Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Scavenger Hunt before Summer Vacation ; HOT LINKS

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Scavenger Hunt before Summer Vacation ; HOT LINKS

Article excerpt

The tape recorder and manila envelope were sitting on my desk when I returned from lunch.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Turner. In the envelope you will find a list of items for a summer vacation. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to compare the cost of these items bought online with the same ones bought conventionally. This tape will now melt."

I took a peek at the items I was to purchase. I already knew what my biggest foe would be: shipping. Sure, I'd be able to find bargains online, but on the relatively low-ticket items specified, I'd get nailed by shipping charges unless I could find an angle.

Right at the beginning, I was dealt a blow: The last item on the list, a Trek mountain bike, was not to be had on the Net for any price. Trek has a policy of not selling bikes online, preferring customers buy them from local dealers to ensure proper selection. The best I could have done is find a new Trek bike on eBay, not really a fair comparison.

I redoubled my efforts on the rest of the items. I immediately noticed a cluster of sporting goods items. If I could score them all at the same site, I could reduce the overall shipping charges.

I struck gold at sports supersite Fogdog.com. A Speedo Women's Solid Ultraback swimsuit (size 6, black), Teva Youth Storm sandals (size 11), a can of Penn Championship tennis balls, a box of Titleist DT Spin 100 golf balls, and a Nike Swoosh II cap cost only $123.79, including the $3.99 for shipping. Five items down, five to go.

A pair of Ray-Ban Outdoorsman sunglasses from DiscountBlvd.com added $89.02 to my bill, with a $5.08 UPS charge included. A pair of DKNY cargo shorts size 32 (in my dreams) ran $47.99 at savishopper.com with (yes!) free shipping. A Thule Hitching Post bicycle car rack from PennCycle.com pedaled off with $135.99 on my credit card. Add another $12.00 in shipping.

On the last small items on the list, the going got tough. A 4- oz. bottle of Coppertone SPF 15 sunblock was $6.99 at drugstore.com, but the $3.95 shipping ran the total cost up to $10.94. A copy of "The Brethren" by John Grisham was only $13.98 at Amazon. …

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