Every time he sees it, Norman Fong can't help but cringe. People standing in line for hours, if not days, to get the greatest and latest...
EMERYVILLE, Calif. — Every time he sees it, Norman Fong can’t help but cringe.
People standing in line for hours, if not days, to get the greatest and latest in technology seems ludicrous to him. Even worse is when they pay full price.
But here’s why Fong feels this way. As founder of Techbargains.com, he has spent most of the last decade dedicated to finding the best tech bargains out there. Even his business card doesn’t declare him chief executive or president.
He is Chief Bargainmeister.
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“When people tell me they’re standing in line for that long, I think they are crazy because rarely do you get a good deal,” said Fong.
In 1989, Fong started Techbargains.com from his bedroom with his brother. It originally stemmed from friends and family members constantly asking him, “What computer should I get, and at what price?”
Over the years, competition came from sites with much larger financial means, such as CNET.com. It was then he decided to focus almost entirely on helping people find great deals from reputable vendors.
“Because we have a trained eye, we can look at a deal and tell if it is a bargain, or if something doesn’t seem right about it,” Fong said.
From its office in Emeryille, the company doesn’t seem like much. It’s primarily just a handful of employees spending hour after hour looking for the best deals. One might have an eye for video-game deals while another loves cameras.
While the Web site itself isn’t too graphically elaborate, the sheer amount of content can make it overwhelming for those who haven’t visited it before. But what keeps people coming back, Fong says, is that there might be a deal out there that is too good to pass up.
There are many sites out on the Web pointing visitors to great deals. But Fong says the best thing about his site is that it’s updated constantly.
“Some of these deals are literally there for two hours, and then gone,” Fong said. “If you don’t know where to go, they’re impossible to get.”
One recent day, for instance, his company highlighted a Aliph Jawbone wireless Bluetooth headset for $79.99 on a Web site called JR.com. Apple Stores has it for $119.95.
Sometimes the discount is steep. Fong once pointed his customers to a Sprint telephone that after two rebates, including one from a cereal box, ended up profiting the consumer $75.
In other cases, it might point out deals where shipping is free and there are no taxes. On a $1,500 laptop, this could be a savings of $100.
Although the reviews of the products aren’t as comprehensive as those on CNET, the company’s bargain hunters still try to offer opinions about the product itself when they can.
Trolling through items
To help navigate hundreds of available deals, Fong wrote data-mining software that can troll through the items and pick out potential targets.
“The key to our success is understanding which vendors are reputable, listening to our users and getting the information out there as quickly as possible,” Fong said.
The company makes money through advertising and, in some cases, when a product is bought from a link it supplies. But Fong says the company’s loyalty is to the users.
“If we find a good deal, we’ll put it on our site even if we don’t get a cent from it,” he said. “If we didn’t, it flies in the face of credibility.”
Fong said his best advice for bargain-seekers is that the deals that seem too good to be true are just that.
“Anytime someone says ‘get it for free,’ then you have to know something is wrong with the deal,” Fong said. “Immediately when we see something like that, we know there is something wrong with it.”