My Experience With the Ad Match Guarantee

By - December 14, 2013

Maybe you've seen the signs in the stores, or the television spots about the Walmart "Ad Match Guarantee." At our local Walmart Neighborhood Market (these are basic grocery stores with a pharmacy) they have the sign at every register. It says that Walmart will match any competitors advertised prices, even the ones that are for other store's loyalty card holders, and even buy-one-get-one-free sales. The latter are now commonly called "BOGOs," and there were a few good ones at a grocery store across town, according to the newspaper flyer I was looking through in one Sunday morning at the dining room table.

Then the sale prices at another store caught my eye. By the time I found a third store with good deals, I imagined running all over town spending an hour and $5 in gas to save $8 or so. But then I recalled the signs at Walmart. They actually say that you do not even need to bring in the ads. It seems too risky for them to just take people's word for what they saw in an ad, and I was a bit skeptical, so I set the ads aside to take with me. Later I checked out their policy online and read this:

We will match any local competitor's advertised price.

We do not require customers to have the ad with them to honor a competitor's ad.

Items purchased must be identical to the ad (size, quantity, brand, flavor, color, etc.)

To make my list I selected items my wife and I actually purchase regularly. For example, one store had a BOGO offer on a brand of whole wheat bread that we buy, and on one of our favorite brands of soup. Another had bananas for 39 cents per pound and a 3-pound bag on onions for $1.49, for which we normally paid $2.98 at Walmart. I brought my ads and my list with me a couple days later.

Given that Walmart normally has the lowest regular prices in town, I especially liked the BOGO offers. For example at $2.18 for eight ounces, they already have the lowest price on Borden cheese. But I picked up two 8-ounce packages for just $2.18 total since the second one was free. The celery I've been paying $1.68 for was going to cost me just 99 cents, and the tomatoes were almost half-priced.

When I had done my shopping, half of the things in the cart were "ad match items." With the food and my advertising flyers from three different stores, I headed for the register. I let a man cut in front of me, assuming that ringing up my order would take a while. When I put my stuff on the conveyer belt I first unloaded the things for which I would pay the regular price, and then put all of the "special" items behind those. After the girl rang up the last of the regular items I pulled out my ads.

"I haven't ever done this price-match thing," I explained to her, pointing to the sign, "but all the rest of these things are cheaper at other stores and I want Walmart to match the prices."

She sighed, gave me a dirty look (not at all surprising), and started to figure out how to ring up the rest. The items that were buy-one-get-one-free seemed easy enough. She apparently had some way to just ring the second of each pair for $0. Discounting the other food was more difficult, but she figured it out. Then we came to the things that are sold by the pound. It took her several tries to figure out how to make the bananas cost 39 cents per pound rather than 59 cents. If you have 2.7 pounds of bananas rung up at 59 cents per pound and you need to charge 39 cents per pound, how much do you credit back? This is not something the cashier (or you or I) could figure out in her head. On her third attempt she figured out how to weigh the bananas and ring them up at the lower price.

By this point there was another shopper behind me, of course, and she seemed annoyed. Eh, what can I say? The things I normally would have paid $22 cost me just $13. Should I give up that $9 just so the person or persons behind me can check out two minutes faster? I don't think so. Maybe the next time I do this, when I get in line, I should call out to everyone in the area, "I'm going to do a bunch of ad-match items, so this could take a while!"

Of course my credit card failed to register properly on the first attempt, but that really wasn't my fault. The cashier forgot to say the usual "thank you" when I was done. I believe I heard her let out a sigh of relief as I rolled my cart away toward the doors.

The lesson here, if there is one, is that if you don't mind annoying a cashier and a few customers, and you don't get embarrassed easily, you really can save money by lining up the deals at the kitchen table on Sunday morning and then taking up Walmart on their ad-match offer. Oh, and the cashier never did ask to see the ads, although I was probably waving them around as I told her what she was going to charge me, which might have annoyed her even more.

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