Price Matching Brings Savings --and Headaches

PHOTO: Shoppers enter and exit a Target Corp. store in Peru, Illinois, Feb. 7, 2013.

Memorial Day has become another one of those three-day shopping extravaganzas, despite starting out with a somber purpose. So, like it or not, it's time for a bargain-hunting story. Price matching is one of my favorite strategies, and it's thriving, with stores like Best Buy and Target vowing to match online prices from Amazon and other e-tailers.

The idea is that you find a great, low price online you get a local retailer to match it. Your town/state gets the sales tax revenue, if applicable, and you save time, shipping and gas. With gas pushing 4 bucks a gallon, price matching is even more enticing than ever.

But there's a catch. Actually, there are dozens! Bargain-hunting website Cheapism.com analyzed store price matching policies and found there are all sorts of asterisks and fine print that make price matching kind of a contact sport. Still, if you are a diehard diva--shopping diva, that is--you can scoop up sales if you know the rules.

What I love is that Cheapism didn't just read all the price matching policies. The website actually sent reporters to the stores to try their luck for its report. That's so instructive, because I've found that no matter what the policy says, sometimes a local manager can break --or make-- you a deal.

Here are Cheapism's picks for the easiest and toughest price matchers:

Easiest Price-Matching Policies

•Target: Matches not only local competitors, but also Amazon and some other online retailers with an easy-to-follow policy.

•JC Penney: Its policy is only to match other local competitors, but Cheapism found it to be delightfully lenient about returns and price adjustments.

•Lowe's: The hardware chain matches competitors' stores and websites and also matches its own web prices in stores, a rare policy. Lowe's gives you 10 percent off the competitor's low price.

Toughest Price-Matching Policies

•Sears: Sears does match local stores' online prices, but includes shipping charges, which can put a dent in your deal.

•Kohl's: The department store wants you to bring in a print ad from the competitor and won't match web prices --even its own.

For many more details about the perks and pitfalls of price matching, you can read Cheapism's full report, here.

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