Teresa McUsic

How to get a refund when the price drops after purchase

Wal-Mart’s Savings Catcher program rolled out nationwide in August after saving customers $2 million in some test markets.
Wal-Mart’s Savings Catcher program rolled out nationwide in August after saving customers $2 million in some test markets. Bloomberg News

My daughter recently saved me $40 on an old-fashioned purchasing technique that I think many of us have forgotten about — price adjustment.

Before she heads off to school in Boston next week, she bought a $200 pair of boots from L.L. Bean. After that, a friend told her the retailer was having a storewide 20-percent-off sale.

So she called and told the store about her purchase, someone looked it up, and, voila, $40 went back on my credit card.

Sweet.

In the old days, our mothers would scour grocery ads or retail fliers to check whether prices on recent purchases had dropped. My husband winces when he recalls standing in the customer service line as a boy while his mother saved $1.20 on the previous week’s groceries.

While the concept is old, we have new tools to help us.

A quick online search for price adjustment policies shows that most retailers still offer the service, though not all. So the first step is to search online for your retailer’s policy (or call or ask in person). Most allow price adjustments within seven to 30 days. Clearance, seasonal, holiday purchases or those that used a coupon are generally excluded. Some will even match lower prices at other retailers that occurred after the sale.

A few phone apps, websites and even a credit card will seek this information for you.

Almost three years ago, Citibank launched a service for its credit card holders called Citi Price Rewind, which offers a free search of hundreds of online merchants for up to 60 days of registered purchases.

If it finds a better price, cardholders receive an email stating that they can request a refund. They then submit a claim at the Citi website, CitiPriceRewind.com, or by fax or mail, and Citi will reimburse them up to $300 per item and $1,200 per year.

According to Citi’s website, in the first six months of 2015, it has refunded $1.6 million on almost 47,000 purchases. The average refund was $37.50.

Wal-Mart announced in September that its Savings Catcher program had saved customers $2 million after it launched in some test markets and then rolled out nationwide in August 2014, according to a representative.

The retailer has not disclosed further savings amounts. But in February, it limited the program by excluding produce, bakery items, and meat and seafood. It will also no longer compete against drugstores.

The program still applies to other groceries, cleaning supplies, health and beauty aids, and over-the-counter medications. Wal-Mart requires consumers to submit receipts online or with the iPhone or Android app.

Savings Catcher then compares the prices of eligible items with the prices found in print and online versions of the current weekly ads of top retailers in your area.

Any savings are applied to a Wal-Mart Rewards eGift Card or a Bluebird by American Express Card, which can be used in the store or at Walmart.com.

Finally, a free Web service called Slice will find electronic receipts in your inbox, pull out information from emails on online purchases, then track the item through the retailer’s price adjustment period and let you know if the price drops.

Slice doesn’t disclose its customer base, but it said in August that it saved people an average of $32.30 on each price-drop notification and that it averaged 165 notifications a day.

“We watch prices as long as the retailer will guarantee the price adjustment … to ensure our customers’ success,” spokeswoman Jaimee Minney said.

Once a price drop is found, Slice will even provide a form for the customer to send to the retailer, she said.

“We pre-populate a form including all of the necessary information (including the receipt) and request a refund,” Minney said. “All the customer has to do is push send, and voila! Free money!”

Slice will work in Outlook, Yahoo, AOL, Gmail and other email sites. Its free app is available for both iPhone and Android.

So don’t have buyer’s remorse the next time you see that a price dropped after you purchased. Take action and get some money back.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears on Saturday. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net

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