Comparison Shopping Actually Saves

We intrinsically know comparison shopping saves money, but according to the Chicago Tribune, we don’t compare enough. Though we all think we compare prices, “research shows consumers, time and again, are most likely to buy from the first merchant they visit.”

“Prices for identical goods vary, and unless you actually do some comparison shopping, you’re not going to know that,” Lichtenstein said. “Consumers say, `Well, I may be paying a little bit more, but I don’t have time to shop around.’ But if they knew the degree to which prices may vary, they would find it’s well worth it.”

Our grandmother knows the price of grapes in every supermarket in at least five states. The Trib has helpful reminders to become more like her.

  • Don’t overvalue your time: small savings add up over time to make a big difference.
  • Take advantage of the internet: if you know what you’re looking for, plug it into “Froogle, MySimon, Shopzilla, DealTime and”
  • Take a test: search for the last few expensive items you bought and see if you could have saved more.

If that doesn’t help, remember that comparison shopping is the bedrock of our wonderful capitalist economy. If you won’t compare for yourself, compare for your country. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Peter Gene)


Edit Your Comment

  1. RumorsDaily says:

    The real trick is to find the McDonald’s with the lower price.

    Also, when is Consumerist going to fix the fact that the background on the left of the page is obscuring text and that the “Read More” thing doesn’t display properly in Firefox?

  2. Maulleigh says:

    Froogle does rock hardcore. I found a new gadget for $30 that was selling for $60 plus in the stores. It’s amazing.

    Along similar lines, it kills me that people still don’t know what generics are really the name-brand stuff in other clothing. They actually think that the name-brand sh*t tastes better, etc. IT’S THE SAME STUFF!!! My cabinets are full of store brands.

  3. NeoteriX says:

    I used to work at the Sharper Image in my youth. It was amazing how many people (with money to throw away) would come in and snap up a product for full retail price, without knowing the alternatives or that you could find the same product on the internet for 50% less.

    A minute ago, I would have said that these days, the only people that don’t do comparison shopping for big ticket items probably don’t have the internet.

    But… After thinking about it and remembering all of the ebay sales I’ve ever seen (for in stock, everyday products) selling for over the lowest price you can easily search for and find on the internet, I might have to revise my theory to, “People are stupid.”

  4. NeoteriX says:

    Did Consumerist “post a comment” eat my reply? Crap.

  5. says:

    So…wait…you’re telling me that I can save money by comparing two of the same items from different manufacturers and one of them MIGHT be cheaper because it’s produced from a lesser known company?

    OR I can also possibly save a couple dollars checking the same item at a DIFFERENT store because a different store could have a special?

    what? are you high? I don’t believe you. That’s crazy talk. Those are valuable milliseconds of my life I could be loosing.

  6. Ian S. says: is also a great online comparison site, I think the best feature they offer is a ranking system for online outlets and vendors. That way, when you see that boxed DVD set for $15 less than anyone else, and the half star rating from 10 people for the site that’s offering it, you know it is indeed too good to be true.

  7. spanky says:

    I won’t argue that there are some big fat idiots out there who don’t compare prices because they think it’s beneath them or just because they’re general purpose assholes or something. I have known people like that.

    However, especially with gadget type stuff, I think at least part of it is that people have given up. There are an assload of relatively new and sometimes competing technologies being used in various consumer products, and it’s got to be overwhelming for people who just want a thing to do stuff with. I can see why a lot of people who want portable music might just go to Best Buy and buy up an iPod without really researching the pros and cons, or taking chances on online sellers. Argumentum ad populum probably looks pretty good compared to the amount of research you’d have to do to make a real informed decision sometimes.

    Oh, and the link is all brokeassed.

    If this one also doesn’t work, I’m going to look pretty stupid.

  8. suckonthat says:

    @Maulleigh: I buy plenty of store-brand products, but I disagree that everything is exactly the same. String cheese, nutra-grain bars, and earl grey tea bags are just three examples I have come across.

  9. OneBeanCounted says: I believe beats the rest when it comes to comparison shopping. I like how you can shop almost any merchant site and get a price compare result on the same page. Froogle is good to a point but there seems to be a lot of ebay listings that really don’t help. I wish froogle would clean out the ebay listings as you can find those everywhere.

  10. krunk4ever says:

    I would argue that there’s a balance between time spent comparison shopping and the price you’re willing to pay. I mean it’s true you could probably find a particular item for few dollars cheaper, but if it was at the cost of 3 or 4 hours of your time, I’d say it isn’t worth it.

    You say “small savings add up over time to make a big difference.” I would counter that the most precious thing you have is time, and to overspend time comparison shopping when you could otherwise be enjoying life, is a big shame. Of course for those who have nothing better to do than idle around, it’s perfect for them.

    Whenever I buy something, I do a quick search online to see what the going price is. I compare the final cost (original price + shipping + tax). Sales tax does make a big difference. If you can purchase it out of state, you can save yourself 5-9% of the cost.

    Also, for gasoline, each city probably has their own gasoline comparison system. The one I use is: and although it may not have the latest prices or I may be able to save a dime/gallon if I drove 30minutes further, there comes a point when you have to decide where the line is.

    //krunk (^_^x)

  11. Musician78 says:

    I seldom comparison shop. If I want something, I may do a little research in order to see who has it, or whatnot, but as far as going from store to store… I am just too impatient for that. Drives my girlfriend nuts, lol.

  12. Jim Kosmicki says:

    About 10 years ago, I was a night-stocker at a supermarket. When I worked the canned goods aisle, the soup flats told the real story. if they were folded one way, they were Campbell’s labeled flats. If they were folded the other way, they had the generic brand labeling. It was obviously a cost-cutting measure at the factory, as they didn’t have to order two different sets of flats and probably got a cost savings.

    and the recent ConAgra Salmonella peanut butter also supports this claim. It was Peter Pan peanut butter, except for the jars that were labeled as Good Value peanut butter for sale in Wal-marts.

    this isn’t always true, but pretty much every brand-name producer also manufactures for private label — it’s how they keep the factories producing. it’s also why the private labels very rarely list the actual manufacturer — it’s a “secret.”

  13. Mad_Science says:

    Comparison shop online? Duh…that’s what the internet’s for.

    Comparison shop by driving to multiple places around town? Apparently in Chicago they all have feel El (L?) train passes, because my car runs on gas, which costs money.

    Also, comparison shopping just on price is what generates the complaints that keep the Consumerist going. I’m willing to pay XX% more for something at a place where I can talk to someone with real advice and a halfway decent return policy…these things cost money. How do you think the cheapest vendors get the cheapest price? Low-paid, untrained employees, pushing service plans, and not honoring receipts.