Confessions of a Deal Junkie
Rob Fleischer is a self-described deal junkie. His iPhone is loaded with shopping apps, he checks sites like dealnews several times a day in order not to miss a sale, and he has been known to buy large amounts of items he couldn't possibly use.
What does it mean to be a dealoholic in the age of mobile communications? Fleischer's story offers a window into the ways that saving money can be an obsession.
Fleischer has been this way ever since he can remember, scouring sale racks at stores for clearance items since before college. But the advent of the Internet and deal aggregators have made it much easier to find sales, something he uses to great advantage.
This married, 36-year-old father of two stocks up on household necessities, scoring deals on Kleenex, (30 boxes at a time), laundry detergent and baby items. By day he is a Long Island-based publicist and partner in the public relations company, Sandbox Strategies. But in his spare time, he researches deals. He takes advantage of clothing sales and even scores office supplies and extras for his business by acting on daily deals.
A recent dealnews listing for a 40" TV for $400 saved him thousands when he used the TV in a display booth at a convention, letting him avoid the $1,000-a-day the convention center was charging to rent a similar unit. Although in true dealaholic fashion, he notes, "Today, that same TV just went on sale again with free shipping. That makes it $30 less. Oh well.""Most of the stuff I get are things we need," he says. "But then there are the deals that are too good to pass up." Like the deal two years ago for 12 sets of twin sized sheets. The Fleischers didn't even have twin beds. "They were really good sheets, 300 thread count, and it was a dozen for $20 or $25. I figured we'd give them out as gifts."
The sheets were stockpiled in the basement with other deal items, waiting for their moment. "Some we bring when we travel and give to our hosts," he says. "We still have four sets that are unused. My wife still gives me a hard time; we didn't need the sheets, we really didn't."
Fleisher's wife isn't too thrilled overall with the constant search for lower prices on absolutely everything either. "If she buys something at the store, and I find it for less… that'll drive her crazy," he says. "If it's something big, like a jacket, it goes back." But he's had to accept that some things are just meant to be bought at a store, without comparison shopping. "She likes to try on shoes," he says. "We ended up having to get separate spending accounts," leaving her free to go out and buy something not found online at a lower price.
Still, deal sites help the Fleischers score on clothes and other items for their two children. Deals like 70% off with an additional 20% and free shipping are real finds, he says. "You have to be quick, things get out of stock and you have to jump on it first thing."
Fleischer checks sites first thing in the morning, every hour or so throughout the day, and again before logging off. He set up an RSS feed for sale notifications, making it easier to check what's new quickly, and has been known to shop in the middle of the night. "I wake up to feed the baby at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. — these are the prime times for deals when not many other people are (looking)," he says. "But usually if you miss something, you can just wait two weeks, and it comes back around."
Smartphones and apps have made the deal hunting even easier. He uses apps for sites, several shopping and UPC code apps to compare prices in stores, and several retail specific apps, as well. He sends friends and family links, and takes advantage of category drop-down menus and finds the listing of past prices on sale items particularly helpful. He starts shopping for Christmas in September and says packages show up at his house nearly every day in December.
Fleisher figures he buys more than he would without scouring deal sites, but hasn't actually spent more, thanks to the discounts. He estimates about 90-95% of what he buys is a hit. "I don't need to shop, but if I see a deal that's too good to pass up, I'll buy it," he says. "On a monthly basis, I'll spend a $100-$200 on clothes or household goods online based on the deals, although the actual value of that is actually much higher."