Online Shopping Deals: 4 Ways to Defeat “Dynamic Pricing”

Money Top of the List
By: Jimmy Rhoades Posted: 11:24 AM, Jul 23, 2018 Updated: 11:36 AM, Jul 23, 2018

There’s nothing worse than thinking you scored a great deal on something, only to find out someone else paid even less. But it happens more and more because online retailers are using data to change prices on the fly for individual customers. It’s called “dynamic pricing,” and it’s designed to maximize company profits. That’s why we spoke to Tobie Stanger, Senior Editor at Consumer Reports, to bring us three ways to defeat dynamic pricing for good. 

1. Abandon Your Cart 

Even if you don’t know the term dynamic pricing, you’ve probably seen it around you. Think about airline tickets. “You can often be sitting next to somebody and they will have paid a completely different price than you,” Stanger explains, “depending on when and how they booked. But it’s not just travel – it’s everything.” 

For starters, when you find an item you like, add it to your cart. Then, keep it in your cart for a little while, and you might get a prompt a day or so later that says, “hey, we’ve lowered the price on this or that.”  

2. Change the Zip Code 

Next, you can try changing the zip code in your shipping address because certain parts of the country are priced differently. Some retailers match the prices at their nearest brick-and-mortar store. So, if you live in the sticks, you might get gouged. “But if there’s a location down the block, Stanger says, “there was more of an opportunity that they could go into the store, so they priced it better, more competitively.” 

So, checking the zip codes of family and friends can make sense for the right kind of item. 

3. Set Price Alerts 

Price alerts are easy and free, and it’s a great way to just see how the dynamic pricing works in your favor. So, sign up at price alert websites or install browser extensions. Both or are great options, and they notify you of price changes. 

4. Crumble Your Cookies 

That’s right. Get rid of your cookies! Those small pieces of code left by websites to track your online browsing habits. Consumer Reports tested the effect of cookies on travel shopping and found huge differences in pricing. They found an almost $300 difference for the same ticket shopped for at the same time. It all depended on whether or not people had their cookies on or not. 

The price benefit can come from either having or not having cookies enabled, so try it both ways. Look for keywords like “clear history,” or “clear browsing data” in your browser’s settings. 

Dynamic pricing might be here to stay, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for higher prices. Here’s some of the best things you can do to try and get your power back in the dynamic pricing game. 


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