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At Walmart and Other Retailers, Price-Matching Has Its Perils

Matching competitors is often more trouble than it’s worth
At Walmart and Other Retailers, Price-Matching Has Its Perils

This Easter, Wal-Mart Stores debuted a TV commercial promoting its Ad Match Guarantee. An excited clerk touts the policy’s benefits to a shopper named Janette from Lithonia, Ga. “That price?” he says, pointing to an advertising circular Janette’s brought in. “Walmart will match it right at the register. And you don’t even need your ad!”

When Walmart rolled out its “simplified” Ad Match Guarantee in 2011, it promised that store workers would get “extensive” training “to ensure the price-match policy is executed consistently across all stores.” That hasn’t happened, says Richard Hampton, a customer service manager who’s on medical leave from a Walmart Supercenter in Rowlett, Tex. “The policy may well be as intended in the ads, but the reality is quite different and apparently arbitrary,” says Hampton, who adds that he routinely asked supervisors for a better understanding of the price-match policy so he could explain it to the cashiers he managed. “I could never get a consistent answer. Today it’s this, tomorrow it’s that.” Deisha Barnett, a Walmart spokeswoman, says, “It’s unfortunate that there’s a couple stores that aren’t executing our match the right way,” but she says it’s not a national problem.