Does A Store Have To Price Match Their Website?

Here’s a question we get a lot. Are stores required to price match their own website?

Mike asks:

Even though the RIAA and the MPAA try to screw customers at every turn, I wanted to support my favorite show of all time by purchasing the new Futurama Movie: Bender’s Game. Target.com had the cheapest price I could find at $14.99 and I have a Target right across the street from work. I went to buy the DVD and it rang up as $19.99. I pulled up the website on my iPhone and showed the cashier that it was $14.99. She told me that Target stores don’t match Target.com prices. I told her to void the sale because I felt cheated. I went to the customer services desk and they told me the same thing.

How can a store not match the prices on their own website? Is this legal? Didn’t Best Buy get in trouble for doing something similar?

The simple answer — yes, it’s perfectly legal and lots of stores do it. It’s a lot more common than you think. If you don’t like it, you should do exactly what you did — take your business elsewhere.

As far as your second question about Best Buy — no, they did not get into trouble for refusing to price match their own website — they got in trouble for making a second “fake” website that showed in-store prices. The argument was that Best Buy was misleading customers into thinking that the website prices were the same as the in-store ones. Consumers reported that Best Buy employees would tell them that the “sale ended while they were in the car” and would use the “fake” website to prove it. This is clearly uncool, and it let to a lawsuit by the Attorney General of Connecticut.

Here’s Target’s official price matching policy. In short, they do not price match.

Pricing for products on Target.com may vary from Target stores and from the Target Weekly Ad. We do not match the price of our online merchandise with the price offered by Target stores or another company, and Target stores do not match the price of our online merchandise. However, if you see a lower price listed in one of our Target Weekly Ads, we may be able to adjust the price of your online order to match the advertised price.

Comments

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  1. potzertommy says:

    I have to side with Target on this one… Shipping costs money, and it only makes sense that the in-store product (which has already been shipped to you) should cost more than the online purchase, which will add in chipping costs at the checkout.

    • SadSam says:

      @potzertommy:

      I was thinking the same shipping and handling.

      • Xerloq says:

        @SadSam: The only example I’ve found where the in-store price matched the online price plus shipping was Wal-Mart.

        • Spaztrick says:

          @Xerloq: I just went to BestBuy to buy a new set of clippers. Online they were $10 less than in the store. I did not realize this until the cashier was ringing the sale. I showed her the price online, she called a manger over who said she had a headache already just match the price. Of course that’s the only time I’ve ever had BestBuy match anything. Wal-Mart seems to always match their own prices.

          • t325 says:

            @Spaztrick: I bought a new mouse at Best Buy last weekend. It was $15 cheaper online than in store, and the cashier had no problem matching the price. I didn’t even have to argue. I said it was cheaper online, he verified the price, and matched. I was in and out of the store in 5 minutes.

    • scootinger says:

      @potzertommy: But for a lot of people, wouldn’t the point of going to a store be to avoid shipping costs? When you add it up, the cost to send a particular item through the distribution system of a company like Target is most likely very small considering that millions of other items that it has to ship to stores…especially for a tiny DVD! It is probably much cheaper to ship from a warehouse to a Target store in one of Target’s trucks than to ship an individual item from a warehouse to your home via UPS.

      • potzertommy says:

        @scootinger:

        but in order to sell you the DVD instore, they have to pay for real estate and pay employees who stock the shelves and employees who check you out.

        • elangomatt says:

          @potzertommy:
          Yes, but if you order it online, they still have to pay real estate for the warehouse and employees to pick your orders and ship them. So it mostly equals out.

      • Shmonkmonk says:

        @scootinger: It’s not just shipping cost. You’re also forgetting labor- the shipment team, the floor team, the cashiers, the managers, etc. Then there’s the cost of rent for the store, the cost of utilities, the cost of theft, etc.

        • sinrtb says:

          If it was truly shipping and handling Target needs to start using USPS, DHL, FedEX, or UPS for their DVD shipping It would be much much cheaper.

      • nsv says:

        @scootinger: Store costs vs. warehouse costs:

        The store has
        – many locations – rent ain’t cheap
        – many employees for customer service and checkout
        – additional security costs, and additional shrink
        – merchandising costs–making the place look appealing
        – large parking areas which have to be rented (or purchased) and maintained
        – local advertising (the website rides on coattails here)
        – and other additional costs I’m too tired to think of.

        A few warehouses are cheaper to own and maintain. They require less security because less people pass through. They only need enough parking for the employees. And they don’t have to look appealing or constantly change the way the merchandise is displayed.

        Those added costs of running a store will be tacked on to the price of the goods you buy. Shipping is the biggest additional cost for shopping online, and it’s enough to bring the prices up to store pricing, especially when you’re only buying one item.

