LED, LCD, or plasma? LEDs and LCDs use the same technology, but LEDs are thinner and more expensive. LEDs can also be too reflective in a bright room. Plasmas offer the best picture for your money, especially if you’re watching at an angle, but they’re thicker than the others, and ghost images can be an issue.

3. Which brands do I recommend? For LCDs, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony have consistently been among the best in rankings by Consumer Reports. Among plasmas, Panasonic tops the list.

4. Our margins on TVs are so thin, they’re almost nonexistent. The prices are designed to get you in the store, and then we try to sell you the expensive cords, accessories, and, of course, the extended warranty. Don’t buy it. Problems are rare, and most repairs happen in the first year, when the standard manufacturer’s warranty still covers you.

5. And don’t spend a lot of money on a fancy HDMI cable. The one you can buy for $10 online is just as good as the $100 one in the store.

6. Flat screens have beautiful pictures, but the sound from most is pretty awful. If you can’t afford an expensive audio system, get external speakers

7. Want a great deal? Buy a refurbished set, a TV previously opened or returned. Check the warranty, though.

8. We’ve had customers put a tilt mount for a 50-inch television on the wall, miss a stud or two, and then have the thing come crashing down. Come on. These TVs weigh more than 100 pounds. Unless you’re a licensed contractor, pay for the professional install.

9. Yes, the TV we just mounted on your wall is high enough. The center of the screen should be 45 to 50 inches from the floor, putting it right at eye level. And don’t put it over your fireplace. It’s a TV, not artwork.

10. Even if you’re hanging your TV on the wall, keep the stand. You never know when you might decide to redecorate and place the TV on a piece of furniture. At least once a month, we get a call from someone looking for a particular stand, but TV technology changes so quickly that it’s a challenge for us to find the one you need.

11. 3-D TV is just a fad. Nobody is making content for it, and you’ve still got to wear the stupid glasses. We’re pushing it only because everyone already has a flat panel and we need to get you in the store.

12. Televisions in the store are set at their brightest levels to attract your eye. Adjust yours when you get home or the colors will be distorted.

13. Don’t expect your flat screen to be around forever. You’ll be lucky if it lasts five years. Today’s TVs are made to be replaced.

14. Always have your TV delivered and installed the same day. If it’s out of our possession and it doesn’t work when you turn it on, we may try to say that you caused the problem.

15. Thinner is not always better. If you’re setting your TV on a piece of furniture, why are you paying a premium for the thinnest technology?

16. Forget 3D. What’s really hot right now are TVs that connect to the Web. Most have “apps” that let you access streaming content on pre-selected sites such as Netflix, YouTube, and Vudu, to name a few. A few, like Google TV, offer full Web browsing.

17. If you’re connecting your TV to the Internet, think twice before you go wireless. Interference is still a big issue, especially if you live near an airport or another location with a lot of radios. To minimize headaches, hard-wire the TV to your modem.

18. If you do decide to get the extended warranty, ask whether the warranty will provide in-home service or if you’ll have to pay to pack up the TV and ship it somewhere, which can cost hundreds of dollars. Also ask if the warranty covers such problems as a power-supply replacement.

19. A contrast ratio of 50,000 to 1 may sound impressive, but because every manufacturer measures it differently, it’s really a meaningless number.

20. Unless you’re watching a lot of Blu-rays, you don’t need a resolution of ultrafine 1080p. Most people can’t tell the difference between 1080p and 1080i, and even if you could, there are no stations broadcasting in a resolution that high.

21. Save the box your TV came in, and the plastic Styrofoam that’s inside. If you move or something goes wrong and you have to ship the unit back to the manufacturer, you’ll be so glad you did.

Sources: David Davis of Davis Audio & Video in Chicago; Dennis Sage, owner of Dennis Sage Home Entertainment in Phoenix; a former TV salesman in Chicago; and Consumer Reports.

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