By KIM LOCCISANO
Times Leader Staff Writer
The start of the final pre-Christmas shopping push has arrived, bringing with it the official close of the span of time during which you can order a gift personalized, or shipped from the far corners of the earth - or just the next county over - without incurring sometimes what are often ridiculous special charges.
T-L Photos/KIM LOCCISANO
“How does it work?” was Ohio native Richard Moore’s (far right) initial question for local Best Buy store employee Kyle Cash of Bridgeport (far left). This is the core question many shoppers have now more than ever before when looking at the possibility of purchasing a “techie type” gift during the holiday shopping season. Seeing such items as iPads, e-Readers and tablets—all of which are heavily advertised for sale through a number of national and regional retailers—does help consumers learn about the variety of items available for possible purchase. But it is always better to make those choices based on the little details you know are in line with the person’s wants and needs. Seemingly small details such as the size of individual typing keys, a unit’s anticipated durability and ease of use, and whether it can even open document types a person is known to repeatedly work with, are necessary in choosing the right tech gift.
Someone on your gift list interested in photography: some stores have bundles of items already defined, and others don't. It never hurts to ask about bundled product sales; a tactic holding true at many high-tech gadgets retailers. Giving a person a gift of technical support via a pre-paid gift card is an unexpected way to add to the fun of getting acquainted with how a new piece of personal technology will fit into an individual's daily life.
If you are down to the last few on your, "gotta get them something cool" list for this year's holiday celebrations, it is likely you are teetering between purchasing something with high tech appeal, or with the broad appeal of the all-purpose gift cards.
You may be shaking your head right now acknowledging past first-hand experience with the sense of all-consuming panic that almost immediately engulfs millions of Americans each year at this time as a certain reality settles in: there are no "shopping days left til Christmas."
It is time to revert to basics-Plan B, or what one local retail chain is calling a very elite group of employees who have been specially trained to be up to date on techie type details on all today's cutting edge gadgets as "Store Interactive Technology Specialists."
The point of having these 60 specially trained sales staffers available to the general public is simple: customer satisfaction is key to a company's longterm success.
Best Buy employee Justin Trabert works at the company's local store and is one of only 60 employees nationwide selected for this specialized training. He is the "go to guy" at the store for techie type dilemma solving or to speak with in advance of making a techie type purchase.
Okay, you have made the decision what to purchase, and since many large tech producers sell their goods to the public through a variety of chain resources, you are planning to have in-store experts get your purchases up and running. So a simple push of an on button will bring the item successfully to life with all the right bells and whistles working in harmony.
Techie topics such specialists are trained to help the public with include iPads, iPods, MP3 players, smartphones, mobile broadband, e-readers, universal remote controls, SiriusXM satellite radio, memory sticks, flash drives, gaming, digital imaging, gaming, blu-ray, plasma TVs, specialized headphones, wireless, Facebook, Internet access, HDTV, home theatre systems and amplifiers-just to name a few. Their jobs are to make your experience with technology go as smoothly and comfortably as possible.
A first for the company is available to local consumers: the store offers seminars and workshops for the public available free of charge, and fully accessible without having had to make a purchase of any kind.
Trabert's best sage advice for nervous tech consumers is simple.
"If you can tell a sales person a little about the person who will be using a gift, it will help them make sure to connect you to just the right item to give as the perfect holiday gift," he offered. "Even little details about a person's lifestyle can help us guide a prospective customer to the items they need and want when it comes to holiday gift shopping.
"We now offer free workshops and seminars to the public to explain different technologies to them, so they can be assured of making well informed purchasing decisions," he offered.
Unlike holiday seasons past, a growing number of retailers are making a one-on-one set up and getting started experience readily available to the consumer-something which can be shared in the form of a gift from a purchaser to the gift recipient.
Opportunities like these are wonderful as add on items, say industry experts, as a gift recipient can go to their local store and arrange to bring personal tech gadgets with them for a face-to-face tutorial or personalized informal sit down workshop or tutorial meeting focused on getting everything working smoothly together. Such unique new services are available to shoppers thanks to the addition of this growing number of in-store interactive technology specialists.
The pace of technology changes comes at consumers so fast that these professionals and the constantly updated training they are getting gives shoppers solid access to reliable information on a variety of brands and product types-something particularly helpful as many stores handle like national brand items.
There is no substitute for current factual information about today's techie type gadgets, many of which are now regularly considered essential items to have just to get through the day in good order.
A little advice from the professionals: tell us about the person you are considering buying an item for and ask questions.
What type of things can help a sales person guide you to the right item to fill your wish list? The recipient's level of experience with computers and tech products in general; how durable an item should be so it can fit into a person's lifestyle; if a person is comfortable working with small items or if they prefer something a bit more solid feeling; if they like music, prefer to read a book or listen to one being read; if they like to play video games with others or alone; if they are comfortable with wireless Internet-and if there is a router in their home, and if they like simple to operate items or more complex items.
"Details make the difference," shared Trabert. "Feel free to ask as many questions as it takes for you to be confident of making the right choice when you decide to make a purchase."