The idea of walking into a big retail store like Target or Best Buy and walking out with a shiny new gadget almost seems quaint. The grass is simply greener on the internet. There are better prices, more choices, and tons of online reviews. Plus, you don’t have to get off your duff or put on real pants to make that $500 purchase if you get it off Amazon.
Still, there are some compelling reasons to buy the same electronic gizmos in-store that you can get online.
Say, for instance, holy crap, you just remembered it’s your wife’s birthday tomorrow, and Prime 2-day shipping isn’t going to cut it. As someone who has faced this situation multiple times and is still married to this day, I can attest that buying expensive electronics in a brick-and-mortar store is a viable option. The timetable thing is a big one, but here are some other reasons why you should do it:
- Easier returns – If the thing breaks or is the wrong color or something, you can walk right back into the store you bought it from and get your money back. This beats digging the shipping box out of the trash and/or paying postage to get it back to Amazon (they don’t always pay the shipping for returns, depending on the reason).
- Check it out before you buy – Pictures are worth a thousand words, but being able to lay your paws on something and scoping it out is worth way more. Haven’t you ever bought something from Amazon only to find out it was either much larger or much smaller than you thought it was? I have. (Curse you, deceptively large looking case of printer paper that’s a miniature box that holds like three reams!)
- In-store support. If there’s some assembly required (TVs and stuff), it helps to have someone you can consult face-to-face on installation tips (what else do I need to buy?) or outright pay to do it for you. Plus, some stores will only service items if you bought them from there.
- In-store rewards. Buying in-store, you might get kickbacks (like a Target gift card) or rack up loyalty points or further discounts for using your store credit card. This also helps if you’ve got a store-specific gift card burning a hole in your pocket.
- Pay with cash – Averse to plastic? Then in-store price matching is the only way you can get those sweet discounts without putting your credit card or debit card number out there.
So, there’s all that. But it just leaves one big disadvantage: price. You’ll often find discounts of 10%, 20%, or more for the same product on Amazon or Newegg or even the online store of the retailer you’re in at the moment.
Thanks to price matching, you can get online pricing from a brick-and-mortar store, as long as you’re willing to put up with the customer service line.
Stores that Offer Price Matching for Online Sales
Just about every big-box retailer has a price matching policy. That is, if you can prove that you’ve found the same model online for a lower price, they’ll honor the online pricing. This includes the same store’s website (e.g., if it’s cheaper on BestBuy.com than it is in-store at Best Buy) or the online price from a competitor.
Here’s a quick list of stores that have price matching policies and which websites they honor:
- Local retail competitors (including online prices)
- Any retailer who sells products in both retail stores and online under the same brand.
- Best Buy
Pretty much any store will have some price matching policy. Just check their website or look for a big old sign by their customer service department to see which online competitors they price match.
How Price Matching Works
Each store is going to vary in the way they execute these deals, but generally speaking, here’s how it works:
- You find a lower price for the same product and model online that’s offered in-store.
- You bring your phone with the website pulled up or a print out of the sale to the customer service desk and tell them you want to do a price match.
- The store associate verifies on their system that the listing is legit and matches the product you want to buy in-store.
- You get your discount and pay normally.
I’ve done this several times, and it’s mostly worked out fine. There are some caveats and exceptions, of course. Things like Black Friday/Cyber Monday blowouts, coupon codes, 2-for-1 deals, Amazon Marketplace items, and any other kind of complicated or unusual discount won’t work. It has to be the price that shows up when you look at the product page normally.
Contract cell phones, rebates, misprints, bundle offers, and pricing that comes with financing also do not count.
Also, the store associate has to be able to confirm that it’s the same model. You can run into trouble with this. Sometimes, the model number might be one digit off online for apparently no reason compared to what’s in store, even though it’s the same thing. For example, if Amazon lists model 8001ABBZ and Target has 8001ABBZ-2, you might have to do some persuading.
Another pitfall: At Target, they use a proprietary system to look things up. They might not show the same prices you see when you’re logged in to Amazon on your phone.
Generally speaking, if you’re not purposefully trying to game the system, you should be able to get your online price matched. I’ve had instances where the store associate wasn’t 100% convinced, but they still grudgingly gave me the discount. I’ve also had the opposite experience: at Best Buy, they were practically thrilled to give me a $20 discount on a router. Your mileage will vary, but it’s definitely worth a shot.
One last tip: If you bought something and found a lower price later, you can usually come back in or call the store and get the price honored retroactively if it’s within a certain number of days.