Shopping for gifts online each holiday season is supposed to make the buying process simpler and more relaxing. Unfortunately, for some Staples customers this season, it might have also been a ripoff, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The office supply retailer is being accused of shifting the prices of online merchandise according to where the customer is located when they log on. Specifically, prices charged seem to be set according to how much closer a competitor is located to the user, the average household income in the location, and the broad “cost of doing business.”

Naturally, this hasn’t sat well with some of Staples’ customers.

Says Kim Wamble, an insurance account manager in Boerne, Texas: “I think it’s very discriminatory.” Meanwhile, Trudy Frizzell, who works in Bergheim, Texas, asks: “How can they get away with that?”

Staples isn’t the only company being accused of using these types of practices to sell products online. Fingers are also pointing at Discover Financial Services, Rosetta Stone, and Home Depot.

There is nothing legally wrong with offering the same product at a different price depending on the location of the customer. However, it is still rare to hear about this type of strategy in terms of online sales.

What I found most interesting about The Wall Street Journal’s investigation is the extent to which Staples is doing this type of pricing. In New York, for example, certain products are priced higher in the boroughs of the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. By contrast, the same items sell in Brooklyn and Queens at a discount. These price differences come despite no more than 20 miles separating any two locations.

In other words, a Manhattan resident would save money on an item simply by driving to Queens and making the purchase there either online or through a mobile device.

We would love to know your thoughts on this. Should people be charged a different price on the same item even online?

Source: The Wall Street Journal