By December 11, 2006

Three sites, two tools, and one impulse buyer

I’ve known about, and shopped on, Woot for several years. Here’s the premise behind Woot and its clones: one type item of unknown quantity is put up for sale every day at 1AM eastern. The item is often at a deep discount. Shipping on Woot is always $5, regardless if you buy a Woot-branded stuffed monkey or a 50″ flat panel HDTV. You may buy up to three of any item. Woot used to specialize in geeky things like computer/console gaming accessories, digital cameras, DVD players, and other gadgety equipment. Lately it’s been a really mixed bag, with bizarre items such as the Leak Frog, a Barbie upright vacuum, and even wine. I wish that Woot would narrow their focus. A lot.

I have been following Tanga for about two months now. Just like Woot, Tanga puts up a new item every day at 10PM Eastern. There’s an unknown number of items for sale. Shipping varies, but is usually inexpensive or “reasonable.” Unlike Woot, Tanga focuses mostly on board games, with some gadgets mixed in. They have had some small appliances for sale recently, including a $100+ French oven. I hope they learn form Woot’s mistakes, and make a niche for themselves. Tanga, if you’re reading: while the French oven was a good deal, please stick to games and gadgets.

The last site I visit on a daily basis is Steep and Cheap, which sells outdoor gear at steep discounts. The company’s site has a bar graph denoting the amount of “unknown” stock left. However they embedded the remaining quantity in the HTML of their Web page, and sites like SAC Attack exploits this to display exactly how many items are remaining. Unlike Woot or Tanga, SaC has a rolling sale; as soon as one item sells out, another takes its place.

Woot and Tanga will sometimes have rolling sales as an event, called the Woot-off and the Tangathon, respectively. However, both events are for a limited, unknown duration and then it’s back to the daily schedule. Unfortunately the quality of the last three or four Woot-offs have been lacking. Woot has apparently purchased too many of certain items (like those fucking 250GB hard drives), and will list them at every Woot-off, often multiple times per Woot-off. How many more times do I have to see another Roomba Discovery or Scooba on Woot?

It’s easy to monitor Woot and Tanga during their regular schedules. I just check them out in Firefox and move on. Rolling sales (and SaC in general) are a little more hard to monitor. Items up on Woot and Tanga have sold out in minutes; I believe the record for a Woot-off sell out is around forty five seconds. We’re not just talking about three of four items. Woot can, and will, sell out of a hundred items in the blink of an eye. I recently bought a Gorilla Pod camera tripod on Woot for $44 shipped, my friend Fish Sprout missed it by just a few minutes.

I run a custom Woot-off checker PHP script these days to keep track of things. This keeps me from pounding the F5 key all day, and also allows me to see the percentage of stock remaining for each Woot-off item. I know, I know, I just got through telling you Woot doesn’t post their stock. They list the percentage during Woot-offs. I used to use public Woot-off checkers, but invariably they crumble under their own weight, as hojillions of anxious Wooters monitor what’s coming up next. The only way my private checker takes a dump is if the Woot server cluster is under load when the checker polls the site for information.

In addition to SaC Attack, I also downloaded the Steep and Cheap desktop notification tool. The rest of SaC’s notification options (such as instant messaging and RSS feed) either don’t work or aren’t timely enough. I missed out on a few items, only to see them in the RSS feed a half hour or more after the item had sold out. The notification tools makes a sound and pops up a window when a new item is listed. The window lists the product name, product image, the SaC price, and the MSRP. There’s a short blurb, but I normally don’t read that, as I know from the name, price and image if I want the item or not. I hate having another application eating up resources in my taskbar, but what else am I to do in the etail impulse shopping world?

For the most part, I’ve been good about buying things on a whim. I did buy a dressier watch from Woot recently, and a fair number of games from Tanga that I probably wouldn’t have been in a rush to buy from a brick and mortar store or Fun Again Games. I bought Lady Jaye a bugout bag from SaC — a backpack specially contoured to a lady’s frame — for about $44 shipped. It’s not something I needed right away, but the opportunity, desire, and price were in a perfect vector and I made the purchase.

I like shopping this way, because you never know what you’re going to get. It’s entertaining, a bit of a mystery, and always that initial rush of “should I buy this now before it’s gone, or research the price and product first?”

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2 Comments on "Three sites, two tools, and one impulse buyer"

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  1. Bond says:

    Breadmaker FTW. The End.

  2. drfaulken says:

    Just wanted to add that Tanga has a text-messaging (SMS) system for use, which I employ during the Tangathon. I don’t know why I left that out in my original entry.