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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.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  November 29, 2007; 9:09 AM ET
Categories:  The business we have chosen  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Verizon Wireless To Open Itself Up
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Your link for PriceGrabber mobile doesn't work. Try

Posted by: KM | November 29, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Amazon Marketplace is full of bargains. It's amazing how much stuff is remaindered almost upon release. My only gripe is that many of them do not box multiple orders together, so if you're ordering N CDs, DVDs or books, then you'll always get that many boxes.

Even with online bargains, I still maintain my policy of buying items from a bricks and mortar store if I discover it there first. If a bookseller can "curate" their small stock to provide something that has eluded all the online store's algorithms, then they deserve every cent.

Posted by: Mike | November 29, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

"... the gridlocked hell that is Tysons Corner."


However, I suggest you use all your personal days at the WashingtonPost to assume an unsuspected disguise, perhaps as an annoying bell ringing Salvation Army beggar, but with an asbestos costume, as the flamers & Tysons Corner Chamber of Commerce minions might still find you and seek to punish you for that comment!

Happy Holidays Rob! Hope you make it into next season.

Posted by: Bruce | November 29, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

KM: The PriceGrabber link should work now. (I forgot to add the "http://" prefix to it before, a mistake that our blogging software is apparently too dumb to compensate for.)

Bruce: No hate mail from Tysons Corner fans yet. But perhaps they're both still waiting for a parking space to open!

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | November 29, 2007 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Hello Rob,

I hope you can help. Something went wrong with Firefox and I'll have to download it again. However I don't want to lose my bookmarks, but I can't figure out where they are located. Can you please tell me?

Thanks & Happy Holidays.

Posted by: Win | November 29, 2007 11:35 PM | Report abuse

To Win, If you are running a Mac, after you download Firefox, you need to drag the dmg file icon into the Applications folder...or it will continue to "disappear." Also, drag the round Firefox icon onto your menubar -- then it will always be there.

Posted by: rjrjj | November 30, 2007 6:50 AM | Report abuse

I prefer brick and mortar stores for purchases like large screen Tvs. Just dont want the hassles of trying to get service from Crutchfield or someplace else. have been buying my Tvs and steroes from Myer Emco since 1978. Wnet to their Fairfax store for a 55in Sony SXRD. Oops they only carry the 50in and 60in. And the ignorant sales punk says we sell more plasma's and LCDs and we dont carry a lot of these. Really. No we cant order on for you. Hey bubba the Big Screen store down the street carries them No LCD or Plasma had picture comparable to SXRD. Only one that cmae close was Pioneer Elite 60in plasma and it was more than three times the price. Go to Worse Buy never or Short Circuit City please. The prez of Myer Emco was very dismissive. He lost my biz forever and I ahve dropped over $100k in his stores since 1978.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 30, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse

You need to know when to go Tyson's Corner and the road system. Have been shopping at Tyson's for 30 years for Xmas gifts with no problems. Do you go there on Friday night? Maybe but be ready for hassles. Just grab the first parking spot you come to. Saturday afternoon between now and Xmas really not a good idea. Next Wednesday at 300pm. great time to go.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 30, 2007 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Looks like the "Post I.T." blog is dead. No updates in 2 months. Why? Too much overlap with FF and Security Fix?

When does the Post decide to pull the plug on a failed blog?

Posted by: wiredog | November 30, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I freely admit I am not a "shopper" rather a "buyer".

When I need/want something, I figure out exactly what it is, then go to my list of online vendors. After so many years, I know who has good quality, price, service. Maybe I compare several vendors against each other.

I prefer not to use any of these payment services. Why give more people your personal financial information? I am not waiting for the next major news story about a hack or missing laptop and 1,000's of customer's information missing (e.g. TJX) After 10 years in web/IT I have seen too many bad practices/hacks and data thefts.

Posted by: CBO | November 30, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I am a disabled vet (Korea) and live (exist?) on a limited income, so I find that careful shopping is necessary if I want to have a little 'fat' left over.
I truly hate those coupons and (especially) mail-in rebates: what a pain in the butt! Why not just lower the price on the product?
I know, companies use these methods to track your shopping habits.
Oftimes, if I check it out, I can buy an item cheaper than cost-minus-coupon somewhere else.
Happy Holidays to all. Pete

Posted by: PeteBB | December 5, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

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