Money back for Aussie shoppers if item you bought goes on sale after

A massive 90 per cent of customers don’t bother trying to secure a better deal.

A few weeks ago, I bought a dress. It was a bit of a splurge at $260, but with Christmas party season just around the corner I figured I’d get my cost per wear down to next to nothing in no time.

As I paid for my frock, they offered me a discount if I signed up as a member. I handed over my precious personal data in exchange for $10 off, then went on my merry way. All was well until I checked my emails that night and received my first newsletter from that brand, and it announced 25 per cent off all the dresses, starting the following day.

Composite image of two women wearing dresses, a credit card sale transaction, and a woman carrying boutique shopping bags.
Sarah (far left) returned the dress and repurchased it for the sale price, saving $65. (Source: Getty/supplied)

What a conundrum.

Do I accept that you win some and you lose some, take the loss and move on? Or do I return the dress for a full refund and buy it again the next day for $65 less?

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I’m not the only Australian to ponder this kind of choice. A recent Finder survey of 1,063 respondents revealed more than two in five people (43 per cent) have bought something that later was reduced or went on sale.

Our research shows most people in this situation – a massive 90 per cent, in fact – just chalk it up to a missed opportunity.

However, a small but mighty contingent of cut-price shoppers take the time to contact the store to secure the deal.

I’m not ashamed to say, I’m in that second bucket. We are, after all, in the throes of a cost-of-living crisis and, with three kids to shop for and Christmas just around the corner, every dollar saved is a win. If the difference was only a few bucks, I may not have bothered. But $65 is my monthly phone bill, five weeks of my daughter’s dance classes or enough chicken to keep my dog’s belly full for two months.

In other words: it was worth the hassle of a quick refund and repurchase.

What are your options if you buy something that then goes on sale?

Under Australian consumer law, you can't get a refund just because you've changed your mind. So, legally, there’s no reason why any retailer needs to offer you a retrospective discount.

However, if you bought the item on your credit card, you may have price protection cover, which is a form of credit card insurance that refunds you the difference if you buy something with your credit card and the item goes on sale.

If you have a credit card that offers some form of price guarantee, the cover is usually automatically available to any eligible items you buy using the card. There are generally a handful of conditions, including - but not limited to:

  • Making a claim within a reasonable period – typically within 60 days from when you made the original purchase

  • Evidence of the cheaper item, like a printed catalogue with the date clearly marked

  • No variations - the item you bought and the item on sale need to be identical in terms of model number, year, size, colour and manufacturer

  • A decent price differential – the cheaper item usually needs to be at least $75 less than what you paid

If you don’t have price protection or you didn’t pay using your credit card, you still have options. One important piece of the puzzle is your receipt – you should always hang on to it for at least a few months after buying anything, in case you need evidence of your purchase down the track.

These days, many retailers have really friendly refund policies if you can provide the receipt and the item is in new condition. Some brands even have policies that favour the buyer in this situation, which is a giant exercise in good customer service. This is why you should always contact them and ask what the store’s policy is when an item goes on sale.

There are a few standouts to mention here. For instance, at car parts superstore Repco, I was recently told by a shop assistant that it gave customers the value of the discount amount on a gift card, if the item was discounted within two weeks of your purchase.

Forever New has a similar policy where, if you purchase a full-price item and it goes on sale within 14 days, you’re welcome to return the item for the original paid amount and purchase it again on sale.

Some other stores will price-match and sweeten the deal with extra value. The Good Guys has a 30-Day Price Guarantee. Within that time frame, if you notice the price of the item you purchased has dropped by more than $5 at The Good Guys or an approved competitor, it’ll give you back 120 per cent of the difference as something called “StoreCash”. That credit is valid for 90 days and can be used to purchase most of their products online or in-store.

It’s not quite the same scenario, but Officeworks, Jetstar and Bunnings will beat any cheaper price on an identical stocked item by 5 per cent, 10 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, which shows brands do have an appetite to deliver value.

The bottom line? If you don’t ask, you don’t get. The worst you can hear is “no”, so it pays to explore your options.

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