ShopSavvy may be the greatest mobile application ever.

Having just gotten a new HTC Hero running the Google Android operating system, I’ve been playing with the Market to find more apps. I came across ShopSavvy, which I had heard of, and opted to install it.

This may be the single greatest tool ever invented for the comparison shopper.

The application is available for iPhones, Android-based phones and Nokias for free, and it could change everything about how you shop.  Ever found a “deal” at a store, but wonder how it compares to the prices online?  You simply turn on this app, point your camera at the UPS bar code, the app reads it and then searches the Web for it.  You are then shown the name of the item to make sure it is correct, and it shows you results of where it found the item online and how much they are charging.  It will also aid you in going directly to that seller’s Web site.

For years my family and friends have called me while they are out shopping since they know I’m always near a computer.  ”Can you look this up on Amazon for me and tell me how much it is?”  Why bother any more with this handy little tool.

I tested it our with random items on my desk, and every item showed up properly and gave me prices I could find online.

The app itself is free, and I imagine they make some money on the links if you should happen to buy anything, but who cares?  If you have a phone that will support it, this is a must have application.

Categories: Cell Phones, Mobile Phones, Shopping   
 

The state of Colorado really wants your tax dollars from items you buy online, and if the retailers aren’t willing to collect the taxes, the state wants them to tell you how much you owe.

States have been trying to figure out for some time how to collect sales tax from all of those sales made on sites such as Amazon.  The problem is that tax laws say a business must have a presence in a state for that state to collect taxes from it.  With online retailers, that has been tricky at best, so states have had to get creative in how they do it.

According to TechFlash, Colorado’s latest gambit is that retailers are supposed to tell you at the end of each purchase how much the customer owes the state, and then do it again in a end of the year summary.  Apparently the state then expects the consumer to submit those amounts with their annual state taxes.

While Amazon is the focus of most stories, this impacts all online retailers, and the idea of every retailer trying to keep these types of records is daunting at best.  Many online retailers are one to two people operations, so trying to add this to their workload will be a nightmare.  Also, most retailers run on pre-packaged shopping cart software which contains no options for this type of thing.

This is going to be interesting to watch, and also potentially very messy.

Categories: News, Shopping   
 

Did you remember to fill out the warranty for your new gadget?

Yesterday we reminded you to be careful about throwing out your packaging after unwrapping gifts.  Part of the reason for this is you don’t want to throw out vital information you need for filling out your warranty cards.

A lot of companies now let you do the warranty information online, but you still need information that sometimes appears only on the box.  Model numbers, serial numbers, part numbers, etc are quite often printed on a label that is only found on the outside of the box.  Did you remember to keep it all?

Companies are actually hoping you will forget to fill this stuff out so that when you need service you won’t be able to claim it.  Also, if sending in by postcard, they can conveniently say they never got it, as happened to me once.  Always make sure the warranty information gets registered before you need it unless you want to go through a ton of hassles.

While warranties can be a pain, they are well worth registering, and we highly recommend it.  Just make sure you do it as soon as possible and don’t hold off as some companies have a time limit on how long after you receive the item for registering.  Get on it tonight if at all possible … you know, while not enjoying your new gadgets.

Categories: Gadgets, Shopping   
 

Got that new gadget you wanted for Christmas? GREAT! … don’t throw out the packaging too quickly!

I remember when I was younger my family always wanted the living room cleaned out of the wrapping paper, boxes and so on as soon as were done opening gifts.  Inevitably there was always a toy piece  or some little part of an item tossed out that we would then have to go dig through the trash for.  Good times …

So as you are opening up all your iPods, smart phones, video game systems and so on, just make sure you keep all the packaging for at least a few days.  Sure you can throw out the wrapping paper, just make sure to shake it out before you put it int he trash bag so you can be certain no little pieces got caught up in it.

This is also a good plan as you never know when a gadget may fail and you want to return it.  I always keep all of the packaging for my gadgets for at least a few months with all of the corresponding backup discs, cables I don’t necessarily need to use and so on.  I store them all in the garage and after about six months or so I toss them out.  I then take all of the extra items stored in them, put it in a zip lock baggie, label the bag as to which item it came from and keep them in a filing drawer.  Overly anal retentive?  Probably, but having lost cables before that I thought, “Oh, I’ll never need this one …”, you know exactly what I ended up needing down the road.

