Saturday, April 4, 2009

Internet Enabled Shopping My Way

I need to run to the grocery store. I'm about out of paper towels. The only kind I buy is the Bounty select-a-size. I hate "full size" sheets because I use them like constantly and the smaller size is perfect for 99.9% of my paper towel needs. (I only use Bounty because Viva stinks to high heaven and Brawny isn't; it shreds. In the last 10 years I've only not had B:S-A-S for 3 rolls and every moment of that deviation caused regret.) Even using them fiendishly, it still takes me a pretty long time to work through a roll. Still and all, I'd like to know quickly where to get them cheap. Today.

Much to my surprise, given the variety of crap I come home from the store with, my shopping list is actually pretty consistent. The variety comes from buying whatever's on sale that week that I like but wouldn't buy without the sale. (Why I don't want to pay $2.50 for a can of soup but will gladly spend $6 for half that soup in a restaurant I haven't yet wrapped my head around.) Anyhow, given this proclivity to have the same core list, and for the most part, the same fringe list, I was just thinking of something that would make my life easier:

Automatic list pricing and comparisons.

My vision is a spreadsheet (I really do love Excel) laid out with columns for:
  1. the grocery item
  2. preference for name brand, store brand, or generic
  3. quantity
  4. units
  5. price at Preferred store A
  6. price at Preferred store B
  7. price at Preferred store C (opt. etc...)
  8. price at Wildcard store within X distance
  9. optionally, where last purchased
The "price" columns may need to be 2-3 columns each, one for regular price, one for today's price, and one for a link to a coupon (although that could hyperlink from the "today's price", now that I think on it). Regular price could either be entered by hand or preferably, given today's "club memberships", uploaded from the store database after a purchase. It also occurs to me that this could be used for any routine purchase - jeans, grooming, sporting goods, office supplies with their own sheets. Items could be grouped "weekly" , "monthly", "quarterly", and "yearly" if desired. Naturally there would be a checkbox to select desired items so a list could be printed or sent to a PDA. But for the first pass, all items stay up.

The money feature is this: Each "today's price" column would then be conditionally highlighted with one of 2-3 colors, indicating best price, second best price, etc. So when I need to get paper towels, fresh mushrooms, clementines, and soy sauce, I can hop onto my list, highlight those items and, with a quick glance for the most orange (or green or purple) column, see if there's any one store that would be a better deal that day and go there. If I have more items or the deals are disparate, it might make sense to hit two stores. If I have a feeling that I'll be doing some impulse buying I can do an "update all" and see which store, overall, has the best prices that week and go do my impulse shopping there.

There are lots of other things related (why do these things always get exponentially bigger?) like how to make money - the regular stores can pay per expected customer base or advertise based on volume; the wildcards (which would come up based on a best price or other algorithm) could pay to increase their view percentage. Food companies could pay too, to offer an "equivalent, alternate" product. (Although Pepsi can kiss my ass because I drink Coke, I also like Dr. Pepper and Squirt; Maybe Dr. Pepper wants me to try their new cherry version.)

More interactively, maybe a store could offer instant personalized coupons good for you or me (using your club number) for that day only to get us to a particular store: if I start to print the list for Vons instead of Gelson's, say, Gelsons could offer 2-3 specialized coupons. If cheap strawberries would swing the deal, they'd discount my strawberries to get me there to impulse buy their prettier stuff with higher profit margins.

Then I come home, feed in my receipt numbers, and a secondary database (from which one can plot trends or totals) records my expenditures (this is ancillary from the main idea, aside from updating "regular costs and last point of purchase info). When it notices that I buy a lot of, say, Easy Mac, it can ask if I want it moved from quarterly to monthly. And I can either say "yes" or think "damn, am I eating that much Easy Mac? I thought I ate a lot of cucumbers!" Which reminds me that I'd have to have a column for "farmer's market" which, ideally, would list foods by season. Since the FM's a cash transaction off the books, it would be a voluntary update, but I think I could handle that if I was already getting the use of the rest of the list, just to keep everything in one place and find out how much more I spend there.

Huh? Huh? If someone already does this, do let me know where to find it. I didn't want to google search it before I was able to record my original ideas.

1 comment:

CrankyOtter said...

From Cooking Light Oct 2009, pg 63:
Teri Gault's may do something similar.