Walmart.com: "Not Sold Online" Means "Come Pay More For It In The Store"

Reader F. put some Consumerist-savvy to work and got Walmart to honor the price shown on their website. You see, when something is out of stock on Walmart.com — the item’s description says “Not Sold Online,” rather than “Out of Stock.” Not being psychic, F. took this to mean that the item was not sold online, and would be available at the listed price at the store…

Normally I avoid Walmart like the plague, but having just moved I am skint (broke, out of money, impoverished). My computer monitor was broken (cracked, actually) sometime in the process of moving residences, and I needed a replacement ASAP. So I was price comparing online, and the Dell SE198WFP seemed like a nice enough deal.

Walmart advertises the SE198WFP for $188.72 on their website, and the site also says it’s in stock at my local store. **The website also specifically says “Not Sold Online.”**

Well, we get to the Walmart in Okemos, Michigan and find the monitor. It is tagged as $198.00, $10 more than the price as listed online. I grab the girl at the electronics counter (as she sighs because I am interrupting her text messaging), and inform her I need a monitor. At this point I am assuming this is a non-issue, and they will happily give me the web advertised price. Not so.

As she is unlocking the monitor from its electronic alarm, I mention the price discrepancy. She now has a sour look on her face and says she can’t sell it to me for that price. But I read The Consumerist every single day. I felt bad enough shopping at Walmart to begin with, I wasn’t going to let them get away with this.

I point out that advertising one price to lure customers into the store and then trying to charge another higher price is tantamount to false advertising. She says there is nothing she can do (lies!), and I need to talk to a manager. I ask for a manager.

Well, she walks away and ostensibly calls a manager with the issue. We wait for around five minutes, and the girl comes back. I get some more information, but the manager never appears.

She proceeds to tell me that when a product is sold out online, the website says “Not Sold Online,” but they can’t “comp” themselves. She then informs me she dealt with this same issue earlier in the day; someone wanted to buy a computer advertised online for $50 less than the store had it listed for. She continued with this talk of not being able to “comp” themselves, and how even though the website says “not sold online,” lists a price, and informs you of your local stores stock status, that the price isn’t actually valid.

I wasn’t having it. I asked point blank, “so you are unwavering on the issue?” She says yes.

My response is simple. I tell her that it was unacceptable for a corporately controlled chain to lure customers into their stores with no intent to honor prices advertised by that very same corporation. Furthermore I tell her to do so is illegal in the state of Michigan (it is). I go on to say that if they were insistent, I was left with a specific course of action. I would file with the state AG office, file with the BBB (even though it does nothing), call exec.. cu… tive… I am cut off mid-sentence. That’s all she needed to hear.

In a huff, she unlocks the monitor, takes it to the counter, and rings me up at the web advertised price without so much as a call to her manager. Apparently they can “comp” themselves.

What concerns me is not a measly $10. What concerns me is that, as she evidenced, this happens often. How many customers are going to brick and mortar stores to pick up items advertised online, only to find prices markedly higher than advertised? And how many of those customers cave in, not being aggressive about their rights as a consumer?

-F Scott

We hear about this sort of thing often. Some general advice: Some stores have mouse-print on their websites that specifically excuse themselves from having to price match their own websites. If you’re going to try to get them to price match, make sure to bring a printout of the website with you, as some retailers have a habit of trying to skirt the issue by tricking you into thinking that the “sale ended while you were in the car.”

As far as Walmart.com goes, “not sold online” is a very misleading way to say “out of stock.” You were correct to demand the “not sold online” price. We’re so proud!

Comments

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  1. RonDiaz says:

    I worked at Wal-Mart for about 9 months in 2004-early 2005 (hey needed a job wil something better came along). We were not allowed to price match the Walmart.com website under any circumstances at that point.

  2. SkokieGuy says:

    Hot damn! Kudos to the OP. By stating not sold online and available in stores, the website absolutely was advertising a store price, no different than a printed circular in the newspaper.

