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Peter Gianopulos | Photo: Cecilia Austin | April 2, 2013
As the founder of two popular deals sites and the author of a best-seller about bargain hunting, Kenilworth native Brad Wilson has learned the fine art of making a deal.
Brad Wilson doesn’t believe in paying retail. Pick a product. A cellphone. Designer clothes. A European vacation. You name it. The way Wilson sees it, if he’s paying full price for something, he’s paying too much.
And so are you.
After growing up in Kenilworth, the 32-year-old spent the last 12 years channeling his obsession with frugality and clever couponing into his free “daily deals” website, bradsdeals.com, which now boasts more than 9 million subscribers.
Unlike other sites, bradsdeals.com is organized like a newspaper. With revenues coming from advertising and certain online sales, the site’s goal is frugality through objectivity. Wilson and his staff monitor price fluctuations from both brick-and-mortar and online retailers, curating a list of the best shopping deals of the moment.
They then take those deals and tack on whatever extra coupons they can find to drive down prices even lower. Some extra reporting provides historical context—perhaps today’s price on a particular HDTV is the lowest it’s been in two years—and the deal is posted.
“I think, as consumers, we all are Davids pit against these Goliath companies,” says Wilson. “They are incredibly sophisticated with how they market to us. But technology is changing that. I look at what we do as basically arming David against Goliath.”
Should you want examples of the many bargains he’s scored over the years, he’ll point you to his new book, Do More, Spend Less: The New Secrets of Living the Good Life for Less ($18, Wiley), where Wilson offers step-by-step accounts of how he cut his cellphone bill in half, got free Bose speakers and took a lavish four-star vacation for pennies. He says there’s only one golden rule when it comes to shopping: Whatever everyone else is doing— whatever is the easy and obvious way to buy something—avoid it and try to find an alternate path. He sees the book as a practical guide on how to do just that: how to be a better, smarter shopper.
Wilson says his decision to become a cost-conscious consumer is partially a result of growing up on the North Shore, where he learned to bargain-hunt to keep pace with some of his wealthier friends. Then, while in college, he refused to pay the inflated campus prices, so he scoured local sales flyers for better deals. One day, he posted a diary of his quest on a student homepage, and a primitive version of bradsdeals.com was born.
Out of college, he kept at it, honing the capabilities of the site, then called dealsdujour.com. When the recession hit in 2007, frugality became the order of the hour, fueling a cultural shift that has led to the site’s explosive growth.
“This is the way we’ve always shopped. We’ve always looked for deals, always bartered and tried to get lower prices,” Wilson says. “We’re just returning to the norm.”