Get Out Your Magnifying Glass, Read the Fine Print and Save Money

the fine print

You can save a lot of money just by reading the fine print that retailers post on their websites and in their store polices. I’m embarrassed to admit that, as careful as I am with money, I didn’t really tune in to this fact until about a year ago. You usually have to look for these opportunities because retailers aren’t about to put them out there in big letters, but they’re there. So what kind of savings opportunities am I talking about? Read on.

First, many retailers offer some form of price matching. This means that the retailer will meet or beat another retailers advertised price on the exact same item. Some detective work is required on your part, however. You will be asked to submit proof of the other retailer’s price, usually in the form of a flyer or receipt from that store. You also have to make certain that it is the exact same item being offered by both stores.

Sometimes, two items will look exactly alike but carry different model numbers. This happens a lot with electronics. Retailers will order a special model from the manufacturer that carries a model number unique to that retailer. The two models may be identical in every way, but that different model number will disqualify you from a price match. You also won’t be eligible for a price match on clearance items, in most cases. Price matching polices can be found in grocery stores, drug stores, mass market retailers like Target and Wal-Mart, and at online websites. Read the policies posted at the store or on the back of your receipt. If you don’t see a price matching policy, it never hurts to ask a manager.

Second, many retailers offer price adjustments if the product you buy goes down in price during a set time frame (usually seven to fourteen days after purchase, but some stores go as far as ninety days). If you see the sale price, you can go to the store with the item and/or the receipt (as per the store’s policy) and ask to be refunded the difference between your purchase price and the sale price.

Again, this does not apply to clearance merchandise in most cases. I recently did this at a national department store with a pair of shoes. I paid $50 originally and then the next week the store put them on sale for $29. I took my receipt to the store and asked for the price adjustment. The clerk wasn’t happy about it — a lot of grumbling ensued — but I was within the time frame and had the printed policy from the website. I was within my rights and she knew it. I got my $21 back. As with other polices, you’ll have to read the fine print to determine what is eligible and how long you have to get an adjustment.

Third, many retailers offer service guarantees. Best Buy and Circuit City, for example, both offer guarantees for their store pickup program. If your purchase isn’t ready in a certain amount of time, you get $10 off (Best Buy) or a $24 gift card (Circuit City). Some restaurants also offer guarantees that your order will be ready or delivered within a specified time frame or it’s free. You are responsible for asking for the money if your order isn’t ready in the specified period of time. If you don’t say anything, they certainly aren’t going to give you the money. I recently did this at Best Buy. When I arrived my order wasn’t correct so I knew it would take longer than a minute to straighten it out. I had the order confirmation to demonstrate that what I ordered was not what they had for me, so it was their screw up, not mine. I said that since it would be longer than a minute, I would like to invoke the guarantee. They gave it to me very nicely, with no grumbling.

As an aside, one of the women I was with said, “That wasn’t very nice.” She thought I was being mean to the store by holding them to their promise. This kind of explains why this woman is in debt. If your retailer of choice offers some sort of service guarantee, learn the terms and be prepared to invoke it. Don’t feel bad about “sticking” it to the store or asking for a manager if necessary. They make those guarantees to increase their performance and customer satisfaction, and they are prepared to abide by them.

In the year since I’ve tuned in to retailer’s policies, I figure I’ve saved about $150 in price matches, service guarantees, and price adjustments. It’s not a great sum of money, but it’s $150 I wouldn’t have if I didn’t read the fine print. Retailers won’t make a big production out of these policies because it’s in their interest to keep the consumer in the dark and avoid giving back money. But for those who are willing to do a little detective work, get out the magnifying glass and read the fine print, and “be mean” to the stores, there is money to be saved.

Image courtesy of oskay

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