December 19, 2005 4:18 PM PST

The early bird gets the $149 Toshiba laptop

No. It wasn't a typo.

CompUSA on Sunday sold a Toshiba notebook for $149.99, after $550 in rebates and an agreement to subscribe to America Online for a year. Although the special only lasted 16 hours, it marked a new low in notebook pricing, albeit a temporary one.

The retailer also offered a Compaq-branded desktop with a Sempron processor from Advanced Micro Devices for $99.99 on Sunday, after $480 worth of similar rebates and discounts.

"I predicted $199 earlier this year, but it is really unbelievable that we are down to $149," said Sam Bhavnani, an analyst at Current Analysis. "Not long from now, someone will (probably) offer a free notebook with a one-year commitment to wireless broadband."

Steep discounts on select items have been one of the prime levers retailers have used this year to bring customers through the door. Wal-Mart Stores put a $398 Hewlett-Packard laptop and $68 Razr phone on its shelves on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year. The year before, Wal-Mart didn't offer marquee specials, and it didn't see a big bump in electronics on Black Friday.

This year, people lined up at Wal-Mart at 5 a.m. on Black Friday and shoved each other to get in the door. Sales of PCs and LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors have been strong.

Consumers jumped on the CompUSA deal, as well. The retailer sold 7,500 of the notebooks in two hours, according to Brian Woods, executive vice president and general merchandising manager of the retail chain. That comes to 2.5 notebooks a minute. Roughly 30 notebooks were available in each store. Throughout the day Sunday, 7,500 desktop bundles were sold.

"These PCs were special skus (stock keeping units) that are planned months in advance. This was the last Sunday before Christmas," Woods wrote in an e-mail. "These deals have an incredibly positive impact on store traffic."

Although the notebooks sold out, the desktops did not. More deals are likely, according to Woods.

"Stay tuned for more great deals this holiday season," he said in his e-mail.

The notebooks offered under these deals are not attenuated configurations. The $149 Toshiba came with a 15-inch screen, a 1.5GHz Celeron M processor, 256MB of memory, and a 60GB hard drive. It ordinarily retails for $749.

To get the notebook, consumers paid $450 ($749 minus a $50 instant rebate and $250 of instant savings for signing up for AOL service). They could then qualify for a $300 mail-in rebate from CompUSA.

Consumers could also grab it without AOL service for $399.

"Without the AOL subscription it is still a good deal at $399," Bhavnani said.

The desktop came with a 17-inch CRT (cathode-ray tube) monitor, 256MB of memory, an 80GB hard drive and a CD-RW drive.

20 comments

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Just try and cancel that AOL account
AOL is sad enough, and trying to cancel it is even worse.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Tell me about it...
I signed up for a free trial from AOL for 2 months and they converted my plan one with a 12 month contract or big cancellation fee without my authorization. They told me that they have no access to the records because the tele-marketer who called me up was the one that decided the plan.

I'm not a dumb person, one of the SPECIFIC questions I the telemarketer that signed me up was "If I cancel within the two months, will I be charged nothing?" to which they assured me I wouldn't.

I only needed the free trial because I was going on vacation for a week and needed a temporary internet connection and free is better than $11 for a month.

NEVER trust AOL, they are a horrible company and a bunch of crooks. Do not go for any free trials from them, NO MATTER what the terms are. This issue has still not been resolved to this day and I am still fighting it.

I also heard news of a class action law suit again AOL for falsely charging current customers for new accounts. They are running their company into the ground and trying to get peoples money any way they can.

AOL is evil.
Posted by chrziz (2 comments )
Link Flag
it's too bad...
...that the only products you can get for such rediculously low
prices are such junk.

'Toshiba laptop' (with ultra weak specs and construction quality
flimsier than a creative zen micro) or 'HP desktop computer'
which will 'blow your socks off!' emphasis on the _blow_.

Its like those bell south fast access dsl commercials. 'A FAST HP
Computer for only [sum that SOUNDS good but is in reality a
collosal rip off]!'

Pass. I'll pay 1800 for my powerbook and compute in sane-
world.
Posted by ryanhaxor (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Think of it this way, Ryan
The "junk" computers are finding their way into the hands of people who may not have been able to otherwise justify spending money on a computer for their family, when they need to pay rent, keep their home warm, buy groceries and keep gas in the car.

When I upgrade my employer's office PCs to new models, there is huge demand for the obsolete 5 year old "junk" because they are still usefull for some home uses. The same applies to the Walmart specials. They won't be state of the art gaming or Photoshop workstations, but they will allow someone to get online a be a part of the Information Age.

Don't be so hard...
Posted by mike.gw (942 comments )
Link Flag
Creative Zen Micro Build Quality
"construction quality flimsier than a creative zen micro"

heh-heh--surely you meant an ipod nano, which can't even be carried in a pocket without being scratched (not really rocket science to fix that, but something that seems beyond apple's ability or willingness to do)? my son's zen micro is doing just dandy, btw.

