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Michelle Fern Michelle Fern
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C'mon Walmart: Practice what you preach

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In October 2011, Walmart announced its price match guarantee where if a customer bought an eligible product there between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25 and found the same product advertised for less at another store, the retailer would give the customer a gift card for the difference. Since then, the company has taken what was originally a competitive Christmas marketing campaign and launched their everyday Ad Match Guarantee that operates under the same guidelines. The only difference is they'll match it right at the register.

The concept sounds rather simple: If you see an item advertised for a cheaper price at a local competitor and you have proof, they'll match it. Yet as simple as it sounds, sometimes the retailer doesn't always practice what it preaches.

The first time I tested their program, I didn't have any problems. They gave me the lower price of the item and accepted all my coupons. In fact, it was great not to have to travel all over town to shop that day and I thought this could be my new shopping strategy. However, I tried to use their ad match guarantee a few weeks later and when I handed the cashier the coupon, she said, 'Sorry, we don't price match and take coupons on that product; it's one or the other.' I explained the success of the prior transaction a few weeks back and she said their policy had changed. She did say she would do it for me this 'one time.' Yet I thought why would I even bother? I can just go to the other store and use my coupon with their sale price.

At that point I decided not to price match for a while at Walmart it wasn't worth my time. Then I heard people were successfully using coupons with the program and thought I might as well give it another whirl. I went last week to purchase Pennsylvania Dutch Noodles, where a local competitor had 10 on sale for $10. Now, you don't have to buy 10 to get the $1 unit price, but the cashier at Walmart insisted that in order to get the sale price, I had to buy 10.

After educating her on Marketing 101, she agreed to give me the noodles for $1 a bag. To clarify, I was only buying three bags, but it took her at least five minutes to figure out how to ring them in at the new price the hassle seems to indicate Walmart doesn't train their cashiers to handle this, despite the fact that the woman's nametag indicated she was a 5-year veteran.

I then handed her three $1-off coupons for the noodles and all hell broke loose. While she didn't reject them, the coupons wouldn't scan properly and came up with 'Item not found' due to the way the original price had been overridden. The cashier must have tried at least 10 times before saying she could not take the coupons because they would not scan.

That was not my problem, as I knew full well they were valid. I asked for a manager and once I flagged one down yes, I had to do it since the cashier's voice was too meek she came over and tried scanning the coupons. With the same error repeating itself, she said they could not take the coupon because it could not match up to the items I was purchasing. This is despite the fact that the coupon was clearly for the purchased item, pictures and all.

Knowing the problem was due to how the price match had been overridden, I suggested that to the manager but she simply ignored my statement. I then determined that after spending 10 minutes trying to buy three bags of noodles, it wasn't worth it so I said I would not be purchasing the noodles.

They both gave me a quizzical look that only can be described as shock, and after the cashier said at least I was getting them cheaper, my response was, 'Not really if I can buy it at your competitor and use my coupons.'

To make matters worse and only prove my original point they tried to scan the noodles to remove them from my order and with each attempt the register responded 'Item not found.' In what I can only guess was a narcissistic attempt to salvage some pride, the manager again dismissed my apparent expertise and fiddled for yet another five minutes until $3 was taken off my receipt.

Walmart's coupon policy allows you to use competitor coupons; however I recently discovered that a co-worker had some difficulties with the retailer as well. In her case, she tried using a Target coupon and they said they no longer accept coupons that do not state 'manufacturer coupon,' despite the fact that their policy on their website says otherwise and not all competitors' coupons have that statement on their coupons.

Since Walmart is not practicing what they preach, you can choose to go there knowing that or shop at the area's other grocery stores, which apparently have much better training and consistency with their policies. In any case, if you choose Walmart, print their coupon policy and its exceptions (http://walmartstores.com/7655.aspx) and take it with you so you have back up. It's obvious their employees and even management aren't clear on their policies, but if you go in armed you have a better chance of not spending 20 minutes trying to simply spend your money.

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