Automated Shopping Refunds?

Category: Finance

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.
Paribus shopping refunds

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"?

Why yes, they might, according to the Paribus privacy policy. All of the quoted phrases above come directly from that document. They also reserve the right to "communicate... about products, services, offers, promotions, coupons, newsletters, rewards, and events" and "provide advertisements, content or features that match your profile and interests."

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...

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Most recent comments on "Automated Shopping Refunds?"

(See all 30 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

12 May 2015

With all the info they're collecting on their customers, I would be surprised if they even make it the year but then considering the dumb stuff people seem to fall for (various phishing scams, IRS scams) they might find enough suckers to make a go of it.

Posted by:

Konrad Poth
12 May 2015

AGREED! I'd rather lose a few bucks in refunds than have all my personal information "out there". If that outfit goes belly-up or gets bought, what happens to all that personal info? My personal privacy is too important to me to even have a Facebook account.

Posted by:

12 May 2015

I would consider it if they would buy some waterfront property from me located about 50 miles due west of Fort Myers. Should be able to let it go for a few mil.

Posted by:

Bob K
12 May 2015

How many friends do they have? 1,500!! When those friends begin realizing what they'll need to do to CLEAN out from that 'deal'.. they won't be friends any longer!

New email ID, new credit card, cancel Amazon... Good grief!!

Posted by:

12 May 2015

Aren't things bad enough? I check my favorite shopping sites once in a while to see what is on sale. Alternatively, I receive emails from my favorite retailers regarding any specials they are running. It's not that hard.

Some websites will do it for you. I have visited two in the past couple days that tell me when something can be found at a lower price, and often it is not necessarily their own online store.

I don't think anyone is going to jump on this any time soon. In fact, I project a short life for this service. Sorry, I'll pass.

Posted by:

12 May 2015

I am blind, but not stupid!

Yes, I've made a few dumb mistakes in my life, but I'm not an absolute idiot!

Posted by:

12 May 2015

I like the idea so much, I'm going to send them my driver's licence, birth certificate & passport. I'm sure they're trustworthy.

Posted by:

Robert A
12 May 2015

As any good shopper knows, Rule #1 is "Never buy anything at full retailer or manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP)!" All the major retailers - Sears, Macy's JCPenney, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Target, Home Depot. Loews, etc. are constantly running sales, week after week - Just check your Sunday newspaper inserts for proof. If one retailer isn't offering an item on sale this week, chances are one of their competitors will be doing so. If it allowed by the manufacturer to be put on sale, sooner or later it will be.

Most big retailers buy from the manufacturers at the same cost and operate on similar margins, so, in a highly competitive retail world, their everyday prices, as well as their sales prices are likely to be within dollars, if not cents, of one another. Realistically, there are very few purchases that can't wait until a retailer puts the item on sale. And, any reputable retailer will likely price match on identical manufacturers model numbers, or will match percentage discounts on the competitor's ads, or even the prices at Amazon.

Also, there are several websites, such as sBay, that will email you daily deals on merchandise, similar to those Black Friday Christmas Ad price sites.

With that in mind, it's probably not worth the time and gas spent to get a price refund of less than $5.00 on small items or 4% on big ticket items, especially if one is satisfied with the purchase.

Posted by:

Jim Walsh
12 May 2015

I received an offer from Citibank for something somewhat similar (but also somewhat different) called Citi Price Rewind (

Posted by:

John Doyle
12 May 2015

Too much trouble, too much risk.

And we should *trust* these guys?

Posted by:

13 May 2015

Whatever happened to that rich guy in Nigeria that we were supposed to send money to in order to get rich?

Posted by:

13 May 2015

I'll be damned if I give anyone access to such a plethora of information such as that!
They can take all of their company and [CeNsOrEd!] [CeNsOrEd!] [CeNsOrEd!] [CeNsOrEd!] [CeNsOrEd!] [CeNsOrEd!] [CeNsOrEd!] [CeNsOrEd!] [CeNsOrEd!] [CeNsOrEd!] [CeNsOrEd!] until the sun don't shine.
That's my 2 cents worth and if Paribus don't like it they can [CeNsOrEd!] [CeNsOrEd!] [CeNsOrEd!] until the cows come home.

Posted by:

13 May 2015

With all the info they're collecting on their customers, I would be surprised if they even make it the year but then considering the dumb stuff people seem to fall for (various phishing scams, IRS scams) they might find enough suckers to make a go of it.

Posted by:

Wild Bill
13 May 2015

I'm not sure I trust myself that much, or my mother, etc., let alone strangers. We are
either heading for a more trusting world or
disaster if this is the new business paradigm.

Posted by:

13 May 2015

In short, It's a BIG NO...

Posted by:

Nancy Teppler
13 May 2015

Give them access to my email? credit card? private info? login information? to "save" money? hahaha ... We already pay for protection to keep them OUT. This is a good one, Bob. Thanks for the laugh and for always looking out for us.

Posted by:

Tom E
13 May 2015

Think a little, and you can protect your credit card and email (maybe amazon goes too far). I already have a (free) separate credit card, I chose a $500 limit, that I use for internet purchases and the occasional gas station that looks shady. So bogus charges are very easy to spot. And I never use my friends and family email account for things that might attract spam, I use a separate (free) one for sign-ups and internet purchases and things like this. Anyone data mining either isn't going to get much more than they claim they are after anyway.
Okay, they would take an hour or so to set up and a little discipline to use. Might be reasonable if you beat the $60/year average claimed. And it helps keep your correspondence account spam free.

Posted by:

13 May 2015

Bob, do those two really think that we are quite that stupid to give them all of our information? Yeah, I guess they do otherwise they wouldn't have started the company. I think I just answered my question. There is no way I would give a perfect stranger all of that personal information. As one of your former readers said "not just no - HELL NO." I can't believe that their friends are quite that stupid. They're friends must be on the lower end of the IQ spectrum. Thanks Bob for a good chuckle.

Posted by:

13 May 2015

I know.....why don't we give them the keys to the car and house?
OF course we can let them know when we are away!!!

OK, it is a good idea but giving access to your VERY private and sensitive data (email, credit cards, various log-ins to shopping websites) comment!!

Posted by:

14 May 2015

If I send them my bank account information would they get me more money? What else could I give them to get an extra buck or two? In reality, there are more important things than saving that last buck or two. If this company depends on me, they are already done.

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