Here's how to counter 'dynamic pricing' at major retailers

ConsumerAffairs

Price-matching? Yes, it still exists and you should use it.

It took almost a year after ConsumerAffairs raised the caution flag about dynamic pricing at restaurants, but last week Wendy’s decided to try it out. However, the company quickly found out that consumers were having none of that idea and pulled its horns back in.

While the restaurant biz is the latest to go to a revenue-based-on-demand approach, there are lots of others that consumers don’t even think about that are goosing up the meter when there’s a lot of activity – airlines and rideshare companies for example.

There's little consumers can do to push back an airline or Uber's based-on-demand pricing, but there are ways you can get around the dynamic pricing bricks in the road that the three major retailers can throw at you.

Amazon

We don’t think of Amazon being part of the dynamic pricing crowd, but it is a pioneer in that business model, adjusting prices based on factors like demand, competition, and customer behavior. 

To get around it, you can try price tracking tools – such as browser extensions or websites like CamelCamelCamel or Keepa to track price history and set alerts for price drops on specific items.

You can also use Amazon Watchlist and add the products you want most to your Amazon Watchlist and monitor price fluctuations from there.

If you watch the occasional NBA game, you've probably seen Seth Curry wearing a “Rakuten” patch on his Warriors jersey. Well, Rakuten fits nicely in keeping tabs of Amazon prices. All you have to do is log on to the Rakuten website, see what the deals are, and if there’s any cash back available for what you’ve got your eye on at Amazon.

The last Amazon trick is Amazon Marketplace – a virtual marketplace operated by Amazon that allows third-party sellers to list and sell their new or used products alongside Amazon's own offerings.

The benefit to you is that it’s sort of a one-stop shop that provides you with a wide range of products from various sellers.

The potential for counterfeit or low-quality products can be higher than “normal” Amazon, and because these third-party sellers aren’t as marketing savvy as Amazon’s own employees, the product listings might not be as straightforward as you would get on Amazon’s own platform. 

Walmart

The company probably feels that if Amazon can get away with dynamic pricing, it can, too – especially online. 

To play Walmart’s game, compare prices between Walmart's physical stores and their online platform. Prices might differ, especially because of in-store promotions.

Apps like Brickseek or PriceBlink let you track price history and compare prices across different retailers, including Walmart's online and in-store prices.

Speaking of apps, you can also utilize Walmart’s own App because its "Scan & Go '' feature allows you to scan product barcodes and check prices before heading to checkout, potentially revealing price discrepancies.

If you shop at Walmart for groceries, you might want to give the company a chance to prove its value with its grocery pickup and delivery program. Why? Because prices might occasionally differ from in-store pricing.

Comparatively, Walmart is far more “old school” than Target or Amazon and it still has weekly ads. 

In ConsumerAffairs' research, we found one of the simpler ways to keep tabs on those ads is by letting someone else do all the work, like the “Lady Savings” website.

Target

Target may be a little tougher to stay on top of when it comes to dynamic pricing, but there are some strategies that can help you find the best deals.

Here, again, you can employ browser extensions or websites like CamelCamelCamel or Keepa to track price history on specific products you might be interested in. The advantage of those two is that they’ll help you identify price trends and potential future sales.

But you may also consider signing up for Target Circle. It’s the store’s free loyalty program and one that allows you access to exclusive discounts, personalized offers, and the ability to earn rewards points redeemable for future purchases.

Insider tip: The secret weapon for Target Circle is the app. There, you'll find ongoing promotions, targeted discounts, and Circle Offers that can provide additional savings on specific items.

And don’t forget about price-matching

If you don’t use price-matching in your search for the best price, you should consider doing so. 

Many major U.S. companies offer price-matching policies, allowing you to get the difference refunded if you find a lower advertised price elsewhere. Here are some popular examples:

  • Best Buy

  • Fry's Electronics

  • Lowe's

  • Toys R Us

  • Target

  • Walmart

  • Staples

  • Office Depot           

These are just a few examples, but it's important to note that specific policies can vary. It's always best to check the individual store's website or ask an employee for details on their price-matching policy before making a purchase.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • Matched competitor: Most stores will only match prices from authorized retailers, not individual sellers on marketplaces.

  • Timeframe: The timeframe for requesting a price match can vary, typically ranging from 14 to 30 days after purchase.

  • Conditions: Some stores may have restrictions on the type of product, minimum price difference, or online-only offers they will match.

By understanding price-matching policies, you can potentially save money on your next purchase!

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