When my first child was born, my wife and I agreed that a digital camera with video recording capabilities was in order; we wanted to be those parents who post embarrassing home videos of their kid on Youtube. I did some research and settled on a Canon model which could take videos in high definition. The only thing left for me to do was to find a decent price that we were willing to pay.
A few weeks went by before I noticed a pretty awesome one-day sale at Aden Camera with 25% discount on the camera we wanted. The store was located downtown and there was no way I was going to make it there in time before store closing. Instead, I walked into a local Future Shop (now Best Buy) where the same camera was listed for the original price of $1099. I told the customer service representative (CSR) that I wanted to price match the camera with the lower price from Aden. The CSR called Aden to confirm the price and stock. Long story short, after about 15 minutes and a price match later, I walked out of Future Shop with the camera we wanted for $825. #PriceMatchFTW.
What Is Price Matching?
Price matching is a practice wherein a retailer agrees to match a lower advertised price from a rival store and sells you the same product for the lower price.
Many retailers are committed to providing value to their customers through offering products at the lowest prices; however, it is difficult for them to keep an eye on the pricing of all their products. To remain competitive and increase brand loyalty, large retailers will offer to match competitors’ prices for the same items. The details concerning the specifics of what a given retailer will match can be found in a retailer’s price match policy or price match guarantee.
Price matching policies often don’t just apply to items you are going to purchase, they can also apply to items you’ve already purchased:
- If a customer has already made a purchase and finds the same item at a cheaper price from a competitor’s store, within an approved time frame, some retailers will refund the difference between the advertised price and competitor’s lower price.
- If the retailer reduces their own price on a product within a set period of time after a customer has made a purchase, the customer is often entitled to a refund of the difference upon request.
The Different Types Of Price Matching
There are several different ways that companies match competitor pricing. Some will simply offer the same item at the reduced price while others will give an additional discount as an incentive for the consumer to remain a loyal customer. Different stores have different policies, but their price match practices will generally fall within one of the following categories:
The Standard Price Match
The first and most common practice is to simply match the competitor’s lower advertised price. Let’s consider one of the more recent entrants into Canada’s retail landscape: Target. Target’s Price Match Guarantee states that they will match a lower price if a consumer finds an identical item for less in a current and locally printed flyer.
Example Price Match:
If an item is sold for $10 at Target and for $6 at a competitor’s store, Target will sell the same item for $6 upon presentation of the competitor’s flyer.
Price Beat By A Percentage Of the Difference
Another common price matching practice for retailers is to beat a competitor’s lower advertised price by matching the lower price with an additional discount. The discount is given as a percentage of the difference. For example, Best Buy’s Lowest Price Guarantee stipulates that if customers find a lower price from an authorized Canadian dealer, they will beat it by 10% of the difference.
Example Price Match:
If an item is priced for $100 at Best Buy and a customer were to find the same item for $80 somewhere else, the customer would be able to purchase the item from Best Buy for $78.
Price difference: $100 - $80 = $20
10% of difference: $20 x 0.10 = $2
Final price: $80 - $2 = $78
Price Beat By A Fixed Percentage
Increasingly less common is the price matching practice where a retailer will beat a competitor’s lower advertised price by first matching the lower price and then providing a fixed percentage discount on the lower item. Home Depot’s Price Guarantee specifies that they’ll beat a competitor’s lower price by an additional 10%.
Example Price Match:
If an item is priced for $100 at Home Depot and a customer were to find the same item for $80 elsewhere, the customer would be able to purchase the item from Home Depot for $72.
10% of lowest price: $80 x 0.10 = $8
Final price: $80 - $8 = $72
Price Match With Rewards
Some retailers choose to match lower prices and provide additional discounts by offering loyalty reward incentives. Canadian Tire’s Price Match Guarantee notes that they will match competitor pricing and give 10% of the lower price in Canadian Tire ‘Money’ (a form of coupon currency that can be used as scrip in their stores).
