How Online Retailers Trick Shoppers Into Paying More

Many sites manipulate what they charge you. We tell you how to beat the system.

1. Your online profile could boost the price.

Online re­tailers know all kinds of things about you from the electronic bread crumbs you drop, such as your IP address, and they capitalize on it using price discrimination or differential pricing. For example, a site may charge higher prices after taking note of the Web browser you’re using, your location, your previous shopping habits, or your search history. Or the merchant may steer your search—arranging the results to guide you toward more-expensive items. If a travel site sees that you’re using a MacBook Air or an iPad, say, rather than a Windows desktop, it may show you a pricier selection of hotel rooms.

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Lisa Gerstner
Editor, Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine

Lisa has been the editor of Kiplinger Personal Finance since June 2023. Previously, she spent more than a decade reporting and writing for the magazine on a variety of topics, including credit, banking and retirement. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.