Why I (Mostly) Don't Use Shopping Comparison Sites

Rob Hof

In writing a review of Google's Froogle shopping site, I remembered again that I just don't use shopping comparison sites such as Froogle, Shopping.com, and Shopzilla very much. It got me thinking why:

* The big sites such as Amazon.com and eBay have such a wide variety of stuff--and in both cases to varying degrees, provide a wealth of information about prices and features--that I don't generally need to go somewhere else to find comparisons on the products.

* My experience is that while I can sometimes find significantly better prices outside the major sites, the lower level of trust in those sites reduces that advantage substantially. It's not that I necessarily feel I will get ripped off by anyone but the majors, but that I don't know how fast the delivery will be, what the return policies are, and the like. That requires a discount factor.

* Despite writing about tech, I don't actually buy that many gadgets--I just recently replaced my Motorola StarTac cell phone only after it died--and those products are the ones that seem to require the most comparing.

* The comparisons these sites make just aren't granular enough for me when I'm at the point of making a decision. The filters look pretty good in many cases, like, say, for digital cameras, but they're still kind of clumsy in helping me make tradeoffs among various features.

* I just don't have time to do a lot of hunting around. And while the best comparison sites may help cut the hunting time, they themselves require a decent investment of time. They may get better, but for now, they still have the same problem as any search engine: too many results.

Still, I know a lot of people use these sites, or so the traffic numbers suggest. So tell me: Why?

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