Category Archives: Online Holiday Shopping

Online Holiday Shopping 2016 – Fake Apps & Online Stores

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Courtesy Stuart Miles

Holiday shopping for the best deal is a chore. Like most smart shoppers you use whatever tools you can find to get that great deal. But avoiding holiday scams is a real job and you have to be alert. Fake shopping apps and online stores are making your job a lot more difficult.

The holidays offer cyber criminal a great opportunity to fool customers into downloading malware . Once this malware is on board your computer, laptop or smartphone it can easily steal your personal and banking information. Criminals can and do create perfect replicas of popular brands and websites that draw unsuspecting customers to their site or mobile app.

A recent FBI press release warns consumers about fake app scams. These scams are often disguised as games. But don’t be fooled by fake apps that mimic well-known brands like Nordstrom’s and Nordstrom’s Rack, Dollar Tree, Dillard’s  and other popular stores and websites. Smartphone users can be fooled into downloading the app and then connecting it to their Facebook account or email. Like most things connected to Facebook the victim willingly  gives away personal information. These apps can also infect your phone or tablet with malware.

Just because you downloaded an app from the Apple App store or Google Play do not assume that you are safe. Recently Apple found and removed hundreds of fake shopping apps from its app store.

Chris Mason, co-founder of Branding Brand warns consumers to look for red flags before downloading shopping apps.  Warning sign of a fake app include typos and run-on sentences in app descriptions. Mason says to look beyond a brand’s logo when you download an app from Google Play or the Apple Store. Don’t download the first one you see. Check customer reviews for poor or one-star reviews or numerous user complaints about excessive advertising. All these could be a red flag that the app is fake.

There are also FBI warnings about fake deals from unfamiliar sites. The holidays are prime season for fake pop-up websites. And these sites are not so easy to spot. Cyber criminals are extremely clever at making these stores look legit. According to Inc.com these fake sites price most products competitively, but you can also find ridiculous deals designed to entice shoppers. Regular priced items mixed with the unbelievable deals make them look like a real store. But remember two things; “If it looks to good to be true it probably is,” and just because a store shows up in Google search doesn’t mean it’s legit.

 

Online Holiday Shopping 2016 – Best Gift Card Sites

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Photo courtesy of Nirots

There is a magical gift that, no matter what, is always exactly what the person wanted or needed. It is adaptable to any situation or occasion. This gift can be from the recipient’s favorite store or any store anywhere. And this gift can purchased for less than face value.  What is this super gift? The gift card of course!

One of the best gift cards to give is the reliable VISA ,MasterCard  or AmericanExpress Gift card. These three are perfect for gift giving because they can be used anywhere the credit cards are accepted and some are even re-loadable. How can you possibly go wrong when the gift card can buy anything from auto parts to nice dinners to clothing and jewelry. Using these cards as holiday gifts is a no brainer.

But should you have someone with particular tastes or if you know there is some place they get a special kick out of shopping then you can buy specific store gift cards. Almost every store provides gift cards and the top gift cards of 2016 can be found by clicking here.

And since this is the giving season lets look at the top gift cards sites. As I always say, “Black people don’t play when to comes to money!” So for African-Americans looking for the best deal on holiday gift cards there are a few sites you need to check out. These sites sell gift cards for below face value and these deals can save you some big money.

gift-card-granny-logoLets start with GiftCard Granny. The most amazing thing about GiftCard Granny is that you can actually download the Chrome extension and the apps for Apple and Android devices. GiftCard Granny offers over 150,000 gift cards from just about every store you can imagine and the discounts are nice. As much 20 percent off in some cases.  You can also sell your unused gift cards through the site. 

 

 

ebatesNext up is Ebates. This is another superstore of gift cards and they advertise discounts of up to 30 percent. And yes there  are thousands of stores and millions of cards to choose from. The deals are there but… You have to surrender your email address to even shop there. The site won’t even let you browse without surrendering some data. A definite turn off during the holiday season and good reason to move on to other gift card sites. 

 

raiseRaise.com is yet another excellent discount gift card website. This site lets the buyer shop using several parameters that include price, card type (physical or electronic),  and about twenty different categories of gift cards.  And if you are in Chicago you can check out the specials there as well. I am sure more cities will be offered soon. But trust me they have all of the major retailers  and hundreds of other specialty store and restaurants from Taco Bell to specialty steak houses. Right now it is also offering a new  sale section for additional discounts.

 

cardcashCardCash.com allows the user to buy and sell gift cards with awesome discounts.  And CardCash offers a 45 Day Buyer Protection Guarantee against those ever present holiday scam artists.  This site also allows you to search by physical or electronic cards and numerous different categories. You can find discount cards for hotel stays, restaurants, even frozen dinners. Here you can find gift cards discounted as much as 30 percent.

 

whizwalletWhizWallet.com offers discount cards from numerous different sites. According to their website they aren’t following the model that other sites use. Sites mentioned already buy and re-sell the gift cards. But WhizWallet compiles the inventory of the best discounted gift card sellers.  Using WhizWallet can help the customer find the right credit card, buy retail cards and discount cards. As always the selection is pretty expansive and you are bound to find the store you are looking for.

