Smart Buying

How to Get Retailers to Match Prices

Follow these steps to increase your chances of persuading stores to equal competitors' lower price tags.

Remember the days when you had to drive from store to store to compare prices, or just go to the retailer that typically had the lowest prices and hope that you were getting the best deal? Those days are over. Now it’s as easy as using a smart phone with a price-comparison app, such as RedLaser or ShopSavvy, to scan the barcode of an item and see if another retailer is offering it at a lower price. Then you can simply ask a clerk if the store where you’re shopping will match the other retailer’s price.

Okay, so maybe it’s really not so easy. Plenty of stores have price-matching policies, but sometimes consumers have to jump through a lot of hoops to get retailers to match their competitors’ prices. Policies vary from store to store, making it difficult to know what to expect from one to another. And most are fraught with exclusions. So is it worth it to even attempt price matching?

It certainly is if you’re buying a big-ticket item and the other store that’s selling it for less is miles away – requiring you to give up your time and drain your car’s gas tank to get there – says Louis DeNicola, who examined stores’ price-matching policies for Cheapism.com. You can improve your chances of a successful price-matching outcome if you follow these tips:

Know stores’ requirements. Don’t assume that getting a store to match a competitor’s price is as easy as showing a sales clerk your phone with the competitor’s price displayed on it through an app or online search. Many stores require consumers to show a competitor’s print ad with the lower price, DeNicola says. Even at stores that don’t require an ad for price matching, such as Walmart, sales clerks sometimes will ask for one, he says. So before you attempt to price match, call the store or check its Web site for its price-match policy to see what proof you need of a competitor's price.

Also be aware that although some stores such as Best Buy and Target will match online retailers’ prices (Amazon, in particular), most will only match prices of local competitors where the item is in stock – but they don’t always identify what local means, DeNicola says. And most stores will only match the price of items if the model numbers are the same. This can be difficult at stores such as Home Depot that get manufacturers to assign unique model numbers for items they sell. However, Home Depot – as well as Lowe’s – will beat competitors’ prices by 10%. See Cheapism.com’s guide to price-matching policies to learn more about the requirements at several major retailers.

Be courteous. Despite a store’s policy, sometimes your success depends on the mood of the sales clerk or manager you’re dealing with, DeNicola says. So it’s important to be polite when asking about price matching rather than act as if you deserve a better price, he says.

If you plan to price match frequently – for example, at a grocery store – developing a relationship with a particular clerk can be helpful. Erin Chase, a consumer shopping expert for Savings.com, has had a lot of success with grocery price matching at Walmart by using this approach. When the Favado grocery price-comparison app recently was released, she used it to compare prices at Walmart and other grocery stores in her area. The first time she used the app to show a Walmart clerk that another store had lower prices on some items, she also brought in the store’s print ad to verify the app’s information. Since then, she has just used the app and checks out with the same clerk.

Don’t give up. Even if a store won’t match a competitor’s price, you still might be able to get the cost lowered. The managers at some stores are authorized to give consumers discounts, DeNicola says. Ask to speak to a manager, show him the competitor’s lower price, and explain that you understand that the store could not match the price but ask whether he can offer a manager’s discount so you can buy the item there instead of from the competitor.

Another option is to continue watching the price of an item after you buy it. If you didn’t have luck getting a store to match a competitor’s price, you may benefit from its price-adjustment policy. Many stores will refund you the difference if the price of an item you buy drops within a certain time period -- in other words, they’ll match their own sale price.

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