Friday, November 11, 2005

Shopping for webcams

Quick story about good customer service from a couple of computer hardware suppliers.

I wanted to order three webcams so I can communicate with my family and Melissa while I'm overseas. I didn't have a clue which models were good or bad so I jumped into Google and tried to find reviews. Surprisingly (well, to me) it was really hard to find a site that did good webcam reviews - I found that the best resource was doing a search for "webcams" in Amazon and taking a look at the customer reviews. A terrific use of what Scoble likes to term “slave generated content”. ;)

Anyway, once I'd isolated the models that were generally well-liked (and fitted my price and feature requirements) I used the trusty Static Ice search engine to find the best local prices.

If you're an Aussie looking for PC hardware Static Ice is a great resource. Just type in product keywords and SI will return you the list of online vendors that advertise that product - sorted in (lowest first) price order. [1] [2]

Static Ice listed as having the best price for the webcam I'd settled on. So I placed an order with them. Unfortunately, shortly after, I received an email stating that they were unable to source stock for my item until late November and to confirm if that was OK. It wasn't (remember I'm leaving on the 23rd!) so I called them up and asked if I had any other options. The girl I spoke to on the phone was fantastically helpful. She looked up other products that were similarly specced, priced and in stock and was patient and cheerful with me. It was a shame that, in the end, they didn't have anything that I wanted and I asked if it was possible for me to cancel the order. "Of course, no problems at all sir."

This is service that I want. I'll come back to And I recommend others try it out.

Back to Static Ice looking for vendor #2. Infinity Computer Group. Their website advertised the product I was after but this time I rang to check that they had it in stock and could ship it within the next week. Unfortunately the service here wasn't great. After repeatedly being put on hold I was informed that the store that I'd rang (Brunswick) didn't have any in stock. I could try calling one of their other stores if I wished. Oh, and by the way, the store price is different (quite significantly!) to the website price. No thanks. Any vendor that has a web presence needs to have a centralized system and have the same price at their store and website.

Can't recommend Infinity.

As it turns out, third time lucky. City Software advertised my product on their (pick of the bunch) website at a reasonable price. I called them to check availability and expected shipping times and I spoke to a very helpful person who listened attentively and told me what I needed to hear ("yes we have that in stock, yes it'll be on your doorstep in time"). He was professional and friendly and, after a brief chat, offerred to waive the shipping fee!

Excellent, highly recommended. Assuming I get my webcams next week of course! :)

[1] Remember that you can narrow the Static Ice results to products by vendors only from your state by using the "state" syntax, much like Google's "site:" feature. For example, I searched for "logitech quickcam stx state:vic".

[2] If you're a Firefox user you need to set up a smart keyword search for Static Ice. I tweaked the default location to " state:vic" so that my searches are always Victoria only. Now I just type "si webcams" into my location bar in Firefox, press enter and voila! I get a price-sorted list of webcams available online around Victoria.

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