Price-matching policies give shoppers a headache

Meeting and beating competitors' prices is becoming widespread. How these deals actually work isn't so clear.

By Jonathan Berr Apr 30, 2013 12:55PM
Price-match policy sign at a Target store in Minneapolis on January 8, 2013 (© Bruce Bisping/Minneapolis Star Tribune/ZUMA Press/Corbis)Do you find the price-matching policies that are endlessly hyped by retailers in their advertisements confusing? Well, according to Bloomberg, you're not alone. In fact, even many workers at the very stores that promote these policies aren't sure how they work.

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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3Comments
Apr 30, 2013 3:11PM
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I think that if I am shopping in one store and they have it on sale but not as cheap as store B Store A should give us the lower price of store B without having to do some sort of dance routine, stand on 1 foot, or  hold up a newspaper to get the lowest price. That way it would support store loyality.
Apr 30, 2013 3:02PM
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Some of the policies may indeed be confusing but this article neglects to mention a serious point...if you don't like the policy (or final offered price) go to the store that you found the lower price in the first place!  The purpose of price matching is not to lower the store's prices but to establish and keep customer loyalty.  No one is being forced here..."Shop at Toys R Us or else."  Really, can we put some common sense in here.
May 2, 2013 6:29AM
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Retailers have to recognize the varied buying behavior's of customers and build brands rather focusing on price matching, recently came across an interesting audio cast and comprehensive whitepaper on consumer trends and other trends that are shaping the retail industry,"Thinking about tomorrow: Post-recession strategies for retailers"  readers will find it useful @  http://bit.ly/10XoIQa
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