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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Understanding PC Sources, Vendors and Prices | Vendor Evaluation Factors | Pricing, Selection and Stock ]

Price Matching

An excellent customer service feature being offered by many companies today is price matching. Since companies know that both they and their competitors change thousands of prices every week, it's impossible for them to know if they become underpriced on certain items--and thus start losing sales. So they declare that they will match the prices of their competitors, in the hopes that you will shop with them instead of their competition. Of course, often the competition does the same thing.

Price matching is in fact a way that a smart shopper can get to "have his (or her) cake and eat it too", because it lets you get items for lower prices from better companies. Let's say that you have a favorite store that you shop with frequently because you like their selection, service, location or other "intangibles". They don't always have the best prices, but they do price matching. If you find a product you want to buy but they have a higher price than their competition, get them to match it, and then you can continue to shop with confidence at the store you prefer.

The only catch with price matching is usually a bit of hassle. You have to provide evidence of the other company's price; usually this means bringing a flyer with you or providing a link to another company's site online. Some will take your word on small price differences. Some will call another store to confirm a price, but some will not. It varies greatly from one company to another.

Vendors usually have exclusions or limits on their price matching service as well. Stores will frequently refuse to price match another store if that store's price is based on a "loss leader" giveaway price, "first 100 in the store get it cheaper" or similar promotion. They also sometimes balk if the other company has no inventory for the item--this is fair in most cases, because anyone can claim to sell something for a low price if they don't have any! Most retail stores will also refuse to price match warehouse store prices because they reason that those stores have a "membership fee" that lets them sell for lower prices (an argument of rather dubious quality.)

Retail stores will usually price match other retail stores, and online vendors will usually price match other online vendors. Occasionally, you'll find retail stores that will price match online stores! (Most won't, because they realize that they will lose their shirts doing this.) If a retail store that you like will match online prices, you can get items quickly for really good prices. The only catch is that you have to provide some proof of the online price; a printed out web page might work.

Finally, there are some companies that will only price match after you buy a product from them. You place the order, and then submit a "request" to have some portion of the cost credited back based on someone else having a lower price. Presumably they do this to avoid having their time wasted by people who never order. It's good for them, but it's not great for you, because it clearly puts them "in the driver's seat" compared to forcing them to lower the price before the sale. You can always cancel the order if they refuse to do the price match, but if they've already shipped the item by the time they answer your "request", things can get complicated. Use caution.

Tip: Some companies will price match even if they don't advertise this as a policy! In fact, local stores will often price match their direct competition as a matter of standard procedure--as long as you ask. Approach the manager of the store and say "I want to buy this here but they have it for $X less down the street, will you match the price?" Most will agree, because they figure otherwise they have lost the sale anyway. That assumes that the price differential isn't extreme--and that they believe you about the lower price. :^)

Next: Price Protection

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