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"Use only quality e-tailers that have a good reputation"
I highly recommened M-Wave. www.mwave.com
I've always had very good service from them, and their prices are always very reasonable.
Buy white box components when you can. White box components are just that. They usually come in a white box, often with no documentation, no fancy packaging, etc. They are intended to be sold to VARs, but there is nothing that says individual system builders can't buy them too. The drawback is that you probably won't get as good of a warranty with white box as you will with retail. But computer components are reliable enough these days that if they don't go out in the first 90 days. they probably aren't going to go out.
White box CPUs, for example, sometimes only have a 90 day warranty. But a CPU is completely solid state, and chances are, if it is bad, it is going to be bad right out of the box. If it is going to fail, it is almost certainly going to fail in the first 90 days, especially if you stress test it by looping some computational intensive program for awhile.
So basically, if you don't mind giving up a few years on the warranty, buying white box parts can save you money.