        • scootinger says:

          @nsv: I definitely know that B&M locations have higher overhead, which means that things usually cost more at such stores. However, I was simply addressing potzertommy saying that “shipping” the item to the store means that they increase the cost.

          I do think that if Target (as well as any other company that does business online and with B&M stores…ie Home Depot) advertises one price in one location, be it retail or online, it should be honored in all locations that are called “Target” (if you get what I’m saying.) If Target does not wish to offer online prices at their stores, then they need to make a very clear distinction between their online and retail division. They have to go both ways…they can’t just use the Target brand name to get traffic on their website, then claim that they are separate entities. Finally, offering the DVD at a low price at a B&M store would not hurt them that much…in fact it could be very beneficial even if it is a “loss leader” that Target makes no profit on or even loses a slight amount of money; people could easily buy groceries or other high-margin items while at the store.

          • nsv says:

            @scootinger: It seems like it would be easier (and more profitable) to increase online prices to match store prices and then offer free shipping.

            • dweebster says:

              @nsv: That would work for me. I’ve dumped a lot of online shopping carts and bought elsewhere just because I didn’t want to bother with a $5-10 shipping charge. Put the shipping fee into the product price (store merchandise does this under “overhead”) and it simplifies and encourages a quick purchase decision.

              • potzertommy says:

                @dweebster:

                Many sites charge less for bulk shipping. Most famously, Amazon gives free shipping for certain orders over $25. If the shipping was built into the price, such flexibility would not be possible.

          • potzertommy says:

            @scootinger:
            there are so many variables, such as property value, or shipping costs to remote locations that I understand when an item is a different price in one store than another.

            It’s comforting to know that when overhead is low, retail price is low, and when overhead is high, retail cost is high. That’s how it SHOULD work.

          • johnnya2 says:

            @scootinger: You can not be serious to believe groceries are “high-margin” items. Grocery items tend to be loss leaders (milk, bread, pop) and their HBA, and electronics are the high margin items. Target can use THEIR brand name any way they see fit. Target.com is run as a separate business entity.

      • parad0x360 says:

        @scootinger: Yes and no. When you ship from the warehouse to the store you are paying for fuel, the truck driver and truck, the loading of the truck, the unloading of the truck, and you are helping pay the salary of the person who stocks the shelves.

        • scootinger says:

          @parad0x360:
          @Valhawk:
          Very true. What I meant (to be more exact) is that shipping items in volume to Target stores (via their own distribution network) costs less than if they were to ship items individually via UPS/USPS/Fedex or some other carrier.

          Obviously there is no doubt at all that the costs of running a distribution network are substantial, but the cost of transporting the particular item that you hold in your hands is far less via a distribution network (like Target’s) than it would be to deliver them via a package delivery service. Let’s say it costs $1 (estimate) to ship a DVD to someone via Media Mail/Fedex SmartPost/etc. With a trucker driving a truck filled with DVDs (and other items) in bulk, your “share” of the costs to deliver the item from the distribution center to your local Target store is probably a small fraction of that.

      • Valhawk says:

        @scootinger: The cost to ship it to the store is part of the price you see.

    • midwestkel says:

      @potzertommy: Also with things like buy it online and it will be ready in the store that doesn’t make sense. If I am at Best Buy and something is $5 more in the store I can buy it online and go pick it up in the store and not pay shipping and its the same item that was on the shelf.

      • potzertommy says:

        @midwestkel:
        agreed. you get a bargain if you do it this way. Congrats on being thrifty.

      • Shmonkmonk says:

        @midwestkel: They’re hoping you’d come in and the person who hands you the product can upsell an accessory or a warranty plan. Plus, they’re also hoping that once you’re in the store, you’ll want to browse around a bit and pick up something else while you’re at it.

    • ironchef says:

      @potzertommy: Prices differ regionally ALL the time. It costs more to ship inventory to Target stores in remote locations. Plus stores in AK and HI are always paying big bucks to get the same item available in the 48 states.

    • littlemoose says:

      @potzertommy: I work for a major retailer, and I have noticed that store prices often vary from the website. When store prices are lower (e.g., an item has been price-killed), I assume it’s because having too much merchandise in the store is more costly. It takes up space that cannot be used for full-price items, so they price-kill it to get it to move. For the website, it just stays in the warehouse, and costs a lot less being there. Note, I am just speculating — I’m not sure this is why it is done this way.

    • scootinger says:

      And let me clarify that of course I do understand why a local brick-and-mortar store is more expensive than an online store. I am certainly aware of all of the costs behind operating a retail store, and sometimes I do end up giving business to local stores, understandingly paying a higher price for the convenience of shopping at a retail store.

