Price Comparison Site – Pricegrabber Reviewed

Having decided to review online deal sites, picking the first site was a bit puzzling. There were numerous questions like should it be a new site, should it be a infamous site, should it be one of the leading sites, should it be a daily deal site or a price comparison site and so on. And while just browsing through several deal sites, I noticed that they were either a price comparison site or a daily deal site with little links called “Price Comparison” next to each deal. Most (not all) of the daily deal sites seem to partner with PriceGrabber and thus these “Price Comparison” links take you to a slightly different looking version of with the header and footer edited to look like the site you came from (the daily deal site). To the best of my estimates, this trend of including a “Price Comparison” link next to each deal in a daily deal site started about a year ago and has slowly but steadily spread. This makes PriceGrabber a website visited by pretty much anyone deal hunting online and with their new found higher popularity (not that they were not popular earlier), I thought they would be a good choice for my first review and here it is for you.

People visit price comparison websites with the following expectations:

  1. Be able to choose a product based on various technical details and features of the product.
  2. Analyze the reliability of the product based on the product reviews.
  3. Find the seller with the cheapest price.
  4. Analyze the reliability of the seller.

Now let’s see how PriceGrabber performs in these fronts with some objective testing as well my subjective view points. Before that, let’s see a generic review of the website.

PriceGrabber has a very nice and pleasant looking layout on its home page with the typical big sized search box on top and big sized product categories menu on the left. The home page also features five “Featured Products”, three “Most Popular Products” and three “Highly Rated Products”. The extended listing (200) of the popular products and highly rated products are really useful as they give you a good overview of what is happening in the online shopping and gadgets world. I remember visiting PriceGrabber yesterday and checked all the five featured products in the home page. Even after 24hrs the featured products have not changed, which raises a question of what does it really mean to be “featured” on a high traffic site like this?

Now trying out the search, I was really impressed for the most part results were on the dot. Following were tried:

  1. Canon Powershot (perfect)
  2. Elph (Perfect, expected various cameras)
  3. 2077B001 (A manufacturer product number and this took me to the right page)
  4. Digital Recorder (purposefully skipped the word ‘Voice’ in-between and the results were perfect)
  5. Recorder (listed a variety of sub-categories like DVD Writers, Digital Voice Recorders, etc – perfect)
  6. Nikon Powershot (Yes, purposefully goofed up, I expected all Nikon products as well as Canon powershot cameras to be listed, but it came back with No Results and suggesting me to search for the words individually, which I feel could have been handled better)

Nikon Powershot

All of the product pages are nicely laid out with tabs for price comparison (default tab), product details and user previews, though there is spectacular about these, everything is simple and easy to use.

Being Able to Choose a Product Based on Various Technical Details and Features of the Product

Our test: It is my opinion that Nikon D40 and Nikon D80 are good choices for a digital SLR with a limited budget, among several others. Now trying to see if PriceGrabber can help me select this (assuming I do not know these products).

  1. Searching for “Digital SLR”. (returns 92 matches)
  2. Setting price range $500 to $800 (reduced to 39 matches)
  3. I know that a good and recent Digital SLR needs to have at least 10mp, so I pick 10mp to 13mp in Megapixels. (reduced to 16 matches)
  4. Products are by default sorted by popularity with Canon EOS Rebel Kit is top, D80 2nd and D40x 3rd.
  5. Now, I know I don’t care for popularity; I rather care for product rating, so I sort it by Rating. This shows that both Nikon models I told earlier and as well as the Canon model are all equally good and it is now only the $$$ to decide (however if I were to really buy, I would read all those product reviews).
  6. Now sorting by Price, I see that I could D40 kit (with lens) for $539 compared to $509 for Canon Rebel XTI body only.
  7. Wow, on the dot! D40 kit

Wow, I am really impressed with the guidance provided by PriceGrabber in selecting this camera. I should recall here that I only inputted the following: “Digital SLR” for search, price range and mega pixel range.

Oh nooooo, I just went back to confirm to make sure what I wrote was right, to only find a bug. A bug which affects the product selection above here is the name of the product we selected: “Nikon D40 SLR Digital Camera Kit 6.1MP, 3008x2000, SD/SDHC Slot)”. Recall that we wanted a camera with more than 10MP, but the title says 6.1MP. Now being confused I checked with several sites to confirm that Nikon D40 (MPN: 9420) was indeed 6.1MP. I did find the reason for this bug, they had wrong specifications for the model, but hey! This is a highly popular camera and 1000’s of people could be misguided by this mistake.

