Price-matching policies give shoppers a headache
Meeting and beating competitors' prices is becoming widespread. How these deals actually work isn't so clear.
Shoppers at Wal-Mart (WMT), the world's largest retailer, complained that the company's "Price Match Guarantee" is applied "inconsistently" from store to store, according to the news service. Spokeswoman Deisha Galberth Barnett told Bloomberg that the Bentonville, Ark., company doesn't believe it's a "national problem."
Indeed, other retailers such as Toys R Us are running into difficulties with their policies as well. The toy retailer was advised by the industry-backed Advertising Self-Regulatory Council's National Advertising Division to either quit making its price-matching claims or post its limitations, Bloomberg says.
It's easy to understand why, because these programs often contain many caveats. Best Buy's (BBY) program applies to select online merchants and bricks-and-mortar locations in a 25-mile radius of the store where the purchase is made. Others, such as Target (TGT) (pictured) and Sears (SHLD), don't have specific geographic constraints in determining who is a local competitor.
Often, it's the call of the individual store managers and employees if a consumer gets the discount. And when customers don't get satisfaction, they take to the Internet and vent their frustration.
Unfortunately for frustrated shoppers, price-matching is probably here to stay. Bricks-and-mortar retailers need to do it to combat "showrooming," the practice where consumers look at goods in a store only to buy them later on Amazon.com (AMZN) or some other e-commerce site at a lower cost.
In this battle, matching prices without angering consumers is a tactic that retailers still need to master.
Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.
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