How I Accidentally Saved a Ton of Money, And How I'll Do It Again

How I Accidentally Saved a Ton of Money, And How I'll Do It Again

It's not every day you find a neat trick to save money on everyday photography purchases. So naturally, I have to share this method that works on just about everything — not just photography purchases.

The other day, I ordered a bunch of brand new Pelican Storm cases for new gear our film camera rental company was getting. This stuff adds up, but these really are the best cases (quick side note: I much prefer the easier-to-open and seemingly more secure latches of the Storm line of cases; and they look more modern, too). The next day, it turns out I had under-ordered, so I put yet another case into my cart, but was waiting to fill it with a few other items before hitting that order button. This was the first happy accident.

A Happy Accident

Fast forward ten days, and I get an email from B&H saying that an item in my cart has dropped in price. I went to check it out and saw that these cases were each about 15-percent off. I immediately felt a bit bad I had missed out on the better price by just over a week until I realized all hope was far from lost.

I had put these on a new credit card we have that gives us purchase price protection guarantees on any new items we put on there. Dealing with a credit card company for these kinds of claims isn't pleasant, but it can be worth it when you order enough gear if the price on everything drops a bit later. Many credit cards offer price protection guarantees (you might be surprised to find yours likely does), and they can last for anywhere from 30 to 120 days after the initial purchase was made. But before I went through the process of submitting a claim, I realized there was an even easier way. Three minutes later, I had my refund.

The Refund

Since I was well within my return period, I thought I would ask B&H if they would honor the new sale price by refunding the difference to my card. I felt that was only fair, and I was honestly ready to return the cases if needed. Sure enough, the representative I chatted with asked me to wait a few minutes while he went to check on that. I mentally prepared to make a kind, but firm case for why I should be allowed this refund. Less than 60 seconds later, he came back and told me he was pleased to be able to refund the difference to my credit card. This all took less than two minutes. No haggling, no trying to weasel out of it. This is the kind of customer service you want to have everywhere, but normally get nowhere.

The truth is, thankfully, this could work for you with most retail outlets. But it doesn't help you if you don't check the prices again every day of your miserable life or if you're not magically reminded. The reason I was notified, though, was because I still had one of those items in my cart. So my advice: have an account with the online outlets at which you shop the most, and keep everything you've recently purchased in your cart (re-add each item if you have to). Retailers such as B&H and Amazon will often email you when there's a price drop on an item in your cart. And that's where the magic happens.

These are the amazing Pelican Storm cases for any kind of gear you can imagine.

Even if the retailers don't honor the sales price, you can fall back on a credit card's price protection guarantee, as I had planned before things worked out with B&H. There's no excuse these days not to have a credit card with these protections. As loyalty programs have been less and less fruitful in the rewards department, in place of that lacking extra level of service for loyal customers, purchase protections and other kinds of insurance have improved in the premium credit card space. And these often last for as long as four months and include accidental damage or theft during that period as well, not to mention standard warranty extensions that make things like AppleCare almost obsolete.

Finally, there's one more way you can save a ton on everyday purchases. If you're a student with a student ID, you can benefit from educational discount programs from a variety of places. B&H has a rather generous program depending on the type of gear. But even Apple has an educational discount that some students might not think about when ordering. Most companies hide this a bit deeper in their website or in a tiny link in the footer. But it’s always a good idea to check for student discounts before you look into a large gear purchase.

Tips Condensed

Essentially, these are the steps you can take to ensure you have the best chance at getting the products you need at the best price from most retailers:

  1. Check for an EDU discount if you’re a student.
  2. Purchase your gear on a credit card with purchase price protection. Yours may already have that built in, but not even all cards that have this feature have to be expensive to own.
  3. Add those items back into your cart while you’re signed into your account.
  4. Wait for notifications about discounts on items in your cart.
  5. If you get a notification, try contacting the retailer to see if they’ll credit you the difference. If it’s been too long (usually after the return period) or if they won’t budge, fall back on that fancy credit card price purchase protection.
  6. Get a partial refund.
  7. Take yourself and a date out to a nice dinner, reinvest your savings, or save your savings since none of us save enough anyway!

That’s it! Do you have other tricks you use to save a buck? Let us know!

Lead photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash.

Adam Ottke's picture

Adam works mostly across California on all things photography and art. He can be found at the best local coffee shops, at home scanning film in for hours, or out and about shooting his next assignment. Want to talk about gear? Want to work on a project together? Have an idea for Fstoppers? Get in touch! And, check out film rentals!

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I saved a bunch of money years ago when I cancelled my credit cards and started saving up for stuff and paying for it with money that I have.
It's like those casinos, how do the banks get so much money that they build skyscrapers and sponsor sports stadiums and stuff? They both use basically the same tactics.

Paying cash is fine, but so is paying with a CC to get things like extra coverage or price matching or buying from amazon. Just pay the bill on time in full...

"Paying cash is fine, but so is paying with a CC to get things like extra coverage or price matching or buying from amazon. Just pay the bill on time in full..."

^^^ This. Just because someone uses a CC to buy something doesn't mean they haven't got the money to purchase it. In fact, over the years, I've saved more money buying with a CC than had I purchased the exact same things with cash.

I mean that's good of B&H and how they have great customer service, but hot damn that entitlement of yours.

"I felt that was only fair, and I was honestly ready to return the cases if needed." ... "No haggling, no trying to weasel out of it."

So you ordered something, knowing full well what the price was. Then wanted to renege on the transaction even though it was exactly as described, and was exactly what you needed for your application. That's the condensed version. You were going to have B&H eat the cost of return shipping, time, labour, etc. which drives the cost up for everybody else.

