It’s routine to complain that the holiday season has become overly commercialized. A more cheerful way to see this busiest shopping time of the year is to re-imagine it as days when the greatest number of people who make things meet the greatest number of people wanting to buy things. This is the greatest annual exchange of human energies, essentially a time of rebirth, with earth’s citizens finding themselves newly clothed, perfumed and iPhoned.
Where you can get this iPhone or other electronic goods in the Czech Republic is the ultimate aim of this article. You can go to physical stores or you can go online, and some retailers offer both options. Did we personally buy and return numerous items from every store in the ČR, causing a significant upward spike in the country’s economic indicators, just to research this article? No, we didn’t. But we did ask for first-hand shopping experiences from everyone we knew.
Alza.cz is another popular choice, for anything from a flash drive shaped like an alien to cameras and Xboxes. You can order through the site and can pick up your item(s) at one of the many pick-up locations in Prague and around the ČR. You can also order inside some of the locations (using one of the many computer ordering stations which make you feel like the company is only a year or two away from being completely run by robots).
Fair warning: Alza.cz´s main Prague warehouse in Holešovice can get impossibly crowded, especially during the holiday season; if buying on-site or picking up goods yourself, you can expect a wait time of an hour or more. It´s highly recommended to have your items delivered if that´s an option.
Delivery options from Alza.cz are also quite inexpensive (for instance, from 69 CZK for one-day delivery in ČR for the iPhone). In general, delivery around ČR is surprisingly well-priced. Another online powerhouse, Kasa.cz, is currently offering deals with free shipping options.
So where is the best place to buy an iPhone? Heureka.cz suggests that a number of smaller online retailers have somewhat better deals, but Alza.cz has a good deal along with a good reputation.
The major electronic stores are Datart, Electroworld, Okay, and Euronics. The obvious advantages of going to physical stores like these are the immediacy of getting your product and the ability to see what you’re getting. Going into the stores should also get you more eye-to-eye contact, but the knowledge level of the salespeople might vary wildly. You are likely to get more descriptive info online.
Generally better prices and a greater selection of items are other reasons to consider shopping on the net. Online stores typically offer cheaper deals, even including delivery. An additional tactic suggested by a number of people: shop at online stores that have non-virtual branches in tow. If you pick up the goods yourself, you save on delivery!
Whether you’re shopping for a new cell, TV, or a remote-controlled toy excavator, a great place to start is Heureka.cz. This site offers price comparisons on items from hundreds of retailers, including all the top online sites. There are also reviews of merchants so you can see what other buyers thought.
One drawback to shopping online that you’ll quickly discover: it would help to know some Czech, as most of the sites make no attempts to offer information in English. It is possible to figure them out, especially if you are looking for a very specific item and engage google.com/translate, but finer details might prove elusive.
Another drawback, of course, is the fact that you don’t see the product you are buying. One solution practiced by creative shoppers is to check out the item in a physical store and then order it on the web.
If you do “go web”, a number of people recommended Mall.cz. The site is praised for having the best prices, being hassle-free and quick. This company has physical stores in Prague 7, Brno, Ostrava and a large distribution center in Prague 9, where all goods (especially the heavy ones) can be picked up.
Mall.cz offers a number of payment options (credit cards, wires, cash on delivery, cash in store, etc). This variety of ways to pay can be found on many other sites as well, so you don’t necessarily need a credit card to shop online.
Customer Service & Returning Items
Policies differ a bit from store to store, but overall, consumer protection and customer service in the Czech Republic still leave a lot to be desired. In general, you better buy the right product the first time around and hope it doesn’t break.
Mall.cz suggests to not accept from the any box that looks damaged upon delivery. If you do accept it and find damage in the goods, you have various ways of making complaints to the delivery company and the website’s service center. Still, it might take them up to 30 days to deal with it – the maximum timeframe allowed by law. If you want to return undamaged goods, you get 14 days to do it (bring it unused, in original packaging).
As art would have it, while writing this article, I had an experience that perfectly illustrated this topic. The charger for my computer conked out mid-sentence and I had to go to the iStyle store at Anděl, where I recently bought it. I´ve had many Apple products in the past and was sure they had a universe-wide 90-day exchange policy. The clerks at the store assured me that the laws of Czech Republic trump the laws of Apple, and I have to give them the charger so they can send it off some place where some people will take up to a month to figure out what’s wrong with it. In the mean time, I can’t use my computer (in fact, this article was due that day). My only option is to buy a new charger and be out another 3k. Needless to say, it took much yelling and holding up the line to finally get the second salesperson to connect me to a manager that he earlier claimed did not exist. The manager was nice enough, and we came to a mutually unsatisfactory agreement. They are supposed to give me back the money I´ll pay now for a new charger, if the repair center will confirm a few weeks later that the old broken one is under warranty. I am holding my breath.