If you’re out to buy a new piece of kit, you’re going to want to buy it at the best price, which means timing your purchase just right. But if prices are fluctuating so much online, what chance do we have?
At the end of last year, the Which? Tech team started tracking the prices of several popular products in the run up to Christmas. We wanted to know whether the prices of certain tech goods fluctuated before and after the festive period, and if any savings could be made by shopping at a certain time.
Well, as it turned out, the results weren’t terribly interesting. However, there was one product that caught my eye. I was tracking a TomTom sat nav on Comet’s website for a month, and it threw up some interesting prices week after week:
- 1 Dec – £169.99
- 8 Dec – £169.99
- 15 Dec – £119.00
- 22 Dec – £109.99
- 5 Jan – £259.99
Checking the price became something of a game, like an online ‘Play Your Cards Right’.
Comet defends price variations
So how can this anomaly be explained? I asked Comet why such price variations might have occurred – it responded with the following:
‘Our deals offer our customers fantastic value and we work hard to deliver great savings across all our products.
‘We operate in an extremely competitive environment and we’re always keen to match and surpass emerging deals across the market. This means pricing can change quickly. Other factors include the scale and timings of the deals agreed with our suppliers.’
Whether the price fluctuations of this sat nav on Comet’s site were based on stock issues or a response to rival retailers, it certainly demonstrated the fragility of online pricing.
Erratic online prices
While fluctuating online prices is nothing new, the above example does highlight the perils of waiting too long for a better price. If you’d been holding on for this particular sat nav to drop below £109.99, you would have been pretty upset to discover an increase of £150 a couple of weeks later!
So, is this a problem? There are so many retailers competing for your money that it would be very easy to find the product you were after cheaper elsewhere. The problem occurs when the item in question is a retailer exclusive that you can’t buy anywhere else.
Then again, this is just one product on one retailer’s website – the question is, can anyone beat my TomTom for erratic pricing?