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Businesses Microsoft The Almighty Buck Your Rights Online

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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  • Hehe (Score:5, Funny)

    by cptdondo (59460) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:40PM (#30210172) Journal

    Deal with MS, get screwed.

    Nothing to see here, move on....

    • After all, they've got to do something to raise the money needed to pay Murdoch to remove his newspapers from Google.

      Otherwise, they'll have to start laying off Microsoft emp ... oh, wait a minute ... incoming chair ... BING!

      (I hat it when that happens)

  • by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:43PM (#30210182)

    The right one is "Will people finding out cost more than lawsuits if it isn't legal". If the answer is yes, don't do it, if no then go on ahead.

  • MS Liability? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Could MS be liable in a class action lawsuit if it explicitly offered or otherwise encouraged this practice? This story could have teeth.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Korbeau (913903)

      Could MS be liable in a class action lawsuit if it explicitly offered or otherwise encouraged this practice? This story could have teeth.

      What makes you think that MS encourages a practice that makes prices LESS appealing using its search engine?

      I'm more inclined to believe the official statement that it was a mistake (i.e. item went on sale at some point but got updated wrong in the Bing index).

      Maybe the shop was truly giving an higher price but that's a totally absurd practice. I would have understood if they had given a price that with the 2% cashback was the same than without (the price appears the same to the costumer and the shop cashe

  • by ZackSchil (560462) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:44PM (#30210192)

    Find out what sites go higher and what sites go lower in quoted prices. Fake a cookie to maximize savings or delete it altogether if it gets you a uniformly higher price.

    That's the behavior I'd expect from /. . None of this Newsweek / Dateline NBC alarmist "They're using COMPUTER MACHINES to scam us!!!" Get on it, people.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      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.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by NoYob (1630681)

      Find out what sites go higher and what sites go lower in quoted prices. Fake a cookie to maximize savings or delete it altogether if it gets you a uniformly higher price.

      That's the behavior I'd expect from /. . None of this Newsweek / Dateline NBC alarmist "They're using COMPUTER MACHINES to scam us!!!" Get on it, people.

      Bing cashback developer goes into boss' office tomorrow:

      You know boss, I've been doing this analysis of our system, and I've figured out a way to game the system.

      Boss: "Good work coder Dude! For that, you won't get axed this month!"

      I would think that MS developers may occasionally read this site.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:48PM (#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.

    • Slimy Bountii (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bigtallmofo (695287) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:59AM (#30212466)
      I'm no user of Bing, but it was pretty obvious reading the article that this guy has an axe to grind against Bing. First he supposedly finds a security flaw that enables you to game the system, uses that security flaw personally and posts for others how to do it on his site and now he's posting about this.

      And to top it off, he's a competitor. Pretty slimy.
    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:06AM (#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]

  • Credit Cards? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:48PM (#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.

    • Sounds like the hidden credit card tax. Everything you buy is a few cents extra to cover credit card costs.

      A few cents?!? If only... card processing fees are several percent of the transaction, so for a $100 item, try several dollars extra.

      Laws/card processor contracts prevent merchants from adding a surcharge if you pay with credit card, but they do allow giving you a discount if you pay with cash. Anytime you're making a large purchase, bring this up with the cashier, asking for a manager if necessary.

      • by iamacat (583406)

        Laws/card processor contracts prevent merchants from adding a surcharge if you pay with credit card

        There are no such laws, besides ones that require accepting local currency as legal tender. Contracts are another story.

        Anytime you're making a large purchase, bring this up with the cashier, asking for a manager if necessary. If their card processing fee is X%, ask to have an (X-1)% discount for using cash.

        If it is really a large purchase, both of you should feel safer with a credit card transaction. You know, them not having to worry about the guy behind you in line knowing that they now have $2K in the register. You being able to dispute the charge if the item is not as advertised.

        • Re:Credit Cards? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by noidentity (188756) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @04:33AM (#30211236)
          Sorry, but you're wrong, at least for Texas [state.tx.us] (I've seen mention of similar laws for other states, but only verified them for Texas). Also, look how the government conveniently excludes itself from this restriction. I also thought that there was no way surcharges could be illegal, that surely it was just in the contract between the merchant and the card processor, but I shouldn't be surprised at the reach of government these days.
    • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @04:06AM (#30211128) Homepage Journal

      Not to mention the hidden "parking lot" tax. Just as it costs retailers money to take credit cards, it costs them money to have parking space. They fraudulently present this as "free parking" when in fact the cost is hidden in the price of the goods.

      Then, drivers think they're getting "free" parking when they aren't, and non-drivers such as myself who have never once used a parking space are 'gypped' untold amounts of money.

      And don't even get me started on those leeches who use the so called "free" shopping carts...

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

    by gapagos (1264716) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:51PM (#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 MushMouth (5650) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:41AM (#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 SKPhoton (683703)
      I believe it was the other way around. Amazon would slowly lower the price on items they saw you monitoring over time, hoping to entice you to finally buy it. One guy was complaining because he lost his cookies and thus his discount on the product he was wanting.
  • by Edgewize (262271) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:51PM (#30210220)

    This has nothing to do with Microsoft. From the article: Butterfly Photo set a three month cookie on my computer to indicate that I came from Bing.

    So, a disreputable web site is setting a cookie when you click on a sales link. How is this Microsoft's fault again? What does this have to do with Bing?

    A/V and photography stores are notorious for ripping off customers, both in-store and on-line. Surprise surprise, you can find these disreputable sites using search engines. Trying to blame this on Bing is like trying to blame your phone book for recommending a sketchy car mechanic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      So, a disreputable web site is setting a cookie when you click on a sales link. How is this Microsoft's fault again?