Example Price Match:
If an item is priced for $100 at Canadian Tire and a customer were to find the same item for $80 elsewhere, the customer would be able to purchase the item from Canadian Tire for $80 and receive $8 in Canadian Tire ‘Money.’
How To Get A Price Match
While price matching sounds easy and seamless in theory, it can prove to be more difficult in practice. There are several factors to consider for a better chance of having a retailer match a competitor’s lower price. Let’s say you’re in the market for a new camera and have come across a sale price that’s too good to be missed. What would you need to get the lower price matched at your favourite store?
What You Need For A Successful Price Match
The first thing to do is to collect the flyer noting the price and model number. If the sale originates from an online source, print out the ad. Make sure the ad clearly indicates the price and model of the item. Model numbers must be identical! Also take into account the quantity in stock and any applicable shipping costs; retailers will not price match an item if the competitor does not have the item in stock. Some retailers will also accept a glance at your smartphone as proof a lower price or quantity in stock.
Next, review the price matching policy of the store from which you are seeking to get the price match. Checking the policy will help you determine the necessary documentation (e.g. flyer vs print-out), inform you of the store’s specific rules (e.g. will not match if competitor does not have item in stock), and mitigate the likelihood of any surprises.
Spend some time to prepare and gather sufficient proof to ensure a successful match. While it may seem tedious to collect and bring all of this information, each retailer will vary in the leniency they display towards a customer looking to obtain a price match. You can never have too much information - it’s better to be over prepared than to be denied for not providing sufficient proof. Print out the policy and bring it to the store. Bring the flyer or a printout of the ad to the store as well.
Keep in mind that not all CSRs or managers take kindly to price matching even though it is their policy to do so. In the event you run into a difficult individual, a phone call to the company’s head office can help clarify the situation. Bring the head office number just in case.
To review, the following things are needed to maximize the chances of a successful price match:
- Flyer (including ad printouts or websites) with price, model, proof of stock and shipping costs, as applicable.
- Copy of the store’s price match policy.
- Phone number to the company’s head office.
Getting The Price Matched At The Store
Once you’ve arrived at the store, find the you’re looking for, take a deep breath and approach a CSR. Then do the following:
- Let the CSR know that you would like to match a competitor’s lower price.
- Be polite. The success of the transaction depends entirely on the willingness of the CSR to grant the request.
- Present your flyer or printout supporting the proof of a lower price. Retailers reserve the right to confirm the validity of the flyer and may call the competitor’s store to confirm the item is indeed at the lower price and in stock. Once confirmed, that should be sufficient for your request to be granted.
Congratulations , you’re price has been matched and you can go happily along your merry way.
What To Do When They Say No
If the CSR is unwilling to grant your request for a match, don’t just take no for an answer. It’s time to take out your print-out of the store’s price match policy. If you are confident in the validity of your request, calmly explain the reasons as to why the price should be matched.
If the CSR continues to refuse your request, ask to speak with a customer service manager. Explain your case politely to the customer service manager and request their policy be upheld. If you are still refused but still believe you have a case, call the company’s head office while in the presence of the customer service manager. Head office can clarify any misunderstandings and either grant your request or clarify any miscommunication.
Additional Tips For A Better Price Matching Experience
- Choose retailers that offer a fixed percentage discount on price matched items for the lowest prices. Remember, even a price difference of a single penny should allow you to save 10% if such a policy is in effect.
- Younger cashiers are less likely to care about the retailer’s bottom line. Approach them with a price match request and they may process you without much hassle.
- Going to the store at peak hours may work to your advantage. Cashiers can get overwhelmed with the number of people in line and may approve the price match without much scrutiny to keep the line moving.
- If the first CSR doesn’t honor your price match request, try your luck with another CSR or cashier. There’s no rule preventing you from asking the same question to multiple people.
- If all else fails, you could always try another location of the same retailer. Other stores may be more lenient or offer better customer service by adhering to their policies.
