Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday is for suckers

Oren Etzioni writes articles about artificial intelligence for scholarly journals, is a renowned expert on data mining and gained fame when Microsoft paid $115 million for Farecast, an airline-ticket price predictor he founded.

Now, Professor Etzioni, who teaches computer science at the University of Washington, has directed his considerable intellect at the American ritual of shopping for bargains on Black Friday. After examining billions of prices of consumer electronics, he has decided to spend the busiest shopping day of the year scuba-diving in Bali. 

Why? It is not until early December, Professor Etzioni’s research shows, that prices are likely to be the lowest for electronics, products that are among the biggest sellers on the Friday after Thanksgiving. ...

Following the approach of Farecast, now part of Microsoft’s Bing search engine, the professor’s start-up company, Decide.com, studies current and historical prices, information about new models and rumors about new product introductions to figure out the best time to buy.

Type in the name of a product — a Soundcast SurroundCast speaker system, for instance. Decide.com will pull prices from around the Web, and tell you to buy or wait.
--Stephanie Clifford, NYT, on the reality of Black Friday