Programs lend a helping hand

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2011, 12:00am

As the mainland is experiencing high inflation, people in Guangzhou have to find ways to lead an economical lifestyle.

Recently, mobile phone software which helps shoppers look up prices of different goods in different shops has become very popular.

Price-comparison software, such as 'Let Me Check' and 'Quick Pai', can be downloaded from the internet for free. After installing the software on their phones, users simply have to take a picture of a product's barcode, and a list of prices and shops will appear.

Take a brand of coffee as an example. Its price in supermarket A is 38 yuan (HK$45). After taking a picture of its barcode, the phone comes up with a list in five seconds - 31.5 yuan in supermarket B, 37.3 yuan in supermarket C and 42 yuan in supermarket D.

The software works for several items, including books, medicine, food and cleaning and cosmetic products. Clothes are an exception though.

Some people are sceptical about the prices. Housewife Yuan Kuanrong does not trust the information. 'There are so many supermarkets and products. How can the software get all the prices? I don't think such programs are reliable,' she says.

Prices change rapidly, and it's no easy task to get the latest data. Zheng Wenjun, manager of the 'Let Me Check' software company, says the data base is updated once a week so the information may not be the latest. It's also difficult to collect data. 'In Western countries, many supermarkets would offer information to software vendors, but that's not the case in China,' Zheng says. 'Many supermarkets think we are leaking business information. What's more, all the prices in our database are collected by staff who go to different supermarkets. If the supermarkets find out what they are doing, they might kick them out.'