Saving Centsably: Understanding price guarantees

July 16, 2014 

Last week I wrote about how important it is to be unafraid to ask questions when we are couponing and managing our budgets. I had a reader and friend give me another great example of a time when simply asking a question paid off for her family.

Many stores offer a price guarantee, which assures its customers that their prices are competitive. In fact, many stores’ guarantees state that they will give their customer cash back --and sometimes a bonus amount -- if they discover a better price at another store.

The only snag with this guarantee is that often there are time limitations. For example, if I purchased a product at the beginning of the summer, most stores will not honor any price guarantee when the item becomes clearance merchandise as fall approaches.

My friend purchased some seat cushions at a membership warehouse store. She travels past one on her way to and from her vacation home. Of course, because she has a membership and she enjoys their good prices, she stops in to shop on most of her trips to and from the mountains.

Recently, she noticed that the cushions she had purchased were $20 less per cushion than they were at the time she purchased them. Because she knew about their price guarantee policy, she asked the customer service manager what she needed to do to receive the price difference. He explained that a receipt would be necessary to complete her price guarantee refund. He also explained that typically this store’s policy is to make a price adjustment and fulfill a price guarantee within 30 days of the original purchase.

After my friend explained that she lived more than an hour from the store, and she was not sure exactly when she would return, the manager graciously extended the return policy. He made a note on the receipt for the items that my friend was purchasing at that time and told her to bring that receipt when she came to claim her refund for the price guarantee.

About two weeks later, knowing that the 30-day period for making returns had passed, my friend traveled north again. She stopped at the warehouse store to claim her refund. She had gathered her receipt from her home (you guys are keeping up with your receipts, right?).

The manager, upon hearing her story and checking her receipt, said, “Oh, I’m sorry, our return policy limits the price guarantee to 30 days.” Without getting upset, my friend explained that she and her husband do not live near the store, and then showed the manager the note that was written on the second receipt. As it turns out this manager was the same one to make the “extend the policy” notation on the second receipt. He was very kind and helpful, and for her little bit of effort, my friend earned $120 in a cash refund!

There are a couple of lessons to be learned from this experience. First, you must keep your receipts. If you use a credit or debit card you should keep the receipts to reconcile against your statements. But beyond that, you should keep your receipts even longer. I keep them so I know at the end of the year what we have spent. In my friend’s case, keeping her receipt was to her advantage to the tune of $120.

Second, do not be afraid to ask. All the manager could have said at the initial conversation was, “I’m sorry, but we have passed the 30 day return policy window.” My friend was happy with the cushions and happy with the price she paid. The fact that the manager was willing to graciously extend the price guarantee past the thirty day window was just icing on the cake, so to speak.

The third lesson, I believe, is to be sure of yourself. When she returned to claim the refund and the manager said, “I’m sorry,” my friend could simply have taken that apology as the final word. But because she was sure of the conversation she had previously participated in, she was confident in reminding the manager of his promise two weeks prior.

All these lessons netted my friend a $120 bonus that day. How has a price guarantee benefited your family?

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