Many people in Ripoff Britain today rely on shops such as Argos and PC World when it comes to buying their Computer Accessories, with many of those people waiting for a Bank Holiday to arrive before buying a new printer for example. And good luck to them - Why not wait for Bank Holiday bargain prices? After all, it beats paying the normal retail prices.

But hold on! I put a question mark on "Why not wait for Bank Holiday bargain prices?". So what am I questioning? The prices or the waiting?.....Well both actually!!. These days you do not have to wait for prices to drop before getting a bargain.....if you know of a Computer Fair in your area.

A Computer Fair is a place (usually a hall/room in a church, hotel or community hall) that is rented out to Traders who come from all over the place. In London for example they might come from as far away as Acton and Croydon or as near as Islington and Camberwell. Either way, this is not your concern. For you they are under the one roof for one day only, normally a Saturday or Sunday.

Each Saturday (or Sunday) the traders set up their stall(s) in order for you to save a small fortune and for them to make a small profit. In the middle of the week many traders work in their shops but do not get the kind of customer base they get at the computer fair, hence one reason why they can offer big discounts - They order in bulk knowing that they can sell it to the hundreds, if not thousands, of customers that will attend the computer fair throughout the day. Another reason is because they have low running costs - They are not paying a shop ground rent, only a stall day-rent.

Fig 1.0  Nearest Stall - Printers, Speakers, Mice, Hard Drives, Network Adaptors, WebCams and so on.

So what kind of things are sold at a computer fair? Well depending on the computer fair itself, normally everything to do with computers and other gadgetry as well. For example. One stall might sell a mixture of goods like in Fig 1.0 above whereas another stall might specifically sell one kind of item like in Fig 1.1 below.

Fig 1.1  Nearest Stall - Blank CDs, Blank DVDs, CD/DVD Sleeves and CD/DVD Marker Pens.

The nearest stall (Fig 1.1 above) sells CD/DVD gear while the stall next to it sells Printer Ink Cartridges (original and compatible) and Photo Paper. Original printer ink cartridges are those made by the printer manufacturer and sold in shops such as Argos and PC World. Compatible printer ink cartridges on the other hand are, normally, made by third party manufacturers and tend to be bought/used for cheap printing purposes. For example. If I buy an original black ink for my Canon PIXMA IP1500 printer, in a shop, I can pay from £10 up to £16 for it whereas a compatible black ink will normally be half that price. In a computer fair it will normally be a quarter of the original price (i.e from £2.50) and sometimes a fifth of the price (i.e from £2).

A Compatible Black printer ink cartridge tends not to be as dark (jet black) as an Original Black printer ink cartridge. It tends to be more of a charcoal black or very dark brown, depending on the actual ink cartridge of course. Also, some compatible black printer ink cartridges are filled with dye as opposed to real/genuine ink. This applies to compatible Colour printer ink cartridges as well. With compatible colour printer ink cartridges RED tends to be red when printed whereas original colour printer ink cartridges should print the shade of red when printed (i.e Cardinal Red, Blood Red and so on). This applies to other colours as well. Therefore. If you only use your printer for quick printouts (i.e a quick printout of a webpage) I would suggest buying/trying compatible ink cartridges and only use your original ink cartridges for Photographs and Important Documents for example. Ink Cartridges can easily be swapped over these days.

Fig 1.2  An array of gadgetry at bargain prices

It pays to shop around, even in the computer fair! Although two stalls might be selling the same Flash Drive for example they will almost certainly be selling it at a different price. The price difference might only be £1 but compared to the normal shop price it might be a difference of between £5 and £10. At the time of writing for example a 4GB Kingston Flash Drive in the computer fair is £8 compared to the cheapest 4GB Kingston Flash Drive in the Autumn/Winter 2009 Argos Catalogue of £11.99 (Page 1297). With an 8GB Kingston Flash Drive at the computer fair costing £11 it means you can get double the space with 99p change!

It also pays to look, and test if possible, before you buy. Always ask the owner of the stall for a test of the product. A good, honest, trader will always allow you to test the product either in the computer fair or as a "bring-it-back-if-it-doesn't-work" receipt guarantee. If the trader does not do one of these for you scratch your head in disbelief!! because the organizer of the computer fair should of made sure his/her traders are genuine, regular/weekly, friendly traders who look after their customer to a shop standard. It is not in the computer fair organizer's interest to have dishonest traders who cannot be found the following week. In any case always ask for the trader's business card, if their full details are not on the receipt, and if necessary give their number a call in front of them to make sure their contact details are up-to-date.

Fig 1.3  A stall for all your Software needs

Do not be tied down to just one computer fair. I recommend visiting two or three computer fairs so that you can weigh up prices, traders and the quality of the goods. In the long run, purely for convenience, you will more than likely use the same computer fair. Therefore, build up a good rapport with the traders and explain to them "I come here every week, I own a shop, We can do good business, What is your last price and so on". A good trader, who's heard it all before!, will play ball and give you a little discount. Remember. Every £1 counts.

Fig 1.4  New and Second-Hand Laptop - All at bargain discounted prices

The above pictures were taken at the Tottenham Court Road (London's West-End) computer fair when the place had just opened. And this is the key thing to remember: Get there early so that you can browse the room at leisure with no over-crowding. The mass of people are normally there between 12pm and 4pm.

Below are details of the three major computer fairs reachable from the south-east of London. For a better list there is Computer fairs in general tend to charge an Admission Fee, usually between £1 and £2.50 (depending on the venue), but this is nothing compared to what you will save.

Computer Fair   Address   Telephone   Opening Hours   Parking   Website  
College Computer Fair University of London Union,
Malet Street,
London, WC1E 7HY
020 7664 2000 EVERY SATURDAY
10am - 5pm
NO Click Here  
Stratford Computer Fair   Carpenters & Docklands Centre,  
98 Gibbins Road, Stratford,
London E15 2HU
020 8534 7347   EVERY SATURDAY & SUNDAY  
10.30am - 4pm
YES Click Here  
Crystal Palace Crystal Palace Football Stadium,
Selhurst Park, Whitehorse Lane,
London SE25 6PU
10am - 4pm
YES Click Here  

At the time of writing there is no longer a computer fair held at Tottenham Court Road. All those traders have set up their stalls in the University of London Union, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HY (see above). The nearest tube station is Goodge Street tube station, going towards the Euston area and coming from the Tottenham Court Road area. The computer fair is about a five minute walk from Goodge Street tube station.