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Walmart online price match

(UPDATE: Late Wednesday, Walmart finally modified its price match policy, to exclude prices from marketplace vendors, third-party sellers, auction sites or sites requiring memberships. “We’re committed to matching online prices going forward,” Walmart said in a statement. “At the same time, we can’t tolerate fraud or attempts to trick our cashiers. This kind of activity is unfair to the millions of customers who count on us every day for honest value.” Read the original story, published Wednesday morning, below: )

It’s not enough that some shoppers are willing to argue over questionable ad matches, or do their fraudulent couponing at Walmart self-checkouts, because now there’s a new way to scam Walmart without having to use any coupons at all!

That’s what has some shoppers salivating, and others fuming, after Walmart formally instituted a policy to price match items sold online.

The policy officially went into effect last Friday, formalizing a process that Walmart says many store managers had already been doing at their own discretion. “They absolutely can get out there and do the right thing for our customers in terms of matching not just Amazon but a number of other e-commerce retailers,” Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran told investors last week. “So that’s what we’ve done. I think it’s a really sensible thing to do.”

Except “sensible” isn’t the word many would use to describe how some shoppers have been taking advantage of the new policy.

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Some were reported to have purchased huge bottles of Tide detergent for a penny. Others picked up a $400 PlayStation 4, for 90 bucks.

How? Because of one phrase included in the online price match policies at Target, Best Buy and other retailers – but not Walmart: “prices from third party sellers will not be honored.”

In the case of the one-cent Tide, third-party sellers on sites like Amazon often sell items at attention-grabbing low prices, and make up for them with sky-high shipping costs. So that amazingly cheap jug of Tide might end up costing $30 to ship, essentially wiping out those amazingly big savings. But Walmart matches online items’ selling price – not including shipping – which means that some have managed to get that $30.01 bottle of Tide at Walmart for the pre-shipping price of just one penny.

Many figured this was a loophole that would quickly be closed. Instead, it’s remained open long enough for the outright scammers to join the party. While Amazon is quick to remove third-party listings with too-good-to-be-true selling prices, someone this week managed to post a fake price of $89.99 for a $399.99 PlayStation 4, and have it stay online just long enough to get a screen grab of the page – and spread it all around the internet.

Several buyers bragged on social media yesterday (posting their receipts as proof) that the price match “worked” at Walmart, and they managed to get their game console for more than 75% off.

Surely Walmart is going to stop the madness now?

As it turns out, Walmart seems fully aware of the issue – and appears rather unconcerned about it. “Price matching is at the manager’s discretion,” Walmart spokesman John Forrest Ales told Coupons in the News. When presented with a price match request that seems unusually low, “they’re empowered to make that decision” on whether to honor the request or not. There’s no cut-and-dry corporate policy, Ales said, because in the end, “it’s important to have the human there to make that decision”.

But often, that human is a harried cashier who either doesn’t know better, or doesn’t want to hold up the line and call over the manager for every price match request. So the thinking goes, among shoppers who scour Amazon for the most ridiculously low-priced items they can find (or even actual third party sellers who post their own ridiculously low prices), why not bring this price into Walmart? The worst they can do is say no. And if they say yes – well, then you just might score the deal of the century.

There are some who speculate that Walmart is actually allowing this in order to cement its status as the low-price leader, no matter the cost. If shoppers can get third-party seller prices, without shipping costs, then Walmart could put many of these third-party sellers out of business. Eventually, online prices will rise, shipping prices will fall accordingly, and the crazy deals will come to an end.

Unrealistically low prices and completely fake prices are two very different things, though. Some individual Walmart stores have gotten wise to the schemes, and are now instructing cashiers not to price match penny items, not to accept screen shots, and to get a manager’s approval for any “huge price differences”.

But some Walmart shoppers are pleading with the home office to step in and make it all come to an end. “Walmart, please put a stop to this Amazon price matching… People are taking advantage… Please…” one shopper implored on Walmart’s Facebook page. “It will eventually take money out of ALL of our pockets, because they are going to need to undo all of the damage this is causing!” another commenter wrote.

For now, though, as long as individual Walmart stores allow it, price matching these low, low online prices continues. At least until Walmart decides it’s had enough, and potentially pulls the plug on online price matching altogether. Then those who are pleading with Walmart shoppers not to abuse the system, can say – told you so.

(UPDATE: As noted above, late Wednesday, Walmart finally modified its price match policy, to exclude prices from marketplace vendors, third-party sellers, auction sites or sites requiring memberships. “We’re committed to matching online prices going forward,” Walmart said in a statement. “At the same time, we can’t tolerate fraud or attempts to trick our cashiers. This kind of activity is unfair to the millions of customers who count on us every day for honest value.”)

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2 Comments

  1. Scamming implies committing fraud, which means being deceptive and that denotes misleading. With the exception of creating a fake Amazon account and pricing something exceptionally low with normal shipping prices, I fail to see how price matching penny/exceptionally low priced items with high s/h would be categorized as “scamming.” If people show them the exact, live link to the product, they’re not misleading anyone. The employee and/or manager can see all the details, including the s/h charges. If people are operating within the bounds that WM has set and the manager approves these get deals, then they’re not scamming them. They’re not committing fraud. They’re not being deceptive or misleading. It’s up to WM to close the loopholes and train their employees properly and so far they haven’t.

  2. Wow, where does this magical Walmart exist? It takes five managers and one hour’s time just to use two coupons on a BOGO price match with the newspaper ad in hand.

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