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Thursday, June 02, 2005

The gullible online shopper

The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the U of Pennsylvania's report Open to Exploitation, written Joseph Turow, Lauren Feldman, and Kim Meltzer, consists of a survey and results of adult consumers on their internet usage. The Policy Center’s web site says that,

” Sixty-four percent of American adults do not know that it is legal for online stores to charge different people different prices at the same time of day for the same product.”
Appalling. More commonly, we see differential pricing at online vs. land-locked stores. As consumers we often assume the on-line prices are lower, and I have definitely taken advantage of it: last fall I was ordering a couple of hundred dollars of china online from Ross-Simons. I also had a print sale catalogue from them. Good thing I looked them up on the internet, because the on-line sale price was significantly lower than the current print catalogue.

I lucked out but a little research may surprise you, often it’s the other way around. Online stores know you're shopping them for convenience and have no need to give you special deals. Or they promote savings that in fact, are normal retail prices. Money Weekly reported during the last winter holiday buying season,

"We expected to find the cheapest prices online, and in most cases they were. What we didn't expect, was that – 11 times out of 12 - the most expensive prices were found online as well."

So, shop around and shop around again. If you are really looking for significant savings or the lowest price, check out the same site at different times, just as you might do for air fares. Plus, figuring in postal charges, fed ex surcharges, or UPS gasoline charges, it can sometimes save you money just to take the extra time to drive to the damn store and buy it yourself, if possible.

Oops, here's the link to the actual web site and report. It's a pretty interesting read.
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