      However, my point is that companies that operate retail stores should not offer lower prices online than in-store if they are using their name on both stores…that, or CLEARLY distinguish between the online and B&M stores (i.e. use an entirely different brand for the “cheaper” online store.) Target can’t have its cake and eat it too…either they could run a competitive online store with low prices and without the Target branding (wouldn’t make sense as Target.com is essentially rebranded Amazon as it is), or they could offer the same price both in-store and online.

    • eiflerb says:

      @potzertommy: I would typically be on Target’s side but the same thing happened to me today but at Sears. There was a $100 price difference for a Blu-Ray DVD player. Online it was for $149.99 but in store was $300.00. The sales clerk said she would bump it down $50.00 for my troubles. Yeah, thanks for nothing. I most certainly declined and they have lost a customer.

      Are you going to tell me that shipping for a dvd justifies a $100 price difference?

      • johnnya2 says:

        @eiflerb: Do you understand that Sears pays a substantially higher rent at the store you were at, and quite frankly you can not go home with your DVD player. If there is a problem you can not go back to a brick and mortar store, you must ship it back and wait for anew one. There are charges for convenience in this world. Think of it the same way as a restaurant versus a grocery store. You can buy a steak and cook it your self far cheaper than having a waitress bring it to your table cooked by a chef and have somebody else clean up your mess.

      • potzertommy says:

        @eiflerb:

        I dont know all the facts. If the retailer is running an online special, then I have no problem with that.

        No, of course i do not think that there could be a $100 cost difference to the retailer.

  2. GothamGal says:

    I did the same thing in a store called Ulta. When they didn’t match their online price, I walked out and I never shopped there again. What is the point of getting it online if I have to pay for shipping, then wait for it?

    • potzertommy says:

      @GothamGal:

      The added convenience of not having to go to Target. By and large, I agree with you though, and thats why I do most of my shopping in-person.

      • GothamGal says:

        @potzertommy:

        I know that it is more convenient, but usually when I want something. I want it now. So if it’s the same price, I go pick it up, but if it’s cheaper online, I will gladly wait. Big purchases, like TVs, should never be done in store. Use Best Buy as a showroom, then use Shopzilla or any other price comparison service to find the best price. You can easily save a $1,000 on the big ticket items.

        • gparlett says:

          @GothamGal: “What is the point of getting it online if I have to pay for shipping, then wait for it?”

          That is how on-line shopping works. That is how on-line shopping always worked.

    • Colage says:

      @GothamGal: Good point. Because of the added inconvenience, you should, like, pay less if you’re shopping online. Or something.

    • Carias says:

      @GothamGal: That is the price you pay for the instant satisfaction of having the item in your hands. The price is lower on the website to encourage you to purchase from there rather than requiring an actual person for the transaction.

  3. potzertommy says:

    i just checked online. for 3-5 day shipping, my order of that same DVD would be $17.97. 2 day shipping would be $20.97 (which is almost exactly what many of us would pay after tax for a $19.99 DVD)

  4. gggtur says:

    Yeah, $14.99 online…plus $5 shipping fees…$19.99! I guess maybe stores could price match items when shipping is included. But otherwise, I understand why they price items accordingly.

    • scootinger says:

      @gggtur: $5 is silly for standard shipping for a DVD. It should easily be less than $2 using USPS Media Mail, or maybe Fedex Smartpost/UPS Mail Innovations (he latter which a lot of the bigger online stores use.)

      • The_IT_Crone says:

        @scootinger: You DO of course realize that it is shipping AND handling? It doesn’t magically appear at the post office ready to go.

        • bwcbwc says:

          @The_IT_Crone: Or the loading dock at the warehouse, since USPS, FedEx and UPS all do on-site pickup.

        • Winstonian says:

          @The_IT_Crone: You DO of course realize that “handling” is often just another name for “our profit margin”? Having worked with many warehouse inventory and invoicing systems, I can tell you that almost every one of them had the handling costs included in the price, most of them had *shipping* already in the price, and “S&H” was pure profit.

  5. acknight says:

    It’s also worth noting that a lot of the media at least was if not still is actually Amazon.com wrapped in Target.com templating.

    • xwildebeestx says:

      @acknight: YOU CAN HAZ PUNKCHOOAYSHUNZ!!

    • sean77 says:

      @acknight: Still is. All DVDs, CDs, Blu-Rays etc are “brought to you by Amazon.com” on target’s website.

      So the online price isn’t even set by target, it’s set by amazon.com.

      • nsv says:

        @sean77: Unless something has changed when I wasn’t looking, merchants set their own prices at Amazon.

