The Great Recession Maximizer: Online Shopping Tips For Gearheads


I’ve become a power shopper online. Not something I would have listed as a professional skill on my resume. But then I thought, “why not?” After buying gear from catalogs since the late-70s and via online stores since the mid-90s, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way.

I’ve used quite a few online retailers in the audio world in the last ten years. Full Compass, Sweetwater, Guitar Center, Sam Ash and Musician’s Friend have all received my business. After scouring sales papers and online adverts weekly, it would seem TIMING is the key element.

  • When do you actually need your order? Coordinate delivery prospects with potential sales windows.
  • When multiple purchases are expected during a specific calendar period, bundling gear orders through one vendor might result in a bigger savings than buying the same items from multiple vendors.

Purchasing Considerations:


  • How far is the physical store from you? Mileage means gas which equals money and time spent driving. Your time if you are self-delivering.
  • How far is the shipping hub? Sometimes, you can get a shipment within the same window as an expedited order if the hub is close enough to you. Orders out of Kansas City or Memphis routinely arrive in two or three days to our HQ. Also, planning ahead will eliminate rush order charges. (Duh.)


  • Check clearance deals. Used and reconditioned gear is often perfectly usable. B Stock is rarely damaged gear sent back to the seller and then rebuilt for resale. Nicks, dents and blemishes can save you a fortune. I’ve purchased guitars and speakers with 45 day trade back guarantees from B Stock lists. Not one guitar or speaker has gone back to date. Thanks to Musician’s Friend for that.

Sale Details

  • Pay attention to the sales strategies employed by the vendor. Are they prone to seasonal blowouts or exclusive deals?
  • Exclusive coupons might be able to be bundled with special sales or discounts.
  • Free shipping? Why not?
  • Will you pay tax? Maybe this belongs in location, too?


  • Membership in some of the organizations out there might add to your savings. We’re ASCAP members and they link to discounts with many of the retailers we prefer. NASE, AARP, AAA, student ID, BMI, VISA… who knows? Check out your own membership potential. Savings added to the entire order is normally in the 5% – 10% range on top of the bargains you’ve discovered.

Using this fairly simple approach just this afternoon, I was able to buy two items — Sennheiser 515 headphones and a Marshall guitar practice amp, which together listed at $245 without tax or delivery charges added in — for $127, flat. I bundled a phone-in loyalty coupon offer for October with a clearance deal for today and met free tax and shipping requirements. Timing, location and patience were key elements in netting a cool $118 in savings. I practice what I preach.

When cash is tight, a little planning and patience goes a long way. You can take my word for it, to the bank.


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