NEW YORK – This Easter, Wal-Mart Stores aired a television commercial promoting its Ad Match Guarantee. In it, an exuberant clerk touted the policy’s benefits to a shopper named Janette from Lithonia, Ga.
That price? he said, pointing to an advertising circular the woman had brought in. Wal-Mart will match it right at the register. Yeah, and you don’t even need your ad!
Price matching has become a key tactic for retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us as they try to attract shoppers amid an uneven U.S. recovery.
Price matching is a necessary evil today because once one retailer offers it, others are almost inevitably forced to follow, said Allen Adamson, a managing director at Landor Associates, a San Francisco-based brand consulting firm.
But it’s a risky strategy because the programs are difficult to manage – discretion to match or not is often left to store workers – and shoppers can complain if they don’t get the deal they’re expecting.
In February, Toys R Us agreed to review its ad strategy after a consumer complained to an industry watchdog that workers didn’t understand how the price-matching policy worked. At Wal-Mart, according to interviews with workers and shoppers, the Ad Match Guarantee is inconsistently applied from store to store.
Robin Sherk, an analyst at research firm Kantar Retail, said Wal-Mart is especially vulnerable because its lower-income customers are more likely to price-match than Target shoppers.
Shoppers can get confused, she said. They go to different stores and there are different policies – even in the same store, if you go to different cashiers.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Deisha Barnett said it’s unfortunate that some stores aren’t following the rules.
Based on data that is representative of stores across the country, it’s not a national problem, she said.