Well, I would have had to pay return shipping. I don’t think it’s entitled to try and get the best price for something. They’re still making money on it. And I buy plenty of stuff from them (at full price and otherwise). So saving a bit and taking advantage of something going on sale once in a blue moon right after you buy it isn’t unreasonable. If I were driving a retailer out of business, that might be something else. But then they should be looking at their business model and what they’re allowing. They can also say no. But obviously it was worth it to both parties in this case to make it work. That’s the way it should be.

Sometimes less stuff is a pro.

I got to the point a while back of not buying stuff because I have too much stuff. Now I only buy something I really want and I try to get something really good and not just go for the cheap thing.

But, I could just start changing camera systems every time something new and imperceptibly better comes out.

My best friend from childhood's father used to mock the TV commercials that said, "Buy now and save!" by always blurting out, "Don't buy now and save even more!"

This is normal behavior of pretty much any retail place within return policy of like the last 20 years...

Yup. Many retailers, Amazon included, will refund the difference if you contact them within a certain time period, ranging from 7 days to 30 days.

Normal where you live perhaps, not so in my country :-(

Americans saving money - huh - surprise 😉
Photos are not made with gear but with the heart and the eye.
But those influenza[s] want to tell you which lens you need to do a headshot or a landscape or....
BS and these are not only my initials this time 😂

Show me a heart or eye that has a sensor, shutter, etc, and I'll agree with what you said.

The point being is that photography actually does require gear. And, depending on what it is one may want to accomplish, extra gear may well be required.

I don't need to eat foie gras, but if I want to eat it, I'm going to have to buy it.

Well the point I wanted to make is - you can do dishes that taste much better or equal than foie gras - without its ingredients - different probably but excellent.
That's the challenge and fun in photography - in my view.

There is a difference between Credit cards in the USA and most European countries. In the USA a credit card is often also a personal loan. In the Netherlands, a credit card only advances the money for the current month if you make a payment. A the end of the month, all that was charged on you card will be paid automatically via your normal bankaccount. You don't have to pay any interest for your credit card in Europe.

There is no interest. The surcharge is for the vendor who often charges something. You however have to pay for the usage of the card. The system is really very different. If you have insufficient funds on your normal bankaccount, the card will be blocked for a certain period until you have paid.
There is a maximum amount for the credit card. But the principle is this: at the end of the period, the balance should be 0€. There is no loan or credit on our cards.

The same in the Netherlands

Same in the U.S...

That sounds like the original American Express model (although even AMEX now allows you to pay for purchases over time and will then charge you interest). But with credit cards, you don't pay any interest if you pay off your balance in full each month, too. But I didn't know...does that really not exist anywhere in Europe? I find that hard to believe since the standard credit card such a profitable product for banks here...

The culture is different though the younger people are changing. I grew up in a time when nobody would ever buy anything on credit (except for a house). And still today, the attitude towards debts is entirely different in Europe.

Oh yeah. Interesting. I mean, I wouldn't say the culture/attitude around credit here in the U.S. is healthy at all (2007, anyone? And what's changed since then, honestly?). But there is probably a bit more of a concept of saving and getting more for your money, etc., that comes with credit cards/miles/points, etc. Those who save and/or pay off their cards right away benefit. And the others end up being the suckers...but then we are very much in the land of to each his own. So I guess it's "fair."

As somebody who worked in the banking world (IT part) I do know that when the CKP (Centrale voor Kredieten aan Particulieren), which is a system to avoid people racking up loans indefinitely, was put in place in Belgium that credit cards are in there as a, kind of, personal loan (krediet opening, credit opening?)

Nonetheless the part about not paying interest if you pay in full when the cc company sends its statement is correct as well as the seller coughing up a fee to the merchant.

"The other day, I ordered a bunch of brand new Pelican Storm cases for new gear our film camera rental company was getting."

So it was B2B transaction done on a credit card???? Dude....

So, he should have sent a money order in the mail? Does B&H even do money orders?

I'm confused. I can't use my business credit card for business purchases?

Ok so an entire article about a store's price match policy. Most retailers will honor a price match 30 days after the purchase. This is only a way to save money IF the price is lower after you buy it. B&H is a great company when it comes to this. I order a couple of SD cards and I wanted to add to my order. I called them up added the one or two things and the sale rep told me that I would be getting a refund after adding to my order. I didn't understand how that worked out, I asked him and the price of the SD cards drop. So I added a couple more SD cards to my order and then I owed them more money. Also if you're set up as a business customer at Adorama just ask if they can do better on the price. I saved $17 getting two Hoodman's. Sorry to say all of this really isn't a big deal.

Of course, you've always been able to do this, ask for better prices, etc. The interesting point here is simply a reminder to use the cart price drop notifications to be notified automatically about a price drop shortly after you purchase something. No it won't work all the time. But when something does drop, then you can be notified without having to follow up on every little thing you purchase manually (i.e. one way might actually work while the other way probably never works..who checks like that for everything they buy?).

Hey Adam, I wasn't trying to crap on your article. Adding purchased items in your cart to get a notice about a price drop is a awesome idea. I never thought about that. I will be doing this now with my large purchases.

Oh all good! I didn't take it that way ;-) Was just trying to point that little bit out. Hope it works for you!

Some good tips here. Another way I have found to save on online purchases is to add the items to your cart, then log out of the website. A lot of places save your cart and send you "abandoned cart" emails. These get increasingly desperate as the days tick by so usually you get offered some sort of discount to complete the purchase. Of course this only works if you don't need your stuff in a hurry...