Today I bring you a humble cautionary tale about how I did the equivalent of throwing a $20 bill in the garbage. My price protection fail started in December when I was tasked with purchasing a Christmas gift for myself. The third party controller I purchased in 2011 stopped working just before we left for Alberta. (Well, that “some reason” may be my partner’s uncanny ability to destroy electronic devices.) I figured I might as well get a nice replacement for her to wreck next. I bought an Xbox 360 controller at Best Buy for $59.99 plus HST.
Last week, I was looking for a laser printer. I did something I said I’d never do again: I looked at the FutureShop flyer. I found wireless Xbox 360 controllers were on sale for $39.99, a full $20 less than what I had paid.
My first reaction was “I am an idiot.” Then I realized I had made the Best Buy purchase on my new SmartCash World MasterCard. One of the card’s features is price protection. I suspected I’d be forced to jump through a ton of hoops to get price protection. I was committed, however, to enduring some inconveniences simply to share my experience with all of you. I called up SmartCash and they gave me the toll-free phone number (1-877-654-7511) for making price protection claims. Apparently MBNA can’t just do it. Sigh. The phone number was only available during regular business hours so I called it a second time the next morning. I’m getting too old for this.
There are a ton of limits on price protection — even more than I expected, and I’m cynical. There’s a minimum claim of $10, a maximum number of annual claims, a maximum value per item, and a maximum total annual value (but always check your cardholder agreement). They said there was a form I had to fill out and they’d email it to me.
They didn’t email it. Sigh. A few days later I got the form in the mail. For some reason it was addressed to “Josephs”. Here’s the documentation I’d be required to provide to get my $20-ish back:
- Customer copy of the original vendor’s sales receipt showing cost, date and decription of purchase;
- The account statement showing the charge;
- Original, dated and highlighted advertisement / flyer to prove that the identical item was offered in Canada at the reduced price within 60 days of the date of your purchase; and
- Copy of the Explanation of Benefits that was received from the merchant offering a lowest price guarantee and/or other provider (if applicable).
Requirement #1 makes sense, and this is where I pulled my truly bonehead move. I usually keep receipts. During the first half of the year I keep all of my receipts in one container. During the second half of the year I keep them in a second container. At the end of the year I empty the first container into the garbage and repeat the cycle. Thus I keep all of my receipts for at least six months. (By the way, paper is sequestered carbon so recycling it is bad for your carbon footprint. Carbon criminals. I’m such a hero dumping paper in the landfill.) For any significant purchase (e.g. a TV), I keep the receipt with the manual and warranty in a box (creatively labelled “Manuals and Warranties in black marker). But somewhere between Edmonton, Alberta and Omemee, Ontario I lost my Xbox 360 receipt and thereby stupidly cost myself about 20 bucks.
Notwithstanding my idiocy, this entire “price protection” scheme is obviously setup to discourage legitimate claimants from completing the process. Why couldn’t I pay the $2 to get a non-original receipt from MBNA? Why can’t MBNA interface with the company so I don’t have to send the insurer an entire account statement? In regard to requirement #3, I read the flyer online — do I need to print the entire flyer out? Or do I have to go to FutureShop in Peterborough and get a physical flyer to mail in? It does say “original” flyer. Why couldn’t I email a JPEG and a link? Heck, why couldn’t I email all the documentation rather than spending $1.20 in postage (because with all those documents in an envelope, I couldn’t just use one stamp). And I don’t even understand requirement #4. Are there any lawyers in the house who want to interpret it pro bono? Beyond the four requirements, you need to fill out an entire page of information e.g. the product’s specific model. How the **** would I know an Xbox 360 controller’s model number? The packaging is in an Alberta landfill (like I said, Enviro-Hero). It all just adds up to a major rip-off. The price protection guarantee offered by the World MasterCard is, to me, not worth the time nor the money required to make a claim — unless it’s for a large amount (as of publication, a claim is capped at $500).
While I upgraded my card to enjoy higher cash-back for another 6 months, my subconscious clearly liked the “price protection” idea enough to remember the feature when it became relevant. Being hopeful set the stage for my inevitable disappointment. My lessons learned are as follows:
- Don’t believe that a price protection plan will ever be useful. It’s marketing fluff buried in a maze of exclusions.
- Don’t buy unnecessary stuff (e.g. Xbox 360 accessories) at full MSRP — even under the duress of a girlfriend’s scorn.
- When travelling, do a better job of keeping receipts.