Let’s say you shopped the Black Friday and Cyber Week sales thinking prices were as low as they were going to go, and then they dropped. And now, instead of feeling brilliant for snagging a bargain, you wish you’d waited.
Unfortunately, I know exactly how you feel.
Some credit cards offer price protection (like Citi’s Price Rewind), but you have to register before you discover the lower price. And, of course, you would have had to use the registered credit card to make your purchase. If you did, you’re in luck.
But if you didn’t, you still may not be stuck. Many merchants will make a price adjustment if they reduce the price within 14 days of your purchase. (Though you may have as few as seven days or more than 30, depending on store policy.) Some stores offer a longer window during the holidays; it’s worth checking. For example, Target and Walmart will match prices from early November through Dec. 21 and Dec. 24, respectively. There are exclusions, to be sure, but the price-match policies are generous.
It Never Hurts to Ask
In my case, I had ordered a bicycle online, and I discovered the price had dropped by $33. (Suddenly I didn’t feel so smart for having found and used a $20 coupon.) I went online and asked if price adjustments were offered. Indeed, they were. Once my order number was confirmed, the price difference was refunded to the credit card I used.
If you bought in a brick-and-mortar store, you may not be able to use an online price to get a price adjustment (but you also might be – some retailers now match online prices in an effort to combat “showrooming” – going to a store to see and test an item and then buying it for less online). Retailers’ policies can change, so if you should find a lower price, your next task is to check the price-adjustment policy.
Also, some managers have leeway to make price adjustments even after the window has passed, and some consumers report being able to negotiate a price adjustment anyhow. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
How do you check for a lower price? One way is to use PriceBlink, a free Web browser add-on. You can set a certain price for an item, so that if or when the item reaches it, you are notified.
In any case, you’ll want to keep receipts in case you or the recipient wants to return the item. If you’re outside the price adjustment window and you really, really want that lower price, you could consider returning the item and re-buying it. But be careful of using this tactic this too often: Some stores track “serial returners” and may limit your return privileges.
And if you’re still shopping? Check out return and price-adjustment policies beforehand. The holiday spirit and fear that the store will run out of the item you want can drive some less-than-prudent purchase decisions. And bring your smartphone. You can check prices elsewhere while you’re still in the store.
And should you later discover that – horror of horrors – some other shopper paid less than you did, is a price adjustment worth your time and trouble? Most of us don’t think so (or aren’t aware the price dropped). Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group said just 5% of consumers take advantage of price-match policies.
Did it bother me that the price had dropped on the bicycle I bought? Yes, I try to be thrifty. But I would not have dreamed of returning the bike we crammed into the trunk and drove home with in the rain. Not for a few dollars’ difference.
Image: Annie-Claude bédard