Lending Club Blog

Is Shopping on Woot Financially Responsible?

Do I really need two sets of AM/FM walkie-talkies?

I was approached by this conundrum out of the blue one afternoon, and neither I nor my monthly entertainment stipend was prepared to broach the subject. Unfortunately, the subject needed to be broached.

The question was posed as a result of my visiting Woot.com, an online store that self-professes to “sell cool stuff cheap.” I associate with three of those four words, so Woot has become a fairly regular visit for me while surfing the web. The site started as a sort-of employee store for an electronics distributor, but it has since ballooned into a well-known and popular niche store.

The beauty of Woot is its cheapness, and that cheapness is made possible by its low overhead. Woot only offers one product for sale each day, and they often sell out long before the midnight deadline. So if I wanted those AM/FM walkie-talkies, I needed to stop measuring a 30-foot radius from my office desk and start placing my online order.

It’s too bad my money conscience kicked in.

Despite the intended simplicity of Woot.com, there is actually a whole lot of fiscal anguish that those great deals create in the minds of consumers. Products that are priced right tend to be purchased regardless of practicality or need. But at the same time, unnecessary expenses can discourage shoppers who fear buyer’s remorse despite how incredibly affordable that six-slice toaster might really be.

The Woot paradox is a microcosm of the battles that consumers wage day in and day out, and it even goes all the way back to fundamental economics. The issue of scarcity drives demand in the real world the same way it does in the virtual marketplace at Woot. A sale at the GAP forces consumers to weigh the factors of need, price, availability, and whether or not these jeans make them look fat. Similar situations play out every day at Woot’s store, too (only with far fewer self-conscious weight moments).

I was at the crux of this paradigm myself, and I found my thoughts wavering between two polar opposites.

“Buy the walkie-talkies,” demanded my risk-taking, live-in-the-moment side. The walkie-talkies were priced to sell…$14.95! Take that, Radio Shack! Getting walkie-talkies at that price should have been a deal that I just couldn’t pass up.

Besides, if I didn’t take advantage of the offer, someone else would. Great Woot deals go fast because the marketplace is full of savvy shoppers. I wanted to be a savvy shopper, too, but I couldn’t help but hear a voice of reason beckoning me to resist.

“You don’t need walkie-talkies,” that small voice inside my head scolded. “Tell that to the intrastate convoy I’m planning, you Jiminy-Cricket wannabe,” I mockingly replied. But that frugal voice was right. I didn’t need walkie-talkies. I had, at one point in time, wanted them. Sadly, this was 1989, and I was seven years old and spent most of my time imagining what it might be like to live in a tree fort. Being an adult, my priorities and my backyard landscaping had changed.

So there I stood at a stalemate between deal-mongering and rational purchasing. And it got me to thinking about how other people use Woot.

Certainly, I was not the first to struggle with a purchase decision like this on the Woot website. With all the fun electronic gadgets the site hawks each day, there were no doubt millions of others who have weighed some of the same options as I was presently weighing. But how do they decide what is prudent and what is pointless? A lot of Woot shoppers must have some sort of system figured out because the website is fast becoming one of the most popular e-commerce sites on the web. Perhaps all of Woot’s customers are irresponsible impulse shoppers; I know this decision would be a lot easier if I were one, too.

The more I thought about it, though, the more the answer seemed clear: to use Woot responsibly, you have to know what you want before you log on. If only I had realized this prior to Digital CameraGate 2006.

To make Woot as financially feasible as it can be, you have to have certain products in mind, and you can’t waver from your shopping list. If Woot’s prices are some of the best you can find (and they are), then buying on Woot shouldn’t have to be a guilt-inducing affair… provided you are buying the right items.

For instance, if you need a vacuum cleaner and you spot an iRobot Roomba on Woot, you should have no hesitation on snatching it up. Odds are good that you will not find it for a better price anywhere else, so you should be thrilled to pick it up at Woot’s lower price. However, if you spot a super cool set of headphones and you already have three super cool sets of headphones sitting at home on a shelf collecting dust, you should probably keep right on clicking.

Woot can be a great resource for wise consumers, but it can offer a lot of temptation to those with less self-control. Having specific items in mind when scouring for deals on Woot can remove the risk associate with online shopping; this way, all you’re left with is reward.

Using my newfound reasoning, I was forced to look at AM/FM walkie-talkies in a different light. I did not need them; in fact, I was not sure of anyone over the age of 15 who would need them. So despite the great price, I let the deal slide and kept my money saved up for bigger and better things… like AM/FM walkie-talkies that can vacuum my floor.

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Comments (2)

  1. [...] week, a fellow blogger at the Lending Club blog asked whether
    shopping on Woot is financially responsible and gave advice on how
    to make sure that it is.  To his commentary, I’d like to add
    how to [...]

    September 24th, 2008 at 6:45 am

  2. [...] a “wise consumer” or one of “those with less self-control”,
    the answer to your question – Do I really need two sets of
    walkie-talkies? – is firmly, emphatically, undeniably YES. These
    Conair GMRS318 Expedition Walkie-Talkies are [...]

    March 26th, 2009 at 3:59 am

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