    The sad part is that this is clearly the standard operating procedure for Wal-(Look at our new logo – it’s a sphincter!)-Mart and many other retailers.

    With a corporate controlled and cosolidated media and the legal system effectively morphed into the one he with the most money wins, there is little hope of change.

  3. Jenng says:

    said it before and will keep saying it…

    Wal-Mart = FAIL

  4. Jbball says:

    O.M.G. The world is coming to an end. Can’t believe you whine that much over $10 fucking dollars. What is $10 in the grand scheme of it all? Nothing….

  5. MayorBee says:

    @RonDiaz: Same here (it seems to be Consumerist’s day to post my former workplaces). We couldn’t price match the website at all. We were, however, able to price match up to $10 without a manager override.

    Two things surprise me about this story, though. Once being threatened, most Wal-Mart employees wouldn’t cave, they would just dig in their heels more. This makes me think she was either a manager or a CSM (kinda like a cashier supervisor). Second thing…a Wal-Mart employee knew what “unwavering” means? Unpossible!

  6. evslin says:

    I go on to say that if they were insistent, I was left with a specific course of action. I would file with the state AG office, file with the BBB (even though it does nothing), call exec.. cu… tive… I am cut off mid-sentence. That’s all she needed to hear.

    She did it to get you out of her face so she could go back to LOLing with her friends on company time.

    I’d still shoot some e-mails around to the folks with fancy titles and ask them to do something about it, personally.

  7. battra92 says:

    I know Wal*Marts, like all stores, do vary from store to store but it doesn’t make sense to do this. Why not, “see stores for the Low Low Price” or something like that?

    By the way, am I right in assuming the Site to Store option was not available as well?

  8. Tiber says:

    If it weren’t for the wording I would side with Wal-Mart (*shudder*). Saying “Out of stock” is one thing, but saying “Not sold online” means you can only buy it at a store. In that case you should either price match or label it online as the “suggested price”.

    As it is, I have to go with the OP. Besides, $10 to keep a customer happy is nothing.

  9. LowerHouseMember says:

    @RonDiaz: Exact same thing when I used to work at Target. As far as we were concerned Target.com was a completely different store. And Target doesn’t price match either (or at least mine didn’t at the time).

    Whether the policy was right or not wasn’t my place to say, but I certainly wasn’t about to risk my job by going against it. Let them take it up with corporate. Lucky him that he got the clerk to match it.

  10. emona says:

    Is this something like the Best Buy/BestBuy.com ‘We’re not technically the same entity’ BS? Lovely.

  11. LowerHouseMember says:

    And to add to my previous comment, I definitely agree that the wording on Walmart’s website is misleading. They really should fix that.

  12. BoomerFive says:

    @Jbball: Maybe you should look at the new post on comments. How are you helping anyone? How about we all decide that we will no longer let corporations get away with this crap instead of constantly blaming the OP and calling them a whiner?

  13. MayorBee says:

    @emona: Oh man, the world’s coming to an end…I’m about to defend Wal-Mart. At least Wal-Mart didn’t have a fake walmart.com accessible only inside their stores so they could mess around with their pricing like Best Buy did.

  14. Mudpuddle says:

    Why do people who say “I don’t normally shop at Walmart” go to walmart and then write a article on who their Walmart experiance didn’t go as expected? Didn’t it go as expected? Isn’t it kinda self fulfilling?

  15. Mudpuddle says:

    Wish we could edit our text after posting.
    Why do people who say “I don’t normally shop at Walmart”, go to Walmart and then write an article on how their Walmart experience didn’t go as expected? Didn’t it go as expected? Isn’t it kinda self fulfilling?

  16. MayorBee says:

    @Mudpuddle: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. –Albert Einstein

  17. aka Cat says:

    @BoomerFive: Dunno about him, but the new comments code post isn’t showing up in my feed. I didn’t know it existed until I saw it mentioned in the comments to another post.

