You know how you buy stuff, and then 3 seconds later find it somewhere else cheaper? Or you forgot to search for a freakin’ coupon? Or, worse – those tricky companies play the “price drop” game on you fully knowing the best time, and amount, to show you ton their site because they have your entire psychological profile on file?
Well, a new service that just came out fixes that :) It’s called Paribus.co, and they give you back the money you should have saved from the start.
I signed up the second I heard about it, and then hopped on the phone with its founder to learn more (you’ll see my Q&A with him down at the bottom of this Paribus review). Excited to see how much they save me – those companies are gonna lose some profit if this catches on!
What Is Parabus & How Paribus Works
Stores guarantee money back when prices fall, the only catch is that you have to ask for it (and know when to do so). Paribus does this for you.
All you do is sign up with your email, connect whatever accounts that you shop with, then get back to your life without having to do a thing more. As you go about your business shopping however you already normally shop, the Paribus robots scan and monitor all incoming receipts of yours (they’ll also go back 30 days when you first sign up) looking for any money that was left on the table. Which happens when either of these 3 things occur:
Every time they find a discrepancy, they automatically submit a claim on your behalf and then the money owed – minus a 25% commission – goes right back into your accounts. If you never get any money back (which would be shocking, because it would mean you’re either an impeccable shopper or you never buy anything online!), they don’t take a penny.
So pretty much they just give you money for doing nothing :) And unlike my darlings Digit and Acorns that I rave about (sorry, I know I do it a lot but I’m obsessed!), they’re giving you back *money you already spent* instead of just moving your own money to a different account to help out (like savings account with Digit, and an investment one with Acorns).
Because remember, you’re not changing anything about your current shopping behavior – this is all money you already agreed to give the store for item X in return. So it’s like buying a video game at Target, and then them telling you “hey – take $3.00 back, you forgot to use a coupon!” Genius.
Speaking of Target, here are the merchants Paribus currently works with: Amazon.com, Target, Wal-Mart, Staples, Gap, Old Navy, J. Crew, NewEgg.com, Zappos, Macys, Bloomingdales, Bonobos, Nordstrom (how many of you frugal ones shop there? ;)), Banana Republic, Athleta, and Piperlime (?)
Here’s a fun 1 minute video they put together:
What the dashboard looks like:
I’ve literally just signed up so I don’t have any transactions funneling through my account just yet (and unfortunately/fortunately I don’t shop much anyways so it wouldn’t be that thrilling to see – hah!), but here’s a screenshot of a dummy account to give you an idea of what it looks like when logged in online:
Is Paribus legit? Yes. Are there cons to Paribus? Of course.
Here are all the ones I can think of:
- You have to give them permission to scan your email. It’s freaky, I know. Here’s a work around though: create a brand new email account and funnel all your shopping through it going forward. It’ll be annoying to set up, but it separates it out from all your other email if you’re concerned.
- They take 25% of the money they find. Sucky, sure, but also fair, yeah? Businesses don’t make money off of thanks :) And what would you rather have: 75% of free money or 0% of free money?
- If you don’t shop online much, you won’t save much. This is obviously both good and bad, and the only reason I won’t be saving millions off it myself myself ;) But since I run most of my online shopping through Amazon, I’m still connecting everything to it to catch those straggler dollars whenever I do happen to shop. It’s free, why not?
- You could get lazy and not do your up front research as much. In theory Paribus should catch this and refund your excess money, but I wouldn’t suggest getting into the habit of it.
- They’re in beta – so there will probably be some quirks.
- They don’t work with the entire internet. Yet.
I asked Eric Glyman, one of the co-founders, to elaborate on some of this down below, along with other questions I was just itching to ask that I didn’t see covered in other Paribus reviews. Should shine some more light:
One-on-One with Paribus Co-Founder Eric Glyman
First off, I can’t believe this hasn’t been made before! What got you and your friend to build it?
We felt the pain of getting burned by bad deals too many times, and wanted something for ourselves. It’s a bad feeling when you think you got a deal, only to find out that you paid too much. It’s worse when you’re even promised money back (through low price guarantees), only to find that the promise that’s supposed to protect you is actually incredibly confusing and time consuming to redeem (by design).
And when we realized that prices are changing faster and less transparently than ever (when we started, Amazon was changing ~250,000 prices per day, now it’s estimated that they change ~80 million every single day!), it became clear that we as consumers needed some serious help.
We’re not sure why it hasn’t been done before, but we’re up to the challenge. My co-founder Karim and I have been friends for six years. We met in college (Karim has a Master’s in Computer Science and helped teach me some CS too), and we knew we had enough skills to start building. Karim could handle the code and the ins and outs of the loyalty programs, and I could handle the legal/financial/product minutia. We haven’t stopped since.
What’s up with the name? Reminds me of an old pair of Nike running shoes I used to own ;)
You’re the first blogger to ask us this! We’ve been waiting to set the record straight. We pronounce it like “Pair-uh-bus.” We’ve also heard “Pair-uh-BOSS.” We like that too :)
The word itself comes from the latin term Ceteris Paribus (kɛtərɪs pɑːrɪbʊs). My fellow economics/ classics/philosophy/money thinkers out there may recognize it — it’s used when you want to consider how one thing affects one other thing, but do not want to get bogged down thinking about all of the factors involved all at once. A favorite word of great minds like Cicero, John Stuart Mills, Milton Friedman, John Maynard Keynes, etc.
We’ve always believed that, at its essence, shopping shouldn’t be more complicated than finding what you need/want, and buying it. The word Paribus captures this. Just buy what you want, and if you miss a better deal (or are taken advantage of), you’ll just get the difference back. Elegant, and no hassle involved. That’s Paribus.
What’s the average amount of money users right now are getting back?
We’re averaging between $3 and $5 a month.
