Do smartphone apps really find you the best deal while holiday shopping?

ORLANDO, Fla. – For many people struggling with finances during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding a deal this holiday season may be more important than ever before.

News 6 tested two of the most downloaded apps that promise to help consumers find the best deals, ShopSavvy and BuyVia Scanner.

Our shopping trip began with one of the most sought-after toys this holiday season — Baby Yoda.

It retailed for $17.99 at Target, but was that the best deal?

Using the ShopSavvy app on a smartphone, we scanned the product’s bar code, or UPC symbol, and the app scanned prices at other stores online.

ShopSavvy's price scanning app showed the price of a Baby Yoda toy at several retailers.
ShopSavvy’s price scanning app showed the price of a Baby Yoda toy at several retailers. (Courtesy: ShopSavvy, Copyright WKMG, ClickOrlando.com)

It showed prices ranging from $16 to $25.

Some were available for online purchase with an added cost for shipping.

Buy Via offered coupons, and it also showed how much Baby Yoda was going for on eBay, which averaged $33.99.

Next up, a Transformer action figure retailing for $29.99.

ShopSavvy’s results showed the same toy selling for anywhere from $10 and $32 at other retailers.

“These apps can be really useful,” said Chris Minnick, who teaches app development at the University of Central Florida.

Chris Minnick teaches app development at the University of Central Florida.
Chris Minnick teaches app development at the University of Central Florida. (Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.)

He said these apps, and others like them, collect these prices electronically from retailers all across the nation and online, and then, they put them in the palm of your hand, usually for free.

Minnick said the retailers often pay the apps a referral fee, and that’s how they make money.

“The actual products you see may not reflect the entire universe of what’s available. These deals may just be the deals that they get the best fee from,” he said.

He had another warning.

“(The apps) are probably collecting personal information and probably selling that personal information,” he said. “That would be another way that this app is making money.”

News 6 checked the privacy policy for both of the tested apps, and they said they do collect information. Both companies told News 6 they do not sell that information.

Minnick warns other companies may have different polices, so it’s best to read the privacy policy.

So, what happens when the apps are not right with prices?

News 6 scanned an InstaPot at one local retailer, and the ShopSavvy app showed it was $119.99 at Target. At Target, however, the product was actually on sale for $69.99.

ShopSavvy told News 6 that instances like that are rare.

“Price markdowns in a store might not have made it to a system that we have access to just yet,” said a ShopSavvy representative.

Minnick said when it comes to using any app, an old adage still holds true: if the deal sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

“It could be a knock-off product that’s being shipped from China or who knows where,” Minnick said.

He also urged people to put their phones down and shop local.

“A great gift this season might be something like a gift card to a restaurant that might not be open fully right now, but at some point it will be, and you’re helping out your local economy as well as the person you’re giving the gift to,” he said.

Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.