[Note: Earlier this year when I wrote my first deal hunting tips post (found at the top of this page), I also had an idea to write a more generalized post for the newbies here as well. After more than 6 months of compiling ideas, it is now my hope that people find this post as helpful as the previous one, especially since I have included that info here along with a few updates. I would also refer people to the Official Hot Deals FAQ as well. Enjoy.]
FatWallet forums are a great community. Unfortunately, too many here lose sight of the fact that it is a community (where everything functions best when everyone is contributing), and instead treat it like a service they are somehow entitled to. While I understand the nature of the Internet guarantees all kinds will arrive, my hope is simply to encourage those who wish to contribute to find easy ways to do so, especially while still getting their feet wet. Also bear in mind all of these tips are simply one man's opinion.
Most of these tips focus on the Hot Deals forum, as that tends to be the most active forum (and the one which I personally have the most familiarity). Please understand other forums (FatWallet Finance specifically comes to mind) may also have their own sets of customs and "house rules."
For the time being, please consider this to be somewhat of a work in progress. I am also certainly open to suggestions.
Contributing is easier than you think
In fact, frequently you can do so without saying a word. The tips in this list are presented in a sort of "order of increasing difficulty", but as part of a community of deal hunters, the final goal really should be to post. Once you are comfortable, if you find a deal (and let's face it, everyone does at some point), please post it. If you aren't comfortable posting your own deals (yet), please contribute in other ways (outlined below). Contributing, especially with posting, really is important, particularly if you have taken advantage of deals others have posted. If we don't post, this place ceases to exist.
Contributing without saying a word
Give Green when appropriate
This is particularly true for the thread itself, as this is frequently the main thing that draws people to a thread. Green tends to have a snowball effect, so don't feel shy about being first if the deal truly deserves it. Not only does green tell others a deal is good, it also lets the deal finder know their contribution is appreciated. There are several reasons when it would be especially helpful to give green.
-If the deal is simply good: giving green is just as useful (and perhaps moreso) than simply posting "Good deal" or "Good find" (though those certainly can be appropriate to)
-If you buy something as a result of the deal: again, a post such as "In for one" is helpful and good, but the original post should be greened too.
-If something is good enough that you would have posted it if you had found it (first): if you search for a deal and find someone else posted it first, green it. If you accidentally repost, green the original. I think it's unfortunate how often egos can get in the way of this particular suggestion.
Give Red if you must
Red exists for a couple of very practical reasons: it allows people to warn others about poor deal posts, and it can also warn others about other false information/bad advice contained in subsequent discussion. In line with these two purposes, please give red in the following instances.
-If verifiably false information is stated as fact. This happens fairly frequently. Please be aware and help others be aware as well.
-If you believe a deal is not good. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and some deals posted here are simply not that great. However, if you give a deal red (especially if you're one of the first few to do so), PLEASE explain why. There is little that is more frustrating than thinking a deal is hot, taking the time to post it, and getting one or two red votes, but yet no one takes the time to explain exactly why this was not a good deal.
Unfortunately, red is also frequently abused. While abuse is rare overall, it is helpful to identify it when it occurs. Sometimes red is given by those who want to draw attention AWAY from a deal for selfish gain, sometimes it is given as part of some silly squabble, and sometimes it is given by those who seem to simply enjoy giving everything red.
Mark Dead when a deal is gone
First, please make absolutely certain a deal is truly dead before doing this. I have had too many deals that were alive and kickin' moved to the Expired Deals forum because someone erroneously marked it dead. The mods have final say, but they are processing a bunch, and sometimes a post has special instructions in order to get a deal. Assuming the deal really is dead though, clicking on the skull and crossbones in the top right portion of the original post will mark it as dead to be reviewed by a mod. Taking advantage of this helps keep the forum clean of deals that are no longer available.
Replying to threads
How to get Green
-Post useful information about a product, such as reviews
-Provide any points of clarifications of the deal that the original post may be vague about
-Provide tips for making the deal even better (such as coupons, rebates, or other applicable promotions)
-Write something funny
How to virtually guarantee yourself Red
-Write something false, stupid, offensive, etc.