 

giftcardsGiftcards.com is another excellent gift card site that offers several different cards from various stores and providers. This site allows the user to even customize the gift card for special occasions. Y0u can get eGift cards delivered to your smartphone and again, every store is represented.

Holiday season is extremely busy and stressful for everyone. Trying to find the right gift for someone special can be a real headache.  But a gift card can definitely help. You literally have millions choices from stores to locations to type of gift. There are gift cards that allow you to give some special person a cruise or a vacation if you have that kind of money. May we suggest a Neiman Marcus Gift Card?

 But you may still need a little help. So WalletHub has released 2016’s Best Gift Card List  to help you choose. You can also check out their 10 Tips for Getting the Best Gift Card.

Finally, some people say that gift card are lazy gifts and seem impersonal. But research indicates 42 percent of Americans appreciate gift cards and cash over being mis-gifted. 

Online Holiday Shopping 2016 – Security Basics

canstockphoto31830688Twice a year scammers crawl from underneath rocks and other nasty places to celebrate special holidays. First, tax season, then the holiday season. African-Americans using the Internet for holiday shopping need to be on guard against cyber crime.  Being aware of the scams and hazards can make a big difference in your holiday celebrations. 

The African-American Cyber Report is offering black people another season of valuable safety information to protect your holiday season so lets get started.

 

Card Skimming

Card skimmer courtesy of BBB.org

Card skimmer courtesy of BBB.org

Card skimming is actually pretty simple. Your credit or debit card information is copied when you swipe your card at a retailer or ATM. Cyber thieves install almost invisible devices or special software on retail card readers. This allows them to duplicate your card and steal your PIN. Its as simple as that. So how do you protect yourself?

First of all if something does not look or feel right stay way. For example is the face of the card reader loose or does it look kind of sloppy? Exposed glue or loose fitting parts? Do the buttons require more effort than normal to press? Does your card have to be swiped several times to work properly. Here’s a trick; pull or tug at the face of the reader. It may come off in your hand. Do the same at ATM’s. Check those buttons. Try to move them or lift the key pad. Check the card insert. Pull on that. Check to see if there is something in the slot or protruding from it. You have got to be alert! If you find any of these things notify the retailer and your bank if you have used it.

If possible use your credit card and not your debit card. It is extremely hard to get your money back from a bank debit card. But a credit card transaction can be cancelled and you will normally not be charged. Skimmers can be found anywhere even at Walmart.

RFID Card Protection

paypassThis is less likely but does happen. Your credit and debit card are sometimes equipped with a feature allowing you to charge things with a quick tap of the card on the pay terminal. You may have one of the cards with brands like PayPassExpressPay, or PayWave.

These cards have RFID (radio frequency identification) chips. With the right equipment criminals can scan your card and steal your card’s data. Protect your card by using a RFID blocking sleeve, or an RFID wallet available online at retailers like Amazon.

But as we said before this is not likely. An RFID reader has poor range so the scammer would have to be standing awfully close to read your card. Keep that in mind when you are fighting that crowd on Black Friday. 

 

EMV or Chip Cards Safety

chipcardYou should by now have the credit card with the EMV chip embedded in it. If not contact your bank or card provider and ask for it. That chip is used to encrypt the transaction data when you charge something. 

The objective of card chip was to reduce card fraud. This technology is not perfect. Some retailers have failed to switch to EMV even though the deadline passed in 2015.  Why? Retailers and customers complain that the process is too slow. Chip cards have reduced point-of-sale fraud. But the crooks have worked around it. The latest hazard is fraudulent “card-not-present” transactions online. Criminals can obtain the credit card number, security code, expiration date from criminal websites that sell this information. Personal information like your dog’s name or your mother’s birthday can be found on Facebook. They use this information to hijack your online accounts. That’s what happens when you put too much of your business online.

 

Tech Support Scams


tech-support-scam-popupNew tablets, laptops, smartphones and big screen televisions are big sellers on Black Friday. Tech support scams are common all year round but the efforts by scammers increases during the holidays. 

These scammers are intent on getting you to pay for support or software you don’t need or simply doesn’t exist. This includes extended warranties. They email you with a sales pitch or issue warnings from what appears to be a Microsoft representative. Be aware! Anti-virus companies do not call you to let you know you have a computer virus. Don’t ever agree to let anyone access your computer from a remote location. Don’t download any software online that you are not sure of. If you don’t have the expertise to know then consult a professional.

Computers often come with a ton of useless software or games. This is known as bloatware or crapware. Be careful! These programs can cost you money. They often entice children and adults to buy things without them even realizing it.

 

Phony Bank Calls

During the holiday season you are using your bank and debit cards more often. Beware if someone claiming to be your bank or credit card company calls you. Remember when it comes to your money you should be asking the questions.

Scammers will call victims claiming to be investigating card fraud or suspicious activity. They will ask questions that reveal your personal information like your credit card number or PIN. Don’t answer these questions. Hang up and call your bank from a number you know. Or stop by in person. These scammers are professionals at alarming you and getting you to reveal information used to rip you off.  When it comes to your money only deal with people you know and trust. Never, ever reveal any personal information to a voice over the phone.

