Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A peek at Pirc

This week's Dollar Stretcher features a review of a website called Pirc.com that's billed as "a one-stop solution for all things savings and circulars." Based on the description, it sounded much like CouponMom, a site I use often to help me match up coupons with sales at my local stores. However, this site promised a few features CouponMom doesn't have. The biggest problem with CouponMom is that when you pull up a list of sales—whether at one particular store or "extreme deals" across all stores—it includes all the sales listed in the store fliers, most of which are usually on items that you don't need. You can search for specific items, but it adds an extra step. Pirc, by contrast, lets you select specific product types or brands that are of interest to you and display deals on those items only. It will even save your preferences and send you a customized "Pircular" each week in your inbox, showing deals on your chosen products across all your local stores. And, like CouponMom, it will show which coupons (both printed and electronic) stack up with a given sale.

Based on the description, it seemed like Pirc might have enough advantages over CouponMom to make it worth a try—especially in light of CouponMom's occasionally unreliable performance. So I checked out the site and found, first of all, that you aren't allowed to view the deals on the site unless you create an account. Since I never sign up for anything without reading the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy first (you know, to make sure they don't have a legal right to my firstborn or anything), I read through those and discovered a second drawback: e-mails from the site and its "marketing partners" are opt-out rather than opt-in. That means that when you sign up for the site, you also sign up for a barrage of e-mails about "products, services, and offers, both from ourselves and from third parties, that we believe you may find of interest." In theory, you can opt out of receiving these e-mails, but the site warns that it may take up to 10 days for your request to be processed, during which time you'll continue to be bombarded with spam. And of course, that's assuming the site actually (a) honors your request and (b) works as it should.

Rather than risk having my e-mail account spam-bombed, I decided to sign up for the service using an old AOL address I used when I lived with my parents. (I've kept it active precisely for situations like this, to let me use sites that require an e-mail address without compromising the ones I actually use.) After logging into my old AOL account (which had over 1,800 messages in the inbox, all from commercial sites) to verify my registration, I was finally able to view my "Pircular," and that was when I discovered the third and biggest drawback of this site: it only searches the circulars of five stores. It checks the three major drugstore chains in my area (CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens), as well as two big boxes that have their own pharmacy departments (Wal-Mart and Target). For the categories I'd chosen—groceries, excluding meat and soft drinks, and cat supplies—it found only 40 sale items in total, and not one that looked like a real bargain.

Given that all the stores covered by Pirc are covered by CouponMom as well, I see no particular advantage in adding it to my shopping routine. I'll be sticking with CouponMom; it may suffer from occasional glitches, but at least it's thorough. And so far as I can tell, it hasn't been spamming me, even on my AOL account.
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