Nikon D40 SLR 6.1MP

For other than this bug, their product selection mechanism was impressive, but for me this bug is a bit more serious as one could be very easily misguided by this. I should state here that, I did not have to try several searches to find this bug, this was just my random example and as I was writing, I encountered this. So I would rate PG at about 6/10 on this front.

Analyze the Reliability of the Product Based on the Product Reviews

I proceeded with the same camera kit with selected above to see the reviews, there were two tabs, first was “User Reviews” and the other “Expert Reviews”. Each user review is rated to know which review is good and these product reviews were impressive and untainted (you will soon see why I write untainted). 8/10 (If there was a way to combine reviews of smaller variations of the camera into one view, it would be cool, as D40 is spread over several product names with small variations.)

Find the Seller with Cheapest Price

Now done with selecting products, now is making sure we get the cheapest price. This is enormous amount of data from so many merchants and thus just judging based on a random product would not be fair. So I opted for the top 5 products in the top 200 products listed.

The test goes as follows: an attempt is made to find if there is a lower price available from any merchant by searching the internet. However, lower price from almost nonexistent stores would not be included for fairness. The minimum quality of reliability of any lower priced merchant will be at par with lowest rated merchant available in the stores listed in PriceGrabber. I know this is very subjective and obviously confusing, so I will provide you with the results to see.

The five products are (manufacture part number in parenthesis):

Wii Console (045496880019)

Wii console was totally sold out on online stores. However PG had about 25 stores listed (storefronts), these storefronts are more like eBay stores and it would not be fair to include this product for our analysis.

Canon EOS Rebel XTi Black SLR Digital Camera w/ 18-55mm Kit (1236B001)

Lowest price by PG: $568 (US1PHOTO), while some internet searching show $563.71 from PCRUSH (However PG reports the same store at $574.29, I don’t know if US1PHOTO being a “featured merchant” matters here). Google also shows several stores as low as $489, however reliability of these stores is a question, but the point here is there is a store selling for about $4 less and both of the stores are equally rated.

Canon EOS 40D SLR Digital Camera Body Only (1901B004)

Lowest price by PG: $1088 (hey again, US1Photo), internet searching shows FotoConnection for $929, however reviews don’t seem great, so let’s find a better store IbuyDigital for $1049.99, PG rates this seller at par to US1PHOTO, but I don’t think so. So conclusion here is if you want to take the NY store risk, you could save about $159, but this highly depends on store reliabilities which we will soon discuss.


Lowest price by BG: $2348.50 by Authorized Electronics (New store, yahoo store front). Internet search shows FotoConnection for $2289, TheNewConnection for $2289, Priceline Electronics for $2,318.99, ShopDigitalOnline (is a PG listed seller) for $2109 (however this seller is not listed for this product). So, you could save $239.50 assuming, every seller on PG is a good.

Pioneer PDP-5080HD 50” Plasma TV (PDP5080HD)

Lowest price by PG: $2059.55 by Abes of Main, internet searching shows FotoConnection for $1749 (hey, I hear you telling Abes of Main is far more reliable).

Popular Products on PriceGrabber

So in conclusion for this section, if it is just about finding the lowest price irrespective of how reliable a store if, PriceGrabber never gave the least price. But that would not be fair, given that so many scam stores exist. So, it all depends on whether PriceGrabber includes any such scam store or not. However in a very broad sense, PG does a good job find the lowest possible price RANGE from reputable stores, so 7/10.

Analyze the Reliability of the Seller

Seller reviews (ratings) in price comparison engines have always been a confusing, with a big question in my mind “Can I trust these ratings?” I first started with scouting the internet to see if there was any controversy over PG’s seller ratings and I hit on this forum thread.

Here is a summary of what is there in the above thread: A user from DPReview claims that the negative review he left for DBUYS.COM at PG was altered. He also gives links to his review at RESELLERRATINGS.COM and DPREVIEW.COM. Several people have replied in that thread and not a single person has doubted the claim by the original poster, but the confusion was only whether PG altered it or if DBUYS.COM guessed the password of the user and changed it. The poster also tells that he being a UNIX administrator follows very strict password rules and never uses the same password on multiple sites. One more thing highlighted is that PG rates DBUYS.COM at 4.48/5 while RESELLERRATINGS.COM rates at 1.43/10 (6 month rating, not overall) [DBUYS has a 6 month rating of 4.13/5 at PG], wow what a strong difference in rating.

Analyzing this store online, it seems like 1.43/10 is what they are really worth and 4.48/5 is certainly not appropriate. Several other review sites also reflected that DBUYS.COM indeed sucks. One thing I need to strongly highlight is that DBUYS.COM is a “featured merchant” at PG.

