One of the best tips from our post about Amazon hacks was the 7-day price drop policy. It used to be as generous as 30 days but with the proliferation of price checking tools and their penchant for changing prices a million times a day, Amazon probably wanted to save their customer service representatives from burning out from endless price drop refund requests (or maybe not, depending on how you feel about their work environments!).
For a while, I used to log into my Amazon account and check purchases for price drops. I'd routinely see drops for under a dollar. Fifty cents here, thirty cents there — not worth my time to request a price drop refund. The process only takes a few minutes and it'd be worth it if the drop were at least a dollar. But at fifty cents, I'm hard pressed to argue it's worth it on principle. 🙂
You know what is worth it? Signing up for a service that scans and automatically requests refunds on price drops.
They launched last year (2015) at TechCrunch Disrupt NY and they look to automate saving money on purchases you've already made.
Here's their promo video that explains what they do:
If you can't watch the video, the basic gist is that Paribus scans your emails (or your Amazon account) for receipts and order confirmations. They use that information to scour those store's website for price drops. If it finds one, it requests a refund if the store's price drop policy allows it. If there's a coupon that you could've used but didn't, they'll ask for the difference as a refund too. Refunds are made back to the card you used and you pay Paribus a 25% commission only if they succeed.
It takes no time at all — just register with an email address (Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft are the big ones they support right now) and give it access to your inbox. Paribus needs access to your inbox to look for receipts and to send out refund requests on your behalf. It will also ask you to invite your friends, using your address book as a guide; for each friend you refer, you get a 5% discount on their 25% success fee for a limited time.
Once you register, you'll be asked for a credit card. That's the card they will charge the 25% fee. They don't scan the transactions you make with the card, it's strictly for paying the fee when they successfully win a refund (the information they ask wouldn't give them the ability to look at your statement).
Each account is linked to a single email address. If you have multiple email addresses, you'll need to sign up each email account individually.
Inside, there are two main pages – a Dashboard and a Purchases page.
The Dashboard shows you a high level view of your account. It includes purchases logged, how much you've spent, the number of claims and amount saved. There is a breakdown by month and a list of recent activity.
The Purchases page is even more straight forward. It lists every shipped purchase, a price history, as well as the claim eligibility. For Amazon, to be eligible the price has to drop within 7 days of the ship date and be sold by Amazon.com LLC. When it's no longer eligible for price drops with Amazon, the green Eligible becomes an orange Maybe, to reflect that you might have a price drop perk with your credit card (Paribus won't make those claims, you're on your own there).
And here's what a successful refund looks like on the Purchases page:
There was a 70 cent price drop and Paribus successfully won us a refund. We'll owe them 17.5 cents and keep 52.5 cents, but that's 52.5 cents I would never have gone through the trouble of requesting.
How do referrals work? You can invite your friends and for each friend that registers and then makes a purchase that's recorded by the system, you get a 5% break on the 25% success fee until June 30, 2016. The maximum number of referrals is 5, at that point your success fee would be 0%. Another big thing is that you can only invite your friends, you can't publish it openly “where there is no reasonable basis for believing that all or most of the recipients are personal friends.”
Things I Really Like (Pros)
It gets you your money back, money that you probably wouldn't have gotten otherwise. How often do you check price drops? I know I usually don't unless I happen to see a purchase I made recently pop up on a deal site (which, honestly, has happened maybe once in the last ten years). Once I buy something, my brain no longer wonders what the best price might be, it's done. Paribus can now do the work for me.
They charge your credit card for the 25% success fee, which means I can earn points on that too. 🙂 Every little bit counts!
Things That I Don't (Cons)
It's unnerving giving someone access to my email account… but if you want to save money and have a service do it on your behalf, you have to give up a bit of control. That being said, if I were really concerned, I could create a new email address for shopping online. I give Paribus access to that account and all my personal correspondence is kept separate.
I asked them about security and their response indicated they were taking all the required security steps: “To prevent unauthorized access, Paribus employs multi-level security mechanisms including dedicated firewalls, VPN services, intrusion prevention systems and stringent access controls on all information. Data is always transmitted securely via 256 bit SSL (bank-grade encryption). And sensitive information (passwords) are stored using AES-256 encryption — the world’s leading security standard. Lastly, Paribus does not live in your inbox — mail always remains under the supervision of your inbox provider (Google, AOL, Microsoft), and only messages that appear to be transaction related are ever pulled by Paribus. We also regularly work with outside security professionals to audit methodologies and ensure highest standards. To verify our latest audit, in the bottom corner of our homepage, you’ll see the McAfee seal. Click it and you’ll see: “This site is tested and certified to be secure by the world’s largest dedicated security company.” Similar audits take place regularly on other pieces of the technical infrastructure as well.”
One thing they did say, and this was a big update should it happen, is that … “We could (and probably will) enable the feature of forwarding receipts eventually and but the reason we haven’t done it is to keep the whole experience as seamless as possible – We want our users to do ZERO work – and we would still need to send the automated claims on their behalf. Sending users price drop alerts is just like giving them work to do (camelcamelcamel.com and plenty of other services do this).” I think that would assuage a lot of fears.
I also don't know what the liability implications of giving someone access to my Amazon.com account. If they buy something, am I responsible? It's a gray area and I'm not sure where where the liability is.
Lastly, and this is minor, but the number of supported stores is limited to 18. They support Amazon (with your login credentials), Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Best Buy, Sephora, Newegg, Stamples, Target, Bonobos, J. Crew, Zappos.com, Nordstrom, Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, Athleta, Piperlime, and Walmart. It would be awesome if they supported more but they're a startup so we can't expect a list of a hundred stores. Still – 18 is more than zero, which is what I had before. 🙂