Most of all have fun with your gifts, but try to control your excitement long enough that you don’t end up losing that all important sync cable!

Categories: Gadgets, Shopping   
 

blippySocial media can be a wonderful tool when used correctly, but then someone has to come along with an idea that is so outrageously silly that you have to wonder if we have all lost our minds.

Blippy is a new service currently in private beta that allows you to enter your credit card number and then every time you use that card it shares a message with your friends about where you used your card and how much you spent.  With services such as Amazon, iTunes and Zappos, it will even tell them what exactly you bought.  Your friends can then leave you comments about your purchases.

… What sort of illicit drugs were the people behind this site taking when they came up with this concept?

Social media, as we are told ad nauseam, is all about sharing information with one another and having conversations.  Fine, no problem with that.  However, the idea of letting a third-party service into my wallet, and then allowing the information from that sharing to go out even further to my friends is just beyond the scope of over sharing.

And what about the day you forget your card information and you accidentally purchase something you really don’t want the world to see?  MG Siegler of TechCrunch interviewed Blippy founder Philip Kaplan about the service, and Mr. Kaplan even suggested you have a “social” credit card and a “private” credit card.  You would only use the social card when you wanted your friends to see what you were buying, and you use your private card, which is not connected to Blippy, when you buy things you don’t want to share.  I have a better idea, how about Blippy simply doesn’t exist?

It’s easy to get caught up in all of the hyperbole that surrounds social media, and we only write up this story because we want to make sure you don’t get involved with sites such as this.  It looks all shiny and exciting, but this is simply a bad idea from the ground up.  There are zero redeeming qualities to this site.  Period.  My good friend Steven Hodson wrote up similar views over at Shooting at Bubbles, and you can hear Steven and I discuss it on the CobWEBs podcast from last night.  (warning, the podcast has rough language)

Just say no to services like this folks, it is just a bad idea no matter how you look at it.

blippyscreen

Categories: Shopping, Social Networking   
 

dvdwatchnowAmazon may very well be presenting us with the future of entertainment media with its new “Buy Now, Watch Now” promotion.

Many experts are saying that the age of physical media is quickly coming to an end and that downloaded/streaming media will be the next big thing.  What if you could have the best of both worlds at the same time?

The Amazon “Buy Now, Watch Now” promotion is a program that included approximately 300 different titles on DVD that will allow you to download a digital version of the film to your PC or TiVo for instant viewing.  This allows you to have instant gratification, or if you are buying a DVD as a gift, hey, you get a copy of the movie also.

Before one of you smart people goes, “Well, I’ll just return the DVD and keep the digital copy for free!” Uh-uh.  Amazon anticipated that and you will be charged for a Video on Demand movie, but refunded for the DVD or Blu-ray copy.

This is apparently a limited time test, and the selection of movies is small, but you can just about guarantee that this is a test for something else down the road.  How big this might get, who knows, but it could be a heck of a way to help the lagging DVD sales the entertainment industry has been seeing as of late.

Seeing as the movies don’t cost anything extra, what’s the harm in giving it a try?

Categories: Shopping   
 

online xmas shoppingIt would seem from the prices we’re seeing that retailers aren’t quite as excited as they used to be about Cyber Monday.

While we headed out to Walmart for Black Friday, we also did some online shopping during the sales, picking up a lot of DVDs and Blu-rays. Now, normally the sales get repeated on Monday, or even more deals show up as online retailers have come to love “Cyber Monday”, the online equivalent of Black Friday.  However, it seems retailers are caring a lot less about the day as I wrote in an article on another blog entitled Cyber Monday slowly fading away as less employees shop at work.

As the details of the sales for tomorrow have started to come out, the deals are not better than Black Friday this year, they’re actually worse.

Now, mind you I am only judging this by DVDs I looked at on Amazon, but here are some examples of what I’m seeing.

