Here's the email I just sent to Erica Sadun from lifehacker, my favorite blog ever. Last week I was overjoyed to see an invitation for commenting on all Gawker Media published blogs, which includes Lifehacker, in my inbox because I had submitted a suggestion for a Lifehacker entry they liked. Actually, not all of them, now that I've realized just how many blogs are published by them! Here's the complete list: Gawker, Wonkette, Defamer, Gizmodo, Fleshbot, Jalopnik, Kotaku, Screenhead, Gridskipper, Kinja, Lifehacker, Sploid, Oddjack, Deadspin. Whew.. anyway, I wanted to contribute, and being that I bought a new digital camera today, a secure digital memory card for it and a card reader to complete the package, I had to use all of my knowledge on online shopping to get through the online shopping spree effectively. Here, now, is what I sent to Lifehacker:
"I had another idea for a lifehacker entry. It's a follow up to last time's question about shopping/discount coupons. This time, I'd like to suggest something somewhat obvious, but nevertheless very useful. From experience I find that the best way to shop online is to break the process down into the following steps:
1. By now, you know what you're looking for. You have the item floating in your mind and it's time to decide what to get. If you already know exactly what product you're looking for, skip to step 2. If you only know what type of product you want but are still undecided about which one exactly it will be, read on. The best way to find the item that will best suit you in the category you have chosen is to read reviews. One simple and obvious way to do this is to search for reviews online. Enter the name of your category, followed by "review" or "reviews" in a Google search and see what you can find. Example: "portable music player review" or "portable music player reviews". You should come up with a ton of sites. Yes, it will take a bit of time and some effort on your part, but doing this will ensure that you will be happy once you place that order. Epinions.com is a pretty good place to check for reviews from users. That's just one example... there so many sites out there that will help you make an informed decision that it would be excessive to list them all. The best way to help yourself in this case is by research. When you find the exact product you're looking for, or even a few of them and are still undecided, the next step will help.
2. Check prices. This is very important as it is one of the key advantages of online shopping. Here are a few sites that every online shopper should know about: pricegrabber.com, shopzilla.com, pricewatch.com, resellerratings.com, nextag.com and ebay.com. There might be more, but of the top of my head, these are the ones I use most frequently, and these are the ones that helped me buy a new digital camera, a card reader, and secure digital flash memory for the camera today. You might wonder why I suggest multiple such sites rather than just telling you to use pricegrabber.com, for example. Well, that's good thinking. Here's why: some of these engines have either more or less online stores indexed. This means that while, for instance, pricegrabber.com will search one group of stores, resellerratings.com product search might find more or at least different stores. It is important to have as broad a scope as possible when shopping online. The more choices, the better. It's happened to me more than once that I thought I had found a great price on pricegrabber, when after a search at a different price comparison engine I found an even lower price. That's how it works. It's all trial and error, and trying and erring is in your best interest here. In short, when searching for a specific product at these price comparison engines, make sure to use as many such sites as you know of. You will be surprised at how much it pays off to have checked more than one or even two such sites. The more, the better!
3. If you found more than one specific product in step 1, run each one through the bunch of price comparison sites. The prices you find are most definitely going to influence your buying decision. That's why it's important to know about as many offers as possible. I included ebay.com earlier. That's because eBay tends to have the stuff you're looking for at very good prices. It happens rather frequently that eBay will have what you're looking for for a lower price than anywhere else on the web. And I'm not even talking about used stuff! Brand new items can often be had for less than anywhere else. Example: for my digital camera I ordered today, I wanted a 1GB Sandisk ULTRA II SD (Secure Digital) memory card. I searched and searched and thought I had found the best price... when I remembered to check eBay. After a bit of searching, I was able to best the former best price by about 10 bucks, shipping included, having found the item in an eBay store. In short: keep eBay in mind.
4. Here's another very, very important step. Once you've found both your item AND your best price, make sure the store you intend to buy from has good reviews from customers. That's where resellerratings.com comes in. Look the store up and see what people say. The site has helped me on many occasions to decide against a store in favor of a store I know and trust, even if the former had a better price. The better price won't be worth much if you can't return the item because the store you bought it from doesn't have a good return policy. Or if the package takes weeks instead of days to reach you... who knows what might be wrong with any particular store? That's why resellerratings.com exists. Make sure to check your store there and then make an informed decision about whether or not you really want to stick with that store, or if you should pick that other store with much better reviews after all.
5. You've found your item. You've found the best price. You've decided on a trustable source to buy from. Place your order and be happy and confident that you've made the best purchase possible! That's online shopping done right.
Wow.. well, this long a guide certainly wasn't planned, but it just all came flowing out of me and I couldn't stop. Obviously this can't quite be a lifehacker entry, but I don't have my own blog, nor do I run a website, so you tell me what to do with this.
Hope this is worth something!
I'd greatly appreciate comments and suggestions for improvement on this little guide. I didn't carefully plan this or anything.. I thought I'd drop Lifehacker a short message on the topic of online shopping to suggest somebody come up with a guide just like the one above, and as I was writing it all just came flowing, so there. Let me know what you agree/disagree with and what should be added or removed from it. Is it useful? Did you know about all of that already or did you learn something new? All comments are appreciated.
I don't know how good it is, but by chance, I just found this related site as well: http://www.webbuyers...p;match_type=content
Removed italics as requested