This is part of a series on smart shopping. Click to read the companion pieces: 15 Ways To Avoid Holiday Debt, Buyer Beware: 4 Black Friday Pitfalls To Avoid and 6 Holiday Airfare Tips For Last-Minute Shoppers.
These days online retailers are equipped with a litany of schemes to score big with shoppers. But savvy deal hunters can strike back and nab discounts with tricks of their own. Here’s how.
1. Escape the dynamic pricing trap
Dynamic pricing is a strategy online retailers use to offer different prices to different customers based on demand, market factors and each user’s browsing and spending patterns. This technique has become more sophisticated now that websites can track your internet surfing and gain an intimate knowledge of your online behavior. Retailers use this data to determine your price point, which means when you go to purchase a product, you may see a higher price than someone with different spending habits using a different computer.
The best way to avoid getting charged a higher price is to erase your browser’s cookies and log out of your account. You can also try using your browser’s version of a “private” or “incognito” window, so cookies aren’t saved during your search.
2. Leave items in your cart
Log in to your account, place your desired items in the cart and then just let it sit. Retailers want to close the deal, so they’ll find ways to draw you back. In a few days you may get an email with a coupon or an offer for a better price. According to Rather-Be-Shopping.com, you need to have an account with the retailer’s site and be logged in when you leave your cart. It won’t work for every website, but they tested this “coupon trick” and found 17 online stores that offer coupon codes days later to entice you to complete your purchase. That list includes the websites of Bed Bath & Beyond BBBY +0.79%, Dick’s Sporting Goods, JC PenneyJCP -0.43%, Macy’s, Office Max, Williams-Sonoma and more.
3. Search for coupons
If you’re not getting coupon codes from the abandoned-cart strategy, check out popular coupon sites like retailmenot.com, couponcraze.com and couponmom.com.
4. Connect over social media
Follow retailers on Twitter TWTR +0.3%. Friend them on Facebook. Why? Because they often reward their social media followers with exclusive coupons or early access to major sales.
5. Sign up for email alerts
Companies often send coupons to those on their email list. Some of these offers are single-use offers. If you sign up with multiple email addresses, you can rack up multiple unique coupon codes. Also, many stores such as Kohl’s or West Elm offer you a coupon for 10% off just for joining their mailing list.
Don’t just sign up with your favorite stores – do so with their competitors too. That way you can compare deals and ask for price matching.
To keep your inbox organized, set up a filter that sends all promotional emails to a separate folder. The advantages are one, you’ve got all of your coupons in one place allowing you to compare deals between stores and two, you can quickly spot sale trends over time. I’ve done this and have noticed that stores like to send out screaming subject lines about “one-time-only deals,” but when I scroll down in the folder, I see that they’ve announced identical deals every other month. Suddenly, that one-time deal doesn’t feel so urgent anymore.
6. Call customer service – they can sometimes extend expired coupons
Sometimes you don’t need to buy anything when that coupon code lands in your email. But then weeks later, once that coupon has expired, you realize that you’re in need of that expensive gadget and that coupon code would have save you a fortune. Fret not! Companies want you to buy, and if you call their customer service line, they may just honor that coupon code. I’ve tried this multiple times. It’s not sure thing, but about one out of three times this strategy has worked.
7. Compare in-store prices with online prices
Prices in the store and online don’t always match. Now that we’re all armed with smart phones, it’s easy to compare the product in your hand with its online price. And if you’re shopping online, sometimes it’s as easy as a phone call to your local retailer to find out the store price.
8. Compare online prices between retailers
Sites like bizrate.com, mysimon.com and GoogleGOOGL -0.02% Shopping allow you to compare prices between stores with a few taps of your keyboard.
9. Use multiple coupon codes strategically
If an online retailer lets you to use multiple coupon codes at checkout, use the codes in the right order to get the most savings. For example, if you have one coupon code for 20% off your purchase and another for $15 off your purchase, use the 20% off code first. That will apply the 20% discount to the full price of the product earning you a deeper discount.
10. Check to see if you can get price-drop refunds
Say you make a purchase and then notice days later that the price has dropped. Some stores will issue you a refund for the price difference if you contact them within a certain number of days. For items sold and shipped by Amazon, contact the company within seven calendar days of the delivery date and they will refund you the price difference, reports Business Insider. You can monitor Amazon price changes at Camelcamelcamel.com. Certain credit cards also offer price protection. That is, if the price dips within a certain amount of time from your purchase, they’ll refund the difference. Find out if your credit card comes with this perk here.
Deborah Jian Lee is a journalist, radio producer and author of a forthcoming book about progressive evangelicals (Beacon Press). Follow her @deborahjianlee. Visit her website www.deborahjianlee.com