 

Email and Phishing Scams

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net

Be careful where you click! Be extremely cautious about clicking on or downloading coupons in your email. It may be ransomware. This is a malicious software program that locks up your computer until you pay to get it released. It happens a lot and is one of the hottest computer scams going on right now.

Clicking on the wrong email may release malware on to your computer that steals information, monitors your activity and changes your settings. It may even secretly take control of your computer and email itself to all your contacts. Understand that scammers can duplicate an email from Macy’s, Walmart and any other major retailer. Check the return email address to make sure you know who its from. Check the retailers website for information regarding sales, coupons and possible scams. 

Be careful about holiday contests. When you fill out a contest form you maybe giving out personal information. Same for holiday coupons that ask for your name, email address and other personal information.

This holiday season; Be Alert! Be Aware!

 

 

 

Online Holiday Shopping 2015 – Shopping While Black

canstockphoto18667912Racial profiling is a reality. People of color have suffered from the idea that we are untrustworthy and dishonest by nature. Nothing could father from the truth. As a result of this hideous myth black people are more likely to be wrongly accused, wrongly prosecuted and wrongly convicted. And even with a trillion dollars of consumer buying power we face racial stereotypes even when spending our money. Its called shopping while black. The result is that many black people have taken to shopping online.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you shop being black is a negative mark against the African-American consumer. Notable African-Americans including Oprah Winfrey and Condolezza Rice have been mistreated simply for shopping while black.

Milwaukee Bucks forward John Henson dropped by a Schwanke-Kasten jewelry store in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin shopping for a Rolex watch.  The staff of the store reacted to the tall black man by refusing him entry into the store and calling police.  The police verified Henson’s identity but the store employees still insisted that the police supervise the professional athlete while he shopped.

The sad truth of this is that research indicates that black people are no more likely to shoplift than any other ethnic group. Statistics indicate that shoplifting is spread fairly evenly across all colors and economic categories. 

A recent Gallup poll revealed that African-Americans felt  more discriminated against while shopping than doing anything else. Twenty-four percent said they experienced discrimination in a retail setting, compared to while eating out, 20 percent, at work or during police encounters, 18 percent, and while obtaining health care ,12 percent.

Blacks have moved their shopping online to avoid the hassle and embarrassment of dealing with race while shopping. African-Americans are more likely to shop online using mobile devices than other racial groups. So the move to express our buying power online was a small one. However it should be noted that the overall trend among consumers is to shop online. African-Americans continue to be the fastest growing demographic of online shoppers.

African-Americans are savvy shoppers. According to Experian black people are deal seekers and 28 percent more likely to respond to social media advertising and 14 percent more likely to use social media to tell friends of products and companies they like.

Black people are also more likely to shop online using a mobile device. African-Americans have a higher mobile aptitude compared to other groups and use their mobile devices, smartphones, to comparison shop, to price match and investigate products. And after all is said and done African-Americans are actually more likely to buy online.

A 2013 report from Adweek showed black people shop online more than other groups. According to the magazine higher income African-Americans shop online in record numbers. Half of black people surveyed made at least 30 percent of their retail purchases online. And at least 22 percent of high income blacks made at least half of their retail purchases online.

Holiday shopping is bad enough without being treated suspiciously when you walk in a store. A trillion dollars in buying power is nothing to laugh at. Using the Internet permits black people to shop and buy with dignity. Blacks are showing our willingness to stay away from brick and mortar stores when we feel we are not being treated properly.

 

 

 

Online Holiday Shopping 2015 – Fake Charities

canstockphoto31830688Now that the holiday season is in full swing you maybe feeling the Christmas spirit. And part of the holiday season is giving to charities. And the crooks know it!

Holiday charity giving can be as much as 75% of the yearly donations most legitimate charities receive. But be on the look out for phony online charities, those collecting door-to-door and on street corners. Tis the season for the rip-off.

One of the hottest and most profitable holiday scams involves soliciting for homeless veterans. Many of these scams originate on your telephone so be aware when someone calls.

To avoid this phone charity scam check with the local Veterans Administration office. Ask if they have a list of legitimate charities for veterans. Give directly to the causes you know and choose to support. The words that should alert you are “I’m collecting on behalf of…” Don’t give money based on a heart breaking story someone on the phone tells you. Research and investigate charities and use Charity Navigator or other organizations that monitor the legitimacy of individual charities.

ScamBusters.org has a list of common veterans scams you should be aware of. The FBI also offers a list of tips to avoid charity fraud.  Another service you should know is the Wise Giving Alliance.

But holiday scammers come at you from every angle and the Internet is no exception. Cyber criminals are masters of the online holiday scams.

Twitter , Facebook and other social media websites provide tools for donating to nonprofits, and crowd funding sites like GoFundMe and Indiegogo Life provide a way to donate directly to individuals and families, as well as organizations. But keep in mind that crowd funding fraud is a real problem. The crowd funding industry is under regulated and scammers are exploiting every possible loophole.

Another holiday scam is the race based holiday scam. African-American, Latinos and other minorities are routinely targeted for holiday scams that claim to help people of color. These scams include phony coupons, job offers and package forwarding as an easy way to make money.  Some scammers play on religious beliefs and sympathies and still others prey on recent immigrants.

