I was chatting with a coworker a few days ago, and the topic of price-check guarantees came up.
A price-check guarantee at a grocery store says something like this: “If an item rings up for more than the price on the shelf, we'll knock $3 off of the lower price. If the item is less than $3, you get it free.”
I've caught errors like this before, and I've been more than happy to get the mis-priced items for next to nothing. My line of reasoning was that this was a whip to keep their prices accurate, and to provide a good customer experience if they didn't. (Not all stores do even this. Some don't bother to fix errors, even when they're called on them.)
But my coworker had a different take. He argued that the store was the one who got the bargain.
His take on it was this: “Customers: Hunt for errors in our pricing. If you find something, we'll throw a little bonus at you. If not, well sorry but you wasted your time and mental energy. In either case, we don't have to pay employment tax or benefits for your efforts because you're not our employee. And you're maintaining our price database either way.”
The store owners wouldn't say this to their customers in quite this way, of course,, but perhaps there's a shred of truth somewhere in there?
Asking customers to take their time to do something for free (or almost free) has almost no downside business-wise if it's done tactfully. Consider links to surveys that come printed out on receipts from grocery stores or restaurants. You might have a small chance at winning a $1,000 gift card, but likely you won't win, and they get your feedback anyway.
The bottom line is that anything offered by a business to its customers likely is done with the intention of making a lot more from them on the backend.