Walmart's Holiday Price-Match Offer Is Just a Gimmick

Attention, Kmart shoppers. Walmart (WMT) wants your business. For that matter, it also wants your business if you shop at Sears (SHLD), Best Buy (BBY), Costco (COST) -- anywhere, really.

The biggest retailer in the world is training its guns on all and sundry in a major marketing move that threatens to steal market share across the industry. Over the weekend, Walmart announced a revamp of its commitment to match prices on any rival retailer's advertisement, so long as evidence of a better price is presented at checkout.

From Nov. 1 all the way up to Christmas, Walmart promises to match prices retroactively.

Yes, you read that right. Buy a pair of jeans, a Barbie doll, or a flat-screen television at Walmart next week, and if at any time for the next two months anyone anywhere advertises an identical product for a better price, you can come back to Walmart and claim a refund for the difference.

Sort of.

Caveats with a Capital "C"

There are a few wrinkles to Walmart's generous offer. For one thing, the whole idea behind this marketing push is to starve rivals of your business and keep as much money as possible circulating in-house at the world's biggest box-store. How will it do that?

  • Don't expect Walmart to pay out your refund in cash. That currency is too darn negotiable to risk your walking out of the store with it and re-spending it elsewhere. Instead, Walmart will pay all refunds in the form of Walmart gift cards.
  • Also, while billed as a blanket insurance policy -- "go ahead and shop Walmart; you have nothing to lose, because we won't let anyone underprice us" -- this deal is actually more of a patchwork quilt. It doesn't apply to certain product classes, for example. No guns. No groceries. No ... gasoline. (Apparently Walmart shoppers are a pretty crafty lot. I'd never have thought of that angle myself.)


Of course, even if you stick to shopping the basics, there's no guarantee that Walmart will make good on (what you thought was) its promise.

Must be an exact match: As with similar price-match promises from rival retailers, Walmart's offer is good only if the lower price is for a completely identical item -- same brand, same size, same color, and same model number.)

Amazonian deals don't count: To discourage non-traditional spending patterns -- like that newfangled online shipping at places like Amazon.com (AMZN), Wal-Mart is adding another restriction on its price-match policy: No Internet ads need apply. Rival retailers like Staples (SPLS) and Bed, Bath & Beyond (BBBY) are apparently scared enough of the online behemoth that they're promising to match even prices offered by Amazon. But not Walmart. If you want its guarantee, you must play by its rules.

Black Friday -- blacked out: Perhaps the most important caveat to Walmart's price-match policy, however, can be summed up in two words: "Black Friday." American retailers rack up as much as 40% of their annual sales during the Christmas season, and it all starts on this most important shopping day of the year -- the day when the biggest and best, most mind-blowingly cheap prices are advertised, when the ads contained in your Thanksgiving Day newspaper outweigh the actual newspaper itself by a factor of five or more.

Problem is, a lot of these ads are limited-time only -- i.e., Black Friday. And a lot of the stores that offer Black Friday deals limit the quantities of goods offered at fire-sale prices. (Because you can only afford to sell so many plasma TVs at $49.99 apiece, and still pay the electric bill.)

Were Walmart dumb enough to apply a blanket price-match guarantee to Black Friday deals ... you just know some smart rival really would sell its Samsungs and Sonys at $50 a pop, just for the pleasure of watching Walmart go broke trying to keep up. And investors would take a (Sam's) club to Walmart's stock price.

Long story short, yes, Walmart's ad campaign is a gimmick. No, it's not all it's cracked up to be. But then again, that's pretty much always the way these things work.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares of any companies named above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Wal-Mart Stores, Best Buy, and Costco Wholesale. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Wal-Mart Stores, Staples, Costco Wholesale, and Bed Bath & Beyond. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores.




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23 Comments

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Arianna Schumann

Okay that's bs because i'm a cashier at walmart. Basically people get by with price-matching anything even if the price seems bullshit. And you don't need the ad actually. as long as you tell us where its at then well do the matches no questions asked. Unless your dealing with a cashier in a horrible mood that day or something, it's not how it works.

April 28 2012 at 11:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stupid Fucker!

Not sure what the deal is...but I just went to Walmart Neighborhood Market yesterday for groceries yesterday and pretty much assigned my own prices to several items to test the price-matching deal. Like, "I think I saw these raspberries for one dollar at this store" or "These protein bars are fifty cents over at that store." Without asking for an ad or verifying anything, the guy who rung me up just said, "Okay!" and plugged in the prices I mentioned. It was pretty much a name-your-price thing, no joke.

