'Scan and Scram' Shopping


Are you a frugalista using your smartphone to shop around for the best deal?

By Mary Schwager for GalTime

Are you a “scan and scram shopper”? This new, high-tech way of buying has some well known retailers with physical store locations scrambling to come up with creative ways to keep you as a customer. You know what that means: If businesses are competing, you’re going to potentially get some great deals!

Attorney Jeffrey Goldstein is the kind of shopper many “brick and mortar” retailers dread. He walks into big box stores, finds the computer, television, stereo, stroller or even the clothing he’s interested in, whips out his smartphone, pulls up a special price comparison app, and scans the barcode of the item he wants. In the blink of an eye, the app shows him a range of online stores he can find what he’s looking for-- for less. With another touch of a button, he can even order it, right from the store he’s standing in!

Industry experts call it the “scan and scram,” and Goldstein says he loves it! “I find it’s extremely addictive-- to a point where I'll take a look at everything on the shopping list.”

Related: How Technology Will Change the Way You Shop

Scanning and scramming, or “showrooming,” is changing the shopping landscape. Some online retailers couldn’t be happier about the phenomenon. “This is the new window shopping,” says an enthusiastic Vipul Lakhi, CEO of MyTrioRings.Com. His online only company offers the same wedding rings major retail chains sell, but for less. Lakhi says that about eight percent of his customers purchased their new bling through their phones. While he thinks some of those buyers may be showrooming, he says that, ironically, he’s able to keep prices down because he doesn’t have a showroom. “We don't have the overhead that you would have in a retail store. That means we don't have the expensive prime real estate; we don't have the expensive salesmen; we don't have to carry excessive inventory.”

How many customers are scanning and scramming? A Pew Internet study found twenty-five percent of adult cell phone owners used their phones in a store to see where they could buy an item for less during last year’s holiday shopping season. And five percent of those mobile price matchers bought the item online.

Even Amazon.Com and Ebay launched price comparison apps to make it easier for shoppers. Klay Huddleston, VP of retail for the digital marketing agency Resource Interactive, says, “It is frustrating to the stores to see this happening.”

In fact, it’s so frustrating to some businesses with physical retail locations that when Resource Interactive employees went out undercover “showrooming” to see how stores would react, one big department store shooed them out. Huddleston says it’s time for the big box stores to step up and compete. “The number of e-commerce sales that were done through this phenomenon, this trend was large enough that retailers should be paying attention.”

Related: 5 Coupon Myths Debunked!

Some traditional retail stores are fighting back with a number of tactics. Consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch watched businesses duke it out for your dollars over the 2011 holiday shopping season. “We saw that stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond were offering price matching to online only retailers like amazon who are known for their low prices.”

Target offers exclusive products you can’t buy anywhere else. Nordstrom offers free shipping if you buy something in a store or online. Macy’s and Old Navy offer coupons you can only use in-store. Apple launched an in-store app called EasyPay, which let’s you walk into one of their stores, scan the bar code of an item, pay for it via iTunes and leave. It ensures Apple gets the sale and you walk out without waiting in line or dealing with sales people.

Don Perkins, a Sears district manager, stresses not to forget that when you shop in a store, you get face to face customer service and immediate gratification. “You can actually get the product the same day you purchase it--- no waiting for something to ship to your house, no paying extra shipping charges to get it expedited.”

As retailers battle for your money, what does it mean for you? Woroch says: Big savings. “Shoppers have the upper hand and can find more sales, bigger discounts and an increase in coupon distribution than ever before. Many stores offer to price match the competition, sometimes even with e-retailers, so be sure to ask for a price match or get ready to negotiate.”

Showrooming shopper Goldstein says scanning and scramming has kept his budget well into the black and he doesn’t intend on stopping. “If you can wait as much as a week to two weeks to get your items then you're much better off and you save in the big picture.”

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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.