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
Not a bad laptop
I bought the step down from that laptop (1.4ghz processor and 20GB hard drive) just after Thanksgiving and I'd have gotten one of these low priced ones in a heartbeat if I'd have known about it at the time. It's a good laptop, well built and plenty fast enough once you trash all the "trialware" it comes with.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Ever heard of using type editors?
How does one "quality" for a $300 rebate?
Posted by (28 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks
That one fell through the spell-check cracks. It's fixed; thanks.
Posted by LeslieKatz (143 comments )
Link Flag
You Are So Right
You are right about not being able to cancel your AOL service. The state of New York fined AOL $1.25 for this very problem. As part of the settelemnt, AOL agreed to clean up it act. Yeah, right!

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-5842727.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-5842727.html</a>
"AOL agrees to customer service reform
By Dawn Kawamoto, CNET News.com

America Online agreed to pay $1.25 million to the state of New York and reform its customer service procedures, the state attorney general announced on Wednesday.

The agreement stems from consumers' complaints that AOL customer service representatives would either ignore requests, or make it unduly difficult, to cancel their service, according to a statement from Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer said that an incentive system AOL had developed for its customer service representatives contributed to most of the actions that drew complaints.

"This agreement helps ensure that AOL will strive to keep its customers through quality service, not stealth retention programs," Spitzer said in a statement."
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They Haven't Changed One Bit
They haven't changed one bit.

Try to cancel your membership. I tried AOL for a few weeks and tried to cancel. They kept on transferring me, and every new person kept on throwing pitches at me at how great AOL is and how convenient, and blah, blah, blah. I spent almost 45mns trying to cancel the account. Wouldn't you call that unethical on the part of AOL? To keep harrassing a customer who wants to cancel the account and get it over with? I should've spent more time on the phone ringing, than talking.

"(me) hello, AOL, I want to cancel my account.
(AOL) sorry to hear that, account name please.
(me) sure, me@aol.com
(aol) we'll keep your acct open, at no charge, for one more week so you can save all your info. We hope to have you back with us. Thank you.
(me) thank you. have a great day."

I don't need to hear how great AOL is, or what amazing services it offers. Don't keep me on the phone for 45mns. I've already made up my mind, let me go.
Posted by Dead Soulman (245 comments )
Link Flag
The New American Business Model!
Unfortunately AOL's behavior is indicative of far too many businesses. Instead of quality products and dependable service it is flim-flam, smoke, mirrors, and frustration. Once you are hooked, that is all they care about.

One of the most frustrating tricks is offering special rates and promotions to new customers that are not available to existing clientèle. What a load of bull, but you see it everywhere. Even going so far as new employees being hired at higher salaries then the current ones with the same skills. What about taking care of your core constituency first. You may not like Apple, but that is precisely why they are still around.

This sort of bologna happens when businesses are run by bean counters and marketing instead of people who know the product. Look at what has happened to companies like HP and GM. There was a time when GM sold 2 out of every 3 cars sold in the US, but not any more.

GM continues to loose market share every year and the solution is always the same old failed tactics. Like so many businesses and institutions in this country (education included) when they have dug themselves into a hole their solution is to Get A Bigger Shovel.

This has killed more companies then all the competition and Government regulation could ever have. What is most shocking is after these clowns ruin one business (or school district) they simply move on to another and blame the workers or something else for their ineptitude.

What this country needs is more MB A's and marketing professionals, that will fix things right up!
Posted by Mister C (423 comments )
Link Flag
The cheaper the better...
The best is not the most expensive... And the worst is not the cheapest...

Which is the best deal: something you can afford? Or something you can't? I'd rather be happy taking home something -- it may not be the best for everyone, but it's the best I can afford. For everything else... there's... :D
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Reply Link Flag
if u find yrself too good to take it then dun
Strange selling something for a low price is getting some criticisms. Boy it is hard to please
Posted by pjianwei (206 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't Do It
Anyone who falls for the "Online Subscription Rebate" is being taken for a fool. Unless you were planning on using their services anyway.

But, don't even dare to cancel before the x-years agreement expires. You'll be stuck with the monthly subscription cost for the rest of the contract, plus penalty fees. Translation, rip off. Your great deal just turned into a Mega-Lemon.

I love rebates. But, unless I'm getting a check back, I don't want it. Contract subscriptions used as rebates are nothing more than hidden scams. I don't trust them.
Posted by Dead Soulman (245 comments )
Reply Link Flag
then don't subscribe
the story said the laptop was available for $399 without the AOL rebate -- and that's still a fantastic deal on a laptop with those specs.
Posted by ChazzMatt (169 comments )
Reply Link Flag
AOL Rebate
Companies shouldn't be allowed to advertise low prices due to rebates that have contractual obligations. The only thing they should be allowed to do is show the price MINUS rebates that apply only for the purchase of the product itself and without any strings attached. Persoanally, I can't stand looking at flyers and ads and banners, etc. that show $99 laptop or $49 this or that or FREE and then go to the web site and find out that there are all these strings attached.

There is nothing wrong with them saying $399 and only $99 with AOL subscription. The other method is just plain bait and switch in my mind.

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Posted by ValkyrieOnFire (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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