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Click and buy, the cheap way

July 28, 2007 13:14 IST

Despite the abundance of cheap deals, great flights, reasonable accommodation, and a wild array of goodies easily available online, many of us lollygag or worse, come up with answers like "I'm not sure of the Internet" or "I need to touch and feel before I buy stuff." Bottomline: the 25 million active Internet users in India find it difficult to choose between the numerous deals and discounts offered on the web.

For 29-year-old Nandini Sakharpe, a Mumbai-based housewife who recently bought an LG refrigerator online, shopping on the Net is a combination of "convenience, access to discounts from a larger bunch of retailers, and ease of delivery coupled with variety in the goods offered."

She bought the Rs 1,20,000 LG Dios refrigerator for Rs 1,12,500 (ordered online from lgindia.com) and also got it delivered free of cost right up to her flat in Vashi. "It was a special 'monsoon' scheme that I availed of. I chose the colour, the size and the model online," she enthuses.

Once booked and the amount paid online, she got a call from LG's local dealer confirming the details and presto, they had their new refrigerator in two days (two working days are needed to credit the amount paid in the retailer's bank). Sakharpe is now waiting for an economical deal on LG's washing machine that retails at Rs 36,990.

Not many among us are so forthcoming when it comes to parting with our hard-earned cash to a nameless, faceless entity. Online shopping portals like Amazon, eBay, Indiaplaza, Sulekha and Futurebazaar, among others, are trying hard to break the ice ceiling.

For instance, eBay India, which has over 1 lakh (Rs 100,000) items for sale and 2,500 categories, promises Indian consumers a host of products to choose from. An avid eBay shopper, Mandira Bedi has always maintained that she regularly hogs the online portal for products like mobiles, jewellery and home d├ęcor items.

Futurebazaar has listed a Samsung X820 mobile phone -- available in the market for Rs 16,499 -- at Rs 9,428. Thus, the shopper saves Rs 7,071 (around 42 per cent) and is also given a 1GB USB drive bundled free with the handset. The site offers a "7 Days or We Pay" delivery guarantee policy on its products.

"We guarantee that the product will be at your doorstep within seven working days of your payment having been cleared," reads the site's delivery policy, adding with cocky confidence, "We'll give you a Rs 100 FutureBazaar Gift Voucher if we fail, regardless of the value of the order -- so you might be able to get Rs 100 even if the product you ordered was only Rs 100 and we failed to deliver in time.

" Do not forget to factor shipping costs into your deal hunting. Always check on the shipping cost before making a purchase, otherwise you could end up paying a fortune. Some web stores bring you in with great prices and deals, but will make up for it by charging you an exorbitant amount for shipping.

As a bargain hunter and deal finder, you are certainly not alone on the Net. There are many forums where people gather and share deal information and alerts, post coupon codes and discuss online bargains. Some of the most popular ones are FatWallet.com, SlickDeals.net and CheapStingyBargains.com.

On eBay, you can type in the item you are looking for and find both new and used auctions running for many items. It's always a good idea to check eBay when deal shopping, you'll get an idea of what the item is going for currently and whether you're getting a good deal elsewhere on the web.

If you feel lost among the numerous deals and bargains, head straight to one of the shopping search engines that allow a price comparison across hundreds, even thousands, of online stores without having to go to each site separately.

Some of the best general ones are PriceGrabber.com, Shopzilla.com, and Nextag.com and another Indian start-up called Deal Maadi. All of these sites will allow you to type in what you are looking for and will allow you to zero in on the store that has your desired item for the lowest possible price. These search engines should be among your first stops when shopping for deals.

The best bargains are probably found on semi-precious jewellery, where designers sell directly. So, most jewellery deals will offer a steep 40-50 per cent discount. On Nextag, a pair of garnet and peridot silver earrings, set in 0.925 solid sterling silver, handcrafted in Jaipur using traditional silversmithing techniques, lists at 60 per cent discount lowering the price to Rs 1,120 as against the original tag of Rs 2,800.

For different shopping categories, there are speciality price comparison search engines. For books, check out AddAll.com. For computers and technology items, try Pricewatch.com, techbargains.com and shopper.cnet.com. Pritham Maheshwari, a design student, compares all his book buys at Indiaplaza and eBay before zeroing in on the order.

He says, "I paid only Rs 633 for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was delivered right to my doorstep. And, above all, ordering online means no hassle of dragging your feet to the neighborhood bookstore."

Call it lazy -- or plain tech-savvy!

Priyanka Joshi in New Delhi
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