How to get price-drop refunds without even trying

When there’s a lower price on something you purchased online, you may be eligible for a refund. Paribus grabs it for you — with one small catch.

c/net  December 17, 201511:24 AM PST

by  @cheapskateblog

I do a considerable amount of shopping online, so when a service comes along promising to help me save money, I pay attention.

With Paribus, however, I was immediately skeptical. I certainly liked the idea: automatic price-drop tracking and refunds for online stores like Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg and Target. But to get that, I’d have to allow Paribus to monitor my email, keep my credit card on file and pretend to be me when contacting customer-service departments. Whoa.

First, let’s talk about the promise. Many, if not most, online stores offer price-matching/purchase-protection, meaning if you buy something and then the price drops, you can get a refund for the difference.

The trick, of course, is keeping tabs on those prices and then reaching out to request the refund. That’s a time-consuming hassle most people don’t bother with.

And that’s where Paribus comes in: It handles the heavy lifting of tracking your purchases, following the prices and, when necessary, contacting customer service on your behalf. The end result can be very positive, as I learned yesterday, but obviously you must be willing to sacrifice some privacy.

Because, as noted, the only way this works is if you’re willing to let the service monitor your e-mail. That’s so it can look for receipts (and only receipts, according to their FAQ page). Likewise, Paribus requires a credit card, because it charges you a percentage of whatever it recoups.

By default, that’s 25 percent, though Paribus has a referral system in place that can help you get that percentage down to zero. (If you care to be my “friend,” feel free to use my link — we’ll both get a 5 percent fee reduction.) Gripe if you want, but you know those Coinstar machines at the grocery store? Yeah, they take a percentage, too.

I signed up for the service about a month ago, then promptly forgot about it — until yesterday, when Paribus notified me that a paper-cutter I’d purchased from Amazon had dropped $6.78. A mere six hours later, Amazon e-mailed me directly to say they’d processed my $6.78 refund. (It was a little odd to read the letter “I” had written to Amazon’s customer service, which was copied in the response, but then I realized it was no different than what I’d have written myself.)

In other words, Paribus works. The $7 it found for me is money I’d never have saved otherwise, because I wouldn’t have known about the price drop.

As for the security/privacy concerns, I guess it just comes down to trust. Dozens of online stores and services already have my credit card on file, so this is just one more. And what do I care if Paribus acts as my proxy in reaching out to customer-service departments? Is it really any different than hiring an intern to do the same thing?

Now, granting access to my email account — that still weirds me out. Of course, I’ve used mail-sorting services like Mailstrom and SaneBox, which also scan your inbox in search of particular items (including those related to shopping). How is this different?

I guess my only real question is how Paribus will perform over the long term. Like I said, I shop online a lot, and after a month the service retrieved just $7 (minus 25 percent). So why bother, right? For the same reason you bother with a cashback service: the few dollars and cents you save here and there add up over time. A year from now, even if Paribus nets me just $5 per month, I’ll have pocketed $60.

Totally worth it.

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