Bryan Wright isn't a "showrooming" shopper who inspects a product at a local retailer before buying it for less from an unaffiliated online retailer.
"Both were on sale online," says Wright, "and both were listed in stock. One would let me order site-to-store and the other . . . told me the product was available at the East Windsor Wal-Mart."
When he arrived at the store, he found both games but different prices. Ninjago Temple of Light, he says, was about $47 online but $70 at the store. Ninjago Kai Fire Mech, meanwhile, was 30 percent less expensive online ($7) than in the store ($9.97).
"Seeing as their website sent me there," says Wright, "I guessed that they'd price-match it."
Except they didn't. Wright says he was told Wal-Mart does not match online prices, even if those online prices are Walmart.com's.
"It's your price," insists Wright.
After talking to the store's manager, Wright said, he was offered a price match on the less expensive Kai Fire Mech but not on the Temple of Light's $23 differential.
"That infuriated me," says Wright. "I understand not price-matching online places like Amazon.com, but your own store when I'm in the store because your app told me to come here?"
Price-matching (Do they or don't they?) is a shopping mystery that varies by retailer, even by season. Wright ultimately found a willing price-matcher — at the local Toys "R" Us. Yet Walmart, on its website, says its store will not match the company's online prices because "we do not consider them to be in competition."
"There could be a different price," says Jaeme Laczkowski, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. "It's up to the store manager's discretion if they want to honor that price."
Wal-Mart says it matches no online pricing, including its own, but it will match competitors' advertised prices and not require shoppers to present the ad.
Online or on land, it's confusing. Toys "R" Us, where Wright found his price match, has a liberal matching of online competitors with a list that also includes Amazon.com (except Marketplace),Target.com, Sears.com, Kmart.com, BestBuy.com, BabyDepot.com, Diapers.com and Buybuybaby.com. (For full details on any retailer's price-matching policies, visit that company's website.)
>> Target, reeling from a recent data breach, matched prices of some online sites only during the holiday season but now offers year-round matching of online prices on its own website and also at Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com, ToysRUs.com, BabiesRUs .com or in any competitor's local advertisement. It will also match prices after a Target store purchase: If you find a lower price within seven days, even at one of the online retailers it matches, Target will refund the difference.
>> Home Depot and Lowe's, competitors in the home-improvement supply business, have similar price-matching policies: If your find a lower price at a local retailer it will beat it by 10 percent. Local Lowe's stores also match the company's online prices. Home Depot does not match any online pricing.
>> Best Buy, imperiled by online competition and "showrooming" shoppers, does not match any online prices except its own. It does, however, match prices of local competitors.
>> Kohl's does not match online prices, including its own, but will match prices advertised locally.
>> Staples matches prices of retailers that sell the brand on online and in stores. It also matches prices at Amazon.com (except Marketplace).
Wright now understands price matching, at least at Wal-Mart. "I had a great conversation with Wal-Mart," he says. He also has the Legos for his son. And after being contacted by The Bottom Line, Wal-Mart also gave Wright a $30 e-card for his troubles.
The two-cent takeaway: When it comes to price-matching, always ask.
"The great thing about our customers," says Laczkowski, the Wal-Mart spokeswoman, "is that they are patient and they are resourceful. Just like Bryan did: go into the store and ask the store manager about the price difference and if he would honor that price difference. It's one of the best ways to go about it."