Automated Shopping Refunds?
A free online service promises to scour the Web for price drops on items you've already purchased, and automate the process of getting refunds for you. It sounds like easy money, but is there a catch? (Hint: Yes.) Read on to learn about Paribus...
What is Paribus?
An old Wall Street saying warns, “Never check the price of a stock you just sold,” lest it be higher and you suffer the agony of profits unrealized. The flip side of this adage is, “Never check the price of something you just bought;” it might be cheaper now. But the buyer’s proverb is no longer good advice.
Many major retailers now have “lowest price guarantees” designed to overcome shoppers’ reluctance to buy now, either because they’re “waiting for it to go on sale” or they hope to find a lower price elsewhere. For a period of a week or two after your purchase, if you find a lower price for the same item, some retailers will refund the difference between what you paid and the lower price.
Of course, it’s rarely that simple. Some retailers like to load up their lowest-price guarantees with conditions like, “lowest advertised, not-on-sale price.” Others exclude prices offered through Web stores. Some only match their own prices, not those of competitors. Amazon matches competitors’ prices on TVs and cell phones, but only its own ever-changing prices on other items. Each retailer has its own terms.
Clearly, it can be a pain to track all of your purchases to recover what usually amounts to little money in circumstances that do not happen very often. It would be nice if someone would do the tracking, jump through all the hoops for you, and you knew nothing about it until free money appeared in your bank account.
Eric Glyman and Karim Atiyeh, two Harvard buddies from Las Vegas and Beirut, respectively, want to be your money-saving someone. To that end, they launched Paribus on May 5, 2015. The startup was in beta mode from last summer until now, with about 1,500 friends of the founders serving as guinea pigs. They received over $10,000 in refunds, according to CEO Glyman. Paribus will keep 25% of any money it recovers for you; “no success, no cost,” as Glyman puts it. That’s not bad as finder’s fees go.
Paribus, at launch time, works with 20 online retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Bonobos, J.Crew and others. Hmmm, they've been working on this for a year, and they've only got 20 stores covered? You'll still have to check manually for price drops when you purchase from Kohls, JC Penney, Sears, Lands End, LL Bean and hundreds of other popular retailers.
Three Simple Steps of Faith
It takes a certain amount of faith or naiveté to sign up with Paribus. The first step is to give Paribus access to your email inbox. Paribus needs this permission so it can look for emailed receipts from participating merchants and correspond with them on your behalf.
The second step is to give your credit or debit card details to Paribus so the service can collect its 25% when it saves you money. Paribus can’t just take its cut off the top of a refund; the merchant involved makes the refund directly to the buyer, usually via the same payment method used to purchase the item. It’s not clear from the Paribus website exactly when that 25% will be charged to your card.
Third, Paribus needs your Amazon login credentials because, according to Paribus, Amazon does not send itemized receipts via email. That didn’t seem right to me.
I have dozens of itemized receipts for Amazon purchases in my Gmail inbox. They even include pictures of the products. I see no need to grant two kids from Brooklyn by way of Las Vegas and Beirut the power to buy things on my credit card and specify shipping addresses.
I clicked the button to skip that step. I got a big popup window that shrieked something to the effect of “Are you sure? If you don’t give us your Amazon credentials, we won’t be able to save you money on Amazon purchases!”
What About Privacy?
At this point I began wondering if maybe Paribus had some other reason for wanting access to my email, my credit card, and my Amazon account. Might they possibly be using my "purchase and claim history," my "name, email address, zip code, billing address, shipping address, phone number, payment card information, product preferences, demographic information" and combined with information from "third party sources" to build dossiers of "aggregated or de-identified information" and "share" that with "third parties or affiliates"?
Of course, Paribus promises not to snoop around in your inbox (they only collect information from emails that appear to be from merchants) but a variety of "agents, vendors, consultants and other service providers have access" to your personal information. And yes, of course they are prohibited from using or sharing that information for any purpose outside the scope of the Paribus service.
But still... all of that was enough to make me abort the signup process. Maybe I'll check back in a year to see if Paribus is still around.
Would YOU provide access to your inbox and your credit card to save a few bucks? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 12 May 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Automated Shopping Refunds? (Posted: 12 May 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved