If, like me, you are planning to do most of your Christmas shopping online this year, you may be interested in the launch of a new type of shopping website which has the potential to save you hundreds of pounds this Christmas.
Flubit.com enables you to buy almost any item you’ve seen for sale on any website at a lower price than the one advertised.
Sounds too good to be true? That’s what I thought. But this site is not another shopbot, like Kelkoo or Google shopping, which merely compares different retailers selling the item you want and finds out where it is on offer for the cheapest price. Nor is it a daily deals site like Groupon, offering cheap prices for short periods of time on stuff that, most of the time, you don’t really want.
Instead, Flubit.com takes the best bits of these web concepts and combines them. You paste in a link to the item you want to buy, and Flubit.com then goes out to demand a better price from suppliers and merchants on your behalf, using complex software to interact with the back end systems of different companies selling the product you want.
Effectively, it acts as a middleman between you and the supplier of the product. It doesn’t just find you a bargain price - it negotiates one.
Sounds great... in theory. But does it actually work? I decided to put it to the test.
How Flubit works
First of all, I used my usual shopbot to compare the prices of three different items: a CD, a very specific type of blanket (called a ‘grobag’) for my baby girl, and the latest Google Chromebook laptop (hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?). I took a lot of time to try to find the best prices for these items myself and was confident Flubit wouldn’t be able to do any better.
Armed with links to the very cheapest places my items were sold on the web, I entered their details onto Flubit.com. I found the interface very user-friendly and straightforward. I was able to specify the size and tog rating of the blanket I wanted for my baby easily, for example. The only tricky bit was entering the link to one of the products. Flubit has to check each link actually works, and at first it didn’t succeed (perhaps the referral from my shopbot had confused it), but I tried again and it did get there eventually.
It is free to use the site and you can make up to four demands a day. Best of all, you’re under no obligation to buy the item you’ve demanded. If you do decide to buy it, you have a very limited period of time to do so (typically 24 hours), and you have to buy it via Flubit.com itself, using Paypal. Flubit gets a commission from the merchant, which is how the site makes money.
So what happened?
Erm, well, nothing. At least not that day. Flubit promised it would get back to me with a better offer for each of my items by email within 48 hours.
I remained sceptical. There is no way it would beat my own personal bargain-hunting efforts, I told myself smugly. No way.
24 hours later...
A day later, three emails from Flubit arrived.
The first was disappointing. It hadn’t been able to source a better price for the CD I wanted, claiming it was out of stock on the link I had provided (to Sainsbury’s) and that it therefore didn’t represent a genuine offer. Yet I was able to order it on Sainsbury’s website just fine. Maybe the soundtrack for ‘In the Night Garden’ is just too, erm, niche to be one of the nine million products on Flubit’s database.
Still, Flubit was considerably more successful with the other demands I had made. It offered me the very specific grobag I wanted at 19% less than the price I’d found. I found this doubly impressive because it was already being sold 25% cheaper than usual on the website I’d sourced and was 50% cheaper than the high street.
[SPOTLIGHT]But what most impressed me was the fact that it offered me a 7% discount on the Google Chromebook computer. This computer is very new (it only launched last month, as we covered in Google Chromebook vs Apple iPad Mini: battle of the gadgets) and its price is being heavily regulated by Google. No retailer in the UK is selling this computer for less than £229, yet Flubit offered it to me for £213.34, including VAT and delivery!
What’s Flubit’s secret?
It doesn’t advertise the price. It offers you, individually, a price in response to your request. This allows it to circumvent the bans that certain brands like Apple and Google impose on retailers, preventing their products being advertised below a set price. Google and Apple can do this because their products are so desirable, meaning they are able to exert a huge amount of control over their distribution.
Similarly, massive online retailers like Amazon also exert a big influence on prices, commanding commissions of 8% to 10%.
Freed of both these impositions by Flubit, merchants are able to offer a lower price directly to you, the consumer. But this begs the question: why would they? Why agree to a cheaper sale?
The reason is that it’s not actually lowering the normal price of the product. They are selling it for less, yes, but only to the few people who use Flubit and aren’t willing to pay more anyway. It’s a less profitable sale than usual for the merchant, but a sale nonetheless, and one their competitors don’t get.
All this means you are more likely to pick up a bargain on Flubit if you’re buying something which commands a lot of mass market competition such as home and consumer electronics, toys (especially Lego), tools, books, games and DVDs. But it won’t do so well on things like designer clothes with limited stock runs.
Should you use it for your Christmas shopping?
The 48 hour wait for the offer to come in means you might end up waiting for nothing if your desired product isn’t available through Flubit. And the 24-hour window which you have to buy the item means you have to be pretty decisive once you do get the offer. You have to be happy using Paypal, too, which means no Section 75 protection.
But overall, I’d say Flubit.com gets a definite thumbs up. I really like this site and it worked well for me. I just really hope Santa uses it to get me a Chromebook. Do you think I’ve dropped enough hints?
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