What Your TV Salesman Won’t Tell You

Shopping televisions? Here, TV salesmen share their secrets for selling small screens, or, these days, big flat screens. Learn what to look for and what to skip.

By Michelle Crouch from Reader's Digest | December 2011 / January 2012

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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  • Your Comments

    • Db9870

      I bought a nice quadraphonic setup when they first came out. Within a year you could not buy a quad tape. I suspect that 3D will also go that way. I’m probably not going to buy a 3D set.

    • Dustinsolo

      I can’t believe what I’m reading. Customers of the world! Hear a good man! I forewarn you NOT to follow this idiots list of things to consider while taking a dump! I too am a Tv salesman. Service plans can be a good thing and a bad thing. There are people out there that will vouch for both. Its like BW said down there wouldn’t you rather sit on your couch to watch your favourite program knowing your TV is going to continue working for the longest possible amount of time without anymore money from your pocket? Its usually easy to tell whether or not the salesman believes in the service plan him/herself. Personally if i were to buy a product that has been increasingly mass produced surely i would protect it at the cost i would purchase it at. They cant possibly put every tv through serious testing. You might be the lucky guy. A shocking percentage of product in every average electronic store will leave in a customers hands a lemon. 

      You just sound like a customer who talked to a staff member at best buy only to go home and regurgitate amateur approach to selling a TV. 

      A plasmas reflective screen doesn’t need to be a problem. There are great anti-glare plasmas out there. But also a good salesman will figure out where the tv is going to be place before suggesting one. If you’re putting your Tv in your basement for instance…where you can limit the light in the room verses the light on the screen, sit back and enjoy the game or your favourite movie GLARE FREE!!!

      HDMI cables or ANY cable for that matter cheap is not always better. For some cables its also important to consider the engineering of the cable itself. In any case some manufactures offer “cable for life” warrantees that will replace your cable even if the dog chews it up.

      3D content is an excellent NOVELTY. Your making it sound like if you were to purchase a 3D tv that you would have to watch it in 3D all the time. This is false. Most 3D TVs will allow you to switch from 2D to 3D at the push of a button. Its sometimes nice to watch a movie in 3D with the family its just a different experience with surround sound and classics like the Lion King. Not to mention Upconversion on some 3D tvs allows you to make 2D photos and video games 3D for neat slide shows and funner gaming!

      You also mention TVs with web capabilities. You forget to mention that there are great Smart Tvs with 3D Capabilities and having it all in one is even better.

      Do some research before you bullshit readers. Its people like you that make people afraid to consult professionals when looking for the right product. When people like you poke their heads into sales and say “I got the service plan and i didn’t ever have to fix my tv!” after we’ve spent sometimes HOURS building their trust in hopes that they don’t make the wrong decisions. It ruins my day and wastes their time and money when they DO HAVE TO GET IT FIXED. Most of us are here to help especially when its our money being made. In commission, if you return your tv we lose our money. Doesn’t it just make sense that we find you the right one to begin with?

    • Hsk Panasonic

      WELL TO START WITH I WOULD LIKE TO BRING THIS TO EVERYONE’S NOTICE IS THAT NO CONSUMER IS A BUYING ANY PRODUCT FOR THAT MATTER WITHOUT COMPARISON OR KNOWLEDGE. THEY ARE WELL EQUIPPED WITH THE HELP OF INTERNET AND MOUTH PUBLICITY OF VARIOUS TECHNOLOGIES AROUND. 
      AS FAR AS LCD, LED AND PLASMA IS CONCERNED NO DOUBT PLASMA ARE THE BEST AS FAR AS COLOR REPRODUCTION IS CONCERNED AS IT REPRODUCES MOST NATURAL AND REALISTIC COLORS. THE BLACKS ARE EXCELLENT EVEN TOUGH LED’S CLAIM TO BE CLOSER. NO BACK-LIT TECHNOLOGY CAN PRODUCE COLOR DETAILS AND BLACKS IS PROVEN BY CONSUMERS AFTER INTENSE COMPARISON THEY DO IN THE MARKET TODAY.
      FULL HD AND HD READY ANOTHER CONFUSION IS TO BE DEAL WITH ACTUAL REQUIREMENT OF THE CONSUMER. 
      BUT THE FACT IS THAT YES PLASMA TV IS UNDOUBTEDLY THE BEST WHEN PICTURE QUALITY FOR COLOR IS CONCERNED AND LIFE LIKE CLARITY IS CONCERNED AND I THINK A BIG INVESTMENT FOR SUCH A TV TECHNOLOGY IS CONCERNED.
      I STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY DO CONFUSED SALES REPRESENTATIVES OF BRANDS TRY TO SELL EASY TECHNOLOGY, IN FACT THEY SHOULD LITERATE CONSUMER BETTER BY EXPLAINING THE ACTUALLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COLORS BETWEEN TV’S WHEN LIVE DEMO IS PERFORMED AT SHOP FLOOR. LCD / LED THE BRIGHTNESS IS A MIS-CONCEPT FOR CLARITY, CLARITY DEPENDS ON COLOR DETAILS ON HOW NATURAL AND REALISTIC THEY ARE NOT BRIGHT.
      I SAY PLASMA IS THE BEST BUY  NO DOUBT.

      • Billiecat5444

        All caps read as if you’re shouting.

    • Anonymous

      LED is for the backlighting of LCD, there is no LED tv.  LED replaces the fluorescent lamps for backlighting, they are faster, and more controllable, and can turn on or off at individually defined areas, for better contrast maybe.   they are not what makes up the images, as the advertising leads the unknowing to think! This article is really baaad, and incorrect!  What clown got paid for this stuff.