        • Anonymous says:

          @nsv: It does not exactly work that way, but in this case its more like amazon is a merchant of Target. Where when you go to Target.com and pull up DVDs, cds, etc, they are being sold by Amazon, through the Target.com portal. Thus Amazon sets the price.

  6. ArizonaGeek says:

    I worked part time at Fry’s Electronics a few years ago and we always had to tell customers that the store didn’t price match any website even their own. Fry’s website is run as a separate business. It actually was a separate business until Fry’s bought them and it just continues to be run that way. I get sale alerts from several places that have both web and brick & mortar (Costco for example) and offer web only sales.

    Nothing wrong with it in my book.

  7. unobservant says:

    Step 1: Shop online.
    Step 2: Choose “Free Store Shipping.”
    Step 3:
    Step 4: Profit.

    If Step 2 is not available, find a site that has it.

    • unobservant says:

      @unobservant: I apologize for the epic South Park reference fail. I can haz coffee?

    • bwcbwc says:

      @unobservant: Not only that, but the in-store pickup option on many websites is usually faster than the regular shipping options anyway. Some of them have same-day pickup from in-store inventory, at least for smaller items.

      Other than that, we’ll see if Circuit City gains any traction with their price-matching guarantee between stores and websites. Maybe the competition will be forced to offer it. If CC had done it before they declared bankruptcy it probably would’ve been better for all of us.

  8. Human947 says:

    One of the home improvement stores has find a store. Than it shows you what the price will be at the store. I think places that have online and stores need to add this do it your customers will thank you.

  9. SOhp101 says:

    No, they don’t have to match their online prices. Should they? Yes.

  10. ColdAmaranth says:

    Okay, I’m still steaming from just trying to get Walmart to match prices from store to store:

    We went to buy a 42″ Vizio HDTV from our neighborhood WalMart last night. They were sold out, but offered to call around town to other Walmarts. They sent us across town. When we arrived at the other WalMart, the price was $50 more. We inquired about this, and after the sales associate contacted the first WalMart and confirmed the price there, she went looking for a manager to override the price. The manager told the sales associate (not so discreetly, but never talking to me directly, and attempting to hide her face from me with a file folder) that WalMart would never, ever match prices from Walmart.com or any other WalMart store! Needless to say, we threw up our hands and walked out.

  11. ChChChacos says:

    I work at a Borders Books & Music. A lot of our dvds/cds are cheaper online than in store. Although I don’t agree with it, our online store gets their products from other warehouses than the stores do. I’m assuming they believe it can be sold cheaper online because they have to factor in shipping costs etc at the end of the sale.
    I had a customer once come up to me in line and complain about the damage to his car it required to drive 5 miles down the road to Borders to pick up a dvd only to find out it was cheaper online. Our manager didn’t give him a discount on it either. I can see why the customer would be upset though, but that’s retail for you.

    • xwildebeestx says:

      @ChChChacos: Driving five miles damaged his car? Maybe he needs to spend a little less on media and a little more on car maintenance.

    • sixseeds says:

      @ChChChacos: When I worked at Barnes & Noble we got that complaint all the time, and there’s no retail-polite way to explain about rent, utilities, labor, etc. Our managers told us to say we had no control over pricing, online or B&M.

      I’ve always thought of it as paying for the convenience of getting the item immediately; if those customers really wanted to save the money, they would have done research, planned ahead, and ordered online. The only reason they’re haggling is because they need/want the item right away and don’t want to wait for it to ship.

    • littlemoose says:

      @ChChChacos: Oh, for goodness sake. Would he have blamed Borders if he was in a car accident on the way to your store to buy the DVD? (Probably, and he’d file a frivolous lawsuit to that effect.)

    • ninjatoddler says:

      @ChChChacos: That customer is plain retarded. The online prices he was complaining about are obviously for the online store. Prices at every brick and mortar store can vary by location so it should come as no surprise that online prices might not necessarily match. Even Wal-Mart does this.

      The only way I can side with the customers is that websites could explicitly state that their online prices might differ from regular stores.

    • Philthadelphian says:

      @ChChChacos:

      Former Borders employee here. At least once aweek I’d have someone asking me if I knew that the DVD/book/CD was cheaper at Amazon.com. I never engaged this, just told them yep and kept ringing them up. The first time someone (middle-aged, successful looking guy) asked me why, I started to explain that online stores, like Amazon, had much lower overhead costs than brick and mortar stores…his eyes started to glaze over and he said “what’s a brick and mortar store?”

