BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It's an awful feeling saving up for something and then finding it for a lot less after you've purchased it.
With that in mind, here's a look at the stores with the best and worst price matching policies.
They make this part easy too. They'll match any lower price at Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Office Depot, Office Max, Quill, Medical Arts Press, Reliable, Sam's Club, Walmart, WB Mason, or Xerox. They take the price-match a step further and will pay you the difference between the price of their item and the lower price within 14 days of your Staples purchase.
Sears will match any price out there, plus give you 10 percent of the difference back. They'll price-match any retail store or website, which is rare to see. They'll even take shipping and handling charges into account with that. Just print the ordering page from the competitor, including shipping, handling and delivery and bring it to your Sears store within 14 days of your purchase. If you are shopping on the Sears website, just use their price-matching form.
Why? Nordstrom will meet a competitor's pricing if you EVER find that same item at a lower price from a similar retailer. There are some designer product lines where that doesn't apply, but the non-specified time limit makes this a very generous policy. This does not apply to website or auction pricing.
Stores on my price-match naughty list this year just make it a bit too complicated for my liking.
1. Best Buy
While I'm happy Best Buy offers a price-match guarantee, you can't support your BestBuy.com claim in store (they only allow retail price matches in-store). That sometimes involves long wait times on the phone. Best Buy will also only match prices that are within 25 miles of your local Best Buy store or billing address. That isn't helpful if you find a store with a cheaper price farther away or online.
The nice thing is that Amazon often has one of the lowest prices. The problem is they only protect against their own prices dropping, and even that has limitations. Amazon will offer you the lower price on an item they stock -- if the price drops within 30 days. They won't price-match against other stores and offer no protection whatsoever for the items they sell from third parties or within the Amazon Marketplace.
I'll admit it: They have great advertising. From the ads alone, I was convinced they had the best policy. I love that you're not required to bring an advertisement in and that the store will match your claim at the cash register, but like their complex returns policy (which varies greatly by department), there's too much to wrap your head around. Customers are prompted to download a guide to understand the price-match policy, which in my opinion could be simplified. They don't offer ads with percentages off, they don't honor ads for websites or online pricing and they don't honor closeout prices (which is understandable), but there are too many limitations for my personal liking.
Before I even head out to the store, there are two websites that help me with my shopping. The Find is a great comparison shopping search engine, and Offers.com ensures I'm always armed with a coupon and likely to lock in the lowest price well before I walk in to a store.