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Store Price Matching Not As Simple As It Sounds

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(Photo illustration by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

(Photo illustration by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

Dorothy Tucker Dorothy Tucker
Dorothy Tucker has served as a reporter for CBS 2 Chicago since 1984....
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CHICAGO (CBS) – The retail wars for your Christmas dollar are already heating up. Target became the latest store to promote price matching. It sounds like an easy deal, but we wondered if it’s really all that easy – especially on the hot items – so we sent CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker to find out.

On its website, Wal-Mart proudly promotes its Christmas price matching policy, which states, “If a customer finds a lower advertised priced on any gift they bought at Wal-Mart, we will actually give them the difference on a Wal-Mart gift card.”

Wal-Mart isn’t the only store offering price matching. It tops the list of major retailers that are willing to match a competitor’s prices, but the rules are basically the same for all of them. The item has to be the same size, brand and model number.

It sounds easy, but it’s harder than you might think.

“It’s sort of a mess,” said Brad Wilson, who operates a shopping comparison website.

He said the mess usually involves consumer electronics. Retailers like Wal-Mart will advertise a TV that looks like the same TV you see a Target, Best Buy or another store, but there’s a catch.

“One of the ways that stores make it difficult is that they actually will get an exclusive model number, just for their store,” Wilson said. “So on the front end, you can’t do a price comparison, because it doesn’t appear to be the same thing, when in reality it’s identical.”

Since the policies say the model numbers have to be the same, consumers don’t get the matching price.

“It’s a little bit of a gotcha trick. It’s a big hole in the integrity of the price match process,” Wilson said.

Other things consumers need to remember about price matching policies is that all of them exclude Black Friday sales. Most won’t match Internet sales and, as shopper Gloria Pittman points out, there are a few other exclusions in the fine print.

“Some stores have no rain checks, limited quantities; and so when they run out of the quantity that they have already ordered, then they won’t match the price,” she said.

It’s not all bad news when it comes to price matching. In fact, there are some items that are considered easy to price match. They include brand name clothing, shoes, coats and toys.

Just be sure to read the fine print, which you’ll find on the companies’ websites.

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