Price-check guarantees are a great bargain … for businesses?

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.

John Wedding

Husband. Father. Web publisher. Musician. John has blogged at Mighty Bargain Hunter since 2005, helping people to recognize life's good deals.

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  1. says

    I see it as good marketing! You will look for errors , but most won’t bother. They make the additional money and you feel good when you catch it. I wonder if they make the change after they pay you the b onus. I wonder if they make these mistakes on purpose?

  2. says

    I don’t think that the stores do it on purpose. I would think that if they did and were caught doing so with evidience, they could get fined. I wouldn’t think that would be the risk.

  3. says

    My wife tells me that if you are a regular grocery shopper, you just learn what prices are or should be. She often finds price discrepancies, but she is not trying to find them. She simply knows how much her groceries should be and points it out to the store when it is incorrect. I can’t imagine that many people make it a point to catch the store in the wrong. That does seem like a big waste of time and effort to me!

  4. Dona Collins says

    That’s an interesting way of looking at the price-check. That assumes that a customer is paying so much attention he will recognize the error as the item is being rung up – or look for it later, too. I know my mom used to shop with a calculator in her hand; she knew exactly what the price should be at the register, every time, before she got up there. She probably would have done great with something like this!

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