Wal-Mart's Holiday Price Match Catches Up

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Most retailers don't make headlines when they announce a price-match policy. But most retailers aren't Wal-Mart (WMT), the king of retail.

Wal-Mart announced this week that its famous price-match policy was getting a makeover for the holiday season: From Nov. 1 to Dec. 25, the retailer's policy will be retroactive. Before, the store would only match a competitor's price on the day of purchase, but now a customer can discover a lower price at another store after the fact and go back to Wal-Mart to get a refund for the difference. The deal is good on all purchases made between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25 when you bring in proof of the competitor's price by Christmas.
Wal-Mart announced its price-match policy for the holiday season this week, but the retail giant is playing catch-up with the competition.

A look at the fine print in Wal-Mart's policy turns up some important stipulations. First, if you want to do a retroactive price match, you won't actually get the difference in price in the form of cash, but as a Wal-Mart gift card. Also, the policy won't apply to limited-time and Black Friday offers, so if you were hoping to hedge your Black Friday bets by going to Wal-Mart, think again. And certain product classes, including groceries, plants, gas, guns and optical items, don't qualify for the offer.

The store is catching up to competing retailers with similar retroactive price matching. As we found when we rounded up the retailers with the best price-match policies, Target ( TGT) lets customers bring in a competitor's ad up to a week after purchase and get a credit for the difference. Likewise, Best Buy ( BBY) gives its customers a window of either 14, 30 or 45 days (depending on the class of product), Staples ( SPLS) gives buyers a 14-day window and Sears ( SHLD) has a "price-match plus" policy that gives you 14 days to bring in a competing offer and the store will beat the price by 10%.

Wal-Mart's price-match policy will surely be welcome news for the holiday season, but shoppers should know that in many ways it still falls short of the competition.

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