We had an interesting situation pop up last week that I thought I would share in relations to Amazon’s price change policy. In 2008, Amazon stopped issuing adjustments if the price of an item went down after you had purchased it. From Consumerist:
Only orders placed before September 1, 2008 are eligible for a price difference refund under the Post-Order Price Guarantee policy. As of September 1, 2008 we are no longer offering discounts if prices change on our website after you make a purchase.
It’s been quite a few years, but I do recall requesting a refund and getting one if the price went down within a few days of placing an order.
When they changed the policy, I sort of understood why. Amazon changes prices all the time based on demand for an item, as well as supply that they have available, and I would imagine that competitor pricing is also taken into account. As technology has advanced, all of these variables can be tracked and likely adjusted by computers. Responding to price adjustment requests requires a human to review and issue the refund, which sort of defeats the purpose of maximizing their use of technology, which is one reason Amazon has been able to grow to the levels that they have.
Plus, I look at it this way. Customers only went to Amazon if the price went down. What if the price went up? Did Amazon send people knocking on doors to try to collect the difference? Of course not!
So, if that policy is five years plus, why am I writing about it?
Simple. Because we were able to get an adjustment.
Well, sort of.
My wife has a DSLR camera that I got her for Christmas last year. She’s gotten really good at using it, but along with getting better, she knows the limitations of the lens that came as part of the kit. She did some research and narrowed it down between two lenses. The price of the one she didn’t get doesn’t matter, since she didn’t get it, so I’ll stick to the one that she did get.
While she was doing her research the price was $101. After figuring out which one she wanted to get, she went to place the order, and it had gone up to $110.
I use a Firefox plugin called Camelizer that shows you the price history of an item. From the looks of it, the ‘standard’ price was $110, as it was probably at that level for 60-70% of the time over the last 12 months. It was as low as $95 and as high as $125.
We figured that even though she missed out on the better price, that she was paying the standard price was OK. So, she went ahead and placed the order.
After a couple of days, she went on and the price was back to $101.
We laughed and shook our heads and sad, well what can you do? After all they no longer adjusted prices. In most cases, the story ends there.
But, in our case, we were lucky enough that it didn’t.
Why? Simple. Because the product hadn’t shipped yet.
I went to our ‘Orders’ page and had the option to cancel the order. So, this meant that we could cancel the existing order and place another order at the lower price. When we clicked ‘Cancel’, it did pop up a note saying that they could ‘attempt’ to cancel the order, but if it was far enough along in the picking and shipping process, it may not be possible.
I did a quick Google search and the advice was that if you got this message, you could do an online chat with a Customer Service Rep and confirm that they could do the cancellation.
So, I opened up a window, and started chatting with someone right away. I didn’t frame it that I wanted to cancel the order, but instead said something along the lines of “The price on order xyz-abcd went down by $9. Could you assist me in either canceling the order since it hasn’t shipped yet, so that I can place an order, or providing me a credit?”
The rep took a look. Having read between the lines that one way or another we wanted to get this at the current $101 price, they did not move forward with canceling the order. But, they didn’t give us a ‘refund’.
Instead, they issued a $9 promo code to us for use on another order.
Which is totally fine by me. After all, we do a lot of holiday shopping at Amazon, so while it wasn’t a direct refund on this order, it all comes out in the end, and it will probably be used within a few days now that the holidays are ramping up.
I was thrilled with Amazon’s response on this one, but I also realized that it pays off to look at the entire set of circumstances. Had the order already shipped, my guess is they would have said no. But, because it hadn’t, because we looked at the price, and because we looked at our order status, we were able to wiggle through the cracks of their policy.
Readers, do you remember the good old days of Amazon’s price adjustment policy?