  12. dangermike says:

    the last time I was reminded of why I don’t shop at best buy, it was because they wanted to charge me $10 more in-store than the online price listed listed for the item I was seeking to purchase. (about a year ago, Guitar hero III, MSRP and in-store $80, online $70)

    The ONLY reason I ever buy anything there anymore is if I’ve received one of those tacky gift cards people seem to want to give out (my advice: cash is always better than a stupid certificate)

  13. patrickhowell says:

    A lot of companies use real-time demand-based pricing for their webstores. That is, they constantly change their prices to keep sales up… When an item is selling fast, they raise the price, and when it is not selling well, they lower the price.

  14. EyeHeartPie says:

    I tried to buy a blu-ray at Walmart earlier this week. It had an online price of $24.86, and it rang up in-store as $29.99. I tried to get them to match, but the cashier couldn’t. Not wouldn’t, but couldn’t. I called up Walmart corporate to ask why, and they said that, legally, walmart.com and Walmart are 2 different business entities with 2 different inventories, and one cannot be substituted any more than you could go to Circuit City and ask them to match a bestbuy.com price. Many companies do it anyways as per their price match policy, but they don’t have to.

    • Burgandy says:

      @EyeHeartPie: They must have changed their policy. The last time I tried to get them to price match something from their site, they told me they could match the cost + shipping only.

    • Xerloq says:

      @EyeHeartPie: I’ve gotten the same excuse from Wal-mart on online price matching, but got them to do it with a little finess. I’ve also gotten Circuit City to price-match BestBuy.com, simply by pulling up BBYs price on my phone and showing it to the CC employee (I even got the extra 10%). YMMV, however, but it can be done. FWIW, Circuit City always matched their online prices in store.

      • Lundah says:

        @Xerloq: @bwcbwc: CC has been price-matching web to store at least since they started the “buy online, pick-up in store” thing, and they’ve price matched competitors for as long as I can remember. They used to have a top-notch distribution setup for music & movies which allowed them to offer a respectable selection (even some rare stuff & imports) and still be price competitive. On the brown/white goods, anything they couldn’t compete on would have a unique SKU, which meant they didn’t have to match because it wasn’t the exact same model number.

  15. downwithmonstercable says:

    I think the reason for the difference in prices is the same as the differences in prices at Targets or stores in general that are in different districts or regions. I’m guessing that Target.com is considered a different “region” than physical stores. A store in Washington will have different prices on things than a store in Ohio.

    Target.com may also be conisdered a separate “business” and may be run completely differently, since essentially they are running out of a warehouse like Amazon. Lower overhead=lower prices. But to a consumer standpoint, it should just all match. Or you should at least have the website adjust to your local store prices by entering a zip code or something.

    • oneandone says:

      @downwithmonstercable: I like the idea of prices displayed based on where (physically) you would be shopping. Even though I order a lot of things online, I also use store’s websites to browse for things that I’d like to try on, check out in person, etc. It’s a lot more efficient to go through 5 or 6 websites, compare products, and then pick 1 store for shopping than to try to get to all of them and realize that the best stuff was in the first place.

      So I’d definitely support stores that had online shopping AND something like a browsable online inventory for what they have in stores in a given area.

      Barnes & Noble does this (and they show the in-store price) and I enjoy it.

  16. CountryJustice says:

    Looks like pretty much everyone hit all the right points already. Online prices are lower because there’s no overhead for real estate and in-store staff. But once you factor in drop-shipping to your doorstep, you’re about even anyway.

    For some people the appeal of online shopping is being able to avoid lines, people, and traffic that accompany b&m shopping. For others, those factors are what make b&m shopping enjoyable. Regardless, the prices usually wash at the end of the day.

  17. ckaught78 says:

    I experienced this with Target the other day. They had the Wall-E 3-disk blu-ray set online for $24.99. I printed it out and went into the store where it was $29.99. I spoke to a manager and they wouldn’t match the price. They stated they won’t even match prices for a Target store on the other side of town.

    So what did I do? I went down the street to Best Buy, showed them the print out and they matched it. Target just lost a sale.

    You would think in these tough times that every sale counts. I would imagine they aren’t paying any more for the movie than Target.com is. Oh well, they just lost a customer.

  18. Shaftoe says:

    In a free market a store can charge whatever they wish. just as a consumer can shop wherever they wish. So No a store does not have to price match.

    • billy says:

      @Shaftoe: In a free market, yes. There’s also the legal concept that store ads are just invitations to bargain on price, are not offers, and therefore have no real weight by themselves (law school 101).

      However, consumer laws tend to redefine and overrule those basic ideas about price and offers. States, for example, have bait and switch laws, truth in advertising laws, etc, which do away with “free market”. I think the OP was asking if there was a specific law (which would probably be by state anyway) which required price matching.

