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Bing Cashback Can Cost You Money 333

Posted by timothy
from the wotta-boggin dept.
paltemalte writes "Microsoft and various retailers have teamed up to bring you cashback on purchases made via Bing's price comparison feature. There is a little snag, though — it seems that when you have a Bing cookie living in your browser, some retailers will quote you a higher price than if you come with no Bing cookie in your system."
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Bing Cashback Can Cost You Money

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:48AM (#30210206)

    I read the article; the author works for Bountii which also directs users to places to shop for things. What the article describes is one retailer specifically inflating prices of things when a user comes from Bing. That same retailer could just as easily do the same for links from the author's own site, Bountii. They even go as far to state "At Bountii, we do our best to make sure we always show the lowest available price at a store." It just seems a bit disingenuous to me I guess.

    So 'ButterflyPhoto.com' is slime; thanks, got it.

  • Credit Cards? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:48AM (#30210210)

    Sounds like the hidden credit card tax. Everything you buy is a few cents extra to cover credit card costs. Then you get "rewards" for using your card. Meanwhile everyone else gets 'gypped' 2 cents. Yes, it is different, but still similar.

  • Reminds me of Amazon (Score:5, Informative)

    by gapagos (1264716) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:51AM (#30210218)

    I remember a long time ago about a story where Amazon charged more to its returning customers than new ones through a cookie like that.
    Anyone has remembers this as well?

  • by Mechanized Elf (682620) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:52AM (#30210228)
    Taking the time to "game the system" is also a cost. What I expect from /. is astute agitation and bad PR for large players who try to game us.
  • Doesn't work for me (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:54AM (#30210238)

    Bing shows higher price for butterflyphoto.com on their site, but when bing redirects, butterflyphoto is showing the lower price.

  • by Valdrax (32670) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:06AM (#30210288)

    You went to all that trouble to transcribe the PDF without reading the summaries noting that it had to do something else entirely? The takedown letter was for explaining a mechanism to post fake transactions to Bing Cashback [db.org], which could reasonably be described as telling people how to exploit Bing for money.

    This is completely separate from telling people that merchants charge Bing customers more.

  • by Edgewize (262271) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:10AM (#30210298)

    They aren't even suppressing this article! They suppressed a previous article where he meticulously detailed a flaw in the cashback system without giving MS a chance to fix it.

    This whole thing is ridiculous and nothing but anti-Microsoft / anti-Bing bashing.

  • by EsJay (879629) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:33AM (#30210398)
    why would Amazon need to rely on a browser's cookie to identify returning customers? In order to display the custom pricing (or whatever else they want) before you log on.
  • by Raistlin77 (754120) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:34AM (#30210402)

    I never heard of that. Besides, why would Amazon need to rely on a browser's cookie to identify returning customers when Amazon requires customers to have an account with them and be logged in before purchases are made?

    Because if simply logging in or out changed the prices, you'd know right away something was amiss. If it was cookie-driven, then it would not rely on you having to login and Amazon could always show you the inflated price regardless of your login status.

  • by MushMouth (5650) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:41AM (#30210440) Homepage

    That wasn't exactly it, Amazon was testing different price points for items and set a cookie to make sure once your price point was set it remained. However some people noticed if they cleared their cookies they would get a lower price sometimes. The people who got a higher price didn't really have much to say about it. In the end everyone got charged the lowest price even if they thought they were paying the higher price.

  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:51AM (#30210472) Homepage Journal
    Valdrax' criticism of my post was technically correct, no matter how many people dislike Microsoft. He did a google search or was privvy to the information while I just followed the links of the article and didn't bother to find the fourth google entry for "fake transactions to bing cashback".

    It shouldn't cause people to disagree with the part of my post that compared Microsoft to Best Buy with respect to price-fixing given the discovery outlined in TFA.
  • Always check prices (Score:3, Informative)

    by 1s44c (552956) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @04:11AM (#30210964)

    I worked for a national healthcare system which offered a Dell employee purchase program. My wife wanted a pink laptop, and I quickly found out I could get a better deal on a regular "sale" from Dell than the "12% employee purchase program discount" could ever give me. They're scams, which attempt to con people into thinking they are getting a deal.

