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December 31, 2008


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I think you have to realize that there is only a very remote possibility of getting that "too good to be true" deal online. If you look at the auction sites and places like Amazon where other merchants are allowed to sell their wares, you will find that the prices with shipping are very similar to the overall local prices with tax. It may be a few dollars cheaper, but it is close and there is no HUGE deal. Another consideration is that when you buy online, your money does not go back into your community. It goes to another state most of the time. There really is a lot more to weigh than just price.

When looking for things online, I consider the total cost, including the shipping. For example, when looking for cameras for my kids on ebay for Christmas, my bids were based upon what I was willing to pay total. If the shipping was $10, my bid was $10 less than if it was free shipping. Most of my shopping was done online, and I found some great deals.

Although, my weakness is watching the "Free Shipping when you spend $X. I did increase a Kohl's order because it had the free shipping. Of course it was with clothes my son needed, and I can take it back to the local B&M.

Having sell things on the internet myself, sometimes I would lower the selling price, but increase the shipping price to get the total price I want to sell the product for. The reason is that when you sell through Amazon or eBay, they get a percentage of the final selling price for commission, but they do not get anything from shipping. So if I want to get $10 for something, I would sell it for $5 and add $8 for shipping ($5 for sell price difference + $3 for actual shipping). Then I would only have to pay the commission on the $5 sell price. The commission for amazon, ebay, and paypal is pretty high.

The lack of sales tax isn't a form of savings since I'm sure everyone on this site submits the appropriate use tax to their state as required anyway...

I tend to buy a lot of things online - amazon, ebay and smaller merchants.

Total cost is the only way to evaluate. Also, I try to put a value on the time I would otherwise spend to pick something up at a store. For example, if you buy from REI online, you can either pay shipping or have it shipped for free to the nearest store. I used to have it shipped to the store (about 5 miles from my house). But since that takes about 30 minutes (I live in LA-traffic), I now would rather pay the $5-10 to have it arrive at my place and not have to spend time and gas to pick it up.

being able to do instore exchange is also a factor. It's not a good deal if you end up having to return the item and eat the cost of shipping. My wife got an email from a B&M store that said "free shipping on your cart today." Well, it turns out that the items were no longer the original price when placed in the cart. The total price was mostly identical. In this situation it's actually a better deal now since you aren't sinking money into shipping.

Side note: if you do a ton of shopping on amazon (with items sold by amazon), the prime account is a great option. You can save a lot of money on shipping costs and boost your buying power.

Just this very day I had the same realization.

Yesterday I bought a pair of shoes at a local retailer for $120. This morning I found the same shoes online for $70. The $12 shipping charge seemed pretty startling, until I realized that $70 + $12 = $82, still a $38 savings on what I paid here.

I'm taking the shoes back to the local guy and ordering them from the online seller!

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