  19. Counterpoint says:

    Why would anyone in their right mind expect prices to be the same for product in-store as opposed to product online?

    Product in-store has to be ordered, shipped, sit on a shelf and take up real estate, get farmed / maintained by employees, and have a profit that helps pay for the building’s costs (lease, utilities, taxes, etc).

    Product online has to be ordered and shipped, but customers typically pay for all of the shipping. There are far less employees at a warehouse, and the inventories are much more fluid if the company designs their systems correcty. Building costs are substantially less, since these warehouses are usually in the middle of nowhere, and not prime retail locations.

    People are really silly in their expectations in this scenario. If anything, more stores should implement a secondary “see the price in your store” feature that has both the discounted online price and your local store’s price side-by-side.

  20. jchabotte says:

    You want it NOW? you’ll probably pay.. if you can wait.. you’ll pay less.

  21. snowburnt says:

    With large companies like target and best buy the website is a different company (kinda like verizon and verizon wireless), and has it’s own standards even though the branding is the same. In the same line, sometimes the brick and mortar stores are franchises and have a certain degree of control over the prices and inventory.

  22. MrsLopsided says:

    It’s not good customer relations but they shouldn’t be obliged to price match.

    Grocery stores within the same chain can have different prices at different locations within the same city.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I had the reverse happen recently.

    I was looking for a Harmony 550 remote, and my local futureshop was selling them for $132 online, but the store stock when I checked was zero. I found the same one on sale at bestbuy, (and in stock) for $99.

    On a whim, I stopped by FS just to make sure, and not only was the Harmony 550 selling for $79.95 in the store, they also had about 20 in stock. When it was rung up, it rang as $69.95.

    Just goes to show you that sometimes the convenience of online shopping doesn’t always mean you get a deal. That was 4 days ago, and FS is still showing the wrong price and out of stock for that store.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Something very similar to this is actually why I have refused to shop at Sears for most of my life. When I was young, before there was such a thing as the Internet, Sears used to send out catalogs. But even though they would ship the items to their stores and you had to drive to the store to pick them up, they’d still charge you for shipping. This left such a bad taste in my mouth that I simply refused to do business with Sears on principle, even after they opened up a full retail store that didn’t charge for shipping on items in the store.

    Of course, it didn’t help that just about the time I might have been ready to forgive them, their auto service department tried to screw me royally on car repairs (basically tried to sell me service I didn’t need, as later confirmed by a different mechanic. When I balked at spending $1K to repair an old car that probably wasn’t worth half that amount, the Sears mechanic said “I wouldn’t drive this car out of the parking lot if I were you!” in very grave tones, apparently implying that certain death would follow if I did not heed his warning. Since I didn’t fall off the turnip truck the day before, I took it to another mechanic who confirmed that there was nothing seriously wrong with the car (at least nothing safety-related) and who performed the minor maintenance it needed at the time for about $150. That was back in the early 1980’s, and it cemented the negative opinions I’d previously had about Sears.

    Point is, not price-matching the store’s web site is very likely the sort of thing that could give today’s younger folks a very negative impression about a company that will last a lifetime, particularly if they have one or two other bad experiences with that same company. Companies take heed, consumers have long memories, especially the younger demographic that many companies consider desirable.

  25. jdsmn says:

    Let me ask this…what if you received a printed ad flyer for Target for said item, and you go into the store to purchase to find that the printed ad is only honored at the online store? Would you claim that as false advertising?

    I believe that this story is false advertising too. Target intends to mislead people to come into the store using false online advertising. If they want to separate the pricing between Target stores and Target.com, they should rename their online store. The Target.com site represents many aspects of their retail stores, such as hours and print ads, and by doing so Target intentially creates the assumption with consumers that the prices displayed are also a representation of the retail stores.

    • Pylon83 says:

      @jdsmn:
      Your logic is flawed. You assume that ever target store in the entire country maintains, or should maintain, uniform pricing. I think it’s safe to say that most people know that is not true. Prices vary by region, and sometimes even by store within a region. The fact you can buy it online through Target.com at x price shouldn’t lead any logical person to believe that you can buy it for the same price at ANY Target brick and mortar store in the country. If you want to know how much a particular item is in a particular store, CALL THEM!

    • snowburnt says:

      @jdsmn: Also, on almost every single flier or coupon I’ve ever seen there’s either a piece of fine print that says in participating stores only (it’s never really been an issue in my experience) or it actually lists out the stores that it is accepted in.

      Also, for coupons that are only available online, it will usually say it some place in the advert.

