Wouldn’t it be great if you could shop at a single store and receive the best price available that week? One-stop shopping and maximum savings in one store!

Well sometimes you can. Many stores offer “price matching”, meaning if you find the item advertised elsewhere for less, the store will “match” the competitions lower price. Additionally, many stores “guarantee” to offer the lowest price. So if you find a lower price than theirs, they will match their competitor’s price, pay you the difference, or refund your money for that item.

These offers can be very attractive and also save you money if you understand the rules:

1. “Price matching” or “guaranteed lowest price” apply to identified items only. This means the competitor must be selling the same brand, product, variety, flavor and/or quantity/size, with no exceptions. Even if the product is a “bonus size” item, you can generally only price match to another identical bonus size item, not a smaller or larger size. If the price matching store does not offer the identical item at that time, they will not match a competitor’s price.

2. The competitor’s price to match must be an advertised price and the advertisement must be dated the same week (or within 7 days) of the matching price store’s sale.

3. The prices being compared must be at a competing store in your local area, which could be your county, town/city, or a smaller area. In addition, many price matching stores will only compare prices at similar businesses, i.e. grocery store to grocery store, drug store to drug store, craft store to craft store and so on. Drug stores will typically not march grocery store prices. If you aren’t sure, call or email your store and ask for clarification.

4. It is up to you, the consumer, to find the lower prices and provide proof of the competitor’s price. This is usually accomplished with an original copy of the competitor’s ad. Some price matching stores will also accept computer printouts of online ads if they can independently verify them, but this is not a general practice. Again, the burden of proof is on the consumer.

5. Most price matching and price guarantee store policies exclude competitor’s “special buys”, liquidation sales, club discounts, clearance items and “percentage off” sales.

6. Most price matching stores limit the number of items that can be purchased at a competitor’s lower price: the limit is typically in the range of 1 to 4 items.

7. Other competitor discounts, such as double coupons, may not be acceptable to a price matching store as a means of getting a lower price on an identical item. Also, price matching stores usually don’t match competitor’s coupon policies, so the final price with coupons or other discounts may provide a lower price at a competitor’s store.

While all of this may sound complicated, when handled properly the price matching or guaranteed lower price policy of a favorite store can offer both the convenience of one-stop shopping and savings. This can even be turned to your advantage when you find that a competitor’s shelves have been cleared of an item you want because of their lower price. Just bring your competitor’s ad to your price matching store and ask them if they will match the price. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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