- Think outside of the box when choosing retailers for a price match. Many stores have branched out from their traditional product lines to include new product categories. Get electronics price matched at Canadian Tire or groceries at Walmart, for instance. They may even have more inventory as most people wouldn’t consider them as their first choice to purchase that specific product.
Common Price Matching Restrictions
The key to a successful price match is to ensure that the request falls within the boundaries defined by the price match policy. Although each retailer has different requirements, the following restrictions will generally apply:
- Products must be identical in brand, size, weight, colour quantity and model number.
- Product must be verified to be in stock.
- A printed copy of the competitor’s flyer or ad must be provided. Some stores do not accept photocopies or flyers printed from online.
- In some cases, the lower price must be from a local competitor, meaning the same city or metropolitan area.
There are several exclusions that apply and retailers often will not match products that fall within the following categories:
- Some brick and mortar stores will not match competitor’s online prices.
- Buy one get one free (BOGO)1.
- Special orders.
- Rain Checks.
- Items from paid membership clubs (e.g. a retailer that requires a membership to join such as Costco).
- Clearance, closeout, damaged products, used, refurbished, open packages or liquidation sales.
- Door crashers or limited time sales including Boxing Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.
- Mail-in offers or instant rebates.
- Sales tax promotions.
- Credit or financing programs.
- Pricing or typographical errors.
- Free offers1.
- Gifts with purchase1.
- Display merchandise.
- Bid pricing or volume discounts.
- Item cannot be combined with any other offer.
1 Some retailers definitely do price match under these scenarios as well, but they are common exclusions. Refer to individual price match policies for details.
Price Matching Is Worth The Effort
My price matching experience with the camera, even though successful, didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. I approached a CSR with a flyer advertising a lower price and asked for a price match. He was sceptical of the sale and reluctant to proceed with the match. He called the competitor’s downtown location to confirm the price and stock, gave me a look and hung up the phone. To my surprise, the CSR told me that the competitor was out of stock and that even if they had any left, he could only match an authorized Canon dealer. I couldn’t help but wonder “Do the benefits of price matching outweigh the hassle?” In most cases, the answer is YES.
The most obvious benefit to price matching is the monetary savings that come with the matching or beating of a lower price. There are other scenarios in which the price match guarantee can also be worth the effort. One example is when you have unused gift cards. Simply find a competing store with the identical item, match the lower price and use the gift card. Another example is when the price match guarantee can be combined with earning extra rewards. That way the extra points earned can be used towards a future purchase for additional savings. Some retailers may even allow customers to take advantage of coupons and promotional codes on top of the match, whereas the store with the cheaper price might not!
Price matching can save time. In my situation with the camera, the price matching policy provided an added convenience when I couldn’t make it to a particular store before closing. It can also provide the option to consolidate shopping trips to only visiting one store. This works particularly well for grocery shopping because running to 5 different grocery stores to always get the best price is impractical, but going to one and matching all the lower prices adds only a little extra time to the shopping trip.
Price matching can allow consumers to skip long lines when a store advertises a sale on a hotly anticipated item. Instead of lining up for a sale like everyone else, grab a flyer with the advertised price and head over to another store with the same item to match the price.
Worth Every Minute
I wasn’t fazed when I was initially denied the price match; I had come prepared. I called the competitor ahead of time to confirm both the stock and the price. I also knew that they were an authorized Canon dealer in Canada. I called Aden from my cell phone and put the phone on speaker. Aden’s confirmed the price, indicated they had plenty of inventory in stock and verified that they were an authorized Canon dealer.
The CSR then called over a manager who had no choice but to oblige and match the lower price. The manager explained that he would not be able to honor their price beat policy as it would eat into their margins; I was in a hurry so I didn’t push the issue. In the end, the 15 minutes I spent was worth the effort for the $275 I saved. If you find a lower advertised price, be polite and stick to your guns - it’ll be worth every minute - just remember to be prepared!
More On Price Matching
These two articles will both help you find stores that price match in your area as well as understand exactly how each store's price matching policy works: