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Dynamic pricing and how it can save you money

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Have you ever bought something online and then saw the price drop?

The airlines and hotels have been doing it for decades. It's called dynamic pricing, meaning the price you pay can change based on certain circumstances. Now they're merging into tangible products as well.

Amazon.com is one of the biggest players in the dynamic pricing world. Consumer Reports found the price of a microwave changed nine times in one day.

"There are some disadvantages, potentially where consumers are concerned, if they perceive this pricing model to be unfair," said Dr. David Urban, Executive Associate Dean of the School of Business at VCU.

For a month, we watched a few products to see how and when the prices changed. A Staples printer was $399 - one week later, a $30 coupon code dropped it to $369. Within days, the price jumped back up to $399.

Patience rewarded the consumers who waited. The price fell to $269 in a matter of 3 weeks.

A Dell computer started at $749, dropped by $50 in two weeks, another $50 the next week, and then another $100 the following week. Waiting 3 weeks was worth $200 in savings.

"We're gathering information about consumers all the time," said Dr. Urban.

Retailers are now watching you and the competition using computer software. Companies can track where you are, what you've bought and how much you spent - and may even change your offer, based on your shopping history.

"You log into a website, you're identified as a particular class of consumer and all of sudden, something's on sale for you that might not be for someone else," said Dr. Urban.

So how do you beat it? Use price tracking sites like hukkster.com for real time comparisons. For a small fee, price-prediction sites like decide.com can tell you whether a product price will move or stay flat.

Delete your computer's cookies. They hold your shopping history and can have a direct effect on the price you are offered.

If you see a better price, ask the retailer, online or in store, if they'll match it. Many will, to build loyalty, and the worst they can say is no.

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