Dear Lifehacker, I'm shopping around for a tablet and have noticed that the one I am after is available much more cheaply online ($100 or more). How likely is it that the local retailers (JB Hi Fi, Good Guys, Harvey Norman and so on) will be willing to match this? Thanks, Tablet It Be
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Australian retail stores used to be quite strict about only price matching with other brick-and-mortar outlets. This delighted online rivals such as Kogan, who frequently cited this tell-tale exclusion as proof that the traditional retail model was dead. In recent years, the industry has begun to reassess its stance on online price-matching, although policies still vary from store to store.
Most retailers now have separate price-match policies specifically relating to online products. Office Works provides a pretty good example of the terms and conditions you can expect to encounter on its website:
Our Price Beat Guarantee (PBG) includes products at competitor’s online stores but, as with any other kind of store, the item must be identical and in stock. When assessing the PBG from online stores we also take into account the added cost of delivery to your location (if any). If the identical, in stock product can be purchased and delivered to your location via an online store for a total price lower than the one we are offering, we will beat that total price by 5%.
The chief caveat here is delivery - any price matching has to include shipping costs, which can often wipe out the discount altogether. Most retailers will also veto overseas e-stores, especially if the "Australia tax" amounts to more than a hundred dollars. For example, JB Hi-Fi will only match online prices that come from "major" Australian-based retailers.
Even when a retailer does match online prices, there are still occasional loopholes to be aware of. As we have noted in the past, price match guarantees usually need to be taken with a huge grain of salt. There have been numerous reports of retailers refusing to price match due to all manner of weaselly excuses, ranging from "restocking policy" issues to claiming the rival store was charging below cost.
Naturally, you also need to make sure that the product in question has identical specifications across the board. Even something as inconsequential as the chassis colour can be used to quash your price matching request. In your case, this shouldn't be an issue: there's much less variation in tablet models than desktops or laptops, but it still pays to check.
With all that said, it never hurts to ask! Most brick-and-mortar retailers are willing to haggle to an extent, especially when it comes to large ticket items. At the very least, you can usually score a free accessory such as a cheap carry case or screen protector which we suppose is better than nothing.
We're also going to throw this one over to our readers. Which traditional retail outlet provides the best price matching policy in your personal experience? Have you ever had a bad customer experience in this area? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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This story has been updated since its original publication.