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Comparison Shop with eBay and RedLaser

eBay's RedLaser app makes comparison shopping mobile and effortless


Comparison Shop with eBay and RedLaser

eBay's RedLaser app enables you to scan barcodes and compare prices while you're out and about shopping until you drop

Image: Aron Hsiao

While eBay is often said to offer great deals to shoppers on a variety of goods, everyone knows that there are times when it just isn't practical to sit at home on a computer searching, then wait for shipping, to do the shopping at hand. After all:

  • Some things simply aren't available on eBay.
  • Other things are available on eBay, but are available elsewhere more cheaply.
  • Sometimes even next-day shipping is far too slow.
  • For many purchases there's something to be said for the experience of being out and about in crowds, lights, and on sales floors rather than being at home.

So this list of truisms limits possibilities for eBay involvement whenever you find yourself shopping locally, right?

Hardly. Here's how to use eBay to (1) find the best prices on the items you're after, no matter what, (2) even if those items aren't available on eBay, (3) without having to wait for items to be shipped if you don't want them to be, and (4) without having to sacrifice crowds, mall music, waiting in line, or driving in traffic that can sometimes make shopping the fun experience that it is.

Turn eBay Into Your On-The-Go Shopping Assistant

What you'll need: An Apple iPhone, an Apple second generation iPad, or an Android-based smartphone.

What to do:

  1. Download the free eBay RedLaser app. Just search for "RedLaser" in your smartphone's app store or visit the eBay RedLaser home page for details on how to download and install the app on your mobile device. Start it and explore just a little. Be sure to give the app permission to use your location and search for local results if it asks you for these privileges!
  2. Go shopping. Don't be shy. Don't stay at home and dink around on your computer in solitude. Take your smartphone and accompanying RedLaser app out with you into the crowds.
  3. Choose your purchases. Perhaps some items attract you because they're on sale, while others are spur-of-the-moment. Whatever the reason, track down the items you're planning to purchase just as you normally would and pick them up off the shelf—but don't pay for them yet.
  4. Start the RedLaser App and Tap "Scan." Holding your item, find a quiet corner of whatever store you happen to be in, pull out your smartphone, start the RedLaser app, and type the "Scan" button at the bottom-middle of your screen.
  5. Find the UPC barcode on your item. You know what this looks like—it's the little series of black and white bars and numbers that store clerks scan for you before asking you to pay for your item(s). Find the barcode on your gift item.
  6. Scan! With the RedLaser app scanning, focus your smartphone's camera on the barcode. You'll hear a "Beep!" as your smartphone scans the barcode and the RedLaser app begins to search for better deals on your item.
  7. Browse. Within a few seconds, your phone will show you a list of places (both online and offline, if available) where this item can be bought. You'll see both prices (what are other online and/or offline stores selling this exact same item for) but also distances (the distances from wherever you happen to be standing right now to whatever other local stores are selling the item).
  8. Save. If the item is available at a lower price, either online or in another local store, decide whether you're interested in doing what it takes (either making an online purchase or hopping back in the car or back on the train) to save that money. Then, buy with peace of mind, knowing you've done the best comparison shopping job you could have done—without having to spend a whole afternoon doing it.

Can't Find Your Item?

Every now and then you'll stumble across something so new or so rare that nobody else, online or offline, seems to have it yet—at least not with that barcode. This doesn't mean that RedLaser is useless to you when it comes to this item; just that you have to proceed differently.

When scanning doesn't pan out, tap instead on the "Search" button near the bottom of the app, just to the left of the "Scan" button that you already used. Then, type in the make and model of the item you're interested in.

In nearly all cases, in the rare cases in which scanning doesn't pan out, searching for the same or similar items will yield similar comparison shopping and cost savings results, even if they're slightly less whiz-bang cool in the way that you searched for them.

Just Want to Search eBay?

If for some reason you don't want to search all of the Internet and your local stores for similar items, but just want instead to search the eBay.com website and marketplace, you can still follow all of the same steps—just download the eBay Mobile app instead of the eBay RedLaser app from your smartphone's app store and use the scanner button to the right of the main search box to scan item barcodes.

The eBay mobile app will provide only matching products on the eBay website itself. This can be useful if you're a heavy-duty eBay shopper that wants to see all of the eBay results matching a particular product and/or to sort them in interesting ways, rather than just seeing the one or two best match(es) on eBay.com on an availability list that includes other online and local stores as well.


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