CE shoppers gave online retailers higher satisfaction ratings than their storefront competitors in a poll of 18,700 Consumer Reports readers.
The survey, conducted last spring by the product rating publication, queried consumers who had purchased TVs, digital cameras, DVD/DVR players, camcorders, PDAs or audio equipment.
The survey singled out Amazon.com and J&R.com for offering the best prices and widest product selection, and Crutchfield for its high overall satisfaction rating and the best product information online.
Top CE storefront retailers Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Circuit City rated only middling to below average on price, selection and service, which Consumer Reports considers the most important retail attributes. By contrast, independent dealers scored high for service but ranked only average on selection and price.
Among other brick-and-mortar retailers, Costco was cited for having the best return policy (essentially open-ended), and shared kudos with BJ's Wholesale Club for low prices. In addition, Tweeter and Ritz Camera were credited with top service and speedy checkouts, while Ritz also scored high for its wide camera assortment.
On the flip side, BJ's got demerits for sub-par selection and service, and Ritz was considered worst on price.
Consumer Reports also advised its readers against purchasing extended warranties for most CE products (with the possible exception of flat-panel displays), citing their low repair rates, the comparable cost for repairs, and the 40 percent to 80 percent profits retailers make on each sale.