Get the best deals during your holiday shopping"We will not be undersold!" It's a refrain you may have noticed on store circulars as you peruse them on a Sunday morning. But what does it really mean - and how do you get the best deal? Here, some insights into price-match guarantees from Daniel Butler, Vice President of Retail Operations for the National Retail Federation.
Many major retailers have price-match policies in place. Stores such as Walmart, Sears, Target, Kohl's, Best Buy, and Staples do it as a matter of practice, and Home Depot even offers a discount plus 10% off. However, they all have their own rules as to what they require in order for you to get the adjustment. Generally, the policies state that you must show the competitor's ad and the identical item must still be in stock there (they'll call to verify). Stores typically won't match closeout prices, special timed events (like Black Friday deals), or bundled sales (say, buy one, get one free).
Even retailers that don't may still offer you a break. Butler, who worked as a retail store manager for 26 years, would often agree to a price adjustment even though the store for which he worked didn't have an official policy. A store manager may do it quietly - they want to accommodate customers where they can and keep them loyal, Butler says.
Related: 35 Days of Holiday Shopping Tips
The type of purchase may matter. It's more likely that you'll get a cut on electronics or appliances than on clothing or soft goods (and also, frankly, more worth your while). The simplest reason: It's much easier to prove that an item sold is identical if there's a model number to compare. Also, these large-ticket items represent a bigger purchase for a retailer, which of course wants to keep you happy to gain your return business. You can also try your luck on mattresses, says Butler, but these can be harder to compare because the manufacturers will often subtly tweak the same mattress style to sell it under a different name and model number.
Mind your timing. Most retailers will refund you the difference if an item goes on sale - at their own store or at a competitor - within seven to 10 days of your purchase. (Though be sure to consult the individual store's policy, as many are running the promotion through the holidays.) Any longer than that and you may be offered a store credit...or nothing at all. A trick if you haven't yet used the item and it's within the store's regular return window: Purchase the sale item first, then return the one you bought.
It's harder to get a discount online. Most brick-and-mortar stores won't honor online prices even if they have an official price-match policy. Unlike web-only retailers, their overhead costs are higher and are based on the market in which they're located - they could end up taking losses in meeting online pricing. E-tailer-to-e-tailer price matches are also rare (though a few sites, like as endless.com, do it) - more commonly, these sites stay competitive by offering promotions such as free shipping or a percent off if you spend a certain amount.
Let technology do (some of) the work for you. Try a shopping website like pricegrabber.com (which also has a smartphone app) and Milo.com (which specializes in local shopping results) that allows you to set price alerts on specific items and contacts you if a price drops.
Finally, it can never hurt to ask the store manager, or shoot off a polite e-mail to a web store's customer service. What do you have to lose?
What techniques have helped you get a good deal? Share them in the comments.
-By Amy Roberts
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