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Black Friday discounts, but no lines

New sites offer deals, bargain-hunting tips

By Johnny Diaz
Globe Staff / November 21, 2011

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Antjelina Newman doesn’t plan to wait in line at Best Buy for Black Friday deals.

Instead, the Suffolk University student will visit zaarly.com, an online marketplace where people list services or goods they want to buy, such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone, bicycles, or sweaters. There, she can find a way to avoid the lines.

“I’ll pay for someone to stand in line for me,’’ said Newman, 20. “I’m sure it will be crazy.’’

For shopping - online and at brick-and-mortar stores - there are websites and applications to help in the search for deals on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the start of holiday shopping.

Such sites can help people save time and money, offering bargain-hunting tips and the best comparison deals from top retailers, analysts said, sparing consumers the trouble of surfing myriad retail sites or walking through dozens of stores.

Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail analyst with Forrester Research, wrote in an e-mail that such sites “help you preshop so you can better plan your trips . . . and avoid wasting time anywhere you don’t want to go.’’

Zaarly.com, launched earlier this year, was designed as a cyber bulletin board for sellers and buyers. But it has also gained traction as a shopping tool for people looking to buy a sold-out item or recruit personal shoppers. The service is free, but requires users to register.

“We create this idea of buyer commerce power, where you can literally ask for anything,’’ said Bo Fishback, chief executive of Zaarly.com, of San Francisco.

Fishback said Boston has become a growing base for the company, particularly among college students who are using the site to pick up used iPhones and iPads. “When there is a new product launch, we see requests to buy last year’s model,’’ he said. “We are constantly surprised by how people use the site.’’

Some sites offer comparison shopping for discounts. One example is NerdWallet.com, created to match people with the right credit cards. It also has information on stores and online shopping malls that provide bonus rewards. NerdWallet recently offered visitors six miles per $1 spent for folks who bought from Boston-based clothing store Karmaloop through the online American Airlines Advantage Shopping Mall.

“If you wanted to buy something from the Apple store or Best Buy, we will show all the best deals,’’ said Jacob Gibson, cofounder of two-year-old NerdWallet, which has offices in New York, San Francisco, and Sydney. “A lot of these programs will increase their bonus rewards going into the holidays.’’

NerdWallet also features fatwallet.com, where users can download a phone application and create a shopping list. That site has a separate Black Friday section with a list of popular items by store or category. Listed last week was a $200 Xbox 360 game console from Radio Shack, and an offer for a $100 Walmart gift card with the purchase of a smartphone, for example.

Such sites “are doing a lot of the legwork that you used to have to do, ’’ said James Willcox, an electronics editor at Consumer Reports magazine. “They let you know about online specials, so you may be able to get a good deal without having to leave the comfort of your home at an unreasonable hour.’’

Willcox also encourages shoppers to visit one of several Black Friday-themed websites, such as blackfriday.info and theblackfriday.com.

At blackfriday.info, visitors can subscribe to e-mail alerts.

Some sites let users customize a search for a particular item, such as a TV, offering details like how many are available and whether shipping is free.

“It will give you an idea of whether it’s worth going to that store,’’ Wilcox said. “You can find out whether it’s a limited quantity or for a limited duration. It just makes it easier to find the information and compare deals.’’

Johnny Diaz can be reached at jodiaz@globe.com.