The importance of tracking prices after you buy

If a company lowers the price of the product you just bought, you may be able to get a credit for the difference. I just scored a huge one.

PricePinx

True story. A couple weeks ago I purchased a Sigmac LE55ABD 55-inch HDTV from Wal-Mart for $899. That being a particularly good deal on a 55-inch TV with 3D, my intention was to write about it -- but the model has been out of stock since I received it, so I've held off.

Of course, I've been checking Wal-Mart's site almost daily because I'm keen to write my review. (Wal-Mart is currently the only store that stocks this model.) Yesterday, I discovered that the LE55ABD was still unavailable -- but the price had dropped to $549. That's a difference of $350.

Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa. I don't know why Wal-Mart massively cut the price of a product that isn't even available, but you can bet I went racing to my local store, receipt in hand. (I'd also printed the Web page, just in case they needed hard-copy proof of the price drop.)

Turns out that because I'd purchased the TV via Walmart.com, I had to "file my claim" on the Web site (even though I'd actually picked up the Sigmac from the store). So I hurried home and contacted customer service about the discrepancy.

My expectations were low. Surely Wal-Mart would claim that because the model was out of stock or discontinued or whatever, no adjustment was applicable. Or, more likely, the $549 price was a mistake (because that would be an off-the-charts good deal).

What happened was this: a couple hours after I submitted the online form, I received a credit for $371 (which factored in sales tax). Wow.

The irony is that if I hadn't been checking Wal-Mart's site, I'd never have discovered the price drop. And that brings us to the moral of our story: whenever you buy a big-ticket item (or, heck, even a medium-ticket item), keep checking the price. If it gets reduced, you might just be able to get some money back.

Indeed, many retail stores offer a price guarantee, meaning if the advertised price of a product drops within a certain period after you've purchased it, they'll credit you the difference. A handful of e-tailers do, too, most notably Buy.com -- but Amazon.com, Newegg, and TigerDirect do not.

Don't fancy the idea of checking a Web site every day for two weeks or longer? You can set up a price-drop alert at a site like PricePinx, which monitors prices and sends you an e-mail notification if and when they change.

In my case, there was a heavy helping of dumb luck. Your mileage will vary, of course, but I'm forever convinced that after-the-fact price checking is essential, especially for bigger items like PCs and TVs.

 

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