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Low Price Guarantee? Not So Much
By: Jennifer Graber
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Walmart touts its competitive edge and strategy as being low prices, every day and always. And it recently lived up to its strategy by giving shoppers the steal of a lifetime. Customers logging on to the big box retailer’s website found ridiculously low-priced electronics. Shoppers could purchase products such as computer monitors and projectors for the low, low price of $8.85. The original price of some of the electronic products was upwards of $600. Sounds like a great deal, right? Customers thought so too. In fact, they took advantage of the seemingly amazing sale, one that appeared to trump any Black Friday deal. The electronics sold out very quickly.
 
But wait; not so fast, thrifty and excited consumers! The low-priced electronics seemed too good to be true, didn’t they? Well, that’s because they were. Walmart has since revealed the low pricing was actually caused by a technical glitch. The retailer was also going to investigate further to determine if any other sales or prices were affected by the same glitch.
 
What does that mean for consumers who placed the orders? It means, so sorry, but you are out of luck. Walmart’s solution to the glitch is to not honor the pricing, not fulfill the orders, and to provide full refunds. The affected shoppers won’t be left empty-handed, and will also receive a $10 e-gift card for their troubles. Customers, however, are not entirely satisfied with Walmart’s solution. Some are taking to social media and expressing their frustration on Walmart’s Facebook page. In fact, some shoppers are so unsatisfied with the situation in general that they have vowed to not shop at Walmart any longer.
 
Walmart’s maintains that it did the right thing and has said that it always has the right to cancel any order due to limited availability, errors, fraud, or other problems. And some industry experts agree, even saying that the shoppers should have been aware and in tune with the fact that the prices were likely a glitch or incorrect. And other industry experts pointed out that the situation was actually legally covered under the retailer’s terms and agreements.
 
This is obviously a mess for the brand. And it’s not the first time in recent weeks that Walmart has been under fire for a glitch. A few weeks ago Walmart stores in Louisiana experienced a technical glitch that drastically cut prices for food-stamp patrons — causing shelves upon shelves to be cleared out. In that particular situation, however, the retailer chose to honor the glitch and allowed the food-stamp patrons to purchase products at the advertised prices.
 
What is different about the two situations for Walmart? Why choose to honor one set of prices but not the other? Both were due to technical glitches. It is understandable that the brand has to generate a profit to sustain itself and insanely low-priced electronics may not be the way to go — a reasonable, rational thought. However, it might not hurt Walmart to eat the cost of the technical mishap considering the brand damage this incident has caused. Allowing consumers to purchase the electronics at the glitch price may not be the perfect solution for the brand, from a fiscal standpoint. But there has to be some sort of happy medium. If the brand felt it absolutely could not eat those costs, then perhaps a larger e-gift card or more significant solution should be offered. Consumers have to feel as if they were compensated for their troubles in order to really trust a brand again, and Walmart probably missed the mark on that.
 
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the retailer’s response it is clear that the brand could have handled the mishap just a bit better. Regardless of the compensation or solution offered the brand needed a better approach with consumers and the public. People will handle "bad news" better if it comes with a sincere apology — not a so sorry it happened, laissez-faire perceived attitude. Walmart doesn’t want to become known for that type of thing, and is really in need of some brand love, building, and positivity right now.


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About the Author
Jennifer Graber is a Business Development Manager and marketing enthusiast. Her specific interests include branding, consumer behavior, development, integrated marketing communications, and new & social media.
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