The elderly are also prime targets for holiday scam artists. Make sure the senior citizens in your family understand the dangers of telephone based holiday scams. Many elderly fall prey to heartbreaking stories or high pressure tactics. Another prime holiday scam preys on elderly people who may be lonely. Lonely hearts are especially vulnerable during the holidays and scam artists will use this against the elderly.  Make sure your parents or grandparents do not give their personal or financial information out to strangers.

Some of the top holiday email scams include the ‘new chip card scam.’ Scam artist will email victims with notices that look like they are from their credit card company and request the victim to click on the link to provide information to get the new chip card. Credit card companies and banks never send emails that ask you to click on a link and fill out personal information.

Another scam involves package delivery. This scam works because many people are expecting packages from online retailers or distant friends or family members. An email will arrive in your inbox regarding an important notice about your package. Don’t click on links or attachments in that email.  You will probably download malware or ransomware. Go to the delivery service webpage instead. If the package is a surprise or you don’t know who it is from ignore it. The worse that could happen is that it is returned to sender.

Social media is a hot bed for holiday scams. ‘ Secret Sister’ is a gift exchange scam making the rounds on social media.  This scam works by promising victims as many as 36 gifts in return for sending out just one gift.  Be aware and don’t fall for scams on social media.

Now you know.

Online Holiday Shopping 2015 – Is That Website Trustworthy?

Bad SantaAfrican-Americans all over the county are about to dive into the holiday  season to exercise close to a trillion dollars in buying power.  And you can bet a lot of that money will be spent online this season. So the question black people should be asking is; Is that website trustworthy?

Internet holiday shopping scams cost Americans more than $50 million in 2014. Much of the holiday scams involved phony sales from dubious websites. These websites offer hard to believe prices. The old rule still apples; if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.

So how can you tell if a website is real or not? First lets start with one of the oldest tricks in the book, fake or replica websites. Cyber criminals are very, very good at creating websites that look exactly like legitimate online stores. You may find one by accident or it may arrive in you email inbox. Cyber criminals will send out emails that lure unsuspecting consumers to their fake website that look exactly like Walmart.com or Amazon.com  or any of the popular online stores. The email may say that you have been selected for a special sale for a limited number of customers. You will find prices you won’t believe and you may even click on the link. Here is where you get taken. That link will take you to a website that looks exactly like Walmart.com but it won’t be. Look closely; the URL or website may read Wall-mart.com or Wallmart.com or Amozon.com or something very similar to the real site but designed to trick you. Be aware! Examine the URL or web address of the website carefully for anything that does not look right. Hover you cursor over the ink and look at the web address that pops up. This is a classic scam that robs thousands of people every holiday season.

If you enter your credit card information into one if these fake websites you can bet your card will be maxed out in a matter of hours.

Smart shoppers will explore the Internet for the best bargains. And these consumers will find good deals but may question the website’s trustworthiness. Fortunately there are websites that specialize in measuring website trustworthiness. Start by learning how to identify a trustworthy website here.

logoOne of the top website trust services is ScamAdviser.com. The site is easy to use and interpret and can save you money and headaches. Simply enter the web address into box and click on ‘Check It Now’. The site will return a grade on a sliding bar that will tell you exactly how trustworthy the site is. You can see what other people have been checking by clicking on the ‘Recent Checks’ menu tab. Click on the ‘Risk Sites” tab and see instantly the websites that have been labeled risky or untrustworthy. If you have a question or interest you can find answers under the ‘Forums’ tab .

Be aware that the FBI has already warned consumers that cyber scammers will be out in force this holiday season. And again the FBI warns about deals that seem too good to be true.

The FBI warns consumer of some very common tricks. These include, as was mentioned earlier, sending phishing emails advertising hard-to-get items. If you get caught in this scam it could end up costing you more than money. You could see your holiday season go down the toilet by having all your personal and credit card information stolen. And beware of  social media traps. These traps work by offerings free $500 gift cards seemingly posted by a friend. The truth behind this trap is that your friend’s account has probably been hacked and the hacker is looking for more victims.

 Now you know.

 

 

 

 

Online Holiday Shopping 2015 – The Death of Black Friday

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Courtesy Stuart Miles

Everyone has a story about Black Friday. Sometimes its about a great deal on a flat screen TV or a horror story about the ugly crowds and inhuman behavior. Thankfully Black Friday is dead.

More and more online retailers are offering Black Friday deals throughout the holiday season. Amazon, one of the worlds’ largest online retailers, announced it’s Black Friday Deals Store . The store is open for all Amazon customers but Amazon Prime members will get a 30 minute head start on 30,000 of Amazon’sLightning Deals.”

On of the biggest selling items during the holiday season is consumer electronics. Everyone is wishing for a giant flat screen television, laptop or tablets and other electronic goodies. Online retailer Newegg is one of many retailers killing Black Friday.

Newegg is calling this month Black November as it prepares for the holiday season war for tech dollars. Although the company has not announced specific sale details it has outlined plans to kick off deals on more than 900 products that include sales all through the month and more deals on Cyber Monday.  Retailers are jumping on the band wagon describing their holiday sales plans minus details but with promises for more specific sale information later.

