Black Friday is coming up, that cherished retail holiday in which the turkey-drugged masses line up for holiday deals on Blu-ray players, computers and this year’s hottest toy.
But I have an alternative.
Like a growing number of Americans, I do my shopping either online or locally, in my own corner of the ’burbs. There are a few apps that, in fact, let you do both. (In fact, it's become such a trend that the New York Times recently wrote about the phenomenon, "Mobile Deals Set to Lure Shoppers Stuck in Line.")
My favorite app for is RedLaser (free and an eBay product), a barcode and QR code scanner. It works like this: Take an item—I prefer books as gifts—and use the app to scan its UPC code. Lickety-split, RedLaser will return search results indicating where you can buy the book online or locally. A new version of RedLaser even contains full editorial reviews.
I tried this most recently with a book I already own, Scott Turow’s Innocent (check out Patch’s interview with the author). The search turned up 71 online results, offering the book from one cent (on Amazon Marketplace) to cover price (from BarnesandNoble.com). It also returned 11 local results: A local Walmart and 10 local libraries where I could check it out for free.
Disappointingly, it didn’t return results for Turow’s book at Oak Park's famous bookshop, The Book Table. I know they have Turow’s books there — even signed ones, because he was in Oak Park for an event not long ago. What’s a better holiday gift than a signed book?
RedLaser is a start. I’m also fond of pic2shop, ShopSavvy and Amazon’s PriceCheck apps—they bring frugal shopping to an entirely new level. It’s still several levels shy of the Extreme Couponing craze, but still fun and economical.
Patch also has its own iPhone app, which will connect you to local news, weather, events and business listings in your town.