What Price Guarantee?

By Ron Rosenberg

100% price match guarantee speech bubble design.When you're selling a commodity product (or even one that can be perceived as a commodity) you put yourself in a complicated position because people make these kinds of purchases based on price, convenience, and availability.

You see this in the forms of ads and promotions with statements such as, "Call for a free rate quote!" or "We won't be undersold!"

When you can go online, order a product on Amazon, and have it delivered in two days or less, a trip to a local retailer can seem like an unnecessary inconvenience. In fact, some people take the interesting step of going to a retail store for the sole purpose of holding and examining a particular product...only to price shop and order that very same product at a lower price from an online vendor - while they're still in the store.

The Price-Match "Numbers Game"

This is such a prevalent problem that there's a speaker who presents a program called, "How Not to Be a Showroom for Amazon!" And many large "brick and mortar" retailers have extended their price-match guarantees to include online vendors like Amazon.

Of course, these guarantees have some fine print that goes along with them. For example, when you're comparing prices, the item with the lower price must have the exact same model number as the one the vendor is selling. So to circumvent this problem, retailers work with major suppliers to create part numbers that are available only to the specific retailer. In other words, the same exact TV could be sold online, but with a different model number, so that price wouldn't be matched.

That hardly seems fair, and definitely violates at least the spirit of a price-match guarantee; but even if their tactics are a bit sketchy, they can't pull the "different model number" trick when they put their own products on sale. Or can they?

Time for New Laptops!

We had been using our current laptops for nearly four years, and, despite keeping up to date with anti-virus software, removing clutter and junk files from the system, and making sure our disks were defragmented, there were times when simple tasks seemed to take forever - as if the computer had come to a complete standstill.

Plus, we were seeing the need to have a tablet of some sort, so we began doing our research. We've always had a preference for Toshiba products, and have found them to be fast and reliable, so this is where we started, settling on the Radius 15.6" 2-in-1 Laptop.

The screen rotates a full 360 degrees so you can use it as a standard laptop or as a tablet as the need arises.

We went to Best Buy and found the model we wanted - the only problem was that it wasn't on sale. Since it's possible to save $100 or sometimes even $150 with on a sale item, that certainly was a consideration.

I figured I could wait a couple of weeks to see if the price dropped, but Lorie's computer was barely usable; and since I'm the person she turns to for technical support, we decided to purchase her computer that day and keep an eye on their website for any price changes.

We also got her a nice big 25" monitor and an external CD/DVD drive since most newer laptops don't come with this as a standard item anymore. And because the laptop wasn't on sale, we were even able to get $20 off the price of the external drive.

Guess What - There's a Sale!

The following week I was checking the company's website and the laptop was on sale - forĀ  $100 less than what we had paid.

Following the instructions given to us by our salesperson, I called the Best Buy 800 number, and, after about 20 minutes on hold, spoke to a helpful representative. She looked up the order, confirmed the sale price, said it all seemed in order, and we'd receive an e-mail within three days.

I was traveling that week and didn't have time to check, but about ten days later, I did receive the following e-mail:

Hi Ron,

My name is Ashley L. and I am with the Best Buy General Administrative Team. This e-mail is in regards to a price match that you had requested previously for a Toshiba - Satellite Radius 2-in-1 15.6" 4K Ultra HD Touch-Screen Laptop - Intel Core i7 - 8GB Memory - 1TB Hard Drive - Carbon Gray sku: 4203200 that you had paid 999.99 for, then called in later stating that the item was on sale for 899.99 and you were wanting to know if you could take advantage of our Low Price Guarantee.

I just wanted to let you know that unfortunately your request does not fall under our Low Price Guarantee due to the item that you were wanting to price match was purchased in a bundle. Our policy states that we do not price match bundle offers. I apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused you. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this issue or any others, please feel free to respond to this e-mail or contact us.

Thank you for choosing Best Buy.

Ashley L.
Best Buy General Admin. Team

I was confused about this response for several reasons, and replied immediately with the following response:

Hello Ashley,

You'll have to help me out here - exactly what "bundle" did we purchase?

Also, the salesperson we purchased the laptop from in the store informed us very specifically that if the laptop went on sale within 15 days that we would get the price-match refund, and this was confirmed by the representative I spoke with at 1-800-BESTBUY...after waiting over 25 minutes on hold to speak with her in the first place.

Please let me know what we need to do to get the refund that was promised to us by your Best Buy employees.

Thanks in advance for your help.

What's Going On Here?

After about two weeks with no response, it was time to spring into action. Even though I don't agree with the "unique model number" policy, I can at least understand their motivation there.

But to not honor their own sale-price policy was a bit too much for me, especially since, during that time, I had already purchased a second laptop (at the sale price) to replace my own.

So I called the 800 number, and again sat on hold for over 20 minutes, until another representative looked up the order and informed me that the "bundle" mentioned in the e-mail was because of the discount the original salesperson had given us on the CD/DVD drive - he had coded it as a special "bundle" price to get the system to accept it.

The rep asked me if I could wait for a few minutes while she looked into it, and then came back and said that a "floor" rep - whatever that is - authorized a refund for the $100 difference, and that it would appear on my credit card in about a week.

Lessons Learned

First and foremost, at least from the consumer perspective, is that you have to stay on top of situations like these. Many companies - despite what their slogans and ad campaigns claim - do not put their customers first.

Some people might not have had the drive or the energy to follow up on the initial e-mail response, leaving money on the table that was rightfully theirs.

Of course, it's quite possible that I spent enough time on this to negate the $100 I ended up getting, but at some point, it's simply a matter of principle.

Second - and more to the point of your own practices - is that you have to deliver on your promises, and make it easy for your customers, clients, and members to benefit from special offers you're extending to them.

And third, if at all possible, it's best to stay out the the "price match" game entirely by offering products and services that are unique, targeted, and difficult to copy.