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The Technopeasant’s Guide to Bargain Hunting on the Web
Jeff Pasternack

Everybody likes a bargain. More importantly, everybody likes to think that the bargain they’re getting is better than the bargain the next person found. Nothing like the feeling of superiority when it comes to out-saving a neighbor, my grandmother would say. And there’s no better bargain-hunting tool than the Internet.

Sure, there are many Web sites that offer discounts on their products. And yes, some online prices are better than what one might find elsewhere, but sometimes, when you consider shipping and the time delay, it turns out not to be such a good bargain after all. My two key criteria for shopping online are that the bargains needs to provide an extra bonus on top of an already low price and that the vendor have an excellent rating: returning items bought online can be dicey at times.

There are essentially three categories for finding deals online. The first is to use sites that aggregate products and prices submitted by vendors who are paying for the right to have their prices listed. The second is to find sites that have special deals submitted by consumers. The third and arguably most popular are to use auction sites.

Product Aggregators
Product and price aggregators are companies that aggregate product information from other websites and place it on their own. Aggregators typically do not actually stock the merchandise; rather, they are merely glorified order takers. Most aggregators, such as and, serve primarily to provide buyers with the lowest prices available across multiple product lines. Be sure to check the shipping and handling fees charged by aggregators and their vendors as well as the return policies as some may be less palatable than others.

Another way that vendors can be listed on aggregator sites is to pay for the listing, so the “best price” might in fact only refer to the prices offered by this limited selection of vendors. In all cases, unless you have bought from the vendor before, do your research by checking up on the public’s opinion of the vendor. Some aggregators, such as or, provide a customer review forum and others do not. If all else fails, simply go to and search on the vendor’s name and the word “complaint” or “opinion.”

Deal Aggregators
Capitalizing on deals submitted by consumers is fun. Why? Because they often involve clicking through a vendor’s website in a particular way that allows you to obtain a price that might otherwise not be available or visible. For example, reported a great offer on Pepsi products at The list price for a 12-pack of Pepsi at Office Depot was $2.99. Following the directions, I placed 17 12-packs of Pepsi into a shopping cart for $50.83. This qualified me for free shipping. I activated the $15 off $50 coupon at, which reduced my total to $36. I checked out and they delivered 204 cans of soda to my door. So I paid 17 cents per can, as opposed to the 25 cents per can I would have paid had I gone to the store and bought it.

DealCatcher,com is a nifty site that aggregates deals that are generally submitted by vendors. It used to be that the Price Mistake of the Day feature was a genuine pricing error. Now, however, it is simply a loss-leader marketing tactic used by vendors to bring customers to their site.

Auctions and the granddaddy of them all,, are sites where deals can sometimes be had, depending on the types of items you seek and how you bid. Once the repository for used items found in attics, many companies are selling their overstocked items or older models on these sites. I recently participated in Dovebid’s Enron auction and it was pretty cool. I was able to view the lots in real time as I listened to the auctioneer chatter on relentlessly and place bids with ease. Dovebid is perfect if you’re looking to by items in bulk, such as 12 flat screen monitors, but is merely passable if you only want one.

eBay, which allegedly started out as a way for the founder to buy Pez Candy dispensers, also has a live auction capability for their higher cost items. Unlike Dovebid, however, eBay has built its service around small transactions between people and only recently began its corporate line of service. Here is how eBay normally works. You find a painting that would look great in your office. Place an early bid so that you are on the notification list and you’ll be emailed updates. This bumps up the price, but you feel it is a necessary evil. You wait until your best guess of the auction’s last possible five seconds to submit your best and final bid. If it is a hot item, you lose. Even if it isn’t, you may still lose. To whom? A sniper.

Simply put, automates the process of placing your bid in the closing seconds of any eBay auction, dramatically increasing your chance of winning. The idea on eBay is that you want to pay the lowest possible price, but most people hurt this effort by placing an early bid. This increases the price and causes others to bid higher than you. Instead, list the item in and it will submit your bid at the last possible moment. Their system is faster than yours, believe me. If you’re even partially interested in eBay, this tool is a must.

Two Examples of How the Technopeasant Goes Shopping
I needed copier paper and an ink cartridge for my printer. I went to and on the left side are links to an alphabetical listing of deals by store name. I clicked on “O” for Office Depot and discovered a 10% off coupon code for an online order of $50 or more. As I am a frequent shopper, I had a $20 off coupon as well, which I was able to stack with the coupon code. Coupled with free shipping for the order being over $50, they delivered $55 worth of goods for $29.50. is another deal aggregator that specializes in, you guessed it, technology. I found a deal on their site based on a certain series of mouseclicks and I could buy a super low cost Dell Dimension 4500 with an Intel Pentium 4 2.4ghz. The result? Instead of paying about $799 plus tax, I was able to take advantage of a stackable 10% off coupon code, $100 off if I ordered online, free shipping and a $150 mail-in rebate, bringing my total to $510 including shipping and tax.

In conclusion, it is much easier to bargain hunt online and off when you know what you want. By looking for rebates on these websites or even just by going to and typing in the product name and the word “rebate,” you might be surprised at how easy it can be to save money. The best part, of course, is out-saving your neighbor who just bought the same thing.

Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and author of the TechnoPeasant Review.
If you have questions or comments about this column, please write to him at