As someone who goes to the grocery store about three times a week, I can see the advantage of going to a Web site and seeing what deals are available before going to the store. I'm less likely to spend money on impulse purchases if I have a shopping list and know before I walk in what's on sale and what specials the store is having that day.

A new Web site, Grocery Sale Shopper, claims to be a unique Web site that shoppers can check before heading out to do their shopping, by showing users what deals are available in their area. Spend a few minutes on the Web site before going shopping, it claims, and the savings will quickly add up.

A problem of the site, however, is that it doesn't do much of what the Internet is supposed to do -- gather information and put it at your fingertips. Instead of having a search engine, or even a list comparing prices at stores in your neighborhood, for example, it just has links to the grocery stores in your area.


For now the site only has California stores. But in such a large state, the geographic areas it covers are huge. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which encompasses eight counties, and all the Grocery Sale Shopper site does is have logos of stores to click on. The links take you to the stores' Web sites.

Since Safeway is within walking distance of my home, and we go to Trader Joe's at least once a week, I might as well just keep those two sites as my favorites and look them up before heading out to buy a head of lettuce or can of beans. And since Trader Joe's has different things on sale at different stores, as does Costco, I'm less likely to go to their Web sites and instead explore the store for deals.

If Grocery Sale Shopper, as its press release claims, is designed to "help the California consumer quickly and easily view multiple stores and sources of food and groceries to see current sales, compare prices, keep up-to-date on product alerts, recalls and much more," then it's doing a poor job of it. If the site is supposed to save people time, I don't see it.

To be honest, since grocery shopping is too often a trip I take without much forethought, other than a short list of items to buy, I doubt if I'll even start taking the time to look at the Web sites of the grocery store I'm going to before grabbing a bag and heading out.

The best news about the site is that it's free, doesn't require membership, doesn't sell anything and doesn't want a user's name or e-mail address. At least they got that part right.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.AaronCrowe.net

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