Mini-article – Comparison sites 

By | April 1, 2008
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Hello
Well, I didn’t sent this on Tuesday so I’m not including an April Fools joke! But you do get to find out the truth behind price comparison websites – you see them advertised everywhere, but are they just middlemen… and does it matter?

An embarrassing confession…
By the way, the Microsoft Word and Microsoft Office books I mentioned last time are now in stock (we’re sending the first orders out today) – and I know there was a small problem with the link last time. Without getting too technical, it worked if your email is one type and didn’t work if you have the other type – and yours truly was daft enough to only test it on the first type. Sorry!
If you would like to read about the Little Rascals of Word & Excel, here’s the link (tested on both types this time!) www.helpfulbooks.co.uk/wordbook.htm

Mini-article – Comparison sites
There are comparison websites for all kinds of things. There are ones for when you buy a physical thing, like a fridge or table. There are ones for car insurance, for house insurance and for your utilities bills – electric, gas and so on.

But in principle, they all do the same kind of thing: You put in what you’re after, and they look at lots of companies (shops, insurers, electricity companies or whatever) and tell you who’s cheapest. Which saves you hunting around – and even if you’d hunted you couldn’t possibly look at as many places as the website does.

Sometimes people (often journalists…) rant about how the comparison websites are nothing more than ‘middlemen’ and reveal that, shockingly, they actually make a profit. Usually that’s true, as otherwise they wouldn’t be able to fund the website. But all the ones I’ve seen take their cut from the supplier’s share, rather than added on to the amount you pay. So it doesn’t cost you any more because you’ve used a comparison site. If you want to be absolutely sure, use this trick: Search for what you’re after, using a comparison site. When you’ve found it, leave that window on screen and open another internet window. Find the web page of the company that was listed as cheapest and see what they’ll give you if you go direct. If it’s cheaper, great, go direct. If not, go via the comparison site. After all, if it costs you less than not using a comparison site, who cares if they’re a ‘middleman’!

In fact a lot of comparison sites accept listings where they get a share, as above, but also list sites that their computer has found by ‘crawling’ around the web. So some of the time they get paid, and some of the time they don’t – but they hope that enough of the time it’s paid for them to do OK.

I used a comparison site recently, when my car insurance was up for renewal, and saved about 30% on what my existing insurer was quoting me… and got slightly better cover as well! Which leads me nicely on to one more tip:

Do make sure that you’re comparing like with like. If you search for, say, car insurance, and you’re after comprehensive cover for a certain model, you’ll get some different costs. But some of them might have different excesses to pay. Or one of them might give you 15 months for the same amount as 12. My advice is to look at the top 3 or 4 listed – the 3rd one shown might have something that makes it better than the 1st and 2nd.

Of course, the site looks for basically the same product – but that doesn’t mean the companies offering it are the same. You might have exactly the same thing being sold by two companies, but one company might give great service, the other might be rubbish. What I suggest is once you’ve done your search on the comparison site and think you’ve got the best one, do a search on www.google.co.uk or another search engine for that company, along with the word review. For example, if it’s Acme Products, type in Acme Products review. Then you can read what other people have said about them. Don’t be put off by one bad review amongst dozens, but if they’re consistently bad, it might be worth looking at the second company the comparison site suggested. Of course, if you happen to already know about the company it suggests then you can skip this.

One last tip: For things you pay for every year (insurance, electricity, gas etc) don’t just use the site once and leave it there. Next year, use the site again before you renew. In my car insurance example, the year before that company had been the cheapest for me. The next year someone else was 30% cheaper. Well worth the few minutes it takes!

Right, here are some comparison sites you can use:

Webpage of the month – See whether (and when) you can get digital TV
This website lets you see whether you can get digital TV in your area. You can also see which channels you can get and (if you can’t get it yet), when it’ll be available.
www.freeview.co.uk

Reader’s Question
I’ve been emailed a photo. How do I save it to My Pictures?
I’m assuming you’re using Outlook Express (or Windows Mail, as it’s been renamed in Windows Vista). If you have a different program, the principles are the same, but the buttons might be in slightly different places, with slightly different names.
First, open up the email. On the right, just above the email itself, there should be a picture of a paperclip. Press the mouse on that. You’ll get a list of all the photos (or other documents) attached to the email. If you select a name, it’ll open it straight from the email for you to view. But below that list it’ll say ‘Save Attachments…’ Select this. You’ll get another windows appear, with a list of the attachments and several buttons. Select the one you want to save, then the browse button at the bottom of the email. You’ll get a window that lets you choose where to save it. My Pictures is usually near the top, so use the scroll bar on the right to get up to the top. In Windows XP, you’ll need to click on the little + sign next to ‘My Documents’ to get My Pictures to appear. Then select My Pictures and OK. You’ll be back to the list of attachments – select Save and that’s it. It might take a few second to finish, so don’t panic if it doesn’t seem to do anything straight away.

Word to the Wise – Blackberry
A Blackberry is a souped-up mobile phone that can also do emails. They’re all the rage with businessmen who like to be contactable wherever they are. There are several versions about now, and Blackberry is a specific make – but some people refer to all of them as Blackberries, a bit like with Hoover.

That’s it for this month.

Bye for now,


Tim Wakeling

All the above © Tim Wakeling 2008

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