It's turning into Wal-Mart 101 Week here at BTC. A consumer affairs segment on a Tulsa TV station ran a shocking expose on how one Wal-Mart won't price match other Wal-Marts - or walmart.com for that matter. Watch the video here. via Consumerist
Normal, intelligent, I-don't-shop-at-Wal-Mart (and wouldn't if you paid me and held my first-born hostage) human beings might have questions about this policy. After all, aren't the prices for cheap plastic crap controlled (just like the temperature and lighting in the stores) from Bentonville? And shouldn't it be the same from one sterile big box to the next?
The base price for items does indeed come down from on high.
Then, prices are then checked against those at competing retailers within a certain geographic area (it varies by store and by market - ours is five miles because we have at six Wal-Marts in town).
Let's say the base price on Wal-Mart light bulbs was $1.60. If there is a Target within five miles selling the exact same light bulbs for $1.50, Wal-Mart marks them down to $1.48. If there's no competition, the light bulbs remain $1.60.
Our store has the issue of "Why don't you price-match other Wal-Marts" all the time. We have three Publix stores, an Albertsons, a Kash-n-Karry and a barely-hanging-on Winn-Dixie within five miles of us. Our grocery prices are somewhere below the floor because of all the competition. But there's no general merchandise or hardware store within our competition area - other than a Dollar General and a CVS drug store. Thus, no reason to discount toys, coffeemakers, tools, garden supplies, etc.
The Wal-Mart Supercenter across town - the one we get asked to price-match ALL THE TIME - has a Target right across the road. Another one of the regular Wal-Marts we get price-match requests from is less than a mile from a Kmart and a huge Bealls.
Those stores are dropping prices in response to sales at Target and Kmart. They are most likely taking a loss on a $10 coffeemaker to get you through the door of the Wal-Mart (and not the Target or Kmart) in the hopes you will buy something else.
The prevailing thought (if you apply that term to the logic coming out of Bentonville) behind the certain-stores-will-mark-down-certain-things strategy is that, essentially, consumers are lazy.
Wal-Mart's "saturation" plan can include as much as one Supercenter every five miles - thus limiting the amount of pavement the suburban hausfrau has to drive over to get her milk, bread, eggs and bad Metro 7 fashion. If you only ever go to Store A, you won't know that store B has coffeemakers on sale $10 cheaper.