Wal-Mart announced today that it is getting serious about "one stop shopping."  It is simplifying its price match policy so that customers no longer need to bring in competitors' ads to have prices matched. In other words, smart shoppers who used to do all of their shopping at Wal-mart with ads from Cub, Rainbow, Target and Menards can now leave those ads at home, provided the customer knows them and asks for the price match.  



"We want to error on the side of the customer," said Bloomington store manager Scott Rothi. Case in point: As soon as I heard this was the new policy, I had doubts. I vaguely recalled that either Cub or Rainbow has Coke on sale this week 4-12 packs for $10, a good deal. So I took the Coke to the cashier and said "Either Cub or Rainbow has these 12 packs of Coke on sale 4 for $10."

"Okay," the cashier said, "that's $2.67 each, right?"

"2.50 each," I said.

"Oh, right," he said and rang them up without any further questions.

BTW, it's Cub that has Coke 4 for $10 this week (with a coupon).

There are a lot of smart, demanding customers out there, so I expect Wal-Mart's cashiers are going to be tested mightily. If a customer insists that a competitor's price is a lot lower than Wal-Mart's price, the cashier can ask for a manager to approve it. While I applaud Wal-Mart's "we trust you" price match policy, I worry that there will be too many prices that  need  "manager approval" if the customer doesn't have the competitor's sale flier to prove it.  

Remember when Target instituted its price match policy? You might not, because few people use it. But those who do have complained loudly to me about its exclusions. At last check, Target will not match BOGOs, non-branded items such as green grapes, store brands, store coupons such as $5 for a 24-pack of Coke, online prices, free products such as "Buy Cheerios and get a gallon of Kemps milk free." The list goes on.

I have heard in the past from readers that Wal-Mart's policy isn't as restrictive as Target's. Joel Anderson, senior vice-president of of the Northern Plains Division at Wal-Mart, gave a few examples of items they would not price match today: a buy-one-get-one-free offer in which a price is not listed in the competitor's ad, online prices, percentages off such as "10 percent off all Rubbermaid products." But when I asked where I could find a list of exclusions, he directed me to walmartstores.com, where I was unsuccessful at finding it. 

I applaud Wal-Mart for simplifying its price-match policy, but it's too soon to know how good it is in practice. Let me know your experiences if you try out this new one-stop shopping "policy." I suspect that the reason that Wal-Mart made this announcement locally is because of the recent price comparison by CNN Money that had Target beating Wal-Mart's prices in several markets.

My recommendation if you go to Wal-Mart expecting a bunch of price matches is write them down from the ads, even if you leave the ads at home or in the car. Letsee, Pepsi at Rainbow for 4/$1, red seedless grapes for $1.29 at Rainbow,  Post or Quaker cereals for $1.75 each at Cub yadayada. I'd like to see the look on a cashier's face if you had 25 price matches and quoted them from memory.

Who's willing to give Wal-Mart's new price match policy a good test? Let me know. Respond here or send an email to jewoldt@startribune.com or call me at 612-673-7633. This can be a great time saver if it works and Wal-mart has the items you're trying to match.