Use the Quick Summary
Quick Summary is one of the most powerful tools FatWallet has, yet it is rarely used in a manner that even approaches its potential. If you have information that would be useful to anyone contemplating this deal, please consider placing it in the Quick Summary. Of particular interest would be reviews, coupon codes, rebates, and tips for a product's use for those who purchase one. Lots of really great information gets really buried in threads, never to be found again. If it went into the Quick Summary, it would be much easier for people to see and take advantage of it.
And now for the main event: finding (and posting) deals
Finding deals (much of this is slightly modified content from the post mentioned at the beginning, with some additions)
-Shop for things you would be shopping for anyway. You will find something worth posting.
-Be aware of rebates, especially those not widely advertised. Obviously the fine print is tricky, and they can be unreliable, but as long as one takes the necessary precautions, they can be awesome. Of particular interest are those that are on manufacturer's websites because these are often not accounted for by retailers. So, for example, a store could heavily discount a product unaware that there is also a manufacturer's rebate on it. Also a retailer may offer a rebate, but only advertise it one week when it is valid for four. This provides a window to stack with another deal (see final tip).
-Be familiar with certain merchant tendencies. For example, Newegg has combo deals that can make it so that if you are buying Product A, buying B as well is very cheap, free, or even cheaper than buying A by itself. Rebates can play a large role here too, so be sure to account for those (again, they may not show up every time a product is listed).
-Don't just look for advertised specials. Advertised specials are great and all, but it is not uncommon for unadvertised specials to far exceed the advertised ones in terms of discount. I have noticed this happens alot with technology (Newegg, Staples, and Office Max are three that come to mind). If you're in the market for something, periodically dig through the merchant websites a little bit. Sorting by price makes deal finding much easier, but realize that sorting this way may not reveal rebates (or even sale prices) depending on the retailer, so further clicking may be required.
-Stack, stack, stack. This is by far the greatest way to scoring ridiculous deals. There are a many ways this can be great, but essentially it is taking advantage of multiple promotions on one product. One type of sale that always gets my attention is when there is an advertised deal for a general class of products (for example, $250 off any TV 50" or larger or $20 gift card with the purchase of any GPS, etc). I then look at advertised and unadvertised prices that could be used in conjunction with this promotion. The more deals you stack, the better the savings.
Here's an example. Staples annually(?) runs a printer recycling program that knocks $50 off the price of a printer whose regular price is over a certain threshold. The promo runs for many weeks (usually around 8). Staples also frequently has coupons, sales (or clearance), and sometimes rebates. So in theory, it would be possible to buy a printer that is on sale and has a rebate using a coupon and recycling a printer. That's four total discounts. I personally have stacked deals at Staples, Office Max, Sears, and Newegg, just to name a few.
You have finally found a deal you consider worthy of being your first post. There are several key things that can significantly help the level of success that post has that have nothing to do with the deal itself. It's all about presentation.
-Search the forums to make sure it hasn't already been posted by another
-Search sites such as Amazon to make sure the deal is even hot in the first place. Other useful sites are camelcamelcamel.com and camelegg.com which give historical prices for items sold by Amazon and Newegg respectively).
-Click the New Topic button (a screenshot is contained in one of my later posts).
-Get ALL necessary info in the thread title. I can't say it any better than the Hot Deals FAQ: "Include store name/location, product, price, and conditions (coupon, price match, subscribe for a year, etc.) in the title so people can quickly determine if your deal fits their profile. PLEASE use the real store name to improve search-ability and reduce reposts!"
-Humorous titles can sometimes attract more attention. While the ratings are long gone, I believe the most heavily greened "deal" I ever posted was this one I think it had very little to do with the deal itself (even though it also was named a Best Deal).
-If an online deal, make sure you provide a link. It's amazing how frequently this is forgotten.
-Pay attention to formatting. Especially if presenting a large quantity of items, things such as bolding, underlining, and white space to visually separate things can be very, very helpful. As an example, I once received specific comments about formatting here.
I hope you have found this helpful as a supplement to the various FAQs floating around here. Welcome to the forum.