Miami Beach 411
Like what you see? Let's talk about how
we can help your vacation --> Contact Us
  • Homepage
  • Plan Your Trip
  • Travel Forum
  • News & Events
  • Maps
  • Transportation
  • Tours
  • Hotels
  • Travel Tips
  • Reader's Reviews
  • News Archives
  • Need help? Call us! - 1-305-754-2206

Cheap Computers and Electronics Stores: Buyer Beware

May 21, 2008 By Carlos Miller in Miami: Local NewsTechnology  | 15 Comments

image

ABOVE: Bargains and scams can be found in this cluster of storefronts west of the airport off Milan Dairy Road.

About 15 miles from the glamour and glitz and price gouging of South Beach, in one of the most industrious, enterprising and unassuming areas of Miami, you will find one of Miami’s best-kept secrets - a haven for bargain hunter electronics shoppers.

But like everything else in Miami, you have to be extremely careful whom you’re dealing with in this commercial area just west of Miami International Airport.

But you can find deals like a 37-inch Vizio high definition television for $670; a 750 GB internal hard drive for $150; and a Dell Vostro desktop with Windows XP and 20” monitor for $700.

The same high definition television sells for $749 at Costco, which is renowned at offering better prices on electronics than major department stores.

The same internal hard drive sells for $179 at Tiger Direct, another store that offers cut-rate prices on electronics. (However, if you go on Tiger Direct’s Website, you can find it for much cheaper, but that’s another story altogether.)

And a comparable Dell Inspiron desktop sells for $600 at Best Buy, which is clearly not the best buy considering it doesn’t come with a monitor. For an extra $199, you can purchase a 19-inch monitor at Best Buy. But you’d still be stuck with Vista.

These bargains can be found among almost 200 stores that line both sides of Northwest 31st Street, just west of Milan Dairy Road.

Most locals are unaware of the bargains that can found here. Or maybe they are just wary. At least I will be after my first and only experience purchasing anything in that area.

image

I needed to purchase an APC battery backup for my computer. Tiger Direct had it for $45. I drove to the computer district near the airport and asked around.

A place called PC DIY Center had it for $35. They said it was brand new. They even gave me a printout of a “Quality Assurance Test” that stated this particular item was made in September 2007 and had passed all sorts of tests.

But when I took it home and connected the battery to multi-socket surge protector, I noticed there were a multitude of scratches on the battery. It looked as if it had been around much longer than September 2007.

I installed the battery anyway and connected the computer, printer and numerous external hard drives to the surge protector.

Within hours after setting it up, my computer suddenly turned off and the device starting emitting an annoying beep, indicating that the battery was dead.
I reset the battery and turned the computer back on and everything went well until two days later when it did the same thing. So I packed it back up into the box and drove it back to the store.

I was confident I would be able to return the item because the sales receipt stated the following: “All parts have 90 days warranty. OEM CPU has 30 days warranty excluding physical damage.” It had only been a week since I purchased it.

But the store’s owner informed me that I would have to send the item back to the manufacturer if I wanted to get a new battery. I bickered with the owner and his wife for a few minutes, but they would not exchange the product nor explain why the battery appeared to have been much older than the actual surge protector.

Because this was my first and only experience purchasing anything in the area, I asked a friend who has been shopping there for years about his experiences.

“I’ve had some bad experiences with things that were not under warranty,” said Ron Norman of Miami, who builds computers for a living. “But I’ve mostly had good experiences in that area.

Norman, who has been shopping in that area since 2000, said the stores would originally only sell to other businesses. “But then one of the guys started selling to everybody, cutting rates and driving prices down,” he said.

Norman said the key to shopping in that area is to stick with an established business. “There are only certain people that I deal with over there,” he said. “There is a very high turnover rate there. I’ve seen stores come and go for years.” Norman recommends stores like Kaidu, Wescom Miami Corporation and King International.

However, King International was one of two stores in that area that were sued by Microsoft last year for allegedly selling unlicensed software. Other stores in the area were sued by Microsoft in previous years.

“There is so much competition there that some stores install unlicensed software to beat the competition,” Norman said.

image

The competition keeps prices low. One of the area’s long-timers is Frank Lin, owner of Comtek, which specializes in laptop computers, and claims he offers up to 25 percent off on retail prices.

“I’ve been here 18 years and I’ve seen many changes,” he said. “The number of stores peaked ten years ago. There is not as many now as there used to be.”

Lin said that before the stores would focus mainly on computers, but now many stores have been selling security camera kits that enable people to set up a monitoring system in their home or business.

Like many of the stores that clutter the warehouse type strip mall, most of Lin’s business relies on exporting electronics to the Caribbean and Latin America.
In fact, only about 10 percent of his business relies on local customers.

