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TWENTY YEARS AGO, A YOUNG company didn't need to worry much about buying office equipment or business services. The copier came from Xerox, the typewriters from IBM, the phone system from you-know-who. Fineries like overnight delivery services and bargain air fares were things of the future.

Today, of course, a company has dozens of alternatives -- and dozens of sales pitches -- to sort through. A little help with this sorting can now be had from What to Buy for Business, a 10-times-a-year, no-advertising magazine launched just last June.

What to Buy for Business was born almost by accident. "When my partner and I started our original business," recalls John Derrick, a 29-year-old Englishman who is the publication's managing director, "we needed advice on purchasing and looked around for a consumer guide for business." Finding nothing, they chucked their initial venture and set out to fill the gap. The result: a British edition of What to Buy, which over six years grew to a profitable circulation of 11,000. Late last year Derrick opened an office in Rye, N.Y., and began preparing a U.S. edition.

To judge from its first American issues, What to Buy is comprehensive, candid, and useful -- up to a point. An 85-page report on copiers, for example, covered nearly 200 models, offering assessments ranging from complimentary to, well, blunt ("arguably the world's worst copier," one model was judged). The report included a hefty dose of inside dope on the copier business. You're buying from Xerox? Expect a piddling list-price discount of 7%, as compared with the 20% to 25% most other companies offer. You like the Pitney Bowes D500? Try the Ricoh FT6085 instead -- it's the same machine, bought from Ricoh and relabeled by Pitney. According to last June's issue, you could get it from Ricoh for about $1,700 less.

The publication isn't yet on a par with, say, Consumer Reports. Derrick's staff is tiny, and his evaluations rely on user surveys and staff assessments of a product's capabilities, rather than on extensive testing. That said, an annual subscription at $95 may still save more than a little time and motion for anyone interested in reports on everything from word-processing software to the best deals in business travel. "In a small business," Derrick points out, "it's often the boss who does the buying. He can go in for cross-your-fingers-and-hope purchasing, or he can research all the options while neglecting his main business." Maybe if he reads What to Buy for Business the choices won't be so stark.

Last updated: Oct 1, 1986




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