MELISSA BLOCK, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
I'm Robert Siegel.
And it's time for All Tech Considered.
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SIEGEL: And this week we've got two things on our to-do list. In a few minutes we'll talk with our tech expert, Omar Gallaga, about what the screen on your television or your cell phone may look like in the next few years. You'll be very envious, it's getting both thinner and smarter. But for those of you who don't want to wait five years to upgrade that fuzzy monitor, we're going to talk now about comparison shopping. Several smartphone applications are taking bargain hunting to a new level. This is good news for consumers, but it is rattling the nerves of some store owners. After all it's been good money to keep up showrooms and employ sales agents.
As NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, some retailers are rethinking the way they close a deal.
YUKI NOGUCHI: A couple of months ago Greg Stevens downloaded a program called Save Benjis to his iPhone. Here in a Best Buy in Washington, D.C. he types the model name for series three TiVo then pulls up a list of online offers.
Mr. GREG STEVENS: It's 439 online. Here's a series three for 599. So, there, you know, I'd have to make a decision: do I want to go through, you know, a brick and mortar store where I can bring it back here and return it, or do I want to go through eBay? I don't know. That's a pretty sizeable price discrepancy. So that's a tough one.
NOGUCHI: There are handful of programs like Save Benjis. There's one called Shop Savvy that scans barcodes on products using the camera on the iPhone or the Google-developed Android phone. Stevens have saved a number of Benjis, $100 bills that is. He says the application doesn't work as well on items that are hard to compare like food or clothes, but he used it recently to get a deal on luggage. He also finagled a cheaper price on a washer and a dryer by getting the store to match an online price. Doing this sort of thing used to require bringing along printouts. Now, he can do it on the fly.
Mr. STEVENS: It kind of puts you in the driver's seat. I guess I like anything that gives you a little bit of an edge.
NOGUCHI: Stevens is now eyeing an iPod docking station in the store that's available online for $20 less. And he says unless the price difference is very big, he still prefers doing business at an actual store.
Mr. STEVENS: I'm more used to, you know, you go in to the electronic store and you find what you like and then you buy it. And then if you have a problem, you know, you just get in the car and come back and return that. So, that one would have to be something I'd have to probably think about a little bit before I made that leap, but that's just me.
NOGUCHI: Comparison shopping has made selling more of a negotiation, but that's a change Luis Castillo welcomes. He's a general manager at a Best Buy in Virginia.
Mr. LUIS CASTILLO (General Manager, Best Buy, Virginia): We encourage our customers to do that and in some cases, we actually - when we have customers that may hesitate to make a purchase based on price, we encourage them to just - let's go right now to a computer and check out our competitor's price.
NOGUCHI: Castillo says in most cases he find his store's prices are in line with those online. But if they're not, he most often will match the lower price.
Yuki Noguchi, NPR News.
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