ó Nothing takes a big-ticket buy from exciting to
maddening faster than finding out the item went on sale
shortly after a purchase. A handful of apps have popped
up recently promising to track shoppersí purchases and
score refunds from retailers who offer to match
post-purchase price changes.
at least one retail analyst isnít sold on the idea,
and there are privacy concerns associated with the apps
that consumers should be aware of.
guarantees make even less sense when customers can
outsource the work of finding the deal, said David
Marcotte, senior vice president at Kantar Retail.
the retailer perspective, this gets stupid on so many
levels itís embarrassing," Marcotte said.
to the CEOs of two of the refund-hunting apps, Amazon
appears to have made it harder for customers to get cash
back when the e-commerce giant lowers prices soon after
an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Earny CEO Oded
Vakrat said Amazon used to grant refunds if a customer
noticed the retailer reduced a productís price within
a week of their purchase, but now only offers them on
TVs and pre-ordered items. Eric Glyman, CEO and
co-founder of a similar app called Paribus, said the
service had helped customers get cash back from Amazon
on a wider range of products in the past.
posted an image of an email in which Amazon customer
service referred to a "7 days price match from the
time of delivery." Users of social networking
website Reddit also said theyíd received refunds on
items sold and shipped by Amazon when Amazonís price
dropped within a week a delivery.
a statement, Amazon denied ever offering post-purchase
price adjustments on other products, saying the company
works to keep prices low enough that a price-matching
policy isnít necessary.
handy for consumers, retailers likely didnít envision
the apps when they created the price guarantees, retail
analysts said, and users need to give up some personal
info to get the deals.
and Earny connect to a userís email account, scan
messages for e-receipts, compile a list of items
purchased, automatically monitor prices on those items
at retailers that meet the storeís price match policy,
and file refund claims on the userís behalf. They also
ask for the email and password to access usersí Amazon
accounts since Amazon email receipts donít provide all
the information needed to request refunds.
its statement, Amazon also said it takes customer
security seriously and asked customers not to share
services take a 25 percent cut of any refunds they find.
has been out for a little more than a year, and the
average user saves $60 to $100 per year, Glyman said.
Earny launched publicly in May and said it had raised
$1.2 million from investors including Sweet Capital and
app Slice also pulls its purchase data from receipts in
usersí email inboxes and requests Amazon credentials.
The app has been around since 2010 and also can track
packages, provide product recall notifications and
analyze usersí spending.
monitoring is now one of the most popular features, said
Slice CEO Harpinder Singh. The average refund is about
$13 to $15, and the average user gets six to eight each
year, he said.
doesnít take a share of the refunds it finds. The
companyís market research arm, Slice Intelligence,
uses anonymous purchase data from about 4.2 million
people using the shopping app and Unroll.Me, an email
subscription management service that helps users get rid
of spam, to compile data on what people buy online.
Clients can subscribe to monthly syndicated data
covering their own products and competitorsí brands,
and Slice Intelligence also does in-house analysis.
a Canadian app that arrived in the U.S. in April, offers
a similar service but has users scan receipts for items
they want Pricerazzi to monitor. If Pricerazzi finds a
price entitling a user to money back, it will hand over
the info customers need to submit a claim in exchange
for 15 percent of the value. If the retailer rejects the
request, Pricerazzi refunds the fee.
offers a similar service through its Savings Catcher
program, but limits the number of receipts users can
submit and reimburses the difference on cards redeemable
at its stores or website. Some credit cards also refund
price drops but most arenít automatic and the card
company, not the retailer, foots the bill.
began offering to match prices at certain competitors or
if prices dropped post-purchase because they worried
widespread adoption of smartphones would encourage
customers to investigate every purchase and abandon
traditional stores for online deals, said Brian
Kilcourse, managing partner at Retail Systems Research.
prices was a way to reassure customers that they could
shop without losing out on a better price, he said.
Kilcourse and Marcotte said retailers should be wary of
putting so much emphasis on prices.
rock-bottom prices draws customers loyal to low prices,
not a particular store, and matching prices limits a
retailerís ability to control its profit margin,
Marcotte said he doesnít expect retailers to cut back
on price matching, even with third-party services that
could make it easier for customers to ask for more cash
donít think itís become painful enough to react
yet," he said.
and Vakrat said their apps can benefit retailers since
customers are more likely to come back to shops where
they feel they can get the best price.
the apps donít go out of their way to advertise
customers didnít find a better price on their own.
Paribus and Earny request refunds by sending emails from
usersí accounts, sometimes signed with the userís
name. Glyman said Paribus is acting on the customerís
behalf and has found the emails "maximize our
usefulness to the customer." Slice automatically
generates a draft email for each refund claim but asks
the user to hit send.
access to customersí email accounts and purchases has
prompted questions about who gets to see that data, and
representatives of all four apps said they take usersí
privacy and data security seriously. Two privacy experts
who reviewed the appsí privacy policies said some take
a relatively narrow view of what information is personal
and what their policies allow them to share.
founder and CEO Declan McDonald said privacy concerns
are part of the reason Pricerazzi asks for photos of
receipts instead of pulling them from emails. Slice,
Paribus and Earny said they donít analyze or store
said Paribus does not sell usersí data, though its
said Pricerazzi does not sell user data, though he could
see doing it down the line "if it benefits
when apps have the best intentions on privacy and data
security, the more companies that users share sensitive
data with, the greater the risk of getting caught up in
a security breach, said Gautam Hans, policy counsel and
director at the Center for Democracy and Technology in
San Francisco. Claire Gartland, consumer protection
counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center,
found requests for access to shopping accounts like
Amazon particularly concerning since they typically
include full credit card or bank account data not found
on a receipt.
risk of a breach doesnít mean never sharing personal
info ó just weighing the perks against potential
costs, Hans said.
someone comes up with a good product, even if they ask
for a lot of info, it might be so appealing to me that I
want to do it," he said.
thought many shoppers would find requests for access to
their emails "creepy," but Marcotte didnít
think that would stop people from using the services.
at end of the day, talk about valuing privacy, but they
donít generally behave that way," he said.