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Tesco brand guarantee

You can ad match at Walmart, price match at Target, and as the holiday season approaches, more and more retailers are promising that they won’t be beaten by competitors’ prices. That might appear to add up to a big win for shoppers, but there’s one big drawback.

Price matching can be a pain. For just about everyone involved.

Ad match fraudsters have taken advantage of Walmart, price matchers at Target have complained that it’s a hassle, so many shoppers simply don’t bother. Is a price match promise really no more than an empty slogan, then?

Not on the other side of the Atlantic. British grocery stores made price matching insanely easy a few years ago. And now one grocery chain has raised the stakes and made it even easier, in what some retail analysts are calling a “game changer” that might just get the attention of retailers looking to break away from the price-matching pack over here.

British grocer Tesco has revamped its price match policy, so if a competitor has a lower price on a product, the register automatically gives you the best price on the spot. No leafing through competitors’ ads, no haggling with customer service for a discount, and no wondering if you could have gotten a better deal somewhere else. It’s a price match guarantee that really is guaranteed.

It’s an improvement on a system that was already pretty darn good to begin with. Previously, Tesco and its main competitors monitored each others’ prices, and gave shoppers a coupon at the end of their transaction, for the total amount they would have saved by shopping at a competitor.

But it seems the Brits weren’t too good about actually remembering to use those coupons.

“We all know it can be stressful and awkward when you have to rummage through your wallet to find a price match voucher,” Tesco UK CEO Matt Davies said in a statement. Or worse yet, you get to the store only to realize you left your coupon at home. Tesco’s research found that nearly half of shoppers said they’d forgotten to use a price-match coupon, and 16% said they tend to lose their coupons before they can use them. “Shoppers tell us price matching vouchers are a pain and don’t really help them,” Davies said.

Now, couponing as we Americans know it isn’t really a thing in Britain. So while American extreme couponers are busy keeping their coupon inserts neatly filed, organizing their binders and working on their grocery sales ad matchups, you might forgive British shoppers unaccustomed to all this, for being a bit flummoxed about keeping track of a single, simple coupon.

So Tesco’s new coupon-less price match system is meant to help these harried shoppers, by guaranteeing that they get the best price, with virtually no effort on their part.

Must be nice!

Why, you might ask, doesn’t Tesco just lower its own posted prices, then, instead of “matching” competitors’ prices? Because there are a few catches, of course, that could result in other, less careful shoppers subsidizing your price match. In order to qualify for the program, you have to buy at least ten different products in a transaction. Only brand name products of the same size and quantity can be price matched, and Tesco will only match its major supermarket competitors, not discounters like ALDI.

Still, it ends up being a pretty good deal – and a good deal better than the price match programs you see here in the States. “There are a lot of ‘smoke and mirrors’ about most supermarket price cutting campaigns,” British retail analyst Nick Bubb said in a statement. “But the new Tesco ‘Brand Guarantee’ scheme could be a game-changer for the industry.”

So will other British – or even American – grocery stores follow suit, with automatic price match programs of their own? Or will they try to mimic some of the other innovative savings programs “over there”? Earlier this year, Tesco competitor Waitrose launched a “Pick Your Own Offers” program, allowing shoppers to select ten items on which they’d like to save 20%. And last year, Morrisons introduced a “Price Checker Tool” on its website, so shoppers could examine the price history of their favorite products to ensure they weren’t creeping upward.

Those coupon-losing British shoppers may have a lot to learn from coupon-savvy Americans. But when it comes to creative discount programs, and price matching that isn’t a huge pain, American retailers may have a thing or two to learn themselves.

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