I also analyzed about the user who made this claim on DPReview, he has been a DPReview user for years and been participating on regular photography related conversations. From seeing his posts, he has made a major purchase (about $4K in controversy) and this upset has caused him to do the negative reviews, which is very natural. So, this poster cannot be seemed as a “competitor”

Now let’s dig a bit more to see how DBUYS.COM has been rated at 4.48/5. First, let’s see ratings of a few stores to make some observations.

  1. BuyDig.COM, on PG since 1999, 23748 reviews all-time for 4.62/5 [Featured merchant]
  2. NewEgg.COM, on PG since 2001, 19270 reviews all-time for 4.72/5 [Featured merchant]
  3. Amazon.COM, on PG since 2000, 367 reviews all-time for 3.43/5 [NOT A Featured merchant]
  4. CircuitCity.COM, on PG since 2003, 167 reviews all-time for 2.72/5 [NOT a Featured merchant]

There is no rocket science involved in making some observations on the facts above. Let me try to answer some questions which arise and would love to see your feedback in your comments.

How did BuyDig and NewEgg get so many reviews while Amazon and CircuitCity have so few?

  1. BuyDig and NewEgg are “featured merchants” not sure if it matters, if it does matter, PG goes to hell.
  2. One more possibility is NewEgg and BuyDig staff post so many reviews, wow they should have a dedicated review posting team. [All that you need is a valid order/invoice number to post the reviews and I tried posting with some random order number and they seemed to just not bother about what I entered there]
  3. BuyDig and NewEgg have a highly loyal customer base to take the time to post these reviews while CircuitCity and Amazon do not have them. If this statement is even remotely true, 1+1 =11.

So in my conclusion, there is for sure some foul play in this huge difference in number of reviews posted.

How did DigBuy and NewEgg get a very high rating while Amazon and CircuitCity have such a low rating?

(I do not mean DigBuy and NewEgg do not deserve that rating, but my question is the stark difference in ratings)

Finding answers to the previous question, will very much answer this question as well.

Ok, now let’s try some testing to see for patterns of foul play or anything like that and try to find an approx rating for DBUYS.COM (this was the store in the controversy above)

DBUYS.COM has had 5103 (4.48/5) reviews all-time while 110 (4.23/5) reviews in past 3 months. In interest of time, it is not feasible for me to check 5103 reviews, so will review 110 reviews received in the past 3 months.

Reviews were sorted by date (descending). Each page has 25 reviews, so 4 pages plus top 10 reviews will be analyzed. My observations – (i) Most negative reviews were left on the same day as signing up at PG site (very normal for the upset user) or were from long time PG users who signed up before several years or months. (ii) Most positive reviews were from users who signed up about 10-20 days before posting. [May be there is an account creating team and a reviewing team ;) and so the lag].

My second observation is a serious one, why would most of the positive reviewers sign up and wait for around 15 days to post the review, sounds fishy?

So, I opted to do this, remove any review posted by a user who signed up within less than a month (you should note that both positive and negative reviews are removed, so it is fair). What remains is, reviews left by people with the difference between posted date and sign up date more than a month. This got the rating down to about 3.25/5 (but they there is no way to find which are all real reviews and which are all fake. But who experienced (more than 1 month old) PG users’ rate at 3.25 while including any user increase this number to 4.23. Your mind should have several answers to this.

So, my overall impression on the reviews of sellers at PG is very bad. I would rate it at 3/10.

PriceGrabber does have some nice features like a shopping list (adding your favorite products), supports multiple lists, price alerts on these products etc.

Score Summary

Scores in various fronts:

i. Be able to choose a product based on various technical details and features of the product. (6/10)

ii. Analyze the reliability of the product based on the product reviews. (8/10)

iii. Find the seller with the cheapest price. (7/10)

iv. Analyze the reliability of the seller. (3/10)

Final rating 6/10

“Visit PriceGrabber to help you find your product, but once you selected the product, make sure it does really match what you were looking for. Product reviews there are reliable and the lowest price you find here gives you a very good idea of the lowest price range. If you do not care of reliability of the seller, just head to Google and you will find lower prices. But if you want to buy only from reliable sellers, do not trust the ratings in there; you will know by your experience which store is good and which is not.”

Always remember that just low price is not all it is about, check for order tracking possibilities, reliability ratings across multiple sites, shipping policies, return policies, clearly statements about refurbished etc. Personally, I would always be Ok in paying even 3-5% more than the cheapest store to buy from a good reputed store with proper policies. So for a $300 product, don’t bother about spending about $15 more than the cheapest store, if you can buy from a reputed store.

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