Steve Grunwell

Open-source contributor, speaker, and coffee snob

On Price Matching

Note: I wrote this post the Sunday before Christmas, but have had to delay its publishing in order to not spoil my brother’s Christmas present.

Tonight I made a rare venture to my nearby shopping mall to pick up some near-last-minute Christmas presents, namely Assassin’s Creed Rogue for my brother. My first stop was Target (as I needed to get a few other things), but I came up empty handed with respects to the game. Begrudgingly, I wandered over to the nearby video game retailer, which was filled to the brim with teenagers and younger twenty-somethings feeding their gaming habits so hard there were practically needles sticking out of their arms.

After searching the walls of PS3 games for the title to no avail, I was finally able to ask the one clerk on the floor about the game. She told me it was a new title and thus was on display behind the registers and invited me to grab a place in line while she fetched a copy. The clerk returned a minute later, title in hand, and passed it off to me before wishing me Happy Holidays and helping some high-school aged girls decide on new wireless controllers.

Back in my day new video games cost less than $50 After waiting in the queue for what seemed like hours (actually, closer to 15 minutes), I finally get up to the cashier. He proceeds to scan the game and comment that Rouge is supposedly much better than the other recent release in the franchise, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, (good to know, but I had already mentioned it was a gift) before announcing the price: $59.99 before tax.

I quickly ask if they price match other retailers, specifically Amazon.com, as I had a tab open on my phone with the same title for $39.00. He shakes his head and says “no, we don’t do price matching. You should have come in yesterday though, we had it on sale for like $40!” Salt in the wounds, my moustache-challenged friend, salt in the wounds.

Assassin's Creed Rogue for $39 on Amazon vs. $59.99 at major video game retailers. A no brainer, right?

Best price, in stock, and ready to deliver. This is how shopping should be.

Defeated, I purchased the game for well over what I was expecting to pay and carried it out to my car, trying to figure out how best I could save $20 while still getting the game in time for Christmas morning with my parents and brother. As I start my car to drive home, I look down the strip mall and realize there’s a big-box electronics retailer that might have the game cheaper.

I run inside, dodging sales people to get to the video game section unhindered and find a copy of the game for…$59.99. Thanks to some quick Google-fu, I discovered that this particular retailer does do price matching, specifically naming Amazon.com as an eligible online competitor. I grab the game, stand in yet another “four days until Christmas” line, and reach the register. The cashier has to track down a manager (I was saving 33% by price-matching, after all), but after another ten minutes of run-around I was back on my way to the car with my $40 copy of the game and a smug sense of satisfaction.

My victorious feeling was dampened somewhat by the return process at the first store however, where I got to stand in yet-another 15 minute line and for some reason had to provide my name and address in order to have the return processed (had they asked for an email address, they almost certainly would have received an expletive-ridden address at my catch-all email domain). After a total of about an hour of my time and three visits to two stores in the same strip center, I finally had the video game in hand for (basically) what I would have paid for to buy it directly off my brother’s Amazon.com wishlist (when I got home and logged into Amazon, I saw that Prime shipping would still be delivered before Christmas, which would have made this whole thing way easier).

It's not too late , get free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime

Great, now you tell me!

The moral of this story is that if you want to earn your customers’ business, you need to be willing to first acknowledge that consumers have choices, and then find ways to convince consumers to buy from you rather than someone else. I have no issues driving across town to get a good meal I can’t get closer, or paying a little more for a good beer that’s brewed locally, but when you’re offering non-competitive pricing on mass-produced products that can be purchased from any number of shops while also refusing to price match another major retailer (especially one like Amazon that wouldn’t require me to stand in 15+ minute lines) I have no reason to patronize your store.

Rumor has it that Amazon is even testing next or even same day delivery – at what point will the non-competitive brick-and-mortars be forced to change or face extinction?

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