When Price Matching Goes Wrong

For certain things I am overly loyal and a person of habit. That is the case with my office supplies purchases. An assistant set me up years ago with a Staples reward account and I have shopped there for my business supplies since. I enjoy their ink cartridge returns, the business rewards I receive. At one point I even had a personal representative. Though I never really used them I liked that they valued me as a customer like that.

I’ve had up and down experiences at my local Staples. Nothing enough to run me off but enough for me to think about it. I also know that I am overly aware of the customer experience so I try not to be over judgmental and when I offer opinions to offer solutions.

My one frustration with Staples has been that they often offer coupons that are only available online and not instore. I brought this up to the manager one time and she said some of them they could honor instore but not all of them, just to ask. It was nice to learn this but from a consumer perspective I don’t want to drive to a store thinking this coupon could be used in store and learn that is not the case. Like I said with Barnes and Noble yesterday I think in many ways management is trying to destroy their brick and mortar segment of their business.

I recently had a good friend go to work for Office Depot/Office Max. His store is out of the way so I haven’t gone there to shop.

The other day we were texting and being in the market for some ink I asked him how much he charged for the cartridge I needed. Interestingly we talk a lot about ink in our conversations.

Well I headed to Staples to purchase my ink and noticed that they had a 110% price guarantee on their ink pricing. It was on the price tag for the cartridge. Yet the pricing I saw was higher then what my friend mentioned in his text. So I pulled out my handy dandy smartphone and pulled up the Office Depot pricing while standing in Staples. (I don’t think many realize how much the smartphone is shaping our society or world for that matter) I felt a little dirty doing this as it really bothers me when it happens in my store. I feel that customers aren’t acknowledging our knowledge and service we provide. Yet you don’t really get that in Staples most times. Still I feel dirty doing it but they were advertising a price guarantee.

Well wouldn’t you know that Office Depot was a little more than eight dollars cheaper then Staples? I needed two different cartridges at that price and a third that was several dollars cheaper. Twenty dollars isn’t anything to sneeze at.

So I took my purchases and headed to the checkout. Typical for this location the registers are always understaffed and you have to wait to check out. I know sometimes you need to wait but this location always seems to have staff wandering around not appearing to be engaged in anything and not covering the front.

I guess my sensitivity comes from the time the Manager was up front and there was a pretty long line checking out and they walked away after helping a cashier verses helping check people out.

Anyway I get to the check out and mention the price match. They ask where I saw it and I say Office Depot. I end up showing them it on my phone and am immediately told it isn’t the same product it is recycled. I tell them that isn’t the case. They look again and agree it is the same. So they go ahead and match it, but not at 110% like the sign said. I didn’t take the time to argue it because overall it was only about two dollars and I wanted to leave.

Like most of my experiences I began to think about it.

1.       Why weren’t they price checking on a regular basis when advertising the price match. They were 10% over priced.

2.       They have lots of competitors but I would imagine that Office Depot would be one they would check along with the manufactures sites and Walmart.

3.       Why wasn’t the cashier trained to handle this quickly and easily. He seemed caught off guard and this was being heavily promoted instore. This wasn’t a new cashier he has been there for several years.

What this experience did was make me start to question Staples pricing. I never even really questioned it thinking they would at least be in the ball park. I’m willing to pay a little more for convenience and even a little more if I get good service. At that size of a retailer I would think they are aware of their pricing and especially when mentioning a price match. I know you can always find something cheaper with a little time. For me the extra time isn’t usually worth the savings.

Secondly my experience asking for the price match wasn’t a great interaction. I was accused that I wasn’t comparing apples to apples and it didn’t honor the 110%.

I did something I didn’t normally do – ask for a price match. Then the experience wasn’t great in receiving it. It wasn’t even good to be honest. Finally I didn’t even get what they advertised.

When Staples introduced this I imagine that this was not the results they were looking for.

It seems that it is becoming less convenient to shop in the brick and mortar store and the experience isn’t any better or more exciting.

This makes me sad. I understand the world is changing in retail and changing fast. Yet so many of the larger retailers don’t seem to be adapting very well or making an effort. Their solution seems to be less staffing, which in my opinion is the wrong solution. It is hard training and finding good people, but why just give in?

Local retail is important especially for small businesses but even for large ones too. The job creation tax revenue etc. From a consumer experience it doesn’t seem that many large retailers are concerned about their brick and mortar by some of their stupid marketing policies they are using.

A simple review of these policies from a customer viewpoint may go a long way in improving customer satisfaction and grow revenue. Where there is a disconnect the employees need to have good answers for the customers who question them. Like the coupon issue.

About Ernest

Ernest is the owner of the Crofton Bike Doctor located in the Village of Waugh Chapel Shopping Center. Ernest has been in the industry since 1989 when he first started to work at the Bike Doctor of Arnold. During that time I developed a love for cycling and retail. I graduated from the University of Maryland and live and ride locally.

I enjoy riding off road and on the road as well as doing a little bike touring. As a teenager I did a trip in Maine and then over to Novia Scotia which helped cement my love for riding. Since then I have done tours in the Canyons of Utah as well as several trips along the C&O Canal. Today I have both mountain bikes and road bikes that I enjoy riding. One of the most exciting things now is my wife is beginning to develop a passion for riding and we have begun mountain bike together as well as some light road riding.

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