SAN ANTONIO -- It used to be only hotels and airlines changed their prices several times a day. But News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila found out online retailers who sell household items and electronics are also making adjustments throughout the day.
While shopping online recently, online shopper Amy Shoaff noticed prices for the same item on the same website changed substantially throughout the day.
"General everyday items fluctuating anywhere from 40 to 300 dollars," said Shoaff.
Shoaff discovered a growing new trend. Some retailers are changing their online prices hour by hour and, sometimes, even minute by minute. The goal is to have a product priced so it pops up as the lowest priced item in shopping search engines, or Amazon's coveted "Buy Box." That's where most consumers look to find the best deals.
"It's more a battle of getting the right screen position as opposed to trying to sell it as quickly as possible," explained Chris Buckingham of the Professional Pricing Society.
We worked with Decide.com to monitor prices of several items on a well-known shopping website.
First up was an iPad. At midnight, the iPad was $511. At 6:00 a.m., it was $503. By 7:00 a.m., the price sunk to $475, where it remained until 2:30 p.m. and then jumped to $510. At 10:00 p.m., the iPad increased to a high of $529. That adds up to a total of a $54 price difference on the same site in one 24-hour period.
There are websites which will monitor prices for items you want and alert you when the price drops or reaches an amount you'd be willing to pay. If you add an item to your Amazon shopping cart and leave it there Amazon will notify you of price changes.
Shoaff has a warning about clicking on the least expensive deal found on search engines, though.
"Free shipping, returns, make sure you're using those things to your advantage, because sometimes just price isn't always the cheapest," Shoaff said.
Some experts suggest if you ordered something from a retailer and the price dropped within a reasonable amount of time, contact the business and see if they'll refund you the difference.