Would you believe that a cookie, a single cookie, could make your Christmas shopping cost more?

That's right, and this cookie, well it doesn't win an award for taste, it isn't ginormous and it doesn't even have gold speckles in it. It's just a small file on your computer that tracks where you have been. At least one retailer is making use of a cookie from the Bing cashback program to charge you more!

John Puskarich, co-founder of deal comparison site Bountii, shared the new negative cashback feature on the company blog highlighting one example of how using Bing's cashback service could cost you more.


In his example Butterfly Photo was showing a higher price to individuals who arrived from Bing than it was for shoppers who arrived by typing in the store name. Even when he didn't visit by clicking on Bing.com the price Butterfly Photo was trying to charge him wasalmost $50 more after cashback because he had previously visited Bing.

Variable pricing, the practice of charging different customers a different price for the same item, isn't a new practice. It has long been a standard practice for items like airline tickets and other items but charging a higher price based on what Web sites you have visited strikes many shoppers as absurd.

When Amazon first tried the practice nearly a decade ago, showing loyal customers higher DVD prices than new customers, it was met with anger from shoppers and many shoppers still feel the same way today.

SavingAdvice.com has a detailed explanation of how this works and explains several ways to avoid being charged more based on the Web sites you visit including clearing your cookies or using another browser like Firefox or Chrome.

At this point Butterfly Photo has stopped showing the higher price to visitors coming in from Bing.com but the Bing search results still list the higher price. Judging from the response we received from Microsoft, it looks like Butterfly Photo was making pricing decisions rather than Bing. But this serves as a good reminder to use at least two comparison Web sites before making a large purchase even with up to 35% cashback.

A Microsoft spokesperson e-mailed the following statement, "With more than 1,000 retailers and 17 million product offers, the Bing cashback program aims to ensure Bing customers get the best available deal on the Web. Within the cashback program, each retailer sets the allocation of products and pricing of those products, which are delivered to Microsoft through a realtime data feed. We have tools that will catch discrepancies, and in this particular case, there was an error in the information delivered to us. When we notice an inconsistency or one is reported to Microsoft, we work with the merchant to correct the issue immediately. Overall, this case is an isolated instance within the larger Bing cashback and we are working with Butterfly Photo to resolve this specific issue as soon as possible."

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