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2006-08-19
Austell, GA. Consumer Exposes Wal-Mart's “Ad Matching” Program

Duane Gray (not his real name) has written to Sprawl-Busters to expose what he calls a "Wal-Mart scam" involving the retailer's promotion of "ad matching" prices. Here is Gray's report: "I hope you are as fed up with corporate American's greed as I am. My name is Duane Gray, and I have a book due out in the first part of next year. The name of the book is "Corporate America's Dirty Little Secret: I Got Mine, Get Yours." I expose some really bad people and bad companies, and of course, Wal-Mart is Chapter One. I expose what I call Wal-Mart's $100 million scam. It has been going on for at least eight years that I have known about it. The scam is that Wal-Mart has an "ad match" campaign. When you ask them to match a lower price from a competitor's ad, the first thing they ask you is, "Do you have the ad?" When you tell them no, they deny you the savings, and keep your money. The fact is, that you do not have to have the ad. How can you bring in an ad from T.V. or from the side of the road? The bottom line is, they have been wrongfully taking the consumer's hard earned money. I have been trying to expose them for over four years. They know exactly what they are doing, but with the arrogant attitude of Wal-Mart executives, they say, 'Hey, we are Wal-Mart. Nobody has stopped us yet, and never will.' If they have taken money from you wrongfully, contact them and get your stolen money back." Gray sent along with his story a copy of a letter on Wal-Mart Legal Department letterhead, dated June 4, 2002, signed by Martin G. Gilbert, who used to be the Vice President and General Counsel for the retailer's legal department. In the letter, Gilbert says, "You are correct, Mr. Gray, that our program does not require the customer to have the ad with them." Gilbert quotes Wal-Mart policy on the ad match promotion as follows: "We will not require our customers to have the advertisement with them when we honor a competitor's ad." Gilbert notes that "our people in the stores should be aware of this policy, and also should be aware of the ads that are subject to matching." Gilbert tells Gray "your point is well-taken, that our program does not require the customer to have the ad with them in order to get the benefits of the matching price. If they don't have the ad with them, then we should look it up." The letter from Wal-Mart ends with this apology to Gray: "Mr. Gray, I know that we have disappointed you in the past by not always being consistent in our execution of this program. Let me assure you that our imperfections are not intentional, and that we really do try to do it right... By calling our shortcomings to our attention, you will help us improve our compliance with this program, so we appreciate that as well." But a second letter from Wal-Mart, with no date on it, quotes a Wal-Mart Customer Relations Manager as explaining that "our practice is to match prices of our local competitors' printed advertisements. We instruct our stores to keep copies of their local competitor's advertisements on hand, to complete a customer's request for a price match, and to make sure our prices are competitive." The Customer Relations Manager refused to give Gray a copy of the store's ad match policy, noting, "Internal company documents are not distributed to the public."

What you can do: Wal-Mart is unclear about what its ad match policy really is. The retailer's lawyer told Gray that ads do not need to be produced by the consumer, while the Customer Relations Manager seems to agree that the customer does not need to have the ad in hand, but goes on to say that the ad match policy only applies to "printed" advertisements. It is not clear if Wal-Mart still tells customers that it will match the price of any competitor's ad, seen in any medium. In a press release dated November 21, 2005, Wal-Mart offered certain "Black Friday Specials", and said it would "match pricing in any local competitor's print ad. No rebates, no hassles... Wal-Mart Stores Inc. confirmed today its commitment to offering its customers the lowest prices and the best values in-store... Any Wal-Mart store will match any price featured on an identical product in a local competitor's print advertisement. As always, no Wal-Mart prices are based on rebates." This ad suggests that Wal-Mart's ad match program is now only for print ads. Gray suggests that Wal-Mart has overcharged consumers for hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, by not honoring their "ad match" promotion unless consumers have an ad in their hand. The simplest way to avoid this controversy is not to shop at Wal-Mart, and to use your coupon at the competitor's store. But for those addicted to Wal-Mart, Gray contends that shoppers should insist on Wal-Mart matching a competitor's lower price -- even if you don't have the ad with you. To contact Duane Gray, email info@sprawl-busters.com











 
 
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