A few weeks ago, my friends from RomSoft inspired me to share the story of Pricy, a personal project that I and my best friend, Sorin, have put a lot of effort and enthusiasm into. But I kept on delaying it, because it felt more natural to publish the story closer to the Romanian Black Friday weekend. So here it is. May you have a rewarding Black Friday shopping experience this year, with a little help from your faithful shopping assistant Pricy!
My history with RomSoft
Right out of university I was recruited by RomSoft. I worked there for a number of years and this was the time that shaped me as a developer. At RomSoft I met my best friend, Sorin – who also became my partner in the project that I want to tell you about.
Later on, life took us both to a different place – Ireland to be more specific. But on and off I continued to collaborate with RomSoft, and together with Sorin, we continued to work on this darling project of ours.
The idea kicks in
So there I was working at RomSoft, in my formative years as a software developer, navigating through tasks and projects and learning as much as I could on the side. I remember some pretty intense study groups that I and several colleagues were organizing back then. We used to study everything we thought interesting. From WCF, a technology that I don’t use anymore, to .NET, C# or various soft skills that I still use every day in my profession.
Long story short – everything built up to that turning point in every programmer’s life, when one decides one needs to buy their first dishwashing machine.
So I started browsing online shops in search for a perfect product at a perfect price. That was somewhere back in 2012.
Now, I’m a developer, so my life is comprised of two types of problems: ones that can be solved with a script, and ones that can’t. This one fell in the first category, so that is what I did.
I wrote a script in Google Sheets that retrieved prices on various dishwasher models I was interested in, and I watched them shifting for a month. The surprise was that these prices were constantly changing, in a dance that looked more like a ping-pong ball trajectory and far from any correlation to their advertised offers and discounts.
I thought this data was worth further analysis and exposure. So I talked to Sorin and we enhanced the script to retrieve prices across more product categories and more retailers. Then, we built a Chrome extension – which we called Pricy – so that we could display this data in a more visually appealing form.
During that time, we started a small research among our friends and colleagues, to see if they could see any value in this type of tracking. The feedback was positive and it encouraged us to continue. We kept adding retailers and developing the extension. Today we analyze data from over 500 Romanian retailers, we have over 60,000 users and even became self-sustained due to our referral revenues.
How Pricy works
Let’s say you want to buy a product and you just clicked on a commercial advertising a 16% price off on a specific website. If you have the Pricy extension installed, you can see how the price evolved in that specific shop in the last three to 24 months.
In the example above you can see Pricy actually showing a slightly growing price in the last 3 months, which contradicts the advertised sale of 16%.
Now that you’ve seen for yourself that sales are not always what they appear to be, Pricy can help you further, to find the best price for the desired product, or, if you can afford to wait, to set an alert for the desired price.
The perfect tool to navigate a Romanian black Friday weekend
First of all, you may ask, why is the Romanian Black Friday so special?
While this US tradition was cheerfully imported by the Romanian retailers no matter their size or their trade, there are some aspects that make it an “authentic” experience.
In Romania, black Friday is usually celebrated a week before December 1st so that delivery companies have enough time to send packages before the Romanian national holiday.
But many retailers, both online and offline, extend their “Black Friday” events to several days, sometimes a whole week.
At a closer look, you can find many discount opportunities all year round, with even better prices than those practiced on Black Friday, and this makes the retail market look like a continued discount festival or a never-ending Black Friday experience.
On the other end, some black Friday “offers” come right after a major price increase, making it pointless to wait on your purchase for this one-day-in-the-year-opportunity, that, on top of everything, comes with customers flooding websites and leading them to crash, products rapidly flowing out of stock and at least a couple days delay in delivery.
Now that this year’s designated Romanian Black Friday is in full swing, I hope Pricy can be a useful assistant for you and your friends in search of the perfect product at the perfect price. But if you ask me, I’d rather use it all year round, and not only throughout a particular weekend, be it Black Friday or not.
Did I find the perfect dishwashing machine?
The dishwasher I bought back then has been used for about… four months. We took it to Dublin with us, when we moved. Sorin has it now, but he doesn’t use it too much, either.