  18. Angryrider says:

    It’s pretty much common sense to bring proof if you’re going to price match.

  19. tom2133 says:

    @Jbball:

    Yes, it’s “only $10,” but if Walmart gets away with this, who’s to say how much more they’ll try to get away with? $20? $50?

    Speaking as a former chain store manager, the BBB/Attorney General comments don’t really affect us as much as a “stearn lecture” from the DM. I think that once they heard “executive” she could just imagine how this issue would roll downhill. I didn’t fear my DM, but his motto was “if it keeps the customer from calling corporate or the CEO, then do it.” If he heard that you didn’t allow a discount or the customer called corporate and you didn’t “bend the rules” it meant trouble.

    Meanwhile, our store margins sometimes suffered, BUT we hit our projected revenues.

  20. GearheadGeek says:

    @Jbball: $10 is a material difference. In this case it’s over 5% of the advertised price. I try not to pay an extra $10 for things I buy if I’m not getting anything in return for the upcharge.

  21. decoyoctopus says:

    At the Wal-mart I work at we have a full page printout from the website highlighted with the part that says Wal-Mart stores do not match Wal-mart.com prices to show to anyone like the op.

    I highly doubt they’d have any traction in reporting Wal-mart to the BBB calling corporate blah blah if the policy is stated on the website.

    I always truly wonder why people who hate wal-mart so much shop there when I’m sure there are other places to take their money and then act like Robin Hood when they pull one over on Prince John.

  22. DeafChick says:

    Why can Walmart set up their online system like Target? Anything online that you can find in stores will have the same price.

  23. vadavia says:

    And then you have things like this that happen: [flickr.com]

  24. Why do people always write “I USUALLY avoid wal-mart like the plague”?

    No one avoids the plague, then one day says “Hey, there might be something to this so-called ‘plague’, I think i’ll try some….”

    Either you don’t like to shop there but you will for a great deal, or else you don’t shop there at ALL.

  25. MPHinPgh says:

    @Jbball: So if $10 is no big deal to you, then give me (or better still, the OP, who mentioned he was skint) the money. Seems you must have loads of the stuff, just clutering up the room.

  26. Jbball says:

    Meh, if the price listed is different when you go to the store and the store won’t match it, just leave and take your business elsewhere. Pretty simple, IMO. There’s really no need to take the time to type out your entire experience over $10, when you could wait a day or so and buy it online, when it came in stock.

    The OP said his monitor was broken, but never said it didn’t work, just was cracked.

  27. @battra92: It said it wasn’t available online… out of stock. Couldn’t send it to the store.

  28. Phreggs says:

    Site to store option can take weeks in order to get an item. We’ve (wife and I) have ordered a few things through the Site to Store option, and it would take 3 weeks to get an item from a few states over. All it saves is the shipping cost.. Which normally ends up being outweighed by the amount of time that it takes to get to “your” store.

    So, him need a monitor ASAP, Site to Store was not an option.

  29. Phreggs says:

    @battra92:

    Drats, forgot to hit the reply to comment button… Above statement towards Battra92

  30. ThinkerTDM says:

    @MayorBee: Hey, at least a monitor didn’t fall on his head!
    I think that, instead of being excited that a company didn’t do an even worse infraction, we should hold them to a higher standard.
    In other words, stating “At least WalMart didn’t kick him in the nuts, too!”
    we should be saying (and most people are) “This is wrong because it’s not right!”

  31. Oh, and in case I didn’t say it before… OP. Although you broke our solemn Consumerist vow to never patronize the life sucking corporation of maggots that is Wal*Mart, at least you stood up for your rights. That is something to hang up on the fridge for mommy and daddy to be proud of!!!

  32. BoomerFive says:

    @Jbball: Yet you feel the need to respond uselessly multiple times.

  33. Concerned_Citizen says:

    There is nothing wrong with foreign competition. It has pointed out the flaws in American manufacturers. If you are not working towards efficiency and simplicity, you are working against it.

