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evaluating choices before buying

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Very occasionally at work I’m called upon to evaluate tender submissions. In an effort to be fair and impartial, we usually have a scoring spreadsheet, mark each tender against the spreadsheet, add up the scores and then negotiate with the top scoring organisation.

In real life (as opposed to work life) I’m not that organised, nor do I have a particular need to be fair or impartial. Generally, at most, I read around on a service or product that I want to buy, and get a gut feel for the best. Or, if there is no *best* I pick the cheapest one that has the features I’m looking for. The following three examples show how I normally work.

the fridge

About 18 months ago, I bought a new fridge. I decided that it had to:

  • be white - to go with the kitchen
  • have an icebox - I have no other freezer
  • have glass shelves - easier to clean
  • be A rated for energy - eco-friendly and cheaper to run
  • be 55cm wide - to fit in the fridge space

All of these requirements were non-negotiable and nothing else was of interest. I simply picked the cheapest fridge from Argos (reputable supplier) that fit the bill.

the netbook

When I bought my netbook, I just read some reviews (something like 10 best netbooks) on the internet, found which two or three where in my budget, went to the local big box computer store and picked the one they had in stock. I ended up with a navy blue Acer Inspire One which is perfectly ok except the wireless network card (or whatever it is) is prone to overheating and the battery only lasts 2 hours.

the house

When I bought my house, I only looked at places that were feasible - in my price range, with enough room, and not requiring complete gutting - and bought the one that I fell in love with.

being methodical

Part of the reason that we try to be fair and impartial on tender scoring at work is so that we get the best deal. And the spreadsheets and scores do help keep a track of which feature goes with which item and you can get a better idea of where you want to make a trade-off between features, or between features and cost.

I’m permanently on the look out for new luggage. What I want is a bag that can be carried as a backpack, opens out as fully as a suitcase does, with at least 2 compartments (one for clothes, one for laptop/work), will last for a while, comes in a colour other than black, with a bright/light coloured interior, that’s large enough to fit all the business clothes I need for a 3 day trip, or the casual clothes I need for a week, but definitely small enough to fit as carry on without hassle.

I’m willing to spend a couple of hundred pounds, and I’m expecting that I might have to compromise on some of the features. So, I’m going to set up a spreadsheet with all the criteria listed, plus room for any features that I either like or dislike. Then as I search for the perfect(-ish) luggage I can make sure I make the best choice.

Do you shop objectively? Or do you go for gut feel?

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14 comments for “evaluating choices before buying”

  1. What’s a netbook :P

    Posted by frank | November 12, 2008, 2:37 pm
  2. A netbook is a really small lightweight laptop. Mine runs on a custom Linux operating system and cost me £200. You’re supposed to use it for basic ‘net surfing and related tasks - hence the name.

    Posted by plonkee | November 12, 2008, 4:12 pm
  3. I do try and be methodical for larger purchases or things that I want to last for a long time- laptops, winter coats, waterproof jackets, shoes. I spend time researching these, reading reviews online and trying them on in stores (if applicable).
    Certain purchases have very strict checklists (hotels when on a city break- central, good transit links, a maximum price point and a jacuzzi).
    Actually, thinking about it I rarely go on gut feel anymore and can be really anal about sticking to my checklist- hence the lack of jeans in my wardrobe for the last three years!

    Posted by Looby | November 12, 2008, 6:35 pm
  4. Jeans are a problem. Since I’ve wear them all the time, I do have a pair, but they aren’t perfect - at least they were cheap.

    Posted by plonkee | November 12, 2008, 9:08 pm
  5. As for me, I do have a list of features that I want in an item that I am going to purchase. And they are not negotiable either. First on my list is quality, then second is price. If both are met, then I will look for the other features in my list in that item before considering to buy it.

    Posted by Acne | November 14, 2008, 7:27 am
  6. I try to do research and a lot of comparison shopping before I commit to anything, but I think that more often than not I go on a gut feeling. Lately though, the urge to only purchase eco-friendly stuff is starting to take over the way I shop …

    Posted by Maggie | November 14, 2008, 3:11 pm
  7. Personally I don’t find a need for a netbook unless I’m constanly moving around.

    Posted by Roger Hamilton | November 16, 2008, 7:07 am
  8. Have quite an interest in the netbook. How do you find it? I want something lightweight, not too expensive.

    Posted by Llama for brains | November 17, 2008, 11:22 pm
  9. @Llama:
    The netbook is ok. It’s quite easy for me to type on, but then I’ve got small fingers. The trackpad has buttons on the side which takes a day or two to get used to.

    It’s very lightweight, as is the brick so very portable. The only real problem I’ve had is that the network card is prone to overheating, which means that it stops working.

    Basically if you move around a lot, need access to basic software (open office etc) and the internet, it’s a good choice. It’s great for blogging on the go. It’s not the world’s best only computer.

    Posted by plonkee | November 18, 2008, 12:02 am
  10. Check out http://www.onebag.com/

    My husband and I travel internationally frequently and our rule is one carry on each. Our last trip was 15 days in Italy (from the States) and the advice and luggage reviews on One Bag were lifesavers.

    Posted by Laurie | November 18, 2008, 4:07 am
  11. @Laurie:
    That is a great site, thanks for recommending it.

    Posted by plonkee | November 18, 2008, 8:25 pm
  12. This made me remember getting rid of a refrigerator after over ten years. The outside was shot, the motor was shot but the inside of that fridge (with it’s glass shelves, looked as good as the day we bought it. Somewhat amazing. Never settle for those wire like shelves.

    Posted by Air Jordans | December 3, 2008, 6:26 am

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