Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Don't Leave Money On The Table: Paribus

Many stores, both traditional and online, offer a buyer protection program where, if the price of an item you purchased goes down within a certain amount of time, they will refund you the difference between the price you paid and the new lower price.  It's cheap marketing for the stores because few people, if any, will ever take them up on the offer. Unless you are spending a large amount of money, most the time, you shop around for a bit, make your purchase, and then stop price comparing.

Online retailers have much more flexibility in changing their prices than traditional stores do. They can alter their prices second by second, based on your past shopping habits, your geographical location (as determined by your IP address), or hundreds of other items. Retailers call this dynamic pricing and it makes it difficult to know when you are getting the absolute best price.

I am a fan of the CamelCamelCamel browser plugin. This plugin will show you the pricing history of an item and you can set up alerts to be notified when a price hits a certain point. Because it's a browser plugin, it can show you the price history without ever leaving the website you are on:

This can help you decide if you should buy something now, or wait until the price drops, based on past history. In all honesty, I only use this when shopping for items costing maybe $100 or more. Otherwise, I tend to just buy whatever I need at whatever price it's at. I don't want to spend time tracking prices for low cost items.

Enter Paribus.

Paribus will track my purchases for me and notify me if the price of something drops after I have purchased it. More importantly, and this is the good bit, Paribus will automatically submit a refund request to the website so that I get the lower price. No action needed on my part! While Amazon's computers juggle their prices, Paribus' computers monitor them and make sure I get the lowest price.

Right now, Paribus works with about 20 of the largest internet retailers, including Amazon, Newegg, Walmart, and Target. See their full list here.

How does Paribus work?

In order for Paribus to work, it needs to know what you bought and for how much. To do this, it scans your email for receipts from retailers, so you'll need to grant it access to the accounts your receipts are sent to. In the case of Amazon, because their receipts do not contain pricing data, you'll need to grant it access to your Amazon account itself. If you are concerned about security, check out their security FAQs here.

In return for finding you money, you agree to pay Paribus 25% of your refund. If they don't get you a lower price, it doesn't cost anything.

Does It Work?

It sounds great, but does it work? I do a large amount of shopping at Amazon, so I figured I'd give Paribus a try. I signed up last week, which was as easy as a couple mouse clicks, and that was it. 5 days later, my wife bought a pair of shoes on Amazon. The next day, I got an email from Paribus saying they found a $23 price drop and submitted a claim. A few hours later, I got a response from Amazon saying they credited me the difference.

That easy. That fast. My wife bought the shoes at $44. We got a $25 refund (the price drop plus sales tax refund). Taking into account Paribus' fee, we saved $18.75 - about 43% - with zero effort!

The Amazon refund was in the form of an Amazon gift card credit, not a credit card credit, but I buy from Amazon all the time, so that's fine. Paribus will charge their fee to my credit card, not take it out of my refund, but that's fine too. I have to say, it's been 10 days since I signed up and I'm pretty impressed!

If you are interested, leave a comment here with your email address and I'll send you a referral code that gives you a 5% discount on any Pairbus charges you get from now until December. (Their terms of service prevent me from posting the code here.) If you don't want your comment / email address published on the blog, say so in the comment and I won't publish it.

(UPDATE: 5-23-16) Amazon has changed their price matching policy. From now on, they will only price match televisions. Given this, I have cancelled my Paribus account, as Amazon was the only retailer I used it with. I wonder if the popularity of sites like Paribus and Earny, which tracked Amazon prices for users, was a contributing factor to this change. Needless to say, I no longer have referral codes to give out.


  1. Good informative post. Thank you for sharing. I like to do my browsing for shopping on one PC with one id, and then do my actual purchases from another PC with a different id (usually an email address). I think this prevents stores from setting their prices higher due to my interest in the product and browsing history.

    1. That's a good way to fight it. Probably too much trouble for most or for those that only have 1 computer. I settle for just having my browser delete all cookies when I exit and never signing in anywhere until I'm ready to purchase.