  34. zentex says:

    Normally I avoid Walmart like the plague

    The story lost ALL credibility with that sentence (at least with me).

  35. Michael says:

    Oh I know that Walmart too well. You should have gone around the corner and supported the Michigan-based big-box store – Meijer!

  36. VeeKaChu says:

    @decoyoctopus: So you’re saying that text at Walmart.com stating that the stores won’t price-match the website somehow supercedes a given state’s “truth-in-advertising” laws? Therefore it’s OK for the website to show a product as “Available in store” but NOT state that it’s actually a whole other price “in store”?

    Looks like there’s plenty of traction there for a false advertising claim, despite what it “says” online.

  37. Farquar says:

    @Jbball: And I got the boot this week for not contributing substance? Wow.

    As to the rest: If Wal-Mart is anything like Target, and I suspect they are, Cashiers can do a price override without manager approval.
    Years ago I worked at Target. If someone complained about a price discrepancy I called for a price check. If I didn’t get a response within 30 seconds I just gave it to the customer at the price they said it was. Managers would later bring a report and ask me why I did it, I’d tell them and that was that. This girl may not have been a manager, supervisor.

  38. kaptainkk says:

    @Jbball: Feel free to send me $10 anytime since you don’t think it’s that much to be concerned over. I have no idea why people like you even read posts on Consumerist. JFC!

  39. bleh says:

    @Jenng: Are you serious? $10 is 60+ miles worth of gas. $10 is 3+ lbs of meat. $10 is alot of money.

    If you don’t work for Wal-Mart maybe you should apply. You have the right mentality.

  40. Overheal says:

    At the end of today though its still Walmart policy not to honor the website-listed price, and it ought to be remedied. Perhaps a nice EECB.

  41. guilliam says:

    I have a friend who bought something from Walmart.com and used site to store pickup to save shipping. They called and told her it was in, but when she went to pick it up, they couldn’t find it and told her they would refund her cc. She wanted them to get it from the store shelf (they had recently gotten them in) and they told her no because as it turns out, the store price was $20 more than the online price. She argued with them, but they wouldn’t give in and she had to wait for the refund to be credited to her cc. Then she drove out of town and bought it from Target (we don’t have one locally)

  42. kaosfive2005 says:

    actually i came across the exact same problem when i went to purchase a wireless router, it was 10$ less on the site than it was in person and they would not do the free site to store, and would charge about 10 bucks to have it shipped to my house so i said the hell with it

  43. battra92 says:

    @verucalise: Oh ok. I never use WalMart.com so I wasn’t sure.

  44. keith4298 says:

    Similar thing happened to me at Macy’s when buying luggage. I got a knowelable manager that said the reason they don’t match the online price is that the online link (from the Macy’s) web site just has it dropped shipped from the manufacturer to the buyer cutting out the middle man. Therefore they pass those savings on….he did give me the web price (as a one time courtesy for my trouble).

  45. grithfang says:

    I work at a distribution center for Wal-Mart moving boxes. The prices are listed on each label affixed to the individual boxes and they can be different from store to store, $3.04 to one a $2.79 to another for example.

  46. murphy1701 says:

    Something is confusing to me. At what point does the 188.72 price state that it was for in store pricing? Further more at what point does it state that it was for that particular store? The 188.72 could just be that if the item was offered online that is what the price would be. Also, if the store was to honor the 188.72 pricing.. should they also charge the .97 shipping cost as well because the website says something about the shipping cost.

  47. stacye says:

    @murphy1701: Because walmart.com has this nifty thing that states “–OR– Find in store” next to the price. If they only intend to sell it online at the online price, then they would not include that part (and they don’t on some items).

