Get the best buy at Best Buy

Retailers are already gearing up for this year's holiday price wars. Here's how to save even more at the nation's biggest electronics store.

By Joe Light, Money Magazine staff reporter

(Money Magazine) -- Need a TV? Camera? Laptop? Maybe you'll head to Best Buy, the nation's largest electronics retailer.

It's got selection, convenience (875 stores) and well-schooled sales reps who don't think the art of the deal involves putting you in an armlock.

Not that they don't have their own profit-maximizing moves. Understand them and you can walk out with what you wanted, no poorer than you intended.

"I don't work on commission."

True, but Best Buy (Charts, Fortune 500) CEO Brad Anderson does encourage employees to focus on the big spenders and weed out bargain hunters.

"To do this they'll ask about your family, your kids right as you walk in," says Yale business school professor Jiwoong Shin, who studies retail marketing.

Need help? Be friendly and say what you're looking for - without focusing on price.

"You'll also need a case, a battery..."

Expect to be hawked a basket of items to go with the one that got you in the door.

"A camera is only as good as the accessories that go with it," says Chuck O'Donnell, a New Jersey district services manager.

True enough, but the "Best Buy complete solution," as it's dubbed internally, also helps make up for low margins on big components with high-margin add-ons.

You're better off buying extras online: A SanDisk 2G digital camera memory card costs $45 here vs. $18 on, for example.

"We can set up or fix your system."

The Geek Squad's prices are flat rate (like $159 for troubleshooting), so you won't be bilked by an hourly fee and a lazy geek. But be ready to fend off offers to upgrade your computer.

Need them to wall-mount a TV? The $300-plus outlay may be worth the peace of mind. But don't pay $150 to have a tabletop TV hooked up to cable. Your kid can do it for free.

"If you don't like it, bring it back."

You're likely to see posters to this effect around the store. Don't miss the fine print: You have only 14 days to return most unopened electronics.

Once you pop the box, you'll be out a 15 percent restocking fee. Thus, realizing too late that the $2,000 laptop is too slow will cost you $300.

If you need to try out a purchase to believe that it'll work right, stick with a store sans restocking fees like Wal-Mart.

"We'll do better than our competitors."

Best Buy stores match cheaper prices. Within 14 days of buying most items, they'll give you 110 percent of the difference. Take them up on it.  Top of page

Send feedback to Money Magazine