How to Shop Smart for Cigars
An educated consumer is our best customer." That's the motto for SYMS, the nationwide clothing store chain. Fortunately, the internet allows consumers to price check at warp speed, making that motto even more relevant for just about everything we buy, and that includes premium cigars.
So how do you find the best buys in premium cigars? Surely there's no lack of online discount cigar websites. And although the most popular online cigar stores have a pretty loyal following, the majority of cigar smokers seem to go wherever they can find the lowest price for their favorite cigars. ("Sorry I cheated on you baby, but I still love you more than anyone else.")
With regard to the big guns like Famous Smoke Shop, et. al., the difference in price can be as little as $1. I actually had a customer who would buy Partagas at a competitor's site because they were a buck cheaper. However, on my suggestion he would try new cigars, sometimes more expensive, but more often less expensive than his beloved Partagas. So trust, though primarily a loyalty factor, also plays a role when it comes to good buys; that is, as long as the person making the suggestion is trying to save you some cash.
Trust ties into one of the most important factors when shopping for cigars online or off - customer service - which begs the question: Would you rather buy from an unknown entity just to save a couple of bucks, or buy from a company who's going to help you out of a jam when you really need it?
Unless they phone-in their cigar orders, most online customers don't usually have to deal with customer service until there's a problem. So, Rule #1 is: Try to find an online cigar store that not only has fair prices, but also provides excellent customer service.
Now let's take a look at some of the ways you can actually find good quality cigars online and keep your budget in the black.
Look for less expensive alternatives to your current favorites. Experimentation is part of the fun of smoking premium cigars. By trying something comparable to cigars you already enjoy, you may discover some cigars you like just as much or even more. Famous Smoke Shop has a Value Priced Alternatives page on the site featuring exclusive cigar brands. The upside is most of them are made by the premier manufacturers, too. Alternatives don't have to be "house brands," but beware of online cigar stores that compare apples-to-apples.
Start with a 5-Pack. This is especially important when trying new or alternative cigars. There's no point in shooting your load on an entire box (or bundle) of an unknown entity. This is especially important when buying house brands.
Another good reason for buying 5-packs is, when you want to have some pricier cigars in your collection, but the box price is cost-prohibitive. Even if the pack equates to $10 a cigar, it's better than spending roughly $200 for 20.
Read the copy. The better online cigar stores have descriptions for the cigars they stock. Read it carefully so you know what you're getting. Do the cigars have the right strength, wrappers, flavor properties, etc. you're looking for? Does the item come with free shipping or other offers? Missing details can be the difference between a return customer and one who will flame a store on the boards for not being on the up-and-up.
Look for deals & offers. As noted above, you can get a lot of bang for your buck if you find cigars that come with free shipping, free cigars, accessories, or deeply-discounted promotions. Even if the box is being sold at full weight, a free 5-pack or sampler goes a long way. Famous also has two pages on the site specifically dedicated to such offers: A page on which all the brands come with free shipping on box orders, and a page on which all of the brands include "Free Stuff."
Name brand hits and collections. If you're a strict name brand buyer, Famous has a Best Of page offering samplers from practically every major cigar brand in the industry at reasonable prices. It's a great way to discover the line extensions most brands have to offer, again, without committing to a box.
So, what if you've already found some great new cigars in a particular size, but you're curious about how the other sizes taste? There is a difference, and a solution! It's called a "Test Flight" - a sampler of one specific brand containing all (or mostly all) of the sizes & shapes in that edition, usually at a nice price point.
Experienced cigar smokers have figured out all kinds of ways to get good deals. It just comes with the territory over time; sort of like how a hitter trains himself to discern between a curve ball and a slider. Unless you have unlimited cash supplies and price is no object, hopefully some of the above will help you keep a little more money in your wallet.