      Well, Microsoft might have tried a little harder to secure their system.

      How? What do you think this is, constructive criticism!?

  • by rcolbert (1631881) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:51PM (#30210222)
    ...are the notorious 'employee discount codes' that vendors such as Dell and other have employed. A few years back I was looking to buy a new LCD and had a Dell in mind when I remembered my company had a discount code. So I dug it up, and used the instructions provided to logon to the 'discount' site (the mechanics of doing so may be different today.) To my surprise, I found that the 'discounted' price of the monitor was several hundred dollars more than just the plain ol' Dell site. WTF? How do you advertise a code and process as a discount, and then the merchandise therein is actually priced higher than your regular price from your main site? I'm glad I double checked before hitting the purchase button.
    • by jesseck (942036) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:08AM (#30210292)
      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 check prices (Score:3, Informative)

        by 1s44c (552956)

        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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mspohr (589790)
        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 gordguide (307383) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:53PM (#30210230)

    No surprise ... price variations based on cookies ... is old news. I remember reading about how cookies resident on the user's machine can cause different quoted prices to appear years ago ... probably five years ago at least. I was able to test it at the time using two browsers with different cookie loads. It's definitely happening. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure it was a /. story years ago that first mentioned it.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Next up:

      When you go to Dell and click through as a home user vs a small business, the prices are different for the same machine!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by armyofone (594988)

        "When you go to Dell and click through as a home user vs a small business, the prices are different for the same machine!"

        Yeah, and my residential phone line costs $25.00/month while my business line costs $120.00/month. There is no discernible difference in service level between the two.

        WTF Verizon?

    • by mike2R (721965)

      No surprise ... price variations based on cookies ... is old news. I remember reading about how cookies resident on the user's machine can cause different quoted prices to appear years ago ... probably five years ago at least. I was able to test it at the time using two browsers with different cookie loads. It's definitely happening. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure it was a /. story years ago that first mentioned it.

      A/B split testing is very common practice in ecommerce, for everything from site design

  • soo... (Score:5, Funny)

    by mnemonic_ (164550) <<ude.hcimu> <ta> <cemaj>> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:03AM (#30210270) Homepage Journal

    Did anyone else notice the story submitter's alias links to a sex toy shopping site?

  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:05AM (#30210280) Journal

    My top suggestions are:

    Badda-BING

    and

    Kerr-Ching

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:12AM (#30210310)

    I just had occasion to visit a Microsoft developer's website earlier today. Very rare event, believe me.

    After browsing, I always clear out my cookies.

    I went nowhere near the Bing "decision engine." But lo and behold, there was a cookie for "bing.com" in my cookie cache before I cleared it.

    So, is Microsoft inflating Bing's numbers? Visit any Microsoft site, and you get a Bing cookie counted as a search on Bing? What gives?

    • by Mia'cova (691309) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:38AM (#30210424)

      MSDN's search is powered by bing. So... no surprise?

    • by linumax (910946)

      So, is Microsoft inflating Bing's numbers? [We report, You Decide]

      I wonder how you reached that conclusion. The ranking websites which announce results periodically, do not use cookies AFAIK.

      I went nowhere near the Bing "decision engine." But lo and behold, there was a cookie for "bing.com" in my cookie cache before I cleared it.

      Could it be Microsoft uses Bing embedded as frame or whatever inside Microsoft owned websites for search functions?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DrXym (126579)
      MS could easily insert a tracking cookie by using a hidden iframe. It may even be that the iframe is original on the msdn host site but actually redirects you to the bing domain. Some browsers offer an option to disable 3rd party cookies if it worries you, or you can use an extension or proxy to explicitly block cookies you don't like. Banner ads are able to infest a machine with cookies through similar means.

      In the case of bing, I really don't see a big deal about it at the moment. Bing cookies are benig

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:35AM (#30210408)
    You know, where a retailer jacks up the price a bit and then claims that he's taking off say 10% because he likes you or some nonsense. The last time I had that happen was fairly recently with a cell phone carrier. (Which shall remain nameless.) This sounds like the same deal. I went on their web site and looked up how much a battery for my phone was and it listed a price. When I went to the local store they at first quoted a higher price and then said how they were giving me some money off. Surprise surprise it turned out to be the amount quoted on the web page.
    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      I'm pretty sure this will remain SOP as long as people are dazzled by "SALE!!! Umpteen percent off!!1!"
      That is, forever.

    • Why would you leave out names of companies who pulls this kind of shit?

      It might be a bad apple but give potential buyers an idea what to look out for should they be in the market for similar products.

  • sounds like a retailer screw up
  • Much as MS can't be trusted this isn't a new trick.

    You don't seriously think that the shoes reduced from $300 to $100 this week only were ever really selling at $300 do you?

    The answer is easy, never deal with retailers who will try to deceive you. Sadly that doesn't leave you with too much choice.

  • My wife was buying some bags the other day. If you visited the site cookie-less, it offered 20% off the list price and free shipping. But if you came in through an affiliate site, the offer disappeared in a puff of smoke, often replaced by a lesser offer. We discovered this when the price of the shopping cart suddenly leapt from $120 to $163 after she returned to the site from another link. In the end I had to zap all the cookies on the site and create a new cart to get back to the original price.

    Point be

  • by selven (1556643) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @05:39AM (#30211424)
    It's funny how if it wasn't taken down I probably wouldn't even have read it, but since it was I actively sought it out, wasting an entire 5 minutes of my valuable time, and then read it over and posted it to some other places since it's a good article and I wouldn't want to see it disappear off the internet. Will they even learn?

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