“The local customers used to be 30 percent of my business, but because the economy is not good now, it has gone down. But the economy is still good in the (Caribbean) islands and South America.”

image

Andres Solano, a cargo pilot from Colombia who frequently purchases electronics from this area, says his friends back home constantly ask him to buy things for them.

“Everything is half price here of what it is in Bogota,” he said.

Photo credits:

  • Photo 2: The battery that came with my “brand new” APC Battery Backup. When I tried to return the product to PC DIY a week later, they refused to accept it, telling me I needed to send it to the manufacturer.
  • Photo 3: Frank Lin is one of the longest running vendors in the computer district west of Miami International Airport.
  • Photo 4: Andres Solano discusses a laptop computer he planned on buying and returning to Colombia.

Related Categories: Computer Repair Miami: Local News, Technology,

Carlos Miller is a featured writer at Miami Beach 411. He also operates Photography is Not a Crime, a blog about photographer rights, New Media and First Amendment issues.

See more articles by Carlos Miller.

See more articles by Carlos Miller

Was This Post Helpful? Please Share It With Others!

You Deserve More Than an Ordinary Vacation.
Travel with Miami Beach 411 Today!
  • Over 10 years of excellent service guiding tours. Awarded a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
  • Large fleet of new motor coaches, tour buses, and luxury vans. Technology you won't find anywhere.
  • Highly skilled, professional drivers and guides. From people who love what they do.
The Miami Beach 411 Travel Store is Open 24/7.
Search for Tours & Transportation

15 Comments on

"Cheap Computers and Electronics Stores: Buyer Beware"

Rick says:

I don’t know. Seems to me with all the gas spent running around and all the shady dealers, the few dollars that are saved are really not worth the trouble for the small quantity buyer.

Posted on 05/21/2008 at 9:38 PM

Carlos Miller says:

Rick,

If I had to do it all over again, I would have ordered my computer battery online, paid a few extra dollars, waited a few extra days, and have a fully functioning battery instead of what I have now.

Posted on 05/22/2008 at 3:57 PM

Mirna says:

Carlos,

If you still need a Back-up Battery, I bought mine on Staples.com for a really good price, warranty and brand new. Also, Evertime that I go to my country (Argentina) I buy electronics to sell and my favorite and more reliable purchases were Online. In a lot of those stores ,as the same as the storeS in Downtown area sell REFURBISHED products. If I buy refurbished product, I rather to do it in the official brand website like sony.com or apple.com

Posted on 05/30/2008 at 2:44 PM

carlos says:

For quality Used computers and a reputable source. GR Trading is the place to go. 305 392 5575 talk to Patrick, its a family owned company who has a 10,000 sf. facility rite on 35st and 73 ave.

Posted on 07/24/2008 at 1:56 PM

Intern says:

Anytime before purchasing a new computer or any other electronic gadgets. A little bit of research should always be done to get quality products.

Posted on 11/05/2008 at 1:48 AM

André Cardozo says:

Dear Sir,
We want to buy around 1000 lcd monitors in good state cash, by your best offer.
If you can help us about it, please send us the needed details.
Best regards,
André Cardozo.
RJ, Brazil.
55 21 37645428

Posted on 12/19/2008 at 4:03 PM

patrick says:

you still want your 1000 lcd monitors?

Posted on 01/14/2009 at 4:08 PM

Andre Cardozo says:

Patrick,
No. In indeed now we need of 2000 used lcd monitors. If you can help us there in GR…

Posted on 01/15/2009 at 2:04 PM

patrick says:

can you get in contact with me about those monitors i am intersted.  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Posted on 01/15/2009 at 2:23 PM

Iowa says:

completely agree with the above comment, the internet is with a doubt growing into the most important medium of communication across the globe and its due to sites like this that ideas are spreading so quickly.

Posted on 01/27/2009 at 7:05 AM

Las Vegas says:

This is truly innovative and insightful information- thanks a lot for the post.

Posted on 01/30/2009 at 6:08 AM

Bingo says:

Nice information mention above and i also suggest buyers please do little bit exercise before buying any electronic products. Now these day product description, prices, quality and user reviews available online.

Posted on 02/04/2009 at 6:00 AM

clemente says:

hello i need 4 iphones for 14 September as miami travel you are located in Miami Beach 411
I hope your answer and know how much they cost greetings

Posted on 08/27/2009 at 9:38 AM

Enrique says:

Hi, I want to buy a Laptop and a PC, wy question is do you receive cash instead of CC, I am from Argentina and I hav no CC, will be in Miami in August in order to buy some electronics, but I need to know if you can receive cash.

Posted on 06/18/2010 at 12:03 PM

gr trading says:

they all take cash

Posted on 06/29/2011 at 6:09 AM

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated for spam. An administrator must approve the comment before it will appear on the site.

Discuss the surrounding area in our hugely popular Miami forum.
Today's Miami Specials
Like what you see? Let's talk about
how we can help your vacation
--> Contact Us