Cheaper Alternatives to Internet Big Dogs
Update: I understand the concerns about the legitimacy of MP3Suite.com. I recently became a member of the site and have purchased a few songs with no problem. I did, however, notice that many of the songs on the site are unlicensed. After an inquiry to customer service, they told me they were working on getting licenses for all of their songs. However, based on the questions and concerns posted in response to this post, I have contacted the company to get some answers. I will update this post as soon as I receive that response.
I love cheering for the underdog, so I get a lot of pleasure from shopping at the underdogs of the retail world. Don't get me wrong, Target is one of my favorite stores. But I also love giving my business to establishments that are off the beaten track. They often offer better prices, pretty good customer service and an opportunity to help a fledgling business. As easy as it is to jump on Amazon when I'm in need of the latest bestseller or to hit eBay to unload an old stroller, there are competitors out there with better prices. I recently launched a search for online sites that offered better prices than the big dogs. Some of the sites I found are backed by large companies, some are even publicly traded. But they're competing with the honchos of the Internet with lower prices. Here's what I found:
I love Amazon for its free shipping and wide selection of stuff, but something told me that there had to be better prices on books out there. Buy.com may be the answer. The site also sells a bunch of stuff, including electronics, computers and toys, from its headquarters in Aliso Viejo, Calif. But the business, launched in 1997, claims to sell books at prices 10 percent lower than Amazon's while also offering free shipping on purchases of at least $25. However not all the books I searched for were 10 percent lower. "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, for example, was $8.25 at Amazon and $9.17 at Buy.com. But the company says it will send refunds for that 10 percent lower price if a Buy.com price is higher for the same exact book at Amazon. It's a promotion that Buy.com started two years ago.
iTunes has made a fortune off my family, between our hundreds of downloads of Disney Princess songs to the latest Jack Johnson tunes. So for big MP3 consumers like me, a site like MP3Suite is a cheaper alternative to iTunes. MP3Suite, which has more than 12 million files, charges a flat membership fee, while iTunes charges a per-download fee, which is 99 cents for most songs. An unlimited lifetime membership at MP3Suite goes for $34.44, which gives you an unlimited amount of songs and albums to download for life. Or if that kind of commitment is too much, you can have two years of access for $1.37 a month or $32.88 or 1 year of access for $2.49 a month or $29.88. Add $14.95 to any of these memberships for unlimited movie downloads. The downloads are compatible with all MP3 players, including iPods, and the membership can be cancelled at any time. The site also provides free access to several media players.
I thought my life was complete when my Dad introduced me to Zappos. Finally an answer to my shoe addiction. But I recently discovered the site's prices are not as low as Shoebuy, an online shoe store owned by the same company that claims the Home Shopping Network, Match.com and Ticketmaster. The site, like many shoe sites, offers free shipping for both purchases and returns. (Why don't clothing sites offer this too?) A certain pair of Clarks sandals for women that cost $74 on Zappos were $65.95 at Shoebuy. A pair of Keds skimmers for women were $46 on Zappos and $34.95 on Shoebuy. Oddly enough, Shoebuy doesn't carry Steve Madden shoes.
I caught the eBay bug a few years ago when I successfully sold a few items with little effort and put a few extra bucks in my pocket. I then started gathering everything in my house to sell, until my husband started asking why I was taking pictures of our TV. While it was fun watching my stuff sell, I also found it annoying that eBay charged a fee to list items and a commission based on how much the item sold for. I understand that a business is there to make money but that didn't stop me from finding an auction site that didn't charge as much as eBay. Auction Fire, launched in 2001 as Auctionblocks, is small potatoes compared to eBay but its low fees are enticing. It doesn't charge a listing fee, which ranges between 10 cents and $4 on eBay, and its 2.5 percent commission fee is competitive with eBay's 8.75 percent commission fee, which actually gets larger depending on the final sale price. But there is comfort in numbers. EBay has more than 1 million items for sale, while Auctionfire has a mere 8,700. Regardless, I may turn to Auctionfire the next time I have to sell something. Even if it doesn't sell on the site, I haven't lost a dime.
So what are your alternatives to the big dogs of the Internet? Have you had any bad experiences shopping at sites off the beaten track? Post a comment below.
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