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Surge pricing: how your buying habits online could be costing you more

Anyone who has ever used Uber on a Saturday night will be familiar with surge pricing. What you might not know is that this sort of pricing isn't just applied to your taxi, but a ton of your online purchases; and it could be costing you more.

Wait, what is surge pricing?
The idea behind surge pricing is to essentially squeeze you for every penny you're prepared to pay. If demand is high, the service costs more. This encourages people to wait for a lower price, which keeps demand down, or pay the higher price, which increases revenue.

Dynamic pricing uses the same sort of logic, and will be familiar to anyone who's ever attempted to purchase a flight online. If you keep checking on the flight, you're probably going to notice the price start to creep up, which will encourage you to book sooner rather than later.

Price discrimination is a little more transparent, and encompasses everything from student discount to lower prices for a bulk order. However, it can also involve charging a consumer more if they live in an affluent area, or if you've just purchased big ticket items on their site.

Here's a few tips to make sure you're paying the cheapest price, not what the website thinks you can afford.

Change your location
If you want to check if you can get a cheaper deal from another city (or country!) try accessing the page from a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This changes your location and allows you to purchase something from a less affluent area. Try ZenMate or Hola

Clear those cookies
This is absolutely vital if you're often buying tickets for flights online. A lot of airline websites up the prices of the flight depending on how many times you've visited the site or looked at the flight. Clear your browser cookies and try the search again; you should get the original price the flight was going for.

Get savvy with sites
Price comparison sites can save you a lot of time by trawling through various options, but they won't always get you the cheapest price; try a couple and then go to the provider directly before you buy. For goods, Flubit is great for getting you the best deal and can often find a cheaper option than Amazon. There's also a good site to find local ebay deals for collection, which saves you paying shipping costs. 

Check out more tricks on navigating these pricing systems here


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