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The Cheapskate FAQ

Everything you ever wanted to know about how this blog works -- and then some. Read it, then bookmark it!

Daily Steals

After more than 10 years writing the Cheapskate blog, I've been asked the same questions more often than I can count. Alas, time doesn't always permit me to answer each reader's inquiry, so I've put together this FAQ page.

The primary goal of the Cheapskate is to spotlight sweet deals every day of the week. I love cheap stuff, and I love sharing it even more.

So think of me as your buddy who walks into the office every morning and says, "Man, did you see this? So-and-so is selling the Whatsitcalled Pro for only 36 bucks! It's usually $74. Killer deal!"

Beyond that, well, I hope I've answered all your questions here.

Where do I find the Cheapskate?

First, you can visit the Cheapskate page directly. Bookmark it, then visit as you're able.

Better still, sign up for the Cheapskate newsletter. (You need a CNET account to do so.) It should hit your inbox shortly after each daily deal gets posted.

You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Deal posts are automatically delivered to those networks, and I occasionally share bonus deals (along with polls, TV and movie recommendations and hilarious musings) as well.

Prefer to consume deals in a magazine-style format? Subscribe to the Cheapskate on Flipboard!

There's even a Cheapskate RSS feed if you're into that.

I live in Canada, the UK, Australia or somewhere else outside the US. Can I still get these deals?

Short answer: probably not. Longer answer: There's really no way for me to tell if a particular product is available outside the US for the same price as it is here. If it ships from another country, then you may be able to get the deal. But unfortunately most Cheapskate deals are US-only. (This is why you won't see Cheapskate posts on the CNET UK or Australia home pages.)

Do you test or review every product you write about? If not, why?

I've been a technology writer for nearly 30 years, and I'm intimately familiar with just about every consumer technology there is. I don't need to own every single laptop to know if one particular model is a good deal. If it's selling for, say, 67 percent less than usual, that's a good deal -- even if the product has some mixed reviews.

Speaking of which, I always look for both professional and user reviews before recommending a product. If everyone says it's junk, I don't cover it, no matter how low the price.

Also, I think most people take it as read that when something's really cheap, a few compromises are to be expected. You're not going to get a thousand bucks' worth of performance and features from a laptop priced at $300.

Ultimately, it's your responsibility to gauge whether something is good enough for you to buy. I'll provide specific pros and cons where I can, but I believe it's the buyer's responsibility to do the research.

I had a problem with the product I ordered, the software I downloaded or the vendor I patronized. Can you help?

Your first stop should be the seller. Not all companies are great at customer service, but I firmly believe all companies want satisfied customers. So always give them a chance to make it right.

If that doesn't pan out -- as in, your calls and emails to customer service go unanswered -- your credit-card provider should be able to help. Pretty much every card offers protections against fraud, defective products and so on.

Beyond that, I've established good working relationships with certain vendors, so if you feel like you've gotten a raw deal and can't get satisfaction through the usual channels, let me know. I'll do my best to help. Just please remember: I'm not customer service. I'm just the guy who said, "Hey, check out this deal!" 

I missed out on a deal. Is it too late?

I'm afraid it probably is. Deals often expire without warning, and hot ones tend to sell out fast. In the latter cases, however, it's not uncommon for a vendor to release more inventory later that day or the next. So if something is sold out in the morning, check back later -- you might just get lucky.

Also, keep in mind that there's always another deal just around the corner -- sometimes an even better one. Great example: Propel's Star Wars drones hit the market at around $180, but eventually I found a deal for $125. A few months after that, they were selling for as low as $60.

Hence my longstanding motto: Cheap things come to those who wait.

I'm seeing a higher price than the one you advertised. Bait-and-switch!

Um, no. For one thing, I'm not actually selling anything myself, nor am I in cahoots with anybody. The price was accurate at the time I wrote about it.

If you're seeing a higher price, it's because the deal expired. It happens all the time; a laptop is $329 in the morning, but a few hours later the reseller discontinues the sale price -- or it simply sells out from that vendor -- and the price bumps back to $489. Unfortunately, in most cases I have no way of knowing when (or if) this is going to happen.

I know this can be frustrating, but please believe me when I say no one's trying to trick you.

This coupon code doesn't work!

It worked when I tried it -- and I always try it before writing up a deal. Unfortunately, some coupons expire after a certain number of uses, and usually there's no way for me to tell how many uses or what the current tally is.

Also, some codes expire at a specific time -- and, again, there's usually no way for me to know what that time is.

There's another wrinkle that affects deals sold via Amazon: When I share a coupon code for, say, a Bluetooth speaker sold by XYZ Corp., and then XYZ Corp.'s inventory runs out, that same link may take you to the same product -- but from a different seller. Unfortunately, that same coupon code no longer works because the new seller wasn't the one honoring it.

How much did that company pay you to write about their garbage product?

Nothing. It just doesn't happen, despite what a few suspicious people seem to think. In all my years at this, I've only occasionally been offered payment to write about a product, and in every case it was from a small, foreign company that didn't understand how the review process works (at CNET, anyway). It was more confusion than nefarious motives.

Yeah, I've picked a few lemon items over the years, but it certainly wasn't because I was paid to do so. It's because I'm occasionally a dummy.

What about those affiliate links? Do you get a cut of the sale?

Sort of. Like the vast majority of modern media outlets, CNET sometimes uses affiliate links that, yes, generate a small commission from the retailer if and when readers eventually buy a product. But those links aren't story drivers; I don't write about a particular product or deal solely for purposes of affiliate revenue. I write about them because they're awesome, regardless if CNET gets an affiliate credit or not. Ultimately, the links help CNET keep the lights on, so we can keep finding great deals for you. They don't benefit me personally, and they don't add any cost to the end-user on any given transaction.

A while back you posted a deal about x product. What was it called again?

I can barely remember what I posted yesterday, let alone three months ago. If you're looking for a product I wrote about in the past, Google is your friend. Use this search parameter: product name broida. So, for example, if you're looking for a Bluetooth speaker I mentioned, you'd Google this: Bluetooth speaker broida. Most of the time that should reveal the post you're looking for.

I subscribed to your newsletter, but I'm not getting it. What gives?

Here's how the newsletter works nowadays: After I publish my daily deal on the site proper, I log into the newsletter system and push that sucker out as quickly as possible. The process takes about 10 minutes, and it's usually another 10-20 minutes before the newsletter starts hitting inboxes.

The time that all this transpires varies from day to day, but usually it's between 8 and 10 a.m. ET (5 and 7 a.m. PT). Sometimes I don't post until noon or even later, so if your newsletter doesn't arrive at the "usual" time, don't panic.

That said, spam filters have been known to block CNET newsletters, even ones that you've whitelisted previously. So that's always a good place to start if you're not getting the Cheapskate on a daily basis. And you can check your subscription status by logging into your CNET profile.

I still need help!

If all this doesn't answer your question or solve your problem, hit up CNET's Customer Help Center and send an email. They'll get you straightened out.

Originally published Feb. 23, 2012.
Update, Sept. 5, 2018: This post is periodically updated with new information.