The Golden Rule for buying anything: Shop around.

Nonprofit Twin Cities Consumers' Checkbook's researchers often find big price differences for the same items and services, so when you're seeking the best possible deal, consider price matching and price adjustments.

Price matching allows you to buy from your retailer of choice, even if its price isn't the lowest. For example, you might want to stick with a local company or one that offers great service, reliable delivery or a generous return policy. Or maybe you want to make sure a helpful sales associate earns commission. If you're shopping in-store and find a lower price elsewhere, ask for a price match. Many stores will honor lower prices competitors offer. For online shopping, many retailers have procedures you can use to obtain a discount if an item is available for less elsewhere.

Another way to ensure you pay the lowest possible price: After making a purchase, keep an eye on the store's prices for a few weeks. If you ask, many stores will refund the difference between what you paid and any new lower price they advertise later. Most price-adjustment periods range between seven and 30 days.

Checkbook checked for price-matching and price-adjustment offers with about 100 major retailers and found most offer consumer-friendly policies. Through a special arrangement, Star Tribune readers can see Checkbook's roundup of retailer policies — and all the ratings and advice from Checkbook — until May 5 at

Amazon and Walmart do not play the price-matching game, and neither offers price adjustments. (Walmart did match its competitors' prices for decades but stopped doing so about five years ago.) Checkbook's survey included only large retailers, but local chains and independents often match competitors' prices if asked.

Companies that offer price matching and adjustments know few shoppers will take advantage of them. Most shoppers are unaware these policies exist. While some stores tout mottos like "lowest prices, guaranteed," none loudly broadcast they match lower prices or provide post-sale adjustments. They know even shoppers who know about price-matching policies likely won't use them because it seems like a pain to research prices online, track down an employee or manager, explain the price difference, point out the store's policy and ask for the lower price.

But how hard is it? Checkboook's researchers sought price matches and adjustments from several major retailers and found it was typically quite easy to obtain savings. For example:

  • A pair of Vince men's Fulton sneakers was $225 at Nordstrom, but Nordstrom matched Bloomingdale's lower price of $168.75.
  • Home Depot lowered its price for a Frigidaire model #FRTD2021AW refrigerator from $728 to $639 after asked to match Lowe's price.
  • One researcher bought a pair of jeans at J. Crew for $128; the store refunded her $52 after the jeans went on sale a few days later, and she asked for a price adjustment.
  • Many stores will apply coupon savings post-sale. The day after spending $5,000 on furniture at Arhaus, a Checkbook staffer received a 10%-off coupon. The store agreed to refund that amount.

Most of the time, Checkbook's shoppers quickly received lower prices simply by pulling up competing offers on their phones, showing them to store personnel and asking for a price match. Getting post-purchase price adjustments is usually even easier and typically involves either a quick phone call or an online chat.

Beware that some retailers' price-matching policies come with ridiculous limitations. Sephora's was the silliest: Its policy states it will match lower in-store prices of Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, but only if those competitors' lower prices are non-sale ones.

But even the most generous price-matching policies come with limits. The most common exclusions:

  • Items must be identical, including color and all technical specs. Many retailers avoid price competition — and having to match lower prices — by offering exclusive products not available elsewhere.
  • Some stores will match prices only when asked to do so in-store and only if you can show the item is available from a competitor operating a nearby physical store.
  • The retailer offering the lower price must have the item in stock or available to ship immediately.
  • Most policies exclude pricing from membership warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's Club.
  • Retailers that will match prices Amazon offers will do so only if Amazon sells and ships the item itself, not one of its a third-party "Marketplace" sellers.
  • Most electronics stores exclude cellphones from their price-matching policies.
  • You can't combine offers. Stores won't price-match lower prices that result from using coupons, bundled deals or members-only discounts.
  • Most won't match a price if it's identified as a clearance or discontinued item.

Also note many retailers will match their own lower online prices upon request (and it's worth a quick website check before you get to the register).

Stores' post-purchase price-adjustment policies typically have fewer restrictions than their price-matching policies; most simply state if they later offer an item for less, customers can ask for the difference as a refund or store credit.

If a store doesn't allow price adjustments, you can return an item, obtain a refund and then buy it again at the lower price. That might be worth the hassle for small items Amazon and other companies that offer convenient returns sell, but most consumers won't want to return and rebuy a fridge bought a few weeks ago.

Twin Cities Consumers' Checkbook magazine and is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help consumers get the best service and lowest prices. We are supported by consumers and take no money from the service providers we evaluate. Star Tribune readers can access all of Checkbook's ratings free until May 5 at