  26. RockLobsterNet says:

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with it. Setting up an online store and a central base to ship out of is much cheaper than having brick and mortar stores all over. Why not offer an incentive to use the online store? The company saves money and so do you.
    I know that this will cut jobs since there will be fewer brick and mortar stores. But if handled appropriately, these people could move into other industries or expand other industries, yielding a higher overall output.

  27. Angryrider says:

    Target never stated anything about price matching, while its competitors do. But I find B&M prices cheaper than on the site. I mean $15 for Burn Notice season 1?!

  28. JanetCarol says:

    It’s just a jerk thing to do.
    Marketing tells us that it would be more beneficial for them to bring customers in the store where they are more likely to impulse buy rather than go to target.com and search and check out.
    Prices should be the same everywhere. It’s just being honest.

    • Pylon83 says:

      @janetcarol:
      So a particular item at a Target in Montana should have the same price as a Target in Brooklyn, NY? Should they not be allowed to compensate for higher real estate prices, higher taxes and higher employee wages in different cities?

  29. Jbjohn942 says:

    Most of target.com is run by Amazon.com. If you look at Amazon.com they will have the same price on DVD’s and CD’s. This allows them to offer more products at lower prices. Get used to it. Like someone said above. If you want it now, you are going to pay a higher price. I did this with Wall•E. I couldn’t wait for it so I paid $5 more.

    I used to work at Target and they used to price match, but it ended up being abused and so they decided kill the whole thing. Same thing with the return policy changes. Target doesn’t do this to screw the consumer, they do it to protect themselves from fraud. You wouldn’t believe the crap people would try to pull on us.

    They could fix this by having two prices for the item, online and in-store. Problem solved.

  30. SabreDC says:

    One of the ways companies get away with this is because Target.com, for example, is a separate company. While they are both owned by the same umbrella corporation, Target Brands, Inc., they are separate companies. Target can choose to match against Target.com just as they can choose to match against Wal-Mart.

    If you notice, just about every .com for a corresponding brick-and-mortar store is registered as a subsidiary company. This allows them to run the business in an entirely different manner, including returns handling, pricing, etc. The .com sites are no longer just a front-end to the brick-and-mortar store.

    Most companies are more discreet about it. Walmart.com and Walmart are registered subsidiaries of Walmart Stores, Inc. Home Depot for example, is a little less discreet. HomeDepot.com is owned by Homer TLC, Inc. a subsidiary of The Home Depot USA, Inc. They don’t hide the fact that they are owned separately; but most companies do.

  31. savdavid says:

    When you order online they charge ridiculous shipping and “handling” fees so they get their money back. It is all a game.

  32. kaptainkk says:

    Target just adjust the god damn price to match your own website. I can’t stand this ridiculous policy not to do so! Whether it’s legal or not doesn’t really matter. How about just doing it for your customers so that way they would be inclined to come back.

  33. boomshakla says:

    Target is an interesting case. While they have a wide array of products online, only a small percentage of items can be checked for in-store availability. It doesn’t appear DVDs can be checked for in your local store via the site. But on a TV, per se, many can be checked for online, and items like that should be similar to the site.

    I think most retail sites are pretty accurate anyway. Kohl’s was always good. If you can reserve an item online for store pick up, it should be the same price for sure.

  34. Paddlacus says:

    I used to work at Staples Business Depot in Canada and we frequently had price errors (actual errors like store systems not updating or site only sales) where the website was cheaper. Store policy was to match those as well as any other competitor’s website price.
    There are a lot of reasons that an online price can be cheaper, but for a business, the fact that customers KNOW they’ll get the cheapest price if they do their homework and keep coming back is more than worth the couple bucks in overhead costs.

  35. thrashanddestroy says:

    In most cases, stores and their respective online counterparts usually operate independently from one another. This even includes their buyers and vendors, warehouses and shipping centers.

    You should be more surprised when a store actually WILL price match their website.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I have no problem with stores offering cheaper prices online, exactly for the reason of less overhead compared with running a physical store. (And most times I order something online, even with S&H, it’s still cheaper than a physical store).

    However, I do think the websites should list *both* the online price and the regular store price. It would eliminate potential confusion and be useful for someone who wants to comparison shop without driving all over town. At minimum, if they won’t show the physical store price, then they should put a warning blurb next to every online price that makes it very clear that this is not the store price (ex: “Online price only”).

  37. potzertommy says:

    its interesting the different ways people can look at the world… you could look at this and say:

    “boo, Target… your in-store price is higher than your online price!”

    Or we could say:

    “Yea, Target, your online price is lower than your in-store price!”

    but we are all supposed to be angry consumers here, so we do the former.

    I for one like to celebrate the fact that Al Gore invented the internet and, as a result, businesses can reduce overhead and sell me products for cheaper.

