Phone in on a better price

Holding a cell phone

TESS VIGELAND: Fellow shoppers, how did we ever live without the Internet? It makes it so easy to figure out which online retailer offers the best price on just about everything. And thanks to some new services, now you can do that same comparison shopping in a bricks-and-mortar store with your cell phone. Here to tell us about it is our pal Brian Cooley. He's editor-at-large at CNET. Brian, welcome back.

BRIAN COOLEY: Thanks. It's good to be here.

VIGELAND:
All right. So I wanna be able to go into a store, get the barcode of a nice pair of pants, punch it into my phone, go to the clerk, show him the phone and say, hey, you know what? I can get this down the street or off the Internet for 10 bucks less. What can you do for me? Is that what we're talking about here?

COOLEY:
Yeah. Half of that works.

VIGELAND:
OK.

COOLEY:
You can definitely do that with these services. Now, getting any result out of that is what's gonna be the hard part, in that a large national retailer does not give much power to the local clerk to make a deal.

VIGELAND:
I assume that there must be some sort of charge for this service. What am I, as the user, going to pay for it? Is there some sort of monthly service fee?

COOLEY:
Well, you shouldn't have to pay to spend your money. That sounds too much like an investment adviser to me. Services like Frucall is one of them, a take on frugal and call. Another one's called NearbyNow. They both appear to be laying off the fees on the merchant. There are services out there, I understand, in development that do charge a fee to the person who's shopping. And perhaps, they maybe a little more trustworthy. A service that is being paid by merchants perhaps won't list merchants who aren't paying it.

VIGELAND:
So you're, there's no guarantee that you're actually getting the best price?

COOLEY:
No. I mean, this is a, I've looked up a couple of these services here and tried them out. And most of them are pretty early, pretty beta right now. But I've tried them out. And on one, I went looking for a very common Canon digital camera, and all of the leads that came back were Target. There's something wrong there. That camera's carried in far more places in my San Francisco Bay Area than just Target.

VIGELAND:
OK. But when they worked out the case, how exactly are these services supposed to work?

COOLEY:
There's one, this one called NearbyNow is mall-based. And so what they do is they work at a specific mall. And they advise you, literally on the doors of merchants in the mall, hey, is your shopping around, text, and they tell you how to text a message to their service with the word jeans or specifically, Canon A550 camera. And they will tell you where it's available in the mall at the best price. Frucall tries to get you out of the store to buy online after you feed in the skew number off a product you're staring at in the store and mostly what you know. You could buy this online for X amount of bucks, and it's in stock at these sites.

VIGELAND:
Well, these sounds pretty cool. Let me ask you to look into your crystal ball and tell me what's coming next.

COOLEY:
Location-based services are going to be very real, I think. Why would you carry a GPS device if your phone can do onscreen navigation, which it can today? Movie tickets, why would you have to enter your zip code to find out movies around you? Your phone should know that.

VIGELAND:
I think, at this point, it should also name your child.

COOLEY:
That does exist already. There's a NameMyKid.com. Yeah, I'm sure it's out there. I just haven't checked it out yet.

VIGELAND:
Brian Cooley is editor-at-large at CNET. Thanks for coming in.

COOLEY:
My pleasure.

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