By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com
The best way to get a good deal is to shop around, right? But running from store to store can gobble up time and gas. That's where price matching comes in: Top retailers from Best Buy to Walmart have pledged to match competitors' prices, so you can get the best deals from around town with only one stop. Problem is, these guarantees are far from straightforward. Cheapism recently examined eight retailers' price-match policies and found scads of rules and exclusions. Here are seven things every bargain shopper should know about price matching.
1. Most policies require the competitor to be a local store, but what qualifies as "local" may be up for debate. Retailers tend to leave it to store managers familiar with the area to decide what lies within the same market or within a "reasonable distance." Best Buy sets a specific radius of 25 miles, while JC Penney in Alaska will match the prices of any similar store in the entire state.Learn ways to save with price matching.
2. Some retailers match local competitors' websites, but many policies exclude online pricing. Only Target and Best Buy have agreed to match online prices at select retailers, including the likes of Amazon, even if there's no corresponding store nearby. Thanks to recent policy changes, shoppers can scan items at Target or Best Buy with the Amazon app on their phones to find out if they can get a better price without ordering online. One catch with online price matching is it doesn't extend to marketplace items listed by third-party sellers.
Related: Does Online price matching Work?
3. Each retailer has its own rules about what qualifies as proof that another store is offering a lower price. A print ad with the competitor's price clearly displayed is the only verification accepted everywhere. A photocopy, picture, or mobile version of the ad may not work. Walmart doesn't officially require any form of proof (an employee can call the other store to verify your claim), but shoppers suggest bringing in an ad to minimize the wait and hassle.
4. The item you're buying and the item offered for less at the other store must be identical in every way -- brand, style, color, condition, size, weight, and, perhaps most notably, model number. Retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe's, and Best Buy sell many high-priced appliances and electronics with store-specific model numbers, which rules them out for price matching.
5. Certain sales and promotions are excluded. You won't get a retailer to match another store's going-out-of-business or clearance-sale prices. Limited-time promotions, rebates, and offers of free products or gift cards with purchase are also unlikely to be eligible. One exception: Walmart will match buy-one-get-one-free offers as long as the ad lists the price of the item. In general, an ad must specify a price in order for a retailer to match it; just a percentage or dollar amount off isn't enough.
6. You may be able to request a price match for something you've already bought, depending on how long it's been. Many retailers offer price adjustments even after purchase. However, Best Buy and other stores award partial refunds only if a customer sees they've dropped their own prices, not if a lower price turns up elsewhere. Some policies include a specific time frame for price adjustment -- Target allows seven days, for example -- but often the decision is left to a store manager.
7. In general, price-matching policies are subject to employee interpretation, which can cut both ways. At JC Penney, Cheapism found that managers seem to have a lot of authority to match competitors' prices, so it may not hurt to stretch the limits of the store's policy. At Walmart, on the other hand, shoppers complain that employees deviate from corporate policy in denying customer requests. In either case, it helps to know the fine print going in. Cheapism's comparison of stores that price match highlights important features of each policy and offers some store-specific money-saving tips.
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