    • potzertommy says:

      @potzertommy:

      I am not predisposed to defend Target or any big-box store, but I can only be outraged at so many things in the course of a day, and its a big, bad world out there.

  38. Corporate-Shill says:

    There is a solution for this problem:

    Companies with two pricing structures should post BOTH prices. The website should display the web price as well as the instore price. The store display should display the webprice along side the store price.

    Simple solution. Except there are only a handful of companies that are posting both prices. Consumers should be screaming about the failure to properly post prices.

  39. coren says:

    While I think it was a dickish move on Best Buy’s part…

    Consumers reported that Best Buy employees would tell them that the “sale ended while they were in the car” and would use the “fake” website to prove it. This is clearly uncool, and it let to a lawsuit by the Attorney General of Connecticut.

    I thought they didn’t price match their website, in which case it would be irrelevant if the sale was ongoing or not.

  40. cccdude says:

    I found this pretty common. Fry’s, BB, CC (while it lasts), etc all do it. However – there *might* be a way around it called “in-store pickup”. Place the order online and choose to pick it up at a store near you. I do that all the time for Fry’s Electronics because they always have better deals online then in their daily adds. I also know BB has “in-store” pickup available as well.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @cccdude: I do in-store pickup at sears and surprisingly it works. I wanted something that recently went on sale for over half the original price but could not get to the store that day to pick it up and the sale was one of those pre-black friday specials so it was for a very limited time. So I ordered it online for in-store pickup and got it a few days later when I would be in that direction, very useful for these situations.

  41. hoffmeister_hoff says:

    Get a clue Mike.

    Target and Target.com are separate entities. It would be foolish for a retail storefront to price match with an online merchant.

    Would you expect your local WalMart to price match with Amazon.com?

  42. Anonymous says:

    If the B&M store is a different totally different entity than the online store, how can the online store legally charge you sales tax?

  43. thetango says:

    I realize I’m leaving myself open to flames, but I do have to say this is one thing that Circuit City got right. They *guarantee* that they will match the prices on their own website.

    It might not be cheaper most of the time, but at least you know you’ll get the same price inside the store as you will on the website…

  44. Anonymous says:

    The debate can go on as far as should they/shouldn’t they match prices. But the sad truth is that not everyone has the option to search on-line for the best price and make the choice of whether they’ll buy a product on-line or in-store. People without internet access (poor people) have only the in-store option. (And this is true whether they’re buying something they NEED or something they just want.) So, the poorer folks end up paying more than those of us who are better off.

  45. whuffo says:

    So what is it exactly that their trademark represents? Take someone like Target for example; when you see the Target sign or logo you can depend on – well, apparently you can’t depend on anything.

    Their claims of “different legal entities” is just a sham; those so-called different legal entities are part of the same corporation and they all report to the same corporate leadership.

    But as long as their customers will buy the “different company with the same name” argument this kind of corporate fraud will continue.

    Some will point out that Target’s online presence is provided by Amazon. That’s true enough but before you hammer on that too hard try looking up “agency” in your legal dictionary.

    It’s hard to keep the prices in sync across so many stores and online presences – but that’s no excuse. You should be able to go into any store that bears the Target name and buy anything in there at the lowest advertised price that has been issued under the Target name.

    And if they refuse to honor their advertised prices you could turn them in; this is a violation in (probably) every state in this nation. At the least, don’t shop there. What kind of retail store plays this kind of pricing games with their customers?

  46. stlbud says:

    Consider this scenario – In a large city, there will be several Target stores. Each store has their own expenses in rent, utilities, taxes, etc. Each store therefore sets their own prices based on those expenses and competition.

    The on-line store is the same. It has it’s own expense structure and sets prices based on expenses and competitor’s prices.

    Target’s web sight doesn’t hide the fact they have online prices and in store prices. Items are clearly marked next to the price to help people make appropriate decisions when they are ready to buy.


    bb

  47. Anonymous says:

    I just bought a Hannspree 28″ LCD Monitor from Best Buy. In store price was $529, and the websites price was $479 and they matched it!

  48. Alessar says:

    I think it’s important they have that disclaimer on their web. There’s a local independently owned shop in my town and their web prices are much lower than their in-store prices. There is no disclaimer on their web site that the online store is considered by them a separate business. In fact, it quite specifically looks like it is just an online listing of their store’s merchandise. So in that sense, I feel that store is being deceptive because they are putting up what appears to be an online catalog for their store.

  49. Anonymous says:

    I found this out at Walmart a few years ago. A camera (Sony) at one store was 475.00, at another-a Superstore it was $425.00, when I told the woman she said the price is the price. Needless to say I made the trip tp the $425.00 store.