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ChiTownAbs, Inc 11-21-02 09:51 AM

DVDTalk.com mentioned in Wall Street Journal
 
Page D1



Web-Savvy Shoppers Get
Sneak Peak at Holiday Sales

By RON LIEBER
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


This year's after-Thanksgiving sales have started early for some Internet-savvy consumers, and the nation's biggest retailers are scrambling to slam the doors on them.

Users of several cult Web sites with names like FatWallet.com (www.fatwallet.com) and DealofDay.com (www.dealofday.com) have somehow obtained and then posted lists of sale prices at retailers including Target, Best Buy and Staples -- before the sales are officially announced. These are discounts the retailers had no intention of making public until around Thanksgiving, with the hopes of making a splashy launch to the traditional holiday shopping season.

Here's a sample of the enticing prices: After Thanksgiving, OfficeMax plans to sell a feature-laden H-P printer for $200, 33% off the current price on its Web site. Best Buy plans to offer a Kodak digital camera for $99.99, compared with $149.99 on BestBuy.com. The store also plans to put the soundtrack for "8 Mile," the Eminem movie, on sale for $8.99. Currently, it sells for $14.99 on the Best Buy site.

For committed shoppers, early access to this information can result in big savings of both time and money. Shoppers are saving money by knowing weeks in advance what's going on sale at what store and buying it there instead of a competitor. Consumers are also buying the products at full price and later getting credit for the difference after the product goes on sale. The Web surfers also save time by buying the merchandise in advance and avoiding the holiday crush.

The big retailers are now fighting back. "Someone, somewhere is getting information they shouldn't be," says an OfficeMax spokesman. Target, Best Buy and others have demanded that the Web sites take the information down. Most have complied, but scores of readers had already copied the data and posted it elsewhere on the Web.

No one knows exactly where the leaks are coming from or who is behind them, but the companies don't dispute the accuracy of the information. Now, these posts threaten to disrupt the carefully laid plans and pricing schemes of the nation's largest retailers, since they tip off competitors and alter consumer behavior.

The fray highlights the growing popularity of the shopping sites, which cover everything from consumer electronics to personal finance. The sites have been around for several years, but have grown significantly in the past 12 months. Some even posted the holiday specials last year, but the retailers failed to take note.

Popular sites include FatWallet and Techbargains.com (www.techbargains.com), which make it easy for users to search for bargains on specific products. For example, you can hunt for a computer deal by typing in "Dell" and "coupons" and find people giving away Dell coupons that they can't use or doling out advice on how to use multiple coupons at once to save the most amount of money.

There are also specialist sites like DvdTalk.com (www.dvdtalk.com), where users review different machines and offer tips on which stores have the best prices. Other enthusiast sites are famous for publishing unwritten rules and secret codes. On FlyerTalk.com (www.flyertalk.com), a site for frequent-flier-mile junkies, users regularly post information on special mileage promotions.

Both types of sites have published lists of hundreds of items that will be available on "Black Friday," the popular shopping day after Thanksgiving when retailers often break into the black for the first time all year. So far, people have posted data from Target, Kmart, Wal-Mart Stores, Staples, OfficeMax, Best Buy, Sears Roebuck and Toys 'R' Us.

Surfers can still find the information by doing a Google search for "Black Friday" and the store name. One person started a Yahoo group Wednesday morning to collect the banned information. More than 2,400 people had signed up by nightfall.

Other shoppers have taken it further. Last year, Thomas Jones read on FatWallet that a PC drive would go on sale at Best Buy after Thanksgiving. So he bought it a day early for $150 -- then came back on sale day to claim the $50 discount. Despite making two trips to the store, he saved time because when he arrived on sale day, there were 200 people standing in line just to get into the store, but "I just walked to customer service where there was no line," he says.

Mr. Jones adds that he feels no guilt over having used this information to save time and money. "The moral turpitude, if any, lies with the person who posted the information in the first place," he says.

The companies agree. The problem is, they can't figure out who's posting the sneak previews. A few months ago, a person on anandtech.com said he had been fired from Home Depot for posting sale information before it became public. Home Depot doesn't comment on personnel matters.

Now, people who post similar lists of products and prices are cagier about revealing their true identities. "It could be coming from anywhere along the chain," says Tim Storm, the founder of FatWallet. "It could be employees [of the retailers] giving it to friends who post it or the delivery boy from the printing house that produces the newspaper circular."

The retailers are pushing hard to stem the leaks. "We will take appropriate legal action as soon as we discover how the information got on the site and who posted it," says a spokesman for OfficeMax, which is about to ask sites to remove the data. Staples, which has successfully asked FatWallet to remove the data, worries that OfficeMax will see the report and match their prices. "We are in a competitive industry," says a Staples spokesman. "You don't want to be telegraphing information that's not meant for public view."

</b>and a special shout out to Ron Lieber</b>

AndyCapps 11-21-02 10:17 AM

Whoa, I thought they were going to call us a cult, but no, just "specialist site". Fatwallet gets to be a cult. :mad: We've got a Smallball clan, I figured it was only a matter of time before we reached cult status. Guess not this time. :(

Alyoshka 11-21-02 10:57 AM

Congrats!

I'm happy that I am a specialist. Woohoo!

Movie_Man 11-21-02 12:57 PM

Only the "Other" forum is a cult.

Blade 11-21-02 01:23 PM

"Mr. Jones adds that he feels no guilt over having used this information to save time and money. "The moral turpitude, if any, lies with the person who posted the information in the first place," he says.

The companies agree. "

Not only is this guy's lack of insight hilarious, but the author of the piece is wrong. The companies probably could care less about the moral implications. What they care about (and all they can really act on) is the illegal actions taken...and that's the leaking of company secrets by those with no right to do so.

jfoobar 11-21-02 01:40 PM

Here's a picture of some groupies from the most recent Other Forum mods get-together.

http://www.cmp.ucr.edu/herbquick/Studies/Krishna.jpg

GeoffK 11-21-02 02:56 PM

wait is it an infringement to the DMCA to reprint the article here!
:p

I bet law makers had no clue what they were doing when they put this law on the books and now it seems like it's being applied to anything online

ChiTownAbs, Inc 11-21-02 03:40 PM


Originally posted by gkleinman
wait is it an infringement to the DMCA to reprint the article here!
:p

I bet law makers had no clue what they were doing when they put this law on the books and now it seems like it's being applied to anything online

I was thinking that when I posted it -- WSJ.com <b>is</b> a paid site, but I'm sure that this article will be sent syndicate to a bunch of newspapers by Friday.

Numanoid 11-22-02 03:24 PM

What a great article. He tells you a few of the supposedly taboo deals, then tells you about a yahoo group, then tells you how to do a Google search! Way to go, Ron! :D

Mark Holtz 11-22-02 06:22 PM

More links:

http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article.php/1546331
http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,107229,00.asp
http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/bus.../22thanks.html

The Bus 11-25-02 10:43 AM

Those printed sale ads are sent to newspapers as far as a week in advance, along with the comics section, the tv guide, etc.

Bushdog 11-25-02 02:43 PM


Originally posted by gkleinman
. . .
I bet law makers had no clue what they were doing when they put this law on the books and now it seems like it's being applied to anything online

On the contrary, I bet many did know. They're bending over to big business, as usual.


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