  48. KatieKate93 says:

    It sounds like her manager told her not to do it unless the customer sounds like he’s going to be difficult. I guess it pays to be difficult :)

  49. StellaSquash says:

    According to the OP, it said “not sold online”. That doesn’t mean it’s out of stock. That means get your heiny to the nearest brick and mortar and buy it there, cause you ain’t getting it here.

    If it’s not sold online, and the clerk said they don’t sell it in the store at the price, then exactly which parallel universe sells this monitor for that price?

    Is there another shopping medium we have yet to discover, but Walmart has cornered the market?

    Why does that sound suspiciously like bait and switch.

  50. dewrock says:

    As far as I’m concerned stores like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City, etc can have separate prices for store and online. But when it says “Not sold online”, that implies that you can only buy it at the store. So if a price is listed for said item, then that’s the price it needs to be in the physical store.

  51. darksunfox says:

    The local Best Buy does this all the time. One time I went to see if they’d match the online 7.99 price for a CD with a sticker that said 13.99. Nope, not in our system, sorry. I went over to their “search to see if your media is in-stock so we don’t have to” kiosk and the KIOSK listed it as 7.99. Very weird. They gave in after the kiosk price was 7.99 and sold it at that price. I’m pretty sure the kiosk was just searching their website anyways, so why not give it up for the website price to begin with?

  52. decoyoctopus says:

    @stacye:
    and also if you click on the find in store button it says they don’t match prices online and store prices may vary from store to store.

    But who cares now it’s back in stock online and has 97 cent shipping.

  53. evslin says:

    @murphy1701: Something is confusing to me. At what point does the 188.72 price state that it was for in store pricing?

    At the point where it says “Wal-Mart” at the top of the page, and on the front of the building that the OP entered. I just find something highly irregular with a company advertising some price for an item “not sold online”, then tacking on another $10 for you to buy it in their brick and mortar location.

  54. endless says:

    “Pricing Policy
    About Our Prices
    We strive to provide you with the lowest prices possible on Walmart.com as well as in our stores. However, sometimes a price online does not match the price in a store. Walmart.com’s prices may be either higher or lower than local store prices. Our local stores do not honor Walmart.com pricing or competitor advertisements from outside of a store’s local trade territory.”

    thats on their site, waaaaay down, but its there.

    lame.

  55. odhen says:

    @endless:

    Yeah, they just recently added this, I believe. You used to have to sift through a few pages of bullshit to get to it. Working in the cell phone department I don’t have much to do, so I’ve sadly become too familiar with the Wal-mart website.

    When did the OP do this? “Not sold online” has always meant just that, not sure why the employee told him it meant “out of stock” (probably misinformed/lazy). It’s available to purchase online as of right now, though. I know at one point all the Dell merchandise was online, but only available for purchase in stores (something to do with their agreement, I’d assume). If the OP did this in the last couple days it may have been a glitch that it said “not sold online”.

    As an employee of Wal-mart, I do agree that it’s silly that the company does not match it’s own website. At least now they do a better(albeit not great) job of indicating that on the site.

    And actually, if the OP did search for stock in stores, he missed the pink box at the top of the “In-Store Availability” pop-up that says “Online and store prices may differ, and prices may vary from store to store. See Pricing Information for details.” with a link to the details.

  56. PracticalMagic says:

    @jbball: Send out $10.00 to every person who has responded to this blog. I think you’ll get the picture.
    Walmart is cleaning up by fleecing people with their bait and switch. It’s the principle of the matter, not a measly $10.00.

    It’s sad that so many consumers think the way you do. It’s only $10.00………..

  57. Seanross says:

    I got caught in the price bait and switch a month or so back. I needed a play and charge kit for my xbox360.

    I see it on Walmarts website for $17.xx, I get a ride to the store and it’s $20.xx. I of course complained about the price, but since there was “nothing” the cashier could do, I begrudgingly payed the $20 plus tax.

