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February 11, 2022

Bargain-hungry Internet shopping aid coming to Canada

“My mama told me, ‘You better shop around.’” – Smokey Robinson, 1960

The real stink about shopping has long been this: how best to suss out the top deal?

And even with the likes of Amazon crushing the souls of conventional retailers, the Internet age has not changed this conundrum. You can browse the sites of all the Best Buys and Walmarts you want, but you can’t really be sure – 100% certain – you’re getting the lowest price.

Unless, of course, you have the InvisibleHand add-on.

For all of us who’ve ever let buyer’s remorse kick in as soon as that “Place your order” button is clicked, the InvisibleHand is for you.

A shopping aid from the U.K. (which is now in the U.S. and Germany, as well), InvisibleHand is a new price-hunting tool users of Firefox and Google Chrome can use to help them save.

After you install the add-on – which is coming to Internet Explorer later this year – anytime you browse, say, the Future Shop website looking at a 50-inch plasma, a discrete icon will pop-up showing if there are any better online deals for that TV based on its universal product code (UPC).

The key feature to InvisibleHand, program founder Robin Landy told me from his London, U.K. office, is that it searches for bargains in real-time.

Many of the add-on’s competitors, Landy says, use rarely-updated databases when notifying you of deals. InvisibleHand is able to skirt this by working directly with retailers – like Amazon in the States – to make sure all prices are accurate and up-to-date.

“We tried 143 individual product searches on PriceGrabber.com and found 16% of the prices given were wrong,” explains Landy. “That’s an average price difference of US$70 per item.”

Naturally, Canadians will wonder when they can get a piece of this cash-saving venture, and Landy has the good news.

InvisibleHand will launch as early as April in Canada, yet its founder is mum on which retailers will be included.

“We’ll be trying to make things as broad as possible,” Landy said Thursday, noting that big box electronics dealers and major sporting good stores are likely to be represented.

One big thing Landy is excited for is the advent of real-time cell phone plan comparisons and price hunting for the best deals on airfare.

So, let’s say you’re a Rogers customer looking at your mobile plan on the company’s website. With InvisibleHand, Landy soon hopes, an alert will pop up letting you know if you’d be better off with another plan or a new provider. The same will apply on flight prices, filling you in on cheaper airfare that may leave 30 minutes before or after your desired takeoff time.

Shoppers out there: do you ever use price comparison sites, and would a feature like InvisibleHand be something you’d consider helping you save?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...