Becoming a Comparative Shopper

January 12, 2021

As is the norm on every festive occasion, businesses advertise sales and specials to entice consumers to shop with them. Many consumers take advantage of these specials in the hopes of getting valued items at a cheaper price, saving a dollar or two in the process.

Many consumers undoubtedly look forward to specials and are constantly in search of promotions and sale offers to be able to get a range of goods at the best value possible.  While items are advertised to be on specials or discounted price, they may not necessarily be the cheapest in the market or of the best quality therefore, it is imperative that consumers conduct comparison shopping to be able to ensure they receive the best returns for every dollar spent.  

What is comparison shopping?

Comparison shopping is a practice among consumers where a range of available suppliers or traders are compared to identify the best price for the items or services, consumers are willing to buy. It is an evaluation of potential sellers to see which one is offering the best deal.

How does it work?

Comparison shopping entails comparing different options before a transaction is made and is a very important method for both consumers and companies when seeking the best deals around. For consumers, this procedure often involves visits to the seller’s store or physical facility in order to compare prices, promotions and post-sales benefits, among other elements involved in operation.

Conducting comparisons is also important when shopping online. Search engines have changed the way comparison shopping is done. Emerging online businesses have made available an ample range of suppliers that can be consulted within seconds through their e-commerce platforms. Most of these systems have a real-time price quote posted for each available product and this facilitates the comparison process.

While shopping online is certainly convenient, in-store shopping has its advantages. When you shop in person, you can consult store employees and friends for advice, as well as a smartphone filled with shopping apps for quick price comparison and deal discovery. When you are shopping online, though, you are constricted to single website and using your own best judgement to make your final purchase decision.

What are the benefits of comparative shopping?

Whether you are shopping online or in physical stores, it can be quite challenging to find the best quality product at the lowest possible price. Comparison shopping helps one find the product that one desires to buy, at an attractive price. With the advent of Internet shopping, comparison shopping has become all the more convenient. One can browse several online stores and can make purchases that provides the most competitive deal.

This however, is not the only benefit of comparison shopping. It lets buyers get the best value for the money spent. By comparing the product features, specifications, and technologies, one can make the right buying decision. For instance, if you wish to buy a car, you can compare several makes and models and arm yourself with all the information that you desire to purchase the one that’s closest to your needs.

What must you consider when comparison shopping?

Getting the best return for your money does not always mean getting a cheaper item but rather getting the best product your money can buy. When shopping, it is imperative that you consider the following:

Quality – One of the worst mistakes a consumer can make is overlooking quality when opting for a bargain. There are genuinely good bargains out there on quality items; it just might take a little longer to find them. Many people disregard quality because they assume, they are getting a good deal when they see a cheaper price. It is important however, to think about the materials that a product is made from and who the manufacturer/designer is.

Craftsmanship – The second thing to consider when looking for the best deal is how and where the product was made. The reason you will not find genuine items for a cheaper price is because of craftsmanship! There are knock-offs on every corner, but the real thing always costs more, and in the end, winds up being the best deal.

Quantity – Another trick that manufacturers use is to get consumers to think they are getting more for less. Sometimes they use large containers that appear to have a larger volume of content when in fact you can get a better deal by purchasing two small containers of the same product that are cheaper and have more quantity. It is important therefore to ask whether you are really getting a better deal by buying a bigger package because there are cases where you this is untrue.

Performance – when shopping, consider how well the product works. Two products may appear to be the same, but quite often one has far superior performance than the other. While there may be no way to judge when shopping in a local retail store, online shoppers have the advantage of reading customer testimonials or reviews. Product specs are also listed both on the manufacturer’s website as well as on the site of the online vendor or affiliate. Take the time to research how the product works, what is supposed to do, and what others are saying about it.

Longevity – Take the time to consider the life expectancy of a product. The next time you shop for a bargain consider how long the item will last you! For instance, An LED light bulb might cost ten times more than an incandescent bulb, but it lasts between twenty-five to fifty times longer!

Comparative shopping tips – be a wise shopper!

A wise shopper compares prices and the quality of goods and services as well before making a decision. A wise shopper is one who is also aware of the malpractices in the marketplace namely: –

  • Shoddy goods
  • Food adulteration
  • False weights and measures
  • Unsafe/defective appliances
  • Misleading advertising
  • Overpricing

Comparative shopping or “shopping around” is beneficial to the consumer, but in order to spend wisely some general shopping tips should be considered –

  • Do your own special personal survey and see what prices are like in a wide variety of stores. This does not necessarily mean that you have to spend half a day walking or driving around town just to make a purchase. The telephone offers the convenience of saving time. You may call different stores or your friends/family to find out where the best bargain can be had. In the final analysis, you should be able to examine your purchases.
  • Visit those quaint looking stores tucked away on side streets where you thought you would never go. You may just find a bargain. It never hurts to ask the sales staff about the availability of some items, specials and of course if there are any discounts.
  • When shopping for clothing, household appliances and personal items, make sure you can afford the item and that you are not depriving yourself of something you need more urgently.
  • Do not pay more than what in your estimation, is the worth of the item. Do not be fooled by the beauty of the item. Make sure that items you purchase are in good working order. Test all small electrical appliances before you leave the store.
  • For clothing, make sure you can care the fabric yourself rather than having to take the item to the dry cleaners every time it needs to be cleaned. In addition, in these hard times, it may be worthwhile to purchase durable pieces of clothing which match other pieces in our wardrobe.
  • For appliances – ask for a guarantee/warranty, check for servicing and the availability of spare parts. Where applicable, find out if the item is energy efficient. It is important that we ask questions.
  • Compare the cost of food in its different forms e.g. canned, frozen, dried as well as the cost, based on the kind of packaging provided e.g. plastic wrapped, brown paper bag, box, tin, styro-foam. Be considerate about the environment.

The Consumer Council of Fiji is urging all consumers to be SMART shoppers and always to be vigilant while put and about shopping. If consumer come across any dubious traders or deals, they are encouraged to call the Council’s toll-free number 155 or lodge a complaint through the Consumer Council of Fiji mobile app. Alternatively, consumers can lodge a complaint by emailing to Complaints@consumersfiji.org.

From the Consumer Council family to yours – have a happy and safe Diwali.


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