Launched 2015-09-01.      Views 3,235.      Downloads 356.      Suggestions 45.


Price by ZIP Challenge

Thematic Figure.png

  • Find a website that asks for a ZIP or postal code before showing the price of a good or service. Submit its URL to this challenge.
  • On October 27, 2015, we will post a list of URLs submitted to us that may determine pricing by ZIP or postal code.
  • We will honor the individual or group that submits the most qualifying URLs as Data Detective(s) of the Month.

At Technology Science, we recently published 3 papers documenting websites that offer the same services at different prices.

Our Price by ZIP Challenge asks the public to help us identify other websites that may offer the same services at different prices based on a person's geographical location. Because resources and operational costs may differ among locations, there are many good reasons for a price to vary by geographical location. Just because prices differ, does not mean it is illegal, discriminatory, or cause for concern. However, it is in the public's research interest to better understand which websites vary prices by location, to document how these prices may differ, and to investigate reasons and correlations.

There are many ways a website might determine a consumer's geolocation. For example, in the United States, ZIP codes are postal codes, and when a website asks explicitly for a postal code, the website may vary its prices or services offered based on ZIP code beyond shipping charges. Other geolocation indicators may not be explicit to the user, such as the IP address of a computer or a cell phone's GPS location. For simplicity, this challenge focuses on postal codes because a user knows when a website asks for a postal code. Websites that request city of other geographical designation before providing a price are also eligible. Entries for postal codes or other regional designations may be from anywhere in the world.

In this challenge, we ask the public to help us identify websites that specifically request postal code (city, or other geographical designation) before revealing the price of a service or product. We suspect many websites may ask for a postal code to compute shipping charges or make referrals. Some may use the ZIP code to determine price. Any website that requests a ZIP code or other location information prior to giving a price qualifies. If you know of a qualifying website, enter the URL below. On October 27, 2015, we will publicize the list of qualifying URLs provided along with research suggestions.

The identified person or group providing the largest number of distinct qualifying URLs will be awarded Data Detective(s) of the Month and may then submit a bio and photo to appear on Technology Science. Enter the same email address on each entry to count all your submissions together. Any email addresses provided in the email box will not be made public.


Enter your submission

Single submissions of 25 or more URLs can be made by emailing a single text file having one URL per line (or in equivalent CSV format) to

Or enter one qualifying URL in the box below. You may additionally offer short comments, observations, or explanations, but do so by skipping a line between them and the URL. Only one URL per submission.

Enter your email address below to be included in the count for Data Detective of the Month:


Type the text shown in the box on the left, then click submit.

Back to top

Copyright © 2015. President and Fellows Harvard University.