Free Web Service Helps Consumers Reap Store Refunds

A new Web site makes it easier to take advantage of the oft-ignored but common store policies that say the store will refund the difference if an item you bought drops in price.

Retailers like Amazon.com and Best Buy offer such policies to encourage you to make a spontaneous purchase rather than waiting to see if the item will come down in price, says Tim Tonella, president of Priceprotectr.com. Of course, most of us don't bother checking back to see if the listed price goes down.

It takes just a few minutes to set up price tracking at the site.
It takes just a few minutes to set up price tracking at the site.

Priceprotectr, which launched this week after a 5-month beta period, aims to take care of that by sending you an e-mail notification when the price of something you've bought goes down within the time covered by that store's policy.

If it's enough of a potential savings to be worth your time--and the new price qualifies--you can then contact the store with proof-of-purchase and be refunded the price difference. The site's home page counter says it has notified users about $258,117 in potential savings based on $4.3 million worth of tracked purchases.

Easy to Use

To use the service, head to Priceprotectr after buying an item at one of the 33 supported stores listed at the site. You'll need to find the item you bought at the store's Web site (whether you bought it online or in-store) so that you can give Priceprotectr the item link. After typing in your e-mail address, the site will ask if the price listed is what you paid (if it's not, you can type in the right price). Then you sit back and wait for an e-mail notification.

The site links to supported stores' policies and provides basic information under a 'retailers' link at the top of the page, and those policies vary greatly. Most brick-and-mortar stores require that you visit, though for online purchases you can generally start on the site or by calling customer service. The covered time period ranges from 14 to 90 days, and can be different for a given store depending on the item.

Some stores, such as Best Buy, will match competitor's price drops--as well as their own--for items purchased in stores (but not online). However, Priceprotectr currently only tracks the price at the store where you bought the item.

"We're starting with the path of least resistance," says Tonella.

However, if you bought a DVD player at Best Buy, you could always have Priceprotectr track the same item at CompUSA, using the price you paid at Best Buy. Then if the site sent you a notice about a cheaper price at CompUSA (and that price was offered in-store as well as online), you could take that information to Best Buy and get a refund.

Privacy Policy

Tonella wouldn't discuss the company's revenue, but says it has plans to partner with retailers. "Over time, we're going to be able to provide broad information to the retailers about consumers," he says. "But we never share any [personal] information the consumers with anybody."

The site's privacy policy does state that "In order to use services provided by this site, you may be asked for or you may provide personally identifiable information including, but not limited to, your name, email address, age, purchase information, and zipcode," and that "Price Protectr may use or disclose this information to operate and manage the service, to provide services that you have requested, or to respond to your other inquires or requests."

The site requests the additional personal information if you choose to sign up for an account. Doing so allows you to change your notification preferences, such as not receiving an e-mail if a price drops less than one dollar, and provides a view on your buying history.

In the future, the company plans to have an opt-in setting for those who sign up for accounts to receive retailer offers along the lines of the "We saw you purchased book X and thought you might like book Z" e-mails currently sent by Amazon.

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