This article is from the Macintosh for sale FAQ, by Elliotte Rusty Harold firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
When you walk into the store where you're thinking about buying
for the first time, you should know exactly what you need and the
exact maximum price you will pay for that equipment. Never go in
to "discuss" your needs with a salesperson. Remember they are
there to sell you a computer, not to help you out. If you really
want to discuss your needs, talk to a knowledgable friend or
even hire a freelancer who specializes in Macintosh (not PC!)
pre-purchase consulting. At least that way you're talking to some
one who works for you rather than the store. You probably want
to ask the salesperson what price they can give you on the system
you want before you tell them what price you want to pay. I have
occasionally been surprised by a salesperson who initially offered
me a system at a price several hundred dollars lower than the price
I expected to pay. This is more common on high end systems like
840av's than on low end ones like Classics since there's still more
money for a dealer in a 3% markup on an 8500/120 than in a 10% markup
on a Quadra 630.
Buy the base CPU with the minimum amount of RAM it ships with
and possibly an internal Apple hard disk, an external monitor, and
maybe an Apple printer from your authorized dealer, nothing else.
Many dealers have excellent prices on CPU's but jack up the price
on peripherals to near list. They offer very good prices on the
base configurations of Macintosh and then pile on the extras, $200
for a modem, $50 for a surge supressor, $100 a megabyte for RAM.
Guess where their profit's coming from. Some dealers don't even
bother to put individual prices on your sales order, just a package
price, so you won't realize how much they're ripping you off on the
peripherals. Almost no Authorized Apple Dealer is able to beat
mail-order or unauthorized dealer prices on non-Apple peripherals.
All other non-Apple brand equipment should be purchased from a
dealer who specializes in peripherals, possibly through mail order.
And never, ever, buy software from an authorized Apple dealer.
Software can always be had mail order for about half the price
you'd pay an Apple dealer.
Many stores offer to set-up and test your system for you.
Typical fees range from $50 to $100 and include hard disk
initialization, system software installation, burn-in time, and
installation of one software package (normally HyperCard Player
unless you request otherwise in writing on the sales order). In
other words they're trying to get an extra $75 out of your pocket
to make sure that the computer they're selling you works. This is
a crock. While these charges might be justified on a PC whose setup
is traditionally more problematic, Macintosh set-up is so easy that
anyone who can navigate Usenet can certainly plug in their own Mac.