America’s store, Walmart, is also offering Black Friday prices online including Apple products like the iPad Mini. The trend for many retailers is to get Black Friday deals into the stores as early as possible for as long as possible. Smart shoppers will be walking the aisles early in November and getting the same or better deals than people waiting in line at 4:00AM Friday morning. The best deals with the best selection and availability are being offered now!

Black Friday is not what many shoppers believe it to be. First of all most deals on this ugly shopping day are extremely limited in price and quantity. For example last year a major retailer advertised a Black Friday sale on a particular microwave oven for $99 when the regular price was well over $300. Thousands of people lined up all over the nation for the bargain. The harsh reality is that each store was allotted only 15 of the appliances. Consumers who read the fine details of those sales flyers will see the disclaimer “limited quantities” written in small print.

Another Black Friday deception consumers need to be aware of is the inflating of prices. Many retailers will offer products at inflated prices only to slash the price on Black Friday creating the illusion of a great deal.

Retailers are well aware that many shoppers running through their stores looking for a great deal will find something they did not come there for. Impulse buying is a big money maker and the more eyes in the store the more items will be sold.

Most of the best Black Friday sales will be found online. TheBlackFriday.com website has an extensive listing of stores and products that are selling at Black Friday prices today! Shoppers can sign up for Black Friday price alerts sent to their email.

Another website pushing early Black Friday deals is BlackFriday.com (different from the one above). This site also offers pre-Black Friday prices for products and advertisement for online sales and email alerts as well.

DealNews.com offers list of the Top 5 Best Black Friday Deals Online that is heavy with the electronics retailers but of course Walmart is among the five.

Holiday Shopping; Now you know.

Online Price Discrimination

ID-100188375African-American people are extremely sensitive to discrimination. No matter what form it takes it is ugly and wrong. Unfortunately discrimination has found a home on the Internet. Its called price discrimination.

We have all had it happen to us. You search for a product or service and find it at one price but then later, sometimes only minutes, the price will change. We have all heard that you should search for flights on certain days and at certain hours to get the best deal. But Internet pricing is discriminatory, even predatory, according to factors that will surprise you.

Research from Northeastern University analyzed how online stores customize prices according to a shoppers digital habits and demographics such as their ZIP code.  The study revealed  major e-commerce sites including Home Depot, Wal-mart, and Hotels.com list online prices that are all over the map. Not only that but in some situations prices are customized based on the behavior of a particular shopper. This behavior includes whether you are shopping on a  smartphone or desktop. The report was presented this at the Internet Measurement Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

“Going into this, we assumed the project would be risky—that we might not find anything,” says Christo Wilson, an assistant professor of computer science at Northeastern and one of the study’s authors. “There have been incidents in the past where companies have been caught doing this, and the PR was very bad. We thought that sites wouldn’t be doing anything. We were more surprised that we found something.”

Some companies whose sites were studied complained that the study methodology was flawed. Northeastern researchers did admit to one mistake but believe that the study provides insight into how your shopping experience can change depending on personal factors.

The actual searching and shopping was performed by 300 people recruited through the crowd sourcing site Mechanical Turk. Researchers had them shop online and perform product searches on 16 top e-commerce sites. The study tested these sites for personalization based on the browser a web shopper might use such as Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari.  Also tested were operating systems; Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, and whether or not a user was logged into the site as a regular customer with an online account.

What the research is looking at is the ability of e-commerce sites to tailor what you pay based on what they know about you. That’s discriminatory. For example does you zip code indicate an certain income level?  Does that mean you can or will pay more? That’s predatory.  Are you paying more for a plane ticket based on your profile on a travel website. That’s predatory. Or what you post on Facebook? That’s discriminatory.

How true is this? We already know that online advertising is targeted at you based on your web searches and other online activity. We also know that Facebook will follow your activity and travels on the Internet even after you log off the website. Merchants use cookies to monitor your activity on websites as well. Another fact to consider is that African-Americans and people of color are more likely to use mobile technology for banking and shopping than white Americans. Your digital profile is out there. Could prices be set based on that? It seems so.

What the test revealed was that if you shop using your smartphone some online stores actually pay attention to what kind of smartphone you use. Home Depot and Travelocity.com websites were the target of the research but they both deny this activity. Researchers admitted to a flaw in the study methodology pointed out by Travelocity.

However, Travelocity admitted to offering a handful of mobile-only offerings on smartphones and tablets that don’t appear on searches performed on desktop computers. Why? Its a tactic used to encourage the download of the the mobile app. A Travelocity spokesperson told Wired.com that results aren’t cheaper by design but sometimes are since Travelocity smartphone users might be looking for a place to stay at the last minute. Results that appear on mobile devices appear to bring down the average price the spokesperson explains. But Travelocity claims the pricing for the same specific properties remain constant across platforms.

Wilson and his team of researchers were able to highlight other forms of price discrimination on some websites but were unable to determine the root cause of the price variations. Among those most notable are Sears and rental car websites. “We tried different browsers and different platforms. We tried logging in and logging out,” Wilson says. “But it looks like there’s something else in there that we haven’t figured out yet.”

Northeastern researchers don’t believe that cookies are all bad. According to Wilson on sites like Cheaptickets.com or Orbitz.com, users who are logged in will often be shown “members only” pricing that, on average,  saves the member $12 on hotels. But if buyers cleared their cookies before conducting the search, they wouldn’t be logged in and wouldn’t see that discount.

