Friday, November 23, 2007

Random Thoughts on Black Friday

It was my first time in several years buying anything on Black Friday. There were quite a few deals - the one that got me to Walmart was this Kodak ZD710 digital camera with a 7.2MP resolution and 10X optical zoom. There were some other spectacular deals, and definitely some crowds, a topic supported by early news reports. But looking at people's shopping carts, and the vast stacks of unsold specials in my city's Walmart, I wonder if this is indeed an indication of a retail slowdown. It does appear to me that people in at least my town seem to be getting much more conscious of expenditures, possibly due to the housing slowdown and rising oil prices? I'll be curiously waiting for the final numbers ...

Speaking of shopping, be sure to check return policies! I haven't purchased too much more than books online, and as I was considering buying a camera (yes, I'm probably the LAST person to still be using a film point and shoot!) I decided to peek at the return policies. Amazon gives you a 30 day return period (although there's a grace period around the holidays), and any opened item loses 20% of its value. On, it's 14 days and a 15% restocking fee. If you think you're not sure about the quality of the product you are buying, favor the traditional retailers - a purchase at Walmart can be returned to a store for no extra charge, even if you bought it online.

Speaking of cameras, shopping for one is a bit like going to the gym. In the gym, there's the ridiculous emphasis on the bench press even though it is not a decent metric of fitness. In the camera world, it appears it's all megapixels and megapixels (ok, there are times when two seemingly identical cameras are vastly different in prices, but not for any reason a novice like me can figure out) Here's a tip: think what you'll use it for. I talked to a few friends savvier about these gizmos than I (hey, I still use a film camera!), and it seemed evident to me that if your application is mostly for travel, a good optical zoom is far more important than MP. If you plan to make posters, or make prints from portions of your photo (i.e. you crop out part of the picture) then MP are much more important.

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