Black Friday Price
Cyber Monday Price
Boondock Saints [Blu-ray]
$10.00
$12.49
Gilmore Girls - The Complete Seventh Season
$14.99
$17.49
Sex and the City: The Complete Series
$89.99
$118.99

We’re not quite sure why the prices have crept up for Cyber Monday, but perhaps you would be better off waiting until closer to the holidays when retailers begin to mark things down again, but these new prices are a rather large disappointment after the fantastic prices we just saw on Friday.

Categories: Shopping   
 

video professorIf you’ve ever been up late at night, you are sure to be familiar with John W. Scherer, Founder and CEO of Video Professor … as he says it endlessly, telling you to “try my product.” The question is, should you?

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch is currently on a bit of a personal crusade to rid the world of advertisers who scam you out of more money than you are first led to believe to be spending.  While I have personally never been a huge fan of Mr. Arrington, I can’t say I exactly disagree with his current mission.  There are numerous companies out there that will get you when it comes to the fine print, and someone pointing those companies out is nothing but a good thing.

After making a cursory comment about Video Professor being one of those companies, they contacted the Washington Post, which syndicates content from TechCrunch, and demanded the comment be removed.  The paper refused and said they would need to speak with Mr. Arrington.  The whole sordid tale has now been spelled out on a post on TechCrunch, and it’s worth reading for the finer details of how Video Professor gets you for $289.95 when you really think you are only paying $4.85 in shipping.  You just need to wade through Mr. Arrington’s trademarked chest thumping of how he is superior to all other tech journalists to get to it.

The moral of the story is that you always have to read the fine print on offers that sound too good to be true.  Video Professor lures you in with the idea you can get a free lesson CD from them on the computer subject of your choice, and you only have to pay for the shipping to you.  If you decide you don’t want it within 10 days, simply return it and they’ll refund your shipping.  What they neglect to tell you outright in most cases is that if you don’t return the CD within 10 days, you are authorizing them to charge your credit card $289.95 and you’ll end up with the entire series of CDs.

The information is there, you just have to read the fine print, which is something hardly anyone ever does.  And the sad part of this is that it is totally legal.  Is it moral or ethical?  No, but it is legal.  Of course you think, “Well, if I get that charge, I’ll just ask for a refund.”  Good luck with that.  As you can read the stories of others who have tried this on Ripoff Reports and Epinions, that is no easy task.

While we are only pointing out Video Professor here, they are certainly not the lone perpetrator of such tactics.  It is just an easy way to point out that you should always read the fine print of any offer, and, as the old saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true…”

Categories: Shopping   
 

black fridaySo you’ve decided you’re going to brave the crowds on Black Friday, but do you know how to really get the most out of the sales?

We’re taking a look on how to make sure you really are getting the most out of Black Friday this year, and also to make sure there are no incidents like the death of a Walmart employee last year in Long Island, NY.  While these deals are great, they are never worth someone’s life.  I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I was going to Walmart this year, but there is one key difference: my store is a 24-hour store.  As opposed to everyone waiting outside the doors for opening time, we are allowed in the store whenever, and we can just walk to the specific items we want before the official time.  If my store was set up like the one in Long Island is, I would not be going.

All that being said, how do you get the most out of Black Friday?

Research, Research, Research

Are you sure those prices you are seeing in the ads are really that good?  Just because they are printed in a flier for for the Black Friday sales, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily the best prices out there.  It is easy to look at those prices and think, “Wow, that’s a heck of a bargain!”, but is it really?

Ask yourself some simple questions:

  • Can you find it any place online for a similar price?
  • Can you find it any place online for at least a close price, and the site doesn’t charge sales tax?
  • Can you find it any place online for at least a close price, and they don’t charge shipping?

If you can answer “yes” to any of those three questions, or a combination there of, you then have to think is it worth going through the hassle of going to the Black Friday event?  Even if it’s a couple dollars, think about the amount of sleep you’ll lose, the crowds you’ll have to fight, etc.

