Cheaper Alternatives to Internet Big Dogs

Update: I understand the concerns about the legitimacy of MP3Suite.com. I recently became a member of the site and have purchased a few songs with no problem. I did, however, notice that many of the songs on the site are unlicensed. After an inquiry to customer service, they told me they were working on getting licenses for all of their songs. However, based on the questions and concerns posted in response to this post, I have contacted the company to get some answers. I will update this post as soon as I receive that response.

I love cheering for the underdog, so I get a lot of pleasure from shopping at the underdogs of the retail world. Don't get me wrong, Target is one of my favorite stores. But I also love giving my business to establishments that are off the beaten track. They often offer better prices, pretty good customer service and an opportunity to help a fledgling business. As easy as it is to jump on Amazon when I'm in need of the latest bestseller or to hit eBay to unload an old stroller, there are competitors out there with better prices. I recently launched a search for online sites that offered better prices than the big dogs. Some of the sites I found are backed by large companies, some are even publicly traded. But they're competing with the honchos of the Internet with lower prices. Here's what I found:

I love Amazon for its free shipping and wide selection of stuff, but something told me that there had to be better prices on books out there. Buy.com may be the answer. The site also sells a bunch of stuff, including electronics, computers and toys, from its headquarters in Aliso Viejo, Calif. But the business, launched in 1997, claims to sell books at prices 10 percent lower than Amazon's while also offering free shipping on purchases of at least $25. However not all the books I searched for were 10 percent lower. "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, for example, was $8.25 at Amazon and $9.17 at Buy.com. But the company says it will send refunds for that 10 percent lower price if a Buy.com price is higher for the same exact book at Amazon. It's a promotion that Buy.com started two years ago.

iTunes has made a fortune off my family, between our hundreds of downloads of Disney Princess songs to the latest Jack Johnson tunes. So for big MP3 consumers like me, a site like MP3Suite is a cheaper alternative to iTunes. MP3Suite, which has more than 12 million files, charges a flat membership fee, while iTunes charges a per-download fee, which is 99 cents for most songs. An unlimited lifetime membership at MP3Suite goes for $34.44, which gives you an unlimited amount of songs and albums to download for life. Or if that kind of commitment is too much, you can have two years of access for $1.37 a month or $32.88 or 1 year of access for $2.49 a month or $29.88. Add $14.95 to any of these memberships for unlimited movie downloads. The downloads are compatible with all MP3 players, including iPods, and the membership can be cancelled at any time. The site also provides free access to several media players.

I thought my life was complete when my Dad introduced me to Zappos. Finally an answer to my shoe addiction. But I recently discovered the site's prices are not as low as Shoebuy, an online shoe store owned by the same company that claims the Home Shopping Network, Match.com and Ticketmaster. The site, like many shoe sites, offers free shipping for both purchases and returns. (Why don't clothing sites offer this too?) A certain pair of Clarks sandals for women that cost $74 on Zappos were $65.95 at Shoebuy. A pair of Keds skimmers for women were $46 on Zappos and $34.95 on Shoebuy. Oddly enough, Shoebuy doesn't carry Steve Madden shoes.

I caught the eBay bug a few years ago when I successfully sold a few items with little effort and put a few extra bucks in my pocket. I then started gathering everything in my house to sell, until my husband started asking why I was taking pictures of our TV. While it was fun watching my stuff sell, I also found it annoying that eBay charged a fee to list items and a commission based on how much the item sold for. I understand that a business is there to make money but that didn't stop me from finding an auction site that didn't charge as much as eBay. Auction Fire, launched in 2001 as Auctionblocks, is small potatoes compared to eBay but its low fees are enticing. It doesn't charge a listing fee, which ranges between 10 cents and $4 on eBay, and its 2.5 percent commission fee is competitive with eBay's 8.75 percent commission fee, which actually gets larger depending on the final sale price. But there is comfort in numbers. EBay has more than 1 million items for sale, while Auctionfire has a mere 8,700. Regardless, I may turn to Auctionfire the next time I have to sell something. Even if it doesn't sell on the site, I haven't lost a dime.

So what are your alternatives to the big dogs of the Internet? Have you had any bad experiences shopping at sites off the beaten track? Post a comment below.

By Tania Anderson |  March 25, 2008; 3:00 AM ET General Interest
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Comments

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MP3Suite.com huh? Did you actually USE this service before writing about it?

I just spent some time searching for some other reviews of that site, because they won't show you the library of titles before joining.

I found one video "review" showing you how to sign up for it. The testimonials on the site are thin, and their #1 rating from CNN, NBC, CNET has no docmumenation.

