Dealing For Dollars
I like making money with minimal effort, so the concept of a company paying me to shop has a certain charm. In today's column, I discuss the incentives being thrown around--rebates, discounts, free shipping--by three online payment services that are trying to raise their profile this holiday season.
I've followed my own advice and taken some of this bait--I've paid for almost $100 of stuff via PayPal. I also expect I'll divert a decent amount of my seasonal spending to Google Checkout; those discounts listed on Google's site can be pretty persuasive.
Otherwise, I'm sticking to my previous pattern: Most of the time, either I do my shopping on foot, or I do it online. The former may cost extra, but the shipping costs and delivery time can't be beat--and the selection at neighborhood stores often includes things not available elsewhere. The latter saves money and, more importantly, it keeps me from having to go anywhere near the gridlocked hell that is Tysons Corner.
Note that I didn't say that shopping online necessarily saves time. That's because of all the research I feel compelled to do on most purchases off the Web. First I have to check PriceGrabber (or, if I'm away from a desk, its mobile version), considering not only the prices it finds but the shipping and tax estimates this site generates, the ratings its users have provided for each store, how many ratings are available for each store (since a small number can be suspicious) and what sort of shipping time I'm looking at.
Then I need to hit the usual bargain-news sites to see if the stores with the lowest price are offering any coupons or other discounts not advertised on their own home pages.
Sometimes, it's a wonder I get around to buying anything online.
What have you done to try to streamline the "e-tailing" experience? Share your suggestions in the comments--or post them during my Web chat today. The show starts at 2 p.m. this afternoon, but you can send in a comment or question ahead of time.
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