Wilson and the Northeastern team avoided Amazon.com and eBay.com. These online marketplaces, explains Wilson, allow sellers to list their own products and used items making things too complicated.

Considering the discriminatory pricing found by this research how does the consumer get the best offer for your money? Wilson points out that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. “Every site we looked at was doing something different—changing different things based on different information,” he says.

There are some guidelines for searching and shopping online;

  • Perform searches on all platforms you have access to. That means your regular browser, an incognito or anonymous browser, and your smartphone or tablet.
  • Plan ahead and take your time to observe price fluctuations.
  • Be extra thorough asking a friend or relative in a different zip code to do the same thing and see what results turn up.
  • Incorporate every money saving tool you can. That includes coupons, credit card discounts, adjusting time and date of travel. Use frequent flyer miles and credits. Ask about credit union or employer discounts.

This way of shopping may be tedious and much different from your mall stores with clearly marked prices, coupons and discounts but it’s an unavoidable part of our digital lives. If you shop online in any form you might as well get used to it. “All online retailers are watching each other, and it’s a race to the bottom,” says Wilson. “The only thing that changes between online stores and brick-and-mortar stores is the pace at which that happens. It’s faster online.”

Now you know.

 

 

 

 

Online Holiday Shopping Series #4 Price Matching

canstockphoto15776464Nothing is more frustrating than buying something and discovering later that another store has it for less than what you paid. And you know its going to happen sooner or later. Most of the great shoppers know how to go back to the store and ask for a price match. Most stores will give you a refund for the difference. This is especially true during the holiday season.

Being a great shopper means never having to pay too much. Price matching has become a powerful tool for many stores who want your business. African-American spending power has passed $1 trillion in the last year. And you better believe that retailers want a piece of that action. As an savvy consumer you ned to know who is doing price matching and how long you have to take advantage of it. You also need to pay attention to Black Friday prices and Cyber Monday as well. Some of these stores will price match even those ultra low prices. And what is really awesome is that you can get that a price match as much as 30 days after you make the purchase. So after you buy that killer microwave oven or flat screen television make sure you keep an eye on the sales. You might have a few dollars coming back at you.

Here is a list of stores that offer price matching and how long you have to get that money back.

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Abercrombie.com (14 days)

  • You have 14 days from date of purchase to get a price adjustment if price is lowered.
  • From their website, “For orders shipped to the US and Canada, we are happy to process a price adjustment for you if we reduce the price of any merchandise (in the same color and size) that you have ordered from us within fourteen (14) days from the date that you submit your order.”
  • Item must be purchased at the original price. This means you can’t get a price adjustment on a marked down clearance item.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes, as long as your purchase is within 14 days.

 

Amazon.com (7 Unknowndays)

  • While Amazon.com does not advertise a price protection policy, I have it on good authority that you can successfully request one within 7 days of your purchase if the price is dropped.
  • I actually called and spoke with a customer service rep and was told I would have 7 days to request a price adjustment.
  • Price adjustment excludes items sold by an Amazon 3rd party.
  • Simply call Amazon customer service at 1-888-280-3321 to request your price adjustment.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Definitely worth a try. The rep I spoke with didn’t know for sure which was hilarious.

 

Unknown-1Ann Taylor (14 days)

  • Price adjustments are not eligible on special promotions, including %’s off (e.g., 25%, 40%, and 50% etc.) and $’s off.
  • One price adjustment for merchandise purchased at full-price, which has been marked down for the first time, may be made within 7 days from the original date of purchase.
  • Ann Taylor stores are not able to process price adjustments for online orders.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: No.

 

UnknownAnthropologie (14 days)

  • When you buy in-store, or online, you can get a 1-time price adjustment within 14 days of purchase if the item is now on sale.
  • From their website, they “do not offer price adjustments on shipping charges at this time.”
    • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes, as long as       your purchase is within 14 days.

 

Banana Republic (14 daBanana-Republic-Logoys)

  • Just return to your local Banana Republic within 14 days of your purchase (with your receipt) if the item you bought is lowered in price.
  • To obtain a price adjustment on an online purchase call 1-800-GAPSTYLE or send an email message to custserv@gap.com within the 14 day window.
  • Stuff bought with a promotional discount or coupon aren’t eligible for price adjustment.
  • No price adjustments allowed on clearance items.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

 

Best Buy (15 days)best-buy-logo

  • From the Best Buy website, “If we lower our price during the return and exchange period (15 days), we will match our lower price, upon request.”
  • Just keep your receipt and head back to the store to get the lower price.
  • For online purchases, call them at 1-888-BEST BUY (1-888-237-8289) and request your price adjustment.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday: No.

 

the-childrens-place-logoChildren’s Place (7 days)

  • The Children’s Place has a very clear 7 day policy.
  • Item must be originally purchased at full retail price.
  • Sale and discounted items are not eligible.
  • Online orders cannot receive price adjustments in brick & mortar stores. Instead, call them at 1 (877) 752-2387 to get price adjustment.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes, as long as your purchase is within 7 days prior.

