Price Matching Policy and Time Limit

There are enough chaos in the financial markets. I’m not going to post anything related to investing this week. There’s plenty to read and digest about Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG. I believe all eyes are on WaMu now.

Should a business stand firm on its price matching policy? That’s the question for today.

I have been buying a certain product from an online store. I never had a problem with them. They filled my orders accurately and delivered them fast. They also have a price matching policy. If you find a lower price for the same product elsewhere, they will match it and even beat it by a small amount. So I usually find the cheapest price on the Internet and then order from them. That way I get both a good price and a trusted and familiar service.

Except this last time. I was running out of my stuff. I was also busy with work. I didn’t have time to search for low prices. So I just ordered from the same place thinking I would request the price match later. Then I was still busy and I forgot. By the time I remembered about it and looked up how to do a price match request, I saw that they only allow price matching within 7 days from the date of order. My order was 15 days ago.

If they go by their policy, I’m clearly out of luck. It was my fault for not requesting the price match before I placed my order or requesting it within 7 days. I can’t just pick and choose one half of the policy in my favor. On the other hand, a smart business should know the value of a loyal customer.

The price difference is quite large. My order was $170. If they do the price match, it would be $110, or about 35% less. If I request the price match anyway, even if it’s late, what do you think they will say? “Sorry, it’s too late now.” or “No problem, here’s the refund.”? If you were running this business, what would you do?

I will post the outcome on Friday.

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  1. john (Nifty News & Decent Deals) says

    As much as I’m pro-consumer, part of me has to side with the retailer on this one. I think price-matching policies are a hallmark of a good company but the internet makes things particularly cutthroat. Even Amazon finally decided to yank their price matching policy recently.

    Having the ability to get a price match at all these days is nice. Even if it is just for seven days. I know you paid a lot more than you wanted to in this case and I can empethize with being out a decent chunk of cash like that.

    Either the trusted retailer clearly overpriced this item like a rebate and hoped to sell smaller quantities at a huge markup, or the overall shipped price at the shady 3rd party dealer evens out the overall price to be more in line with the trusted retailer. Although I’ll root for you, my bet is that this retailer will decide not to do the price match.

    Sometimes it really is amazing how brazen some sites can be with their pricing on certain items.

  2. john (Nifty News & Decent Deals) says

    Also, the fact that you’ve ordered the same item in the past both helps and hurts you. From one side, it’s clear that you buy this item frequently and that they stand to lose a steady customer. On the other hand, if you’re buying from them and always price-matching then in their eyes you’ve been “beating the system” and they might just take the big one-time profit by not having to price match you.

    The frequent customer angle probably swings things ever so slightly in your favor. I’d try to play that up. Good luck.

  3. Dawn says

    Part of what you paid for when you bought the item for the higher price was the convenience of getting it when you needed it.

    If I were the business I would say too bad — the policy is clearly posted, and because of your previous record, you’re clearly aware of it.

  4. Jim says

    Just remember that to the retailer a frequent customer (high volume) is not the same as a good customer (high profit, low interaction).

    It doesn’t hurt to ask. If you aren’t worth the trouble, they’ll say no and hope you go away forever. If they value your business, they’ll say yes. The worst that can happen is that they say no and you go back to asking for matches in a timely manner.

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