Collective buying: the power of more than one

At work, I saw a woman pick up a tester lipstick and enthusiastically apply several big ‘O’s on her face. She’s a repeat offender, coming in every second day to make use of our eyeliner and blush. And yep, she never buys anything.

I guess I should be less judgemental. How many times have I walked through the Myer cosmetics department in the city and helped myself to the tester perfumes?

Still, there must be a way to get one’s favourite cosmetics without sacrificing the equivalent of a week’s worth of groceries or furtively emptying tester bottles into a Snaplock bag.

Strawberrynet stocked the cologne that I wanted to get for Cheap Geek but without the $150 Myer price tag. In order to get free shipping and further discounts though, I needed to buy cosmetics as well as perfume, so I enlisted some friends and work colleagues and with their help I was able to put in an order that gave everyone free shipping and a maximum discount. I ended up shaving an extra 15% off the price of the cologne:

Collective buying requires more organisation and effort than an individual buy but the discounts are usually worth it. You can find like-minded buyers via social media, through official group-buying websites (i.e. LivingSocial) or word of mouth. Everyone involved can either turn up at the same store on the same day* or you can negotiate and complete the deal on the group’s behalf.

If you’re acting on the group’s behalf, you can either ask for money upfront or on the delivery of goods from individual buyers. Money upfront is risky for individual buyers, whereas money on the delivery of goods is risky for organisers, so make sure you trust the people involved. Are they the type you’d lend money to or are they fail?

Remember to have a backup plan in case someone pulls out or things go wrong. Is there anyone who can vouch for the business? What if the product(s) are inferior or don’t turn up? Does the business you’re bulk buying from do returns or refunds? How does a smaller order affect the group’s discount?

Our purple-ribboned Strawberrynet package arrived at work a few weeks later. Money exchanged hands, products were divvied up, and Cheap Geek got a surprise present. :)

Has anyone else has tried collective buying? What did you do and what are your thoughts on the experience?


**In Guangzhou, 500 shoppers descended upon a Gome electrical superstore after previously agreeing upon a time and date online. Using the power of the mob, they got 10-30% off cameras, DVD players and flatscreen televisions. (via ‘Consumer Power: Shop affronts – Chinese consumers are ganging up on their retailers’, The Economist)

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About must be thrifty

Buying a house on a single-person income is never easy, but must be thrifty did it anyway in 2009, when interest rates were at a record low. Now that interest rates are going up and house prices are going down, she's bracing herself for some serious scrooging...
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