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It’s more than likely that you’ve checked out Bing by now. In case you have not, Bing is Microsoft’s “new” search engine. And one question we have with Bing is whether it’s cash back program is costing you money.
If you’ve used Bing to search for a specific product such as a new Samsung LCD TV, you may have noticed that product prices show up in the search results. By clicking on these products, Bing will take you to a comparison page which includes a list of the lowest prices online. On this comparison page you may also notice a cash back percentage for each retailer.
The Bing CashBack program is similar to the cash back rewards systems offered by many credit card companies.
When you buy items through merchants partnered with Bing, you can receive a certain percentage of your purchase back in the form of cash. You can earn anywhere from 2 – 10% cash back with most merchants.
Bing CashBack is not an instantaneous rebate. You will need to wait around 60 days (it depends on the merchant) before you can claim your cash.
So far so good right?
Well apparently some retailers are trying to offset the amount they pay out with the Bing CashBack program by charging Bing customers more for certain items. They aren’t just charging customers more to make up for the difference. In one example they are charging close to $44 more for a camera, than if you were to visit the site directly, and that’s with the 2% cash back rebate.
How can retailers do this?
When you visit their site through Bing, they place a cookie on your machine so that even if you decide to return to the store directly you will still see the price for Bing customers. This makes it impossible to get the standard price without clearing the cookies saved with your browser.
One way to get around this however is to visit the site directly with another browser.
If you have Firefox and Safari installed you can visit the site through Bing with Firefox, and then directly with Safari, and because you never visited the site before with Safari there will be no cookie so you can view the actual price and compare.
In the end this doesn’t appear to be a widespread problem, but it’s definitely going on.
Before buying anything through Bing CashBack you probably want to use the browser trick above for the time being. And, hopefully, Microsoft (who knows exactly what’s going on) will decide to fix the problem. Update: Microsoft has said they are working join fixing this issue.
Microsoft claims that the example I linked to above is an “isolated incident;” however, if its happening one place I’m sure there are 10 more places where its happening that they aren’t aware of yet.
This was Microsoft’s response to the accusations on InformationWeek:
“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.”
I think the Bing CashBack program is a smart idea, and a great way for Microsoft to entice people to use Bing more. This is assuming that that the prices displayed will actually be the lowest around without any tricks or gimmicks in the end. Once everything is fixed this looks like it will be a big improvement over what’s currently out there.
For now however I may just stick with Google Product Search.