We keep going round and round and round on this, and don't seem to be able to decide on what is, and what is not a shopping question.

I have split this into 5 parts so we can vote on each individually,

What I really want here, is to come to an agreement of what is and what is not a shopping question, so we can consistently apply the rules across the questions.

What I really want out of this is to be able to be consistent around here, and I do think that sometimes closing is detrimental to the site, for example, if this one had been closed, we would be out 20,000 + views and one great answer.

  • @Sue I added the fifth later Jun 13, 2018 at 5:18
  • 1
    What does a question on ration food have to do with shopping? Number of views does not make something right or wrong.
    – paparazzo
    Jun 13, 2018 at 7:41
  • @paparazzo the point is getting scope wrong hurts the site and one of the consequences is fewer visitors and less voting Jun 13, 2018 at 12:50
  • 1
    Not following that logic. Could get scope wrong by not closing.
    – paparazzo
    Jun 13, 2018 at 13:12
  • 1
    Link in shopping adds some clarity. stackoverflow.blog/2010/11/23/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping
    – paparazzo
    Jun 13, 2018 at 15:46
  • @paparazzo, you're right about that blog post. In fact, it was created as a network-wide policy, that sites could follow, and help understand scope and how to build it. There are also a lot of SE Meta posts which have dealt with this for years. I've been looking at some, and I think we could benefit by that. Part of the wheel has already been invented, so we don't need to start from scratch. Jun 13, 2018 at 19:34
  • @Sue I will go with we should not start from scratch. This site should follow general guidelines, established meta from meta.stackexchange.com, and the tour on this site.
    – paparazzo
    Jun 13, 2018 at 19:38

3 Answers 3


I think "shopping" questions have a lot of edge conditions that make having a rule that can handle all of them is difficult.

Where can I buy X?

I think it depends on how big of an area "where" is and how common X is. If the question is asking about buying a backpack in London, then I think it is off topic (despite possible confusion between rucksack and backpack, because Brits understand what a backpack is). If you want to know where to buy stove fuel in Yosemite National Park, I think it is on topic because stove fuel goes by lots of different names and some types are not available everywhere and there are not that many stores in Yosemite and they don't all have websites.

Does X exist?

I hate these questions. The answer is nominally yes or no, but how do you prove that something does not exist. If X does exist, things rapidly devolve into a long list of answers. Potentially, these questions are really X-Y problems: I want to do Y but cannot find the right gear. I think these questions probably can generally benefit from a rephrasing.

What X should I buy?

This seems to be the prototypical shopping question. I do not think there are many edge conditions and they all should be closed with a vengeance.

What features should I look for in X

As phrased, the question is asking for opinions, but a little rewording and the question is asking for information. For example, what features differentiate between models of X feels like a much better question and leaves the opinion as to which features are better out of the analysis.

  • I added one more category of shopping type questions Jun 13, 2018 at 0:19
  • 1
    @CharlieBrumbaugh given my answer has an unexplained down vote, and that I don't know how to vote on your answer, would this be better as 5 different questions so people can vote individually on each piece?
    – StrongBad
    Jun 13, 2018 at 13:17
  • That’s probably the best way to do it, and then leave this question to tally the results so to speak. It’s going to have to wait till after work to split them though Jun 13, 2018 at 13:28

Here are my thoughts on this,

Where can I buy X?

If the item in question is rare and difficult to find or the person wants to know where to find something in a foreign location they should be left open. Questions that can be answered with Amazon, for example, should probably be closed.

Does X exist?

In these cases, the person has an idea of which product would solve their problem, (extra small crampons, sleeping bags in pink, boots for narrow feet) and just needs to know if such a product exists, so they can purchase it. The difference between these and the product X with solve problem Y is that the person already has an idea of what they are looking for.

What X should I buy?

These are definitely off-topic but can be edited to ask which features of X one should look for. I would rather we edit these to be on topic than close them. It's also worth pointing out that we can answer these questions in chat.

What features should I look for in X?

These are on topic, knowing what features to look for in a piece of gear is useful regardless of which specific piece of gear one purchases.

How can I solve problem Y? Answer: You should buy X

The questions are on topic, the answers not so much. We should leave these open and suggest that the answers suggest categories and not specific products (suggesting kevlar knife sheaths instead of a one specific shealth).


I don't like the way the question breaks thing down as it constrains the answer.

Examples that were closed for reasons other than shopping don't tell us much. I guess it tell us the top reason was not price shopping but cannot deduce it would also have been closed as price-shopping question.

Start with guidelines established:

From the VTC:

Questions seeking price-shopping assistance are off-topic because they tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve.

What is price-shopping? Does it have to be price?

The link provides further guidance. It concludes comparison or recommendation of specific commercial products is out of scope. Reasons include too broad and dated.

To me price / shopping would be more consistent with the guidelines in the link.

This question is clearly outside the guidelines. We could start with better enforcing existing guidelines.

From the tour:

Avoid questions that are primarily opinion-based, or that are likely to generate discussion rather than answers.

What product do you recommend is primarily opinion-based.

Other meta:

Too many to list out.

If this get broken out into even more questions we are into meta overload.

There have to be some general guidelines:

Out of scope:

  • Price
  • Recommendation of a specific commercial product
    Or comparison of specific commercial products
  • Sourcing (where can I buy)
    To me even sourcing of type of product is out. Where can I buy a 4 man tent is a shopping question. Where can I source ethanol is a different as it is very specific and is a real problem the OP was facing.

In scope:

  • Product in general terms What type of coat would be good for these conditions?
  • Are there any product for Y is pushing it.
    It will tend to get some commercial product answers but was the nature of the question a general product.
  • What is the name of this product (so I can source it) is fine.
    They are not asking for a specific commercial product.

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