  58. Azraeus says:

    First of all, I don’t see why everyone is attacking Jball. His opinion was basically suck it up. Whether you agree with it or not, it was a valid opinion. Yet, half the posters here filet him alive like he’s a complete moron. I just don’t see the anonymous net hatred because “his opinion is different from mine!??!??!”

    As far as the situation itself, I work at Wal-Mart. It is a malevolent, evil, sadistic company. That being said, some random cashier didn’t actually make the rules. Treating other people like shit because your angry because she’s doing her job is ridiculous. If she did that for every person that complained about unfair Wal-Mart practices, she wouldn’t have a job. People on here are complaining about Jball sending ten dollars to everyone. Are you going to send 6.50 and hour to this girl?

    I really love the Gawker media websites (specifically Kotaku, but this one and Lifehacker are growing on me). I just don’t see why people have to argue so vehemently over what should be a civil discussion.

  59. geckospots says:

    @SkokieGuy: LOL. It is a sphincter, isn’t it?

    Well done, Walmart!

  60. jswilson64 says:

    @Jbball:
    “$10 f—ing dollars.”

    Hilarious!

    Translates to: Ten dollars f—ing dollars.

    Get your GSP straight before you start ripping the OP, genius.

  61. seamer says:

    Although shady practices as described in the OP suck balls, so do customers who throw all kinds of statutes around people who’d rather be at home with their family. There’s a fine line between knowing your rights and behaving civilly, and in this case I believe the OP behaved as despicably as the bait-and-switch.

  62. Overheal says:

    Hey wait a damn minute……

    What about Shipping and Handling Costs?

    OP it would have probably cost you $10 just to ship it to your address anyway. If not more.

    Chill the fuck out :)

  63. dlinkwit27 says:

    Why not take it to Best Buy or another retailer and have them price match wal-mart?

  64. coren says:

    @Jbball:Ah, welcome to bizarro world where broken actually means “fuly functional”! Plus, how does the layman know that “Not Sold Online” actually means “Out of Stock”? Plus with gas prices what they are, and him already spending the time to go out, it’s just as worth it to wait and force the price there.

    @StellaSquash: And according to the electronics person the OP talked to, Not Sold Online means out of stock.

    @Azraeus: Everyone is “attacking” him because he’s basically saying it was wrong to force a company to live up to their advertisements, which is counter to the idea of this site to begin with.

    I think it’s strange that if, like some other commenters have suggested, Not Sold Online means just that rather than some replacement for Out of Stock that WalMart would have a higher price in store. Disclaimer or not, that’s bait and switch. If the only place it can be bought is in store, one would likely assume that the price is being offered in store, particularly the way that page is laid out.

  65. TargetGS says:

    Target does the same thing. Prices online are priced strategically to be competitive with other online retailers. The in-store prices are competitive with stores in the local area. Therefore, online prices may be different than store prices. Also, the store a few towns over may have a different price. I’m assuming Walmart is the same way.

    The Walmart website does say that prices in local stores may differ from the price shown online, so I don’t see how there’s an argument here. There is no deception if the policy is spelled out right in front of your face. DON’T ASSUME THINGS!

    (I am a Target Team Member, but not an official spokesperson)

  66. Xerloq says:

    I think you’ll find that if the item was sold online, you’d pay about $10 for shipping and handling.

    Generally the “Free Site to Store” shipping items are the same price as the items in the store.

    I had one “savvy” Wal Mart manager explain this once, saying they could match the online prices with shipping and handling.

    Just shop at Newegg. No tax most places.

  67. Xerloq says:

    @Xerloq: Just checked, and this qualifies for Site to Store. Glad you stood up to Wally.

  68. LianaBoongly says:

    Meg,

    One thing I found interesting on Wal-Mart’s website regarding price
    issues from the web vs. in-store. Please see the picture attached.
    Disclaimer is stated below:

    Online and store prices may differ, and prices may vary from store to
    store. See Pricing Information > for details.

    >

  69. Adisharr says:

    I feel a small part of me dissolving every time I step into Chin.. err Walmart.