Have you ever purchased an electronic that failed to do what it was supposed to? It can be quite frustrating. Whether it's a CD player, a TV or a new computer; spending money on something that fails to perform its function, or does it inadequately, is essentially like being robbed. Not only that, but most companies require that you to pay shipping and handling when returning so they can either repair it or send a new one. Just browsing on Amazon indicates that that might not be the best plan of action as some people have even received defective replacements. And what do you suppose they do to get the issue resolved? Return it again? No way, they usually scrap the product and cease buying from that particular manufacturer again. Below are a few companies with a well-known customer service reputation, plus additional resources that might help when shopping for a product.

Don't kill the messenger

You can't really blame online retailers like Amazon or Newegg all the time as they act as mediators between the customer and the company. The only thing they can be rated on is customer service which, if it's good customer service, can make life a lot easier if bychance you've purchased a bad product. For instance, Amazon had a 40% excellent rating from a poll done by MSN Money on customer service back in 2008. That might not seem very good but it's actually among the highest ratings compared to the other companies listed. Radio Shack and Circuit City still have room to improve. Besides, with the poll conducted, people had in all four options to choose from: excellent, good, fair and poor. In 2010 they're actually the best when it comes to customer service.

customer(42801)Credit: Dominik Gwarek

Is there a better way?

When it comes to electronics, they have a SquareTrade program in case you're product doesn't work out of the box or you've mishandled it in some way. Depending on how careful you are with your electronics depends on how much money it's going to cost you. If you find yourself frequently mishandling your product, or if you have kids who drop, spill and otherwise play too rough around it, then you'd probably need the extra coverage that includes accidental issues like these. But if not, then you can save some money and purchase the insurance that only covers manufacturer defects. So if you're looking to purchase an electronic device from Amazon, it might not be a bad idea to check that out.

I do my shopping on an island

No one willingly purchases one of the worst portable DVD player listed on numerous sites on the web. And who, after reading seething customer reviews for a digital camera online, decides to go ahead and shell out the 400 dollars hoping to get a different result? Answer: No one. Info is all there waiting at your fingertips, all you need to do is branch out and find it. The smartest thing you can do before purchasing any item, let alone electronics, is to browse the web in search for reviews of that said item. Sites like Epinions.com or ConsumerSearch allow you to explore the plentiful reviews from experts and owners alike. Epinions reviews are from people like you and me, while ConsumerSearch outsources their reviews from sites like PCMag or ConsumerReports. It's better to be the one reading these kinds of reviews than writing them.

It's not cool to be...cool

Best Buy is another common store to purchase electronics from. They have their easily recognizable Geek Squad and their Geekmobiles servicing multiple customers plagued by electronic issues. Geek Squad performs tasks you'd think a geek would do in his spare time let alone a job - computer repairs, installing wireless Internet, data recovery - but they also provide TV calibrations, car electronic installations and they even assemble furniture.

I saw it online so it must be true

 Now, as far as computer repairs are concerned, there's a rumour floating around the net that Geek Squad outsources their computer techs with a program called "Agent Johnny Utah". It's basically software that scans a computer needing to be wiped clean of a virus or some other technical repair that's beyond the scope of the salesmen donning the Geek Squad clothes. The real technicians are actually foreigners who take lower pay and repair your computer remotely. Again that's the rumor. You can find that from The Consumerist blog where they claim to have spoken to an ex-employee. Best Buy or Geek Squad don't openly admit to anything like that, but Robert Stephens, the founder of Geek Squad, did mention at a conference that bloggers shouldn't be considered true journalists. Even though that comment was a response to something totally unrelated, there seems to be a bit of angst lingering underneath the surface. Possibly on both sides. Either way, Best Buy as a whole had a positive rating of 62.8% in 2010 when it came to customer service. That's a D in school, but it's still passing. Just hope you're not one of the 37.2 who need help with a defective product.

My fish sings

So no matter what electronic you plan to buy, whether it be small or big - flat screen TV, duel-screen DVD player, or an electric talking fish - hopefully, by practicing smart shopping techniques, you'll avoid having to deal with an unpleasant purchase. But even if you do, there are always people out there that can help you settle these issues for good.

 image by Dominik Gwarek/stock.xchng