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Julie Sherrier

Target's price-matching over-promises, under-delivers

Target announced on Jan. 8 that it will price match with Amazon.com, as well as other top online retailers. The decision was most likely made to combat consumer "showrooming" -- where customers see an item they want to buy in the brick-and-mortar store and then price compare online to get the best deal.

When I read the headline, I got excited. As a regular Target shopper, I immediately had visions of standing in the checkout line with my smartphone cued to Amazon.com to get all my purchases for less than Target price. But, alas, that is but a dream. The procedures to actually get a price match are much more complicated. Sigh. At my age, I really should learn to not be so gullible.

The company clarifies its price-match procedure in its press release: "If a guest buys a qualifying item at a Target store and then finds the identical item for less in the following week's Target circular or within seven day on Target.com, Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Bestbuy.com or Toysrus.com or in a local competitor's printed ad, Target will match the price."

And therein lies the rub. That would require us "guests" to actually have to scan for a lower price after our purchase, go back to Target and stand in line at customer service to request our "price match" or refund. Not only that, if a Target shopper wanted a price match BEFORE an item is purchased, that person would have to show proof of a current price to a representative at the Target Guest Services desk to get approval.

Have you ever stood in line at the Target Guest Services counter? It's very red. And the wait can be very long. Your patience wanes, you deliberate just bailing and fantasize about all the other things you could be doing instead of standing in this interminable line watching the customer service folks in their red shirts doing their thing behind the big red counter.

And upon further reflection on Target's new policy, I realize that it probably won't make much of an impact on my shopping habits or budget anyway. For example, here's a quick rundown 
of items I have purchased on Amazon.com in the past six months: textbooks, vacuum cleaner filters, cellphone batteries, Moroccan hair oil, a non-slip rug pad, an auxiliary audio flat cable, an a/c filter and a refrigerator water filter.

The primary reason I bought these things on Amazon is that they are items that cannot be found at Target. Due to the specific brand, type, size and product requirements, I turned to Amazon instead.

So, this new price-match policy is just another benign marketing ploy with little teeth. Until Target makes the process a little easier on its guests, I don't think I'll be taking advantage of its price-matching anytime soon -- especially since it requires multiple visits to the dreaded red counter.

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