01 November 2012

Beware the Internet Cookie Monster - or it can cost you big!

A tip of the hat to the Consumerist. The Mean Old Cookie Monster of the Internet can cost you a lot of money, unless you know how to tame him. You see, when you visit a shopping site browsing through the options, the site records information about you, and then drops a "cookie" on your computer so they know who you are when you return. Cookies can make your search vulnerable to the perils of ad related manipulation. And sometimes this means they will raise the price or even hijack your visit to add a fee for an intermediate.

Here is an example that I ran into. I searched out a spot in the Caribbean for a vacation, and settled on a pretty good deal at the destination resort website. I bookmarked it to return, and then moved on to other business. A day or two later, visiting a non-related site, I saw an ad that promised me 40% off the same destination I had looked at previously. Well, I fell for it and clicked thru, and the prices, even with the discount, were far above the price I had originally bookmarked. So I went back to the original site, and lo and behold, the prices had also increased, matching the supposedly discounted price.

I had been Cookie Monstered!

It took me a bit of investigation to find out the linked ad I clicked was for a travel agency that now had replaced my original cookie on the destination site with theirs, and added their commission and other fees. No matter how I checked or searched, the new higher prices were the only ones I could find for this destination.

My next step was to revisit the destination resort website on my laptop, with a different IP addy. Well, lo and behold, the original lower prices were back! The difference was a few thousand dollars on a one week stay for two at the Turks and Caicos all inclusive resort.

After figuring all this out, I went back to my original computer, cleared a lot of cookies one at a time, including the destination site as well as the travel agency, and many others that looked suspicious. I revisited the resort destination website and again, my original prices were back! Lesson learned! Clear your cookies when shoppping!

It was a bit tedious, because I have many friendly cookies, sites I visit a lot and want to maintain, but it seems the effort in this case was well worth it.

Just check the difference the Consumerist found!  Computer Cookies Can Raise Prices!

And if you need to learn how to clear only some of your cookies, here is how: Clear your unwanted cookies  Wade through this, it's worth it to learn how to remove hazardous, dangerous, perilous, jeapardous, and treacherous untrustworthy cookies! .

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