    Always compare prices. All sales and discount schemes are meant to deceive you.

  • Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @05:21AM (#30211178) Journal

    After the search is where it gets better. The results pages on Bing are way better, and have even caused a stir at Google.

    In what way does it get better? I tried Bing a few times, and its results on many test queries were roughly equal to Google's. On some queries, Google was definitely better than Bing. In no case was Bing better than Google. I just compared Bing & Google again with two simple searches to see if there was any substance to your claim, and there was not. Google still has the edge.

    The first search was: tilt-integral-derivative. The two engines gave quite similar results for such a clear unambiguous and uncommon term. This implies they are spidering with similar coverage.

    The second search was: colonel shakespeare -william. Google's results were clearly more relevant. This implies that Bing's ranking algorithm is still not as good as Google's. Try it with other searches where the search terms are quite common and one occurs overwhelmingly in an unwanted context. Bing borks them.

  • by selven (1556643) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:34AM (#30211388)
    And here's the offending message (it doesn't even reveal much):

    I’ve never bought anything using Bing Cashback, but the balance of my account is $2080.06. Apparently, I placed two $1 orders on January 24th of this year, and spent another $104,000 on October 24th. Let’s see how these transactions might have “accidentally” got credited to my account.

    First, we need to try to figure out how transactions get into Bing Cashback. Microsoft posted some documentation here. The explanation of how a merchant reports transactions to Bing starts on page 20. Merchants have a few options for reporting, but Bing suggests using a tracking pixel. Basically, the merchant adds a tracking pixel to their order confirmation page, which will report the the transaction details back to Bing. The request for the tracking pixel looks something like this:
    https://ssl.search.live.com/cashback/pixel/index?
    jftid=0&jfoid=<orderid>&jfmid=<merchantid>

    &m[0]=<itemid>&p[0]=<price>&q[0]=<quantity>
    This implementation, while easy for the merchant, has an obvious flaw. Anyone can simulate the tracking pixel requests, and post fake transactions to Bing. I&rsquo;m not going to explain exactly how to generate the fake requests so that they actually post, but it&rsquo;s not complicated. Bing doesn&rsquo;t seem to be able to detect these fake transactions, at least not right away. The six cents I earned in January have &ldquo;cleared,&rdquo; and I&rsquo;m guessing the remaining $2080 will clear on schedule, unless there is some manual intervention.
    Even if Bing detects these fake transactions at some point in the future, the current implementation might have another interesting side effect. I haven&rsquo;t done enough work to say it with confidence, but a malicious user might be able to block another user&rsquo;s legitimate purchases from being reported correctly by Bing (I only tried this once, but it seemed to work). Posting a transaction to Bing requires sending them an order ID in the request. Bing performs a reasonable sanity check on the order ID, and will not post a transaction that repeats a previously reported order ID. When a store uses predictable order ID&rsquo;s (e.g. sequential), a malicious user can &ldquo;use up&rdquo; all the future order ID&rsquo;s, and cause legitimate transactions to be ignored. Reporting would be effectively down for days, causing a customer service nightmare for both Bing and the merchant.
    Based on what I&rsquo;ve found, I wouldn&rsquo;t implement Bing Cashback if I were a merchant. And, as an end user and bargain hunter, it does not seem smart to rely on Bing Cashback for savings. In our next blog post, I&rsquo;ll demonstrate some other subtle but important reasons to avoid using Bing Cashback.
  • Re:It is? (Score:2, Informative)

    by roguetrick (1147853) <kazer@brIIIigands.org minus threevowels> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:41AM (#30211446) Homepage Journal

    Just because someone said Slashdot should have more pizza analogies doesn't mean you should've went and made a new account for that exclusive purpose.

  • by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:57AM (#30212050) Homepage

    After the search is where it gets better.

