Consumers of products and services might want to have some assurances that the prices they are about to pay are correct and fair. Many people have access to superstores and online marketplaces that advertise and sell countless goods. Generally, these retailers do their best to honestly price their wares, but inaccuracies can occur in the process. As a shopper, you have to sometimes show due diligence in checking for pricing errors. Whether you are a price hawk or a curious consumer, you can use modern information and communication technologies to help you find elusive pricing data.
Check the sales circular. Local retailers have been sending out weekly sales paper for decades, if not longer. They also make the same sales information available online, directly from the store's public website or through third-party advertisers. Shop Local (shoplocal.com) is an advertiser that handles sales for many nationwide chain stores. After bringing up their website and searching for a store or product, the interactive sales information mimics that of turning the pages of a newspaper. Major retailers that use this platform include Lowe's, Best Buy and CVS Pharmacy.
Confirm the suggested price. Manufacturers of products ask the stores that offer their products to sell them at reasonable prices. Also called "Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price" (MSRP), stores aren't required to match the price exactly. However, if they unfairly charge for a product, the manufacturer can choose to no longer allow the store to sell on the company's behalf. The MSRP is usually printed on the packaging or displayed on the manufacturer or retailer's website.
Consult authoritative and unbiased sources for general price ranges. These consumer advocates place heavy focus on the quality of products available for sale. However, they also include price information with their benchmarking and comparison tests. Consumer Reports performs real-world tests on many brand-name products. Their website includes a "Price & Shop" section, which follows information about the rating, reliability, recommendation and advice on buying products.
Visit the websites of retailers, manufacturers and advocacy groups. At home, use your PC. While shopping, bring along your wireless laptop or tablet PC (if you have one and can establish a wireless connection). If you have a cellular phone or smartphone, access the various websites from your handset. Most service providers call this type of internet service that uses cell towers "Mobile Web," but its technical name is "wireless access protocol" (WAP). You can do instantaneous price checks right on your phone.
Leverage text messaging technology. Most cell phone owners use text messaging to chat with other recipients. However, you can access text-based pricing data by simply asking for that information. ChaCha (chacha.com) is a free text answering service that is manned by live people. Called "Guides," they work from a computer, answering queries from customers who send text messages to "242-242." They have full online access and you can ask them to search a specific site for prices or allow them to perform a general search. They send the pricing information back to you as a text message on your cell phone.
Call the store or manufacturer. Also, the Get Human website provides a large database of customer service contact numbers for numerous manufacturers and retail stores.
Be aware of charges for using the internet on a cell phone. Many providers require that subscribers pay for a "Mobile Web" or data plan, in addition to their regular voice calling service. If using the internet without being on the right plan, your company might charge extra and exorbitant fees.
- Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images