This number can vary a lot depending on how often you shop. Some people have saved $300+ (and one business – $1000+) within 3 months. But for those who don’t shop online all that much, savings won’t be that high — Paribus only helps if you’re making online purchases in the first place.
How much have YOU, personally, saved from your own darling creation?
Paribus has saved me $152.26 so far (on $1,826 in purchases — so a cashback rate of ~8%). All automated. Here’s my actual dashboard:
But I’ve also used the information (on price changes) that Paribus shows me to save even more with my credit card (See proof below: $192.22).
I do most of my online shopping with my Discover card. They have a 90 day price protection policy, so if you buy something, and it drops in price drops after, you can get the difference back from the credit card. Many stores only have 7-14 day price protection coverage periods, but policies at credit cards can extend as long as 3 months. So a lot longer opportunity to get money back. Paribus doesn’t automate getting this money back just yet, but the historical price data we give on all your purchases is definitely enough to file these claims on your own and get some serious cash back.
Last year, I saw on Paribus that (i) an office chair, (ii) an iPhone 5s and (iii) a blender I bought had all dropped in price. It had been ~45 days, so the stores wouldn’t cover me, but Discover did! I filled out the paper work and got $192.22 back. There can be a lot of savings in price protection, and its our mission to help you get all of it.
(Note: To be clear, I have no outside affiliation with Discover)
Is Paribus safe? The biggest obstacle I see here in wooing new members is the fact you have to attach your personal email to your system. What can you say to all those thinking that right now that would help alleviate a bit of this concern? Or is it a legitimate one?
It’s our biggest challenge. And we hope that as our member base grows, we will prove that we’re working day and night to defend our members’ interests.
We are taking all the precautions we can to adhere strictly to security best practices. A few things:
- First, Paribus does not live in your inbox. It places webhooks to detect and pull store messages based on sender and subject alone. So, inbox security stays under the supervision of companies that you already trust (e.g., Google and Microsoft).
- Second, security is embedded through our entire architecture, including dedicated firewalls, VPN services, intrusion prevention systems and stringent access controls.
- Third, Paribus complies with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Complete credit card information is never stored on Paribus servers. And we use Stripe, one of the world’s most secure payment processors, to handle all transactions.
- Fourth, data is transmitted securely via SSL (TLS 1.2) bank-grade encryption. Any sensitive information stored is encrypted using AES-256 encryption.
Lots going on behind the scenes to make sure information is very well protected.
Last, I think your reaction is totally on point — we know of many members who have created a brand new email account just for shopping, and linked this account up with Paribus. You’ll get the all the benefits/savings of Paribus, and also separate your shopping activity from all your other personal information.
What about submitting tickets on their behalf, say, to Amazon. Is there any way they can get in trouble or blacklisted from them, God forbid? (Although that would surely help us ALL save more money in the end – hah)
We’ve heard stories before about Amazon members getting blacklisted for causing trouble (e.g., returning things way too often, making way too many requests, etc.). The unifying theme among those banned is that they’d somehow violate the rules, make unfair demands of Amazon staff, or even commit fraud.
Our huge difference — you are explicitly promised price protection by the stores you shop at, and Paribus is simply helping you get what’s promised to you. Nothing excessive, no fraud, nothing unfair. Based on the thousands of data-points we have seen, not a single Paribus member has faced this issue so far. Definitely something we’re monitoring, but we feel strongly that our members are in the right here.
Besides, if stores like Amazon get to change 80 million prices a day, we think its only fair that you have strong technology on your side too.
Most of us do our shopping online, so you’ve got a bulk of our transactions covered. Is the plan forward to extend into physical stores too? What other upgrades do you guys envision rolling out?
Still a ways away, but that’s a major goal. Something like 90% of shopping in the U.S. happens offline.
Next steps on the roadmap include rolling out a native iOS app (Summer 2015), adding support for more stores, and automating credit card price protection. Be there soon!
You guys are totally bootstrapped, doing all this with your own funds or those you’ve raised from family and friends, yeah? Any way for us investors out there to jump on board if we think you’re onto something big here? ;)
Stay tuned! We’re looking towards the end of the summer :)
What’s been the coolest part of the ride so far?
Honestly, the journey of going from an idea, to releasing a product with actual value. It works, it saves real money, and it feels good to be able to contribute something useful.
Lastly, what’s in your wallet right now?
- Discover (My go-to for online shopping)
- Amex Gold (Everything else)
- TD Cash Rewards (Just in case)
- Silicon Valley Bank (Paribus card)
- TD Bank Debit (Just in case)
- Transit Visa card (To buy subway rides)
- MetroCard (Live in Brooklyn, NY)
- Coffee card (For the long days)
- An old student ID from China (Still in my wallet! Lived in Beijing for over a year..)
What do you think? Awesome? Lame? Gonna sign up and try it out?
Here’s what to do if so:
- Sign up to Paribus.co
- Attach your account(s)
- Wait for money to start coming back
I think that’s the best part of it all – you don’t have to change a thing about your habits. Just keep shopping as you normally do (which hopefully isn’t that much!) and then watch clumps of money get returned as their algorithm does it’s thing in the background… My type of service!
Let me know if anyone tries it out, and how much $$$ you get back… This could be a game changer.
PS: Something else I love about these guys is that they treat this thing as their baby, and personally respond to all their customers. Here’s an email they send out to give you an idea of their style:
PLEASE NOTE: As with most in-depth reviews I spend my time sharing with you all here, I get paid a referral commission for anyone who signs up and saves. In this case it’s $5.00 as you can see above, and anyone else who signs up will also get this refer-a-friend opportunity as well. Regular readers know I would never pimp out anything I don’t love or use myself here, and this post would have been written regardless of money. Please don’t ever sign up to something you don’t trust!