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Robo-Shop

Why search the Web for the best prices when your robot can do it for you?

Heard about all the money everyone else is saving by buying office equipment and machines over the Net, but haven't figured out how to do it yourself? Then listen up and, by following a few easy steps, you'll learn how to always get the smartest buy on the Net.

Case in point: A recent search for 3Com's popular Palm IIIx personal digital assistant (PDA) found a high price of $364.95 and a low of $277.95--a whopping $87 difference. Buy that PDA in the wrong store, and you'll pay a 31 percent premium compared to what savvy buyers are paying.

How long did it take to ferret out these prices? A minute, maybe three, with a log-in to mySimon (http://www.mysimon.com), a "bot" (robot) that lets you enter what you want to purchase, then scours the Web and, in a jiff, returns prices from dozens of online vendors. See a price you like? A simple click moves you from mySimon to the storefront.

You could bookmark dozens of store sites and visit them before each purchase, but bots do this hunting for you automatically and with scarcely any effort on your part. Better still, it's easy to double-check prices by using other spiffy bots. Good ones include ShopFind (http://www.shopfind.com), a fast, powerful bot; the exceptionally easy-to-use Jango (http://www.jango.com), which is integrated with the Excite search engine (http://www.excite.com); and Planet Retail (http://www.planetretail.com), a remarkably comprehensive bot.

These bots will hunt for many types of merchandise, but there are also specialty bots that limit the search to a single type. For instance, Best Book Buys (http://www.bestbookbuys.com) hunts dozens of online retailers for the title you crave, and, in a handy chart, it shows not only purchase prices, but also total costs (including shipping). Auction Watchers (http://www.auctionwatchers.com) scours online auctions for the best prices on tech gear.

Need still more bots that find different types of merchandise? A handy roundup is available at BotSpot (http://botspot.com/search/s-shop.htm). A recent look found a score of bots, all ready to simplify your online shopping trips.


To contact Robert McGarvey, email him at rjm@mcgarvey.net

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This article was originally published in the November 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Robo-Shop.

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