November 03 2011 at 2:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
C

no one at walmart not even the manager knew anything about this new christmas pricing guarantee when i bought a dvd player there yesterday.

November 02 2011 at 12:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
agabrielsky5

I don't think this is a gimmick either, and I've also never had a problem.

For anyone interested in stocks, I've done lots of research and this is the best thing out there.

www.thefineststockpicking.com

November 01 2011 at 9:44 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
l07hye

Not sure why you think it is a gimmick. I take store ads to Walmart, and I have never had a problem with them matching other store ads. A lot of time other stores, will advertise things on sale, but they don't have what they advertised. So walmart always has what I wanted.

October 31 2011 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
erikka51

as far as christmas gose i will do as little shopping at wal-mart

October 31 2011 at 2:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pgerstmeyer62

I THINK THE WHITE HOUSE HAS A BIG PROBLEM WITH WALMART. THEY AREN'T UNION, AND THAT GETS TO THE WHITE.HOUSE.....THANK GOODNESS IT ISN'T UNION. I HOPE IT STAYS THAT WAY. BUY THE WAY, WALMART DOES MATCH OTHER STORES. I KNOW, BECAUSE THEY DO IT FOR ME, ALL THE TIME. DON'T KNOCK SOMETHING UNLESS YOU ACTUALLY KNOW THE TRUTH.. THE REAL TRUTH IS, THAT THEY DO MATCH OTHER STORES ALL THE TIME....DON'T READ SOMETHING ON HERE, THAT ISN'T THE TRUTH AND DON'T GO BELIEVINGI IT. YOU CAN'T BELIEVE ANYTHING THE WHITE HOUSE IS SAYING. I HAPPEN TO KNOW THEY ARE AGAINST WALMART, BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT UNION

October 30 2011 at 10:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pgerstmeyer62's comment
erikka51

i guess thats 1.3 million votes obama wont get

October 31 2011 at 2:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Old Rotorhead

Which has actually created more jobs Walmart or Obama? Now which should have earned more respect?

October 30 2011 at 9:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Ex Corp Associate

Take this from me, a former Walmart Corporate Associate: Walmart is smoke and mirrors, their environmental game of buying Solar fields and Green Savings are PR to the tenth degree. Walmart does step hard on their Vendors (I lived with the Vendors in Bentonville)and did pass the savings to their customers. They really treat their Associates like doo doo (nice words). They pay their Corporate Managers/Directors/VP's way too much and their store level Associates way too little. Corporate Walmart is comprised of 95% NWA's hillbillies who foam at the mouth for a job that pays above 50k. 1/100th of the upper Mgt are smart,dedicated people who unfortunately have strayed from Sam's culture and values. Sam was proud of "Made in the USA" this group doesn't. While Target has the same made in China, at least they have USA design and better quality. I challenge anyone to buy a polo shirt ($10) at Walmart and not see a hole in the armpit in less then 2 weeks. Mike Duke and Bill Simon are trying but corporate greed and the major Diversity scheme they did two years ago is not going to help. Hired quality whether what their color skin is, not because you want to show the Dem's that your Mgt is 45% diverse: just sad! This campaign is another sad example of Walmart catch-up. They failed on their lay-away program by taking it away right before a recession and K-Mart had a small comeback. Walk into a Store and you will rarely see the Store Manager as he/she will be buried with returns and not socializing with the Customer: Meet and Greet and establish their 10foot rule is now gone. Great Company now slowly slipping for fat bonus checks for Corporate goofs and Ego Store Mgrs. Fear is the rule at Walmart and that is so sad. Cheap TV's you bet: not the one's or the quality of those at Best Buy: Missing processor, slower speeds etc. Walmart shrunk our 1/2 gallon ice cream also to show they have lowered the price, same with nearly all products. Sam and Helen were Awesome but the place needs a good cleaning. Oh Yea: The Indian Population in Bentonville is up 550% as Walmart outsourced their IT (programmers) to 2 year Visa workers: SAD! :(

October 30 2011 at 8:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RetiredChief

If you listen to their ad it says they will give you the difference on a shopping card. This whole article is about bashing walmart. If you dont like 'em don't shop there. Every retailer out there has their gimmicks, walmart just does it better. Go report on something useful like where's all the Educational money being spent. Loser.

October 30 2011 at 8:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply