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Best Buy’s Self-Destructive Online Price-Match Program

October 18th, 2012

Best Buy is only offering these online price matches for “new, identical, immediately available current pre-tax appliance and electronics hardware products prices.” That’s quite a mouthful of limits, but it’s then restricted further to 20 sites: amazon.com, apple.com, bhphotovideo.com, buy.com, circuitcity.com, compUSA.com, crutchfield.com, dell.com, hhgregg.com, hp.com, homedepot.com, lowes.com, newegg.com, officedepot.com, officemax.com, sears.com, staples.com, target.com, tigerdirect.com and walmart.com.

It gets better. When buying electronics hardware, what’s the best thing to exclude to really sour any potential customers? Yep: All accessories are excluded. And the online price matches are halted from November 18 through November 26, a Scrooge-like move that even Target didn’t feel the need to do. (Target’s online price matching will run non-stop from November 1 through December 24.)

Despite the Scrooge quip, this Best Buy move isn’t one to be criticized for cheapness. It’s to be criticized for being one that will hurt Best Buy sales—or at least undermine its efforts to boost sales. Black Friday is November 23 this year and Cyber Monday is November 26. Those are the days when e-tailers will do some serious damage to physical stores. If you’ve made the wise and long overdue decision to match online prices, why give online retailers free reign during those critical days? Heck, that’s when your price matches should be the most aggressive, to give shoppers a reason to come in and fight the crowds. (In New Jersey malls, “fight the crowds” is taken seriously. Some armed assailants have commented afterward, “You mean I could have bought stuff, too? Who knew?”)

On the plus side, bestbuy.com is offering free shipping on all products during the holiday season.

Target’s online price-match program gets deserved kudos for its almost complete holiday duration (November 1—December 24). It has published the names of only four “qualifying online retailers”—amazon.com, walmart.com, bestbuy.com and toysrus.com—but there might be quite a few more. Why don’t we know? That’s one of the Target problems.

The retailer announced its online price program on Wednesday (Oct. 17), but its CEO had told a news conference about it a few days earlier. Any shoppers who went to target.com to read the details would have been confused, because the site was still excluding all online prices from being matched. The reason is that Target said it wouldn’t publish the details of the program until October 22. This seems odd. It’s not as though Target is not publishing the details until the program goes live on November 1. And if the company felt the need to announce on October 17, why not release the full details then? We wonder if the full details are unpleasant and, this way, the good stories come out and no one thinks to do a follow-up when the Target specs materialize. (Fear not. We won’t forget.)


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