I wanted to update a post I wrote before about DrugStore.com and online shopping. I’ve stopped using DrugStore.com for prescription drugs. Too much trouble. I use them for over the counter stuff because it is slightly easier than some local stores and they have a bigger selection. But I’m frustrated with their policies.
For example, they can’t combine shipping of prescription and non prescription purchases (evidently that’s a legal issue, but still they could recognize the total value of a cart and determine pricing based on that). And I certainly don’t like that my shopping cart total went up after I logged in. But this second point is part of a bigger issue – common with online shopping.
Variable pricing is becoming very common and annoying. I just did a DrugStore.com purchase the other day. Once I noticed my prices jump when I logged in, I opened up a few more browser windows for comparison – including one in Incognito mode to avoid cookies. Sure enough, different prices based on various factors. I had some “drugstore.com dollars” to use which required logging-in to my account and that changed prices – I lost some of my discounts. I consider these games/stunts/abuses offensive – I have to work really hard to simply be a loyal customer.
I have similar experiences with VistaPrint.com. Between their coupons and specials, it isn’t odd to have three browsers open with different carts and coupons to figure out the best deal. One time the best price required I split up the purchase into three separate transactions, and pay shipping three times.
Shipping is the big problem. You often can’t tell what the shipping price will be until you check-out. Rather than configure the same cart multiple ways, it is best to create separate windows/carts for comparisons. That usually requires different browsers (IE, Chrome, FireFox) or sometimes Incognito mode on Chrome solves it. My annoyance is the pressure and responsibility falls on the customer.
I just reserved a rental car through Costco’s website (they have good prices for members). It was incredibly frustrating – they have multiple vendors/brands and multiple coupons. On the surface the coupons are difficult to compare – free upgrade, third day free, $40 off, etc. Which is the best? I had to run the query (same dates and details) for each coupon and each vendor. I don’t understand why Costco can’t do that automatically.
Prices should be more transparent – these games we are forced to play are so annoying. The worst industry is airlines. Why does a round trip ticket cost less than a one way? Why does DEN-DAL-CHI cost less than DEN-DAL? (going to Dallas – buy a one way to Chicago).
These games we play are much worse with online shopping. Retail stores always did this to some degree – hot dogs and buns are cheaper than just the dogs with the right coupon. But online stores are taking it to another level. They are trying to determine who, where, when, why using all kinds of clues to determine how much they can get away with. LLBean used to print different prices in catalogs based on zip code – the practice isn’t particularly new – just much worse. Watch out for rewards or rebate bucks because they often increase the price.
Yes, if you are willing to play you can save a lot of money. But if you are unwilling to play, you get a sinking feeling about the money you are wasting and the nature of the vendor/customer relationship.
Dave Michels regularly blogs about business communications at TalkingPointz.com