CheepCheep

Abstract

A program that locates a product for sale on the Internet for under $1 with no shipping cost.

The Idea

The idea for this program came from an XKCD comic. In the comic, a guy writes a program to search for an item on the Internet every day that costs, in total, less than $1. It purchases one product each day. With $365 for the year, he gets a new delivery each day, with no idea what might be in it. As demonstrated in the comic, this is not a good idea.

So, what kind of junk does this script find? Click Here to find out. This list updates daily. If you are VERY lucky, you might find something you like.

Implementation

To interface with this website, I wrote this in PHP. It uses Lynx as a screenscraper utility. Every day, it follows a simple algorithm:

  1. Go to Google Shopping's homepage. There is a list of what items are trending right now.
  2. Follow the link to each item, but restrict the search to:
    • Item cost $0.50 to $1.00.
    • Sort from most expensive to least expensive (to get items nearly $1 in cost).
    • Require "no shipping" for the item.
    • Require Google Checkout - in case I decide to let this automatically make the purchase. Removed to increase variety of items.
  3. Store all items found in all of the searches from the previous step.
  4. Per item, perform a new search for the item name. Google will show how many hits the item name gets.
  5. Sort the items from the lowest hit count to highest hit count (to get rare items).
  6. Suggest the item(s) with the lowest hit count.

I have had to add filters. Some websites specifically trick Google into claiming that they have prices that are $1.00. When you visit the website, the price is shown as "Contact for Quote" or something similar. Also, there are some products I specifically do not want this to find, such as stock photos or ebooks.

Another slight annoyance is Google's "safe search" option. If I turn it on, the products that are located tend to be a very small set of products available. If I turn it off, it sometimes locates items with rather pornographic images. So, I had to make a compromise. I turned off safe search and completely removed images. To see product images, you must click the product description.

Download

Want to create a CheepCheep site of your own? Want to make this script a hell of a lot better? Want to simply see what kind of cheap junk is for sale on the Internet? Download the program here. Note: the filename is "cc.txt", but you will want to save it as "cc.php".

This downloadable script will provide a list of products, inlcuding the name, price, and URL for each one. It will not automatically create a web page that displays the products. It will not automatically purchase the products. All that this downloadable script will do is provide a list of products.

FAQ

The following is a list of frequent questions that I receive (and the standard answers that I give.)

When did you start this script?
The first truly functioning version was running in May 2009. The current version is much newer.
What do you do with all the stuff you buy?
I don't buy it anymore. I have too much junk. Instead, I look at the items and, sometimes, I click on the link and make the purchase manually.
Did you really get this idea from a comic strip?
Not really. I got it from the XKCD Sucks blog, which pretty much challenged someone to write this script - but that challenge was based on an XKCD comic.
Do you have a history of what was purchased each week?
No. After a few weeks, the listings are old and useless. So, I just delete them.

Others

With thousands of people reading the same XKCD comic, it is obvious that others have created their own versions of this program. I will list them here as I find them:

TradeMe XKCD576
This one saves money when nothing looks interesting so it can spend more than $1. Also, it has a Twitter feed so you can see what it purchases each day.
EBay Bot
A bot that bid $1 on EBay auctions that had no shipping. To my knowledge, it only ran for three weeks before being turned off and the website removed.
You've read it. You can't unread it.
Copyright ©1998-2017 C. Shaun Wagner. All rights reserved.