"One price to all" has been the default since 1840, but online retail is sneakily killing it off

Best Buy tries to pull this shit all the time. When doing electronics trade-ins, they will try to undercut the “guaranteed” price on the web site, and will frequently charge more in-store for the same items listed online. When going to a Best Buy store these days to buy or sell something, I always bring a printout with me now as evidence.


I used to use that set lots of alerts especially on pricey stuff. Thanks for reminding me. Chrome plugin that would bring it up for everything in your cart would be nice (or anything you’re looking at). Anyone know if such an extension exists?

Well, yeah, there’s that.

Or just do some research. There are some cases where a product is designed in Europe or the US, and made to high standards in China or wherever. But the Chinese manufacturer also sells the same item, without the premium branding, and at a very low price. That works out great if you can identify those items, but you have to be very careful that none of the components have been replaced with those of lower quality.
If I am going to buy a bunch of such an item, buying one to examine first does not always work. I recently bought some valves where the first one was just fabulous, but I followed up with an order for two more that turned out to be shoddy. But complaining worked well in this case. They finally sent me a terse letter about the deal I was getting, but reluctantly sent the good ones to finish my order.


So maybe if I don’t buy anything I can get the best prices!

1 Like

Often the difference isn’t parts but quality control. If you go to Harbor freight you can look through the stock of unpackaged hand tools till you find one that is made slightly better than it’s peers.

Best Buy will match Amazon’s prices, though, if the item is being sold by Amazon and not a third-party vendor. I had a large BB gift card that I wouldn’t have otherwise spent because I don’t really like Best Buy. So when the fitness tracker I wanted went on sale on Amazon I popped in to BB to spend my card. It took us a year to use it up doing that!


I had a long discussion once with Best Buy management about this. Their brick-and-mortar and online operations actually run fairly independently of one another, this is probably true for the office supply chains as well. While the online operation can be more nimble in keeping their pricing close to Amazon et al, the brick and mortar customer service is so much more responsive - at least at Best Buy - that I always buy in the shop when possible, just asking them to price match either themselves or someone else. I’ve never had a problem with them not finding the online price when I told them where to look, but maybe I’ve been lucky.

I hate when that happens…especially when I didn’t order any…


This is one of the hidden costs of being poor. A few years ago, after I was unemployed for a year and a half, I took a job at Walmart because I needed to eat. Anyway, after a few weeks, I needed a new pair of shoes. The only shoes I could afford were cheap shoes at Walmart. I would have loved to have bought better shoes, but I did not have the money. The shoes I bought lasted about 4 months, and I had to buy another pair of cheap ass shoes I knew wouldn’t last 4 months. It’s disheartening. You know you’re getting screwed, but there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.


Are you Commander Vimes?

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

-Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms: The Play


This aligns very much with what I was told too. It is only going to get worse for brick and mortar as online sellers now change bids for your attention in microseconds… a price tag gun can’t keep up.

As long as I can get the online price locally with a bit of effort on my part, I’m OK with that. I wish I could give the B&M stores that price match even more of my business, to keep them surviving, but too often things we need are simply not available locally, and we have to wait for the Wells Fargo wagon to come down the street.

Me: Alexa, is this a good price?
Alexa: That is an excellent price.

The local joanns fabric shop gives out a lot of “40-50 percent off” coupons (that can only be used on full priced items.) But they also have a constant 30 percent off sale with rotating stock. So odds are good that you’ll be paying 70 percent of full price instead of 50 percent of full price on that yardage.

And if regular prices are 40 percent higher than what customers think is reasonable, it all evens out in the end. The store makes money, and customers receive the dopamine infusions they need.


I think it was in Freakonomics that they described how supermarkets juggle the prices so much so no one actually knows what a good deal is.


For certain things i have a general understanding on a product’s value, though i also consider what i am willing to spend for it. If both values are close enough i will make a purchase, though more often than not i just pass until the next time. If i REALLY need something i will break down and buy it, for items i’m not sure if it’s a good deal or not then i clearly don’t need it.

1 Like

There’s certainly stuff it’s worth geeking out on and having that data in you head, usually over a certain price point. But for things like supermarket purchases, who can bother? I know what a good price is on chicken breast, but not on sweet potatoes.

1 Like

It is hard to make those assessments 100% of the time, which i’m sure is what all these businesses are banking on. Wearing down your ability to keep the perceived value of things in check. I know i don’t have the patience to shop around at times.


It must be difficult to be Cory, living inside a head in which basic shopping transactions are so… dramatic.

As anyone whose ever spent time on ebay can attest.