 

Costco (30 days)Costco-Logo

  • Costco has a very nice price adjustment policy of 30 days.
  • Just bring your receipt back in within 30 days and get your price adjustment.
  • If for some reason your Costco does not allow a price adjustment, just return the item and re-buy it at the lower price.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

 

250px-Dick's_Sporting_Goods.svgDick’s Sporting Goods (14 days)

  • I called my local Dick’s Sporting Goods and spoke with a manager and was told I would have 14 days to get a price adjustment on an item that I bought which then came up for sale in their ad circular after my purchase.
  • Be sure to return to the same store (with receipt in hand) that original purchase was made for best results.
  • For a price adjustment on an online purchases call them at 1-877-846-9997.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes, definitely worth a shot.

 

o.jpgExpress (14 days)

  • Express will happily give you a price adjustment if the price is lowered within 14 days of original purchase.
  • Only valid for in-store purchases and not valid at the Express Factory Outlet.
  • According to their website, “Price adjustments are not provided during storewide sales.”
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: I am to assume that Black Friday is a storewide sale so you won’t be able to get a price adjustment.

 

Fry’s Elect299202-bigthumbnailronics (15/30 days)

  • 15 day price adjustment on laptop computers, desktop computers, CD and DVD recorders, camcorders, digital cameras, and air conditioner units.
  • 30 day policy on most everything else.
  • Price adjustments not available on items that were originally bought on sale or clearance.
  • Call customer service at 1-408-350-1484 to get your online price adjustment.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Definitely worth a try.

 

GAP (14 dagap-logo-old-unevenys)

  • Just return to your local GAP within 14 days of your purchase (with your receipt) if the item you bought is lowered in price.
  • To obtain a price adjustment on an online purchase call 1-800-GAPSTYLE or send an email message to custserv@gap.com within the 14 day window.
  • Stuff bought with a promotional discount or coupon aren’t eligible for price adjustment.
  • No price adjustments allowed on clearance items.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

 

Gymboree-LogoGymboree (7 days)

  • Take in your original receipt within 7 days of purchase and get your price adjustment at Gymboree.
  • According the Gymboree website, “Online purchases cannot receive price adjustments in retail stores.” Call them at (877) 449-6932 to get your price adjustment on an online purchase.
  • They reserve the right to designate that price adjustments are not available during certain promotional events.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Be sure to ask, although I am guessing that Black Friday will be a predetermined promotional event that doesn’t qualify for price adjustments.

 

hollister-logoHollister (14 days)

  • According to the Hollister website shoppers have 14 days to get a price adjustment with original receipt in hand.
  • Clearance items are not eligible for a price adjustment.
  • Take in-store purchases back to the store you purchased them at.
  • To get a price adjustment on an online purchase you must send an email to Hollisterco@Hollisterco.com. Be sure to include your order number, and the item(s) that are eligible for the price adjustment, and they will take care of the credit.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

 

home-depot-logo1Home Depot (14 days)

  • Home Depot will happily work with you within a 14 day time frame of your original purchase.
  • Be sure to bring product and receipt back in to the store with you as you might have to return the item and re-buy it at the lower price. I have had to do this a few times in lieu of a simple price adjustment.
  • For a price adjustment on an online purchase, call HD customer service at 1-800-430-3376.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

 

o-JCPENNEY2012-570JCPenney (30 days)

  • I called our local JCPenney and was told that shoppers had 30 days to get a price adjustment.
  • I was also told that the manger has some discretion to decline a price adjustment request in very limited cases.
  • For a price adjustment on an online purchases call them at 1-800-322-1189.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

 

jcrewlogoJ.Crew (7 days)

  • J.Crew offers price adjustments on full-priced merchandise only within 7 days of original purchase.
  • Only 1 price adjustment available per item.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes, just be sure to buy at original price in order to get a BF/CM price.

 

Kmart19631990LogoKmart (7 days)

  • You can get a single price adjustment per item within 7 days of original purchase at Kmart.
  • To request a price adjustment on an online purchase, simply call Kmart customer service at 1-866-562-7848.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

 

kohls-logoKohl’s (14 days)

  • You have up to 14 days from the date of the original purchase to get a price adjustment atKohl’s.
  • You’ll need the original, dated sales receipt to get the price adjustment.
  • The item cannot be a clearance markdown.
  • The item cannot be at “Kohl’s Cares” cause merchandise.
  • Buy One, Get One (BOGO) items are not eligible.
  • The item cannot be a current Buy One, Get One (BOGO).
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes. I found nothing on their website to the contrary.

logo_theLimited1Limited (10 days)

  • From the Limited website, “We will honor a one-time price adjustment for online and store purchases when an original sales receipt is presented within 10 days of the purchase date.”
  • In-store purchases must be taken back to store, with original receipt, in order to get the price adjustment.
  • Online purchases from the Limited.com can also get a price adjustment. Call toll free at 1-877-LTD-1963 to get some money put back on your credit card.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

Macys-logoMacy’s (14 days)

  • For in-store purchases at Macy’s you have 14 days to get a price adjustment if the price is lowered.
  • Online purchases: I also found the link to get a price adjustment on an online purchase.Click Here.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes

UnknownMeijer (10 days)

