Shopping for laptop computers in Taiwan is designed to make the buyer feel they won a great deal through a series of flexible promotions. What an experience. A great deal has good CP值, cost-performance ratio, the all-important (yet entirely vague) metric for people who have activated their Asian grandma bargaining powers.
On my way to becoming an average Taiwanese buyer of Macs and PCs, I learned:
- The advantage of buying computers online is being able to return items and clearer pricing.
- Things change at physical stores, where if you’re feeling lucky, you can negotiate a little more CP值.
|Laptop Computer||筆電 (bǐdiàn)|
|Sale (colloquial)||活動 (huódòng)|
If the laptop you purchased is already broken, the store has to take it back, though computer sellers in Taiwan don’t have much of a return policy, if at all. Costco is the exception, which is almost the one I know in America — same 90-day return policy, longer lines for free samples.
So how do we know we’re getting what we paid for? The solution Taiwanese stores came up with is when you buy a laptop, the salesperson opens the box in front of you to explain the technology, show everything included, how it works, and confirm nothing is broken. It’s a nice little bit of service. You get what you get, fewer scams, and sincerity wins the day. Yes, Taiwanese love false humility, but carefully-positioned sincerity is treasured from the people we really like.
While false humility is a likable trait, sincerity builds trust. In Taiwanese culture, going out of your way to be insincere is probably as strong of an insult one can make.
At times, ‘No returns’ can be just as annoying as it sounds, especially if the technology doesn’t work the way we thought. We all know what that’s like. The 3x difference in price between a BenQ ScreenBar and the Xiaomi copy is a thing that works as advertised vs. may need tweaking.
I bought a USB monitor light bar that buzzed when plugged into a monitor’s USB port. This is what you get when you buy the (Chinese) copy of a product. A few trips to the service center later, I bought a separate USB charger.
Yes, I spent less cash. Achieving a higher CP值. But things we often use cost more than money. Some people spend time to save money, sometimes the other way is better.
|Apple Store||Authorized Retailers||Campus Stores (Students)|
|Best customer service, no negotiation||Discounts on extended warranties or accessories packages||Academic pricing, additional discounts, instant tax rebate|
The Apple Store, where the price is the price. Taipei is the only city with an Apple Store (two of them), so this isn’t practical for people who live elsewhere.
Apple Authorized Retailers. The price is still the price, though there could be discounts on an extended warranty or an accessories package. A USB-C hub, universal charging cable, something like that which you might be able to bargain an exchange for. I’d ask whether there’s an alternative because what’s offered isn’t as useful for you.
Hundreds of people buy from these stores everyday, and most of my interactions have gone as expected, but there have been some weird experiences, too.
While a Data Express salesperson performed the unboxing, we discovered the product was chipped. It wasn’t broken, though it certainly wasn’t new. The store manager wouldn’t allow an exchange and unfortunately, I paid cash.
The good news is Taipei City has a Consumer Dispute Mediation Commission. I’ll spare you the details, just know this requires months to resolve.
Not all store managers are alike. But if you’re paying full price, if you can, go get the full Apple experience from the Apple Store. They’re not perfect either, but the overall service is *chef’s kiss.*
Students. Apple’s higher education discount is the clearest way to save. My hot tip for you is there’s also chain stores on or near campuses, like Mr. Computer — where you can squeeze out more CP值 through different discounts throughout the year.
- Apple academic pricing on most items
- Promotions like a $500 credit for every $10,000 spent, headphones, etc.
- This is the best part → if you’re eligible for a tax rebate, Mr. Computer can process the paperwork and lower the price some more
|List Price||Online to Offline||Promotional Packages|
|Ask for a discount, they’ll probably give it to you||Lots of different configurations make it tough to make direct comparisons||Stores often offer additional extras that aren’t available online|
Buying a PC online leaves CP值 on the table. Due to a factorial number of brands and configurations, there’s more gamesmanship. Now we have incentives to shop around.
List price. Ask for a discount! On my first visit to the HP store in Syntrend, they offered to lower the price by $1,000.
Sometimes the store pulls out a calculator to punch up an exact figure, for a little CP值 theatre.
Online to offline, the prices might be comparable, but expect the kind of differences in specifications that lead to creating your own comparison chart. e.g., RAM, SSD, warranty. A 3-year vs. 1-year global warranty was a big factor for me. Much like working with Windows, you’ll have to do some of your own configuring to figure out what’s best for you.
Promotional packages are another way to convince you to buy from a different store, much like Samsung does with their smartphones in Taiwan. PCs usually come with better stuff and some items are negotiable.
- Both the online and offline deal for my HP Dragonfly G2 includes the same HP accessories. A $2,990 HP/Wacom digital pen, a $2,680 HP 635 mouse, a $2,680 HP executive backpack, and a pencil case with screen wipes and a pen that sprays disinfectant from a refillable chamber — I’m into it.
- In-store, a few additional goodies.
- One-year of Microsoft Office 365, a $3,190 cost, which I didn’t need. My university rides with Office 2019. They dropped the price by $2,000.
- Mail-in coupon for a $2,588 Seagate external 500GB SSD
- Two more years of warranty coverage, which usually costs $6,990
- Tickets for a monthly giveaway. This month’s prize is a 32” monitor.
Spending more to save more. This package is generous because it’s the beginning of the school year and this is a higher-end configuration HP has too many of. Such is the business world. Too much supply, not enough demand, many potential buyers, makes a store thirsty.
The original price of $79,900 was lowered to $75,900. I bargained an additional $2,000 off to make the cash price $73,900, then received $17,928 in extras. This deal reflects the bargaining corporate purchasing departments do.
If you wanted this particular laptop, then this is a good deal. But actually, I could have bought a well-built laptop with similar performance, made by HP, for almost half as much. That’s why it’s important to know what you want.
I like the understated sales team at Apple and HP but this isn’t always true, and I am struggling not to call attention to sleazy salespeople, oops I called attention to it. Here’s the truth. Other people won’t always have your best interests at heart.
On one hand, there are clear and sincere people in this business, and there are those who might have learned their craft from the used car lot. Occasionally, a tactic emerges like negging — an emotional manipulation pattern leading the listener to question their own knowledge and rely on the other person.
Maybe they’ll tell you last year’s model or part is almost the same as the one you’re looking for. It’s possible the seller doesn’t know the difference, maybe they mean you won’t notice the gap in day-to-day use, or they might be attempting to clear old inventory. Hopefully this means you can get a much better deal, but it remains your responsibility to know the difference and whether it matters.
Walking from one stall to the next, most salespeople are passively proactive, but sometimes they try to be clever to get your attention. When every store sells a substitute good, the carnival barking begins — what people say and do to draw the attention of passers-by to their stall. My advice is don’t let your window shopping turn into a major purchase. Salespeople do whatever they think they’re supposed to be doing to get a customer. You do you.