Online Retailer Series: PART I
Tip #1: Buy ONLY What You 100% Understand
We are standing in the midst of an incredible consumer moment: Resources like Amazon and eBay have transformed the dental supply industry with rapid and competitive order fulfillment at the click of a button. The freedom to independently purchase means no longer being at the mercy of sales reps or vendors, and enjoying convenience with attractive prices. It’s a wonderful time to be a consumer.
Despite the advantages, a closer look will show these advancements come with fine print. The new landscape is muddied with hidden costs, price traps, and costly mistakes that are easy to make. Join us as we embark on a three-part series, diving into everything dental industry consumers need to know in our world of Amazons and eBays. We’ll deliver this inside look with your best interest at heart, and as unbiased as possible. To ensure a well-rounded view, we’ve enlisted the help of someone who just opened a startup dental practice on a tight budget, our Communications Director, Laura. She knows the inside secrets of the dental vendor industry, and has gained a deep understanding of the undeniable alluring perks of the online marketplace.
Disclaimer: We use dental technology as our prime example throughout this series, because that’s what tech nerds do. Still, our points carry to any item one might purchase for their practice.
Dental professionals are increasingly searching online for their office’s computer and server needs. We understand the temptation, as online prices may appear significantly lower. However, unless you know computers inside and out, practices often spend more in the long run shopping computers and servers online. Here’s why:
When selecting dental practice computers, we evaluate compatibility with existing equipment/software, as well as ideal specs for performance over the period of ownership. The act of vetting and testing specifications is a key product selection process that is often overlooked when online shopping. When these considerations are bypassed, the integrity of the workstation functionality is at risk. In extreme, but not uncommon cases, poor computer selection will result in a stressful machine, and an incredible waste of time and money. Unless you know what you’re looking for in a computer, expensive mistakes are easy to make for the average online shopper. When you aren’t an expert, work with a knowledgeable professional to save on headaches, time, and cost.
Authenticity and Counterfeit Confirmation
There are shady characters capitalizing on new market trends, and an abundance of counterfeit products being sent to offices like yours. For this reason, it’s best to only purchase items online that you know inside out. You should be able to identify authenticity and potential counterfeit upon receiving online orders. Front office supplies are typically a low-risk item that do not pose a problem if the quality doesn’t match what was depicted online (pens, paper, clipboards, etc.). On the other hand, important clinical supplies present challenges if the item is subpar or not as expected, compromising the integrity of your work and negatively impact patient health.
If you chose to purchase a computer online, you should be able to confirm the computer’s authenticity, age, hardware, processor, and specifications match your expectations upon receipt. We’ve heard many stories of practices purchasing seemingly new computers, only to have their IT partner discover the computer is straight off the gray market, refurbished, and potentially useless for their office. This frustrating and disappointing scenario happens frequently with computers, servers, printers, and other office hardware items; but can also happen with other big ticket items your practice relies on. On the other hand, we have seen “new” computers that were previously deemed a lemon, or arrive with pre-installed vulnerabilities that allow the seller to breach the network. Not to mention, it’s unlikely the machine carries a full warranty. Always review the product’s return policy to protect you against being stuck with the items. When you aren’t an expert in the field, count on trusted professional partners who have your best interest at heart.
Comparing Apples to Oranges
Comparing apples to apples is nearly impossible for most online price shoppers. When comparing specifications, it is easy to miss a key element that may have a significant impact on the usability. Additionally, an item may seem identical to something you’ve been quoted, but often is not. For example, it’s common for IT vendors to customize computer hardware and software in-house to improve speed, longevity, and performance. We also offer professional grade equipment that is not available on most consumer websites. This causes an inaccurate price shopping experience where consumers compare big, juicy apples to out-of-season oranges. While it may seem like you’ve found the same computer/server/printer at a great discount online, it’s likely an inferior product that doesn’t pack the robust, custom, and important features provided by a professional supplier. Always inquire with your trusted professional before making an online purchase to ensure you are not receiving an inferior product.
Remember, if the price is too good to be true, then it probably is.
Stick with items you know about to avoid being taken advantage of upfront. What experiences has your practice had with online shopping? We’d love to hear. Stay tuned next month, when we dive into our Online Retailer Tip #2!