ONLINE PRICE MATCHING
Although more and more people are doing their holiday shopping online, many still prefer to head to a store. They want to browse and handle the products, avoid shipping costs, and carry home an item rather than wait for delivery. And yet, plenty of consumers who would otherwise shop offline fret they're missing out on potentially lower prices at Amazon, the dominant online purveyor of just about everything. How do bricks-and-mortar competitors lure shoppers back to the fold? By matching Amazon prices.
From one angle, this is nothing more than a marketing ploy. Retailers garner headlines with vows to price-match the ecommerce behemoth and other vendors, while only about 5 percent of consumers request discounts, according to NPD Group, and exclusions abound in the fine print. To qualify for price matching, the items must be identical, down to the model number, which disqualifies store brands and goods produced for specific big-box retailers. With online retailers that also serve as marketplace hosts (maintaining platforms where others can list items for sale), price-match guarantees don't apply for goods sold by third parties. Store policies differ when it comes to shipping charges. Some retailers include them in the total price when matching an online price and some do not.
Ironically, the widespread perception that Amazon's prices beat all others may be misplaced. In a price comparison between Amazon and Walmart, for example, Cheapism.com found that for 57 identical and nearly identical products, Walmart undercut Amazon on half, sometimes by pennies and sometimes by several dollars. Bed Bath & Beyond also beat Amazon at the low-price game by 6.5 percent on a basket of 30 items, according to a BB&T analyst, who tallied the results without factoring in coupons from the home-goods retailer.
Still, Amazon can't be ignored, and dedicated frugal shoppers can take advantage of broad price-match policies that include online retailers. The five national chains listed here have all agreed to match prices at Amazon.