Sunday, December 28, 2014

Value shopping in the 21st Century -- A maze

Today's shopping market is a maze of possibilities and prices.

Three recent experiences I had illustrate how hard it can be to navigate and find the best price:

1. I needed a new filter for my spa.
I search all the usual national spa companies, then Amazon and Ebay.
By far the best price is on Ebay for the specific filter I need. At $31 there is no sales tax and free shipping.
Everywhere else was lots more money, about $40 and up.
I order from Ebay.
However, when the item comes, it was shipped directly from one of those spa companies I first checked on.
Yes, companies seem to underprice themselves a lot on Ebay or Amazon frequently. Ordering from the source is rarely the most inexpensive place anymore.

2. I needed a new kitchen disposal.
I scan the net very briefly, but there are way too many options and then I spot a sale price at the big local home furnishings store, RC Willey.
I go buy the item from 4 miles distant from my home and bring it home in less than an hour.
Surprisingly, many disposals DO NOT include wired plugs any more. That makes me mad, so I return the item the same day, feeling the salesman should have pointed that limitation out.
Now, I go online and do deep searches.
Home Depot on-line has a price that's $21 cheaper.
With an actual store locally to return this item too, I have to wait 6 days, but finally get the disposal.
Obviously the $21 extra was mostly for salesman commission and display costs.

3. I need a Turbo Tax home and business for 2015.
I had received several e-mail offers from the Turbo Tax company itself. The best from the source price was $99.
That seemed very high, so I wait weeks.
The local Sam's Club, just before Christmas get the product in and it is $75.
What? Yes, $25 cheaper than the source and equals the best price on the Web too.
I wait until after the Christmas rush to buy it.
Two days after Christmas, I buy the product at Sam's and it rings up at $60.
What? I ask if that's a mistake. No, there's $15 instant savings in effect now.
So, I get the Turbo Tax I need for $40 less than from the company that produces it; and for $15 less than any on-line source I could find.

So, in conclusion, where's the cheapest place to buy products?
It remains an open field.
Even local stores may have the best deals, even better than on-line.
You've got to price around in person and on-line both to always get the best price it seems.

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