The Man Behind the Bargains - An Interview with Ben Chui - Founder of BensBargains.net

By Xin Lu on 4 April 2008 (Updated 16 November 2011) 1 comment

Ben's Bargains is one of the oldest deal and coupon sites on the internet. The man behind this awesome frugal shopping destination is Ben Chui. He created the site when he was a sophomore at the University of California at Berkeley, and now eight years later the site is still going strong. Today he took time out of his constant deal hunting to tell us a few things about his businesses and saving money online.

Have you always been frugal? Who or what made you a frugal shopper?

Ben's Bargains is one of the oldest deal and coupon sites on the internet. The man behind this awesome frugal shopping destination is Ben Chui. He created the site when he was a sophomore at the University of California at Berkeley, and now eight years later the site is still going strong. Today he took time out of his constant deal hunting to tell us a few things about his businesses and saving money online.

Have you always been frugal? Who or what made you a frugal shopper?

I have always been very conscious of the value of money, and by extension the value of saving money. During college I was well aware that my parents were funding my expenses, and with that knowledge came a certain sense of regret for spending their hard-earned money. I therefore tried to save money whenever I could. BensBargains was started in the second half of my sophomore year.

Do you ever buy things when it is not part of a deal?

Certainly there have been times when I’ve needed something quickly and had to buy it locally at inflated prices. Most of the time I have an idea about what I want, and a time frame for when I want to get it. I’ll wait for a deal to come along and then weigh the probability of a better deal manifesting itself within my allotted time frame. That’s how I usually make buying decisions.

I read an interview that said you spend more than 12 hours a day on your site. What do you like to do when you are not working on Ben's Bargains ?

During the past few years I’ve been heavily involved in Salsa dancing. That takes up most of my free time at this point, and I’m training with a local dance troupe to perform both locally and abroad. I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t hugely fun, and it’s great exercise as well.

With so many bargain shopping and coupon code sites around, how does Ben's Bargains differentiate itself?

We’re one of the longest running bargain sites out there (past the 8 year mark already), so we’ve built relationships through the years that allow us to get exclusive deals for our readers, as well as advance notice of upcoming offers. We’ve also been sharing the love by giving away some fantastic prizes on a weekly basis. In the past year we’ve given away 14 iPod nanos, 3 iPhones, 8 iPod Touches, 9 Nintendo DSes… well you get the picture.

Has online shopping changed at all in this time period? Are deals easier to find now versus eight years ago?

When we started in 2000 the Internet was in full boom mode, with crazy coupons and free offers hitting us left and right from merchants have long been forgotten. That was really the “Wild West” of internet bargain hunting. What has happened since then is that companies have hired real marketing managers with fiscal responsibility and a budget, meaning that in general the offers are not as good as they once were. Whereas we once had a semi-adversarial relationship with merchants (taking advantage of coupons, for example), we now work closely with many merchants to bring their best deals to our viewers.

How much money do you think you have helped people save since starting the site?

Considering we regularly find prices anywhere from 10% to 30% lower than the next closest price, we’ve probably collectively saved our viewers a couple hundred million dollars since the inception of BensBargains.

I noticed that Ben's Bargains focuses quite a bit on electronics. Is this because electronics are easier to sell?

Consumer Electronics & Technology is an area that I am particularly interested in, so it wasn’t really a business decision to push BensBargains in that direction. If I’m going to be doing something every day, it should probably be something I love, right? Electronics happens to be a niche where prices are constantly dropping and the merchants are fiercely competitive, so it lends itself well to finding great deals.


Do you receive a lot of fan mail or hate mail? Is there any particular feedback you have received over the years that sticks out in your mind?

We get a lot of appreciative user comments, interspersed with some angry rants now and then. The hate mail is usually from frustrated users who missed a great deal and want us to bring it back.

One of our satellite sites, WiiTracker.com got a lot of great feedback both from users and from the media. It tracks online inventory of the Nintendo Wii and automatically notifies you when the Wii is found in stock. It probably contributed to the acute shortage of the Wii (at least among those who didn’t know about WiiTracker.com ).


I read about your other venture dealspl.us a while back, how is that site doing?

Dealspl.us has been doing really well. It is a relatively new site still, just two years old. It caters to a slightly different shopping mindset with the user-generated content spin, but in the end what it does is that it brings great deals to dealspl.us users. One day we’ll bring it out of beta…

How long do you think you will continue to run Ben's Bargains?

I still have a ton of enthusiasm about running the day to day aspects of BensBargains, so I’m not thinking about throwing in the towel any time soon.

Since we went to the same school, I wonder if you think a Berkeley engineering degree contributed to your success?

I can’t say that I use the technical aspects of my engineering education on a day to day basis, but the critical analysis and thinking skills I gained as a student at Berkeley are definitely in play as I search for deals. Since I started BensBargains while attending Berkeley, who knows if I’d even be giving this interview if I hadn’t been a Cal student.

Finally, what is your number one advice about online shopping and deal hunting for our readers?

Be patient. Patience is by far the best virtue for the frugal shopper. How many times have you bought what you thought was a good deal, only to see a way better deal shortly thereafter? Set your price and the amount of time you are willing to wait, and be ready to pounce.

Thank you so much Ben for the highly informative interview!

 

I hope all of you Wise Bread readers out there learned a thing or two from Ben! The next time you look for a deal on consumer electronics make sure you make a stop at BensBargains.net "where the ghetto dogs come for the lowdown on deals".

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jian

learning experiences from somebody else is very important.