    Not really. After re-branding Live Search as "Bing", to leave the baggage associated with the old name, they also struck a deal so that Bing is a front-end for Wolfram Alpha [techcrunch.com] plus whatever Live Search might have had. So to get those results unmodified, you don't have to go through M$ filter, you can go straight to Wolfram Alpha [wolframalpha.com] skipping the middle man. Not difficult.

    There are even meta-search engines that can cross-search both Google and Wolfram Alpha for you. For Firefox there is the Goofram [mozilla.org] add-on which lets you search both at the same time. If you're on Opera, Safari or Chromium, there are also search customization options there, too.

  • Re:It is? (Score:4, Informative)

    by CGordy (1472075) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:36AM (#30212306)
    Easy.

    Set your UA to googlebot. Unless the site author has done something really tricky, you see the full page.
  • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:06AM (#30212530) Homepage Journal

    Not surprised, camera shops are one of those things that are commonly operated by scammers. Camera scammers tend to give you a low price for the camera, but try to make you pay extra for the battery that was already included. Sometimes they sell units with no domestic warranty (gray market), and sometimes they won't sell you the camera unless you buy extra warranties or extra accessories. If you refuse to buy the things, they might just not sell it to you. Or just take your money and run.

    Check this shop's ratings at resellerratings.com: http://www.resellerratings.com/store/ButterFly_Photo [resellerratings.com]

  • by mspohr (589790) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:34AM (#30212826)
    I had the same problem a few years ago when my daughter started college. Dell had a special discount for UCSD students. It wasn't hard to figure out that the 'special' price after their 'discount' was more than the regular prices... waste of time scam.
  • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:30AM (#30213412)

    Yes yes... An operating system that can run on 95% of the available hardware, is a weak and poorly implemented technology... Linux can't run on as much hardware as windows can, nor can OS X. Ever since XP the crashes I have seen was from Bad Drivers... Just as all the crashes from Linux come from Bad Drivers. Windows Technology is actually rather sound and it works very well... It is the fact they try to keep backwards compatibility and have poor security system in terms it feels you need to have administrator access to do anything and the idea if it is a security risk then just alert the person they will know the right thing to do... However I would expect if Microsoft was willing to toss away its old legacy support it would be a rather solid OS that would make Linux and OS X look rather flimsy.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:50AM (#30213634)

    The two are not mutually exclusive.
    Its common for companies not to bother to fix problems that just happen to work out in their favor.
    Sprint's cell phone division was well known for not giving a crap about their atrocious billing system because frequently the errors were in their favor and the only way for a customer to get them corrected was to go through voice-mail hell.

  • Re:It is? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ceiynt (993620) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:25AM (#30214072)
    Same here. I tried Bing after it came out. I did a comparison of searches for things that are relevant for me, it seemed that both engines returned the same top 20 results. Bing search result pages had more flash and annoying ad types, thus making me stay with Google. In no way was my comparison scientific, but I don't care. It was relevant to me.
    I do understand that it may have changed a lot in the past few months, but when your first step is in shit, it's hard to take another step.
  • Re:It is? (Score:4, Informative)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:21PM (#30214954) Homepage

    When I tried bing, it not only didn't give me relevant results, but it stuck me with ads as the first several links - without disclosing the fact that they were ads. It tricked me, and I clicked on one. That is reprehensible behavior, and not the kind of thing I'd expect from a large multinational corporation. I equate that kind of behavior with shady porn sites and the like.

    I might add, Google isn't half as good as it was years ago - tech info has become increasingly difficult to find, and any qualifiers (+, -, quotation marks) don't seem to work as well at finding the results as they used to, either. I'd love to use their old search algorithms; that's what made them popular in the first place. They were, in all likelihood, search routines for geeks, by geeks. Only in recent years have they become more "user centric", making geeky things less relevant.

  • Re:It is? (Score:2, Informative)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:53PM (#30215436)

    when your first step is in shit, it's hard to take another step.

    So you stand there in an open gait doing what exactly? Letting your boot stew in the feces?

    Seems to me like it's pretty easy to take another step - back out of the shit.

"There are things that are so serious that you can only joke about them" - Heisenberg

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