YONKERS, N.Y. — Many stores promise to match competitors' prices, and in today's ultra-competitive retail marketplace, price-matching and price-adjustment policies can help you get the best deal. But price-matching policies can vary significantly store to store and online, too. The April issue of Consumer Reports Money Adviser says you can save money, but you've got to know the rules.
With a price match or guarantee, a retailer promises to match a competitor's current price for the same item. Some merchants go further, beating the price by a certain amount, typically 10 percent. Even better, if you buy something and find it for less within a week or two, some retailers will pay you the difference and, in some cases, give you a little something extra. A price-adjustment policy generally means that the retailer will refund the difference if it drops the price on something you purchased there in the past 30 days.
"Several major retailers offer both types of policies, and some like Amazon.com don't have either," said Noreen Perrotta, finance editor for Consumer Reports Money Adviser. "Others have one but not the other. Of course there are loopholes, so you need to read the fine print, which you can generally find on the company's website."
What to watch for
Stores won't match all merchants. Some retailers match prices of local merchants only, the definition of which can be fuzzy. Target, for instance, says the retailer must be in the same market area, defined as "a city, a metropolitan area, or a specific rural region."
Proof must be in writing. You typically must present an ad or other document. If you present a photocopy, you may be out of luck. The same may be true of electronic copies.
Not everything is covered. Stores typically won't match services, including labor and installation, discontinued and damaged items and certain brands. One retailer excludes Apple products, for example. Sears will only match the prices from Kmart and Sears Holdings companies and will not provide the extra 10 percent, as it does for other retailers.
Items must be in stock. To match a competitor's price, most stores require that the competing retailer have the product in stock, and they may check to make sure. Sears provides more wiggle room, expanding the definition of "in stock" to include items that can be delivered within seven days. But it doesn't match items that are available in limited quantities.
Special sales might be excluded. Some price-match policies, such as Best Buy's, specifically exclude sale prices you'll find on or immediately after Thanksgiving. Many also exclude prices from grand openings, liquidations, store anniversaries, clearance sales and other special events.
If you buy an item and later find it for less, you might be able to recoup the difference even without a price-adjustment policy by simply returning it and purchasing a new one at the sale price. Another option might be the price-protection coverage that comes with some credit cards. For example, if you find an item at a lower price within 60 days of purchasing it, some Citibank credit cards will reimburse you for the difference, up to $250. Of course, that policy has its own limitations: Certain products and Internet purchases are excluded.
Consumer Reports Money Adviser is a monthly, subscription-only newsletter that answers money questions and provides expert financial advice. For more information, go to www. consumerreports.org.