  • From the Meijer website, they “will provide the difference of any Meijer advertised price for an item that goes on sale in the weekly ad within 10 days of the purchase.”
  • They have a list of exclusions: Grocery items, special event days (example mPerks or Meijer Credit Card events), limited quantities, clearance items, mail-in rebate offers, supplemental ads, Black Friday ads, and gift card promotion.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Unfortunately, no.

nordstrom-35-logoNordstrom (14 days)

  • Within 14 days of your purchase Nordstrom will happily credit you if the item you purchased it lowered in price.
  • Important note from their website: “Please note that we can only make one sale adjustment per item and designer goods originally purchased on sale are excluded.”
  • Call them at 1-888-282-6060 to get your price adjustment.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

 

oldNavyLogoOld Navy (14 days)

  • Just return to your local Old Navy within 14 days of your purchase (with your receipt) if the item you bought is lowered in price.
  • To obtain a price adjustment on an online purchase call 1-800-GAPSTYLE or send an email message to custserv@gap.com within the 14 day window.
  • Stuff bought with a promotional discount or coupon aren’t eligible for price adjustment.
  • No price adjustments allowed on clearance items.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

piperlime_logoPiperlime.com (14 days)

  • You have 14 days from date of purchase to get a price adjustment if price is lowered.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes, as long as your purchase is within 14 days.

Pottery_Barn_Gift_Card-6Pottery Barn (30 days)

  • I could not find any information online about Pottery Barn so I called them up and sure enough they offer a 30 day price protection policy.
  • For in-store purchases just return to the store and for online purchases call them at 1.888.779.5176.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

Sears-logoSears (14 days)

  • Sears calls their policy the “Price Protection Policy” and it gives shoppers 14 days get a price adjustment if the item they bought goes on sale.
  • Return to the Sears store of purchase with your receipt and get some cold hard cash.
  • For online purchases, fill out this Price Protection Form to get your price adjustment.
  • Online exclusions include clearance apparel and conditional online only special offers.
  • There unfortunately is one BIG exclusion which is no “Price Protection” adjustments between Thanksgiving Day and the Monday after Thanksgiving also known as Cyber Monday.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Unfortunately, no.

staples-logoStaples (14 days)

  • If the price gets lowered on something you bought in the last 14 days, Staples will happily give you some money back.
  • To claim your price adjustment, just see an associate at the customer service desk at your local store or call Staples at 1-800-333-3330.
  • For an online price adjustment call the same number above.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes. [Update: There are some conflicting reports as to whether the price adjustment applies to Black Friday sales.]

Target-logoTarget (7 days)

  • Target will give you exactly 7 days to bring in your receipt (you don’t need to bring the item back in) and get a price adjustment if the item you bought goes down in price.
  • Clearance items are not eligible for a price adjustment should they happen to go even cheaper which they eventually will. See my article on cracking the price tag at Target for details.
  • Also, you have 7 days from date of purchase to get a price adjustment if you find a lower price at Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com, ToysRUs.com, BabiesRUs.com or in a competitor’s local printed ad.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: No.

UnknownToys R Us & Babies R Us (7 days)

  • While not readily promoted or publicly known, Toys R Us and Babies R Us both offer price protection for 7 days after your original purchase.
  • Item must be originally purchased at regular price to get an adjustment.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: I can’t find any evidence that it won’t work.

UnknownVictoria’s Secret (21 days)

  • Victoria’s Secret will do a price adjustment on items bought at full price, and subsequently lowered in price, within 21 days of purchase.
  • Always keep your receipt and go back to the store of purchase to get your money.
  • To get a price adjustment on an online purchase call Vicky’s Secret at 1-800-411-5116.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

1407955691000-Walmart-LogoWalmart (7 days)

  • Walmart will happily give you some money back if the item you bought is lowered in price up to 7 days after the date of your original purchase.
  • Return to the store of original purchase with your receipt to get your price adjustment.
  • You cannot get an adjustment when there is a difference in an online price vs. an in-store price.
  • Exclusions: Clearance items, special buys, value of the day items, or items purchased up to 7 days before Thanksgiving, Black Friday or Cyber Week.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Unfortunately, no.

Unknown-1Williams-Sonoma (30 days)

  • Similar to Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma also offers a 30 price protection policy.
  • Just return with receipt in hand and politely ask for a price adjustment credit if the item you bought goes on sale or clearance.
  • Call them at (800) 840-2591 to request a price adjustment on an online purchase.
  • Will it Work on Black Friday/Cyber Monday: Yes.

This post originally appeared on Rather Be Shopping.

ALERT – Online Holiday Shopping Series – ALERT!

Here is the good news; you can stay in bed on Black Friday! Here some more good news; You can stay in bed because Amazon is letting you pre-order Samsung televisions at Black Friday Prices.

Amazon.com has announced that it is accepting pre-orders on some of Samsung’s most popular television models including the 75 inch curve screen Ultra HD Model.

This is called retail warfare. As a consumer you could not ask for more than having online and brick and mortar stores fighting for your money. Amazon.com has taken a shot at killing the Black Friday insanity by making those great deals available weeks ahead of time.

And if you are paying attention you already know that Wal-Mart has promised to match Amazon.com online prices. How can you lose by staying in bed?