Other than that I found NO reviews for this site. You would think if it had the traffic it claims too, they would have references somewhere.

Also their "100% Satisfaction Guarentee" just says you can cancel without any further obligations. It doesn't say anything about getting a total refund, much less a pro-rated refund.

Also the site only takes paypal.

Stay away from this place people. It looks and feels like a scam.

Posted by: HankTheCat | March 25, 2008 4:31 AM

I agree with HankTheCat, I just spent several minutes trying to get an idea of what type of music was available, there is NO way. They could have 10 songs and 2 movies for all you can tell.

Posted by: Kelly | March 25, 2008 8:50 AM

Mp3suite has only 478 Google hits...definitely not a "big dog!" I am very leery.

Posted by: G.O. | March 25, 2008 9:34 AM

Netshops.com has pretty good deals on a variety of things, but best of all, has this ShopTogether tool (see right hand of the page) that allows users to shop the site simultaneously with a friend. This thing is sooo addictive ...

Posted by: DS | March 25, 2008 10:35 AM

Hi Tania!

Echoing the remarks of the first two comments, could you please tell us more about mp3Suite.com? I, too, checked out the site, but could not find any lists of music they offered, unless I joined. I could not find any reviews online either. This sounds like a great service, but only if they actually have music!

Posted by: b | March 25, 2008 11:10 AM

Don't underestimate local brick-and-mortal businesses since most businesses understand that people compare prices online. My hobby is photography and I've found that in the last few years local places (like Penn Camera in the DC area) have tended to be competitive with online prices, plus you get personal service, instant gratification, and easier returns in case of problems.

Posted by: Jerry | March 25, 2008 11:20 AM

I'm an idiot: Based on Tanya's recommendation, I looked at MP3suite.com and then, stupidly, joined in order to get a sense of what they had. It's not a download site, it's a torrent site-e.g., it points you to other individual computers that have the files you want and allows you to download from them, a la naptster. I've asked the site to refund my membership, but I'm not overly hopeful, as neither their FAQ, nor help, nor customer forums are working.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 25, 2008 11:21 AM

I would just say that Shoebuy may have what appears to be a cheaper price, but after using them and having to return a pair of shoes that didn't fit -- I had to argue with the CS rep about the return!! It also took a week for my order to arrive. After returning the pair, I turned around and ordered from Zappos and had the shoes OVERNIGHTED for FREE! No hassel, great service. You get what you pay for applies.

Posted by: bazztard | March 25, 2008 12:44 PM

I've never heard of MP3suite.com and 12 million files may sound like a lot, its the quality of files. If its anything like eMusic, I doubt you're going to find too many Disney tunes. I tried eMusic a few months ago on a free trial, download 35 songs during a 14 day trial. Thinking I could download some songs that I liked enough, but not enough to shell out $.99, since I use iTunes credits instead of a credit card. After not being able to find most of the songs on my wish list, I started just browsing. I didn't recognize probably half of the artists on the site. Here I'm thinking I was up on the alt. music scene, I read J. Free, check out the "Singles Files" and pillage my friends' music, suffice it to say, it was not worth it to me to pay the monthly fee.

Posted by: d | March 25, 2008 12:48 PM

Thanks for a great discussion regarding MP3Suite. I did buy a lifetime membership and am still learning how to use the service. I've contacted the company to get answers to your questions and concerns. Stay tuned...

Posted by: Tania Anderson | March 25, 2008 1:23 PM

Tania,

Looks like you got took. What's worse is you reccomended a service to perhaps MILLIONS of people and they are going to get the shaft because MP3Suite.com is a scam. It is not a download site like iTunes, and furthermore 99% of the files you can download are illegal.

REMOVE THE MP3SUITE.COM FROM YOUR BLOG NOW BEFORE YOU SCREW EVEN MORE PEOPLE.

Posted by: HankTheCat | March 25, 2008 2:00 PM

Tania,
Please remove the mention of MP3 Suite while you figure out the answers to these questions. All you are doing is allowing more and more people to waste their money.
Your credibility is out the window the longer this stays up.

Posted by: Sarah | March 25, 2008 7:15 PM

Congratulations Tania, you just made some con-artist a lot of money and ripped off some of your readers by recomending that fraud MP3Suite.com site.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 26, 2008 4:41 AM

So downloading unlicensed songs is cheaper than iTunes...what a surprise!

Posted by: G.O. | March 26, 2008 9:12 AM

i just wanted to say thank you to everybody who wrote REAL reviews about mp3suite because i couldn't find any other reviews. thanks for saving me some money.

Posted by: orlando | April 14, 2008 2:25 PM

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