You also need to research is anyone else price matching?  Walmart has a ton of DVDs on sale for as low as $2, but if you go to the Amazon Black Friday Deals page, you’ll see they are going to have the exact same discs on sale for the same price.  Wouldn’t you rather shop from home in your PJs?

Have you read the reviews?

Even if you don’t like Amazon, there is no denying that it has become one of the most amazing resources on the Web for consumer reviews of items.  While price checking, make sure to read the reviews, see what it was people complained about, is it something you can live with?

Check on the go if you must

We recently wrote about a service named Retrevo that will let you check prices and reviews via your cell phone by simply texting them information on the item.  If you forgot to do your research on a certain item, this is better than nothing.

Be aware of your surroundings

I’ve left the most important for the last … please be careful.  None of the items offered at these sales is worth you getting injured.  Take a deep breath, remember these are material items and your health is worth far more than the few dollars you will save by getting that item.  Or imagine you are somehow involved in injuring someone else.  Is that the memory you want hanging over you through out the holidays?  Probably not.

Just be careful folks, that’s really the best advice anyone could give you.

Categories: Shopping   
 

walmart-logoThe past few years of Black Friday sales from Walmart have been rather lackluster, but this year it appears someone lit a very large fire under the companies collective behind to go all out with the discounts.

Normally we don’t do breakdowns of an individual retailer’s sales around here, but when the Walmart Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving holiday in the USA for those of you from elsewhere) sales flier leaked online yesterday, we honestly couldn’t believe it.  These aren’t just deals, they are insane deals.

(all prices pulled from Walmart’s every day prices)

Digital Cameras

wmdcs2009

Nikon CoolPix S230

The CoolPix S230 normally sells for $179.88, but will be available on Black Friday for $139. (5 A.M. to 11 A.M. only)

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC S930

This one is sort of a mixed deal.  You can get the camera for just $79 on Black Friday, but if you go on Walmart’s site right now, you can get it for $99 with a 2GB memory card on a case. (5 A.M. to 11 A.M. only)

Miscellaneous Electronics

wmipod2009

8GB iPod Touch

This has to be one of the weirdest deals this year … they are charging more for the 8GB iPod Touch on Black Friday than they do on a normal day, but with a reason.  $188.95 is the normal online price for this iPod, but on Black Friday it will be $195 with an included $50 gift card to the iTunes store, technically making it $145.  You still save, just in an odd way. (all day Friday)

Sandisk 8GB Cruzer USB Flash Drive

Normally $20, will be $14 on Black Friday.  You can never have enough flash drives. (all day Friday)

Western Digital 1TB My Book Essential Portable USB 2.0 Hard Drive

Normally $89.82 on Walmart’s site, it’ll be $78 on Black Friday.  Not a huge savings, but one can never have enough hard drive storage. (all day Friday)

Video Games

wmvgs2009

Playstation 3

The SonyPlayStation 3 Slim will come with two games, Infamous and Batman Arkham Asylum, and The Dark Knight movie on Blu-ray for $299.  The PS3 Slim alone normally sells for $299, Batman Arkham Asylum goes for $59.82, Infamous sells for $53.82 and The Dark Knight for $15.86, so you are getting $129.50 in added bonuses.  If you are looking for a PS3 for this holiday season, this is going to be a tough deal to beat. (5 A.M. to 11 A.M. only)  (We know the Walmart ad says the extras are a $139 bonus, but we got the $129.50 by using Walmart.com’s prices.)

Xbox 360

You can pick up an Xbox 360 Arcade (meaning no hard drive included) for $199 and it will include Madagascar 2 game and Madagascar/Madagascar 2 DVDs.  The game and movies are a $53 bonus, but we really don’t recommend buying Xbox units without hard drives as it limits what you can do with the system. (5 A.M. to 11 A.M. only)

Should you go to Walmart for Black Friday?

We have only looked at the tip of the deals Walmart is offering on Friday, you can see the full ad here (PDF link), but I’m going for the first time in several years.  There are just enough deals here to lure me out of my house at that insane hour.  We haven’t even touched on the numerous HDTV deals as they would take forever to research.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for some general tips on how to get the most out of Black Friday, and how to stay safe.

Categories: Shopping   
 
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