While working on a story about floor lamps the other day, I unexpectedly had trouble finding a product that a designer had recommended to me – she had sent me the brand name and a picture of it here, but I still couldn’t find it. Still an investigative journalist, I thought: Maybe I could do a reverse image search for this item. When I right-clicked on the product image, a useful option appeared: “Find image with Google Lens”. So I clicked.
A new tab opened on my browser with a grid of identical images. The tool was apparently digging up the same product from various sites on the internet – both big box stores and small retailers that I had never heard of. The most mind-boggling thing was that each price was very different, ranging from $103 – at Amazon and Walmart (as you might expect – to $189 at Macy’s to $271 at Bed Bath and Beyond to a whopping $470 to Wayfair who listed the lamp for nearly five times the price and under an entirely new company and product name and I know for sure that all the lamps were the same because they used exactly the same product and lifestyle images (which is how I guess Google Lens was able to locate them in the first place).
It turned out that the lamp was originally made by Safavieh – the Stefan, specifically – but from what I could gather other retailers had marked it white for a markup, some important, some not. On Amazon and Walmart they listed the list price as $300 on sale for $103 which explains the higher prices at Macy’s and BBB since they are always below MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price – the price at which a manufacturer recommends a store to sell its product). But Wayfair’s margin seemed unreasonable, especially for a company known for its affordable household products. I tried this hack with a few other lamps (the Coaster Company Tripod Floor Lamp and the Tov Furniture Arena Marble Base Floor Lamp) and was able to find them for less on websites that most people are familiar with.
Reverse image search has obviously been around forever, but I’ve never used it in this capacity before, and now I feel like I’ve encountered some kind of secret (e-commerce) power. (Although the one that probably works best for mass-produced or at least ubiquitous household products, like floor lamps.) If you think you could find it cheaper elsewhere, you probably can.
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