Thanks everyone for the comments on my Cents or Sentiment column on Target vs. Wal-Mart. Your comments gave me many new story ideas. Here’s one more observation from the week I spent analyzing Wal-Mart and Target. Have you ever noticed that one of the signs behind the service desk at Wal-Mart says that anyone who is seen writing down prices will be asked to leave the store? If the person refuses, the notice says, he or she may be cited for trespassing. Obviously, that could have been me, tossed out on my ear for doing my job. But that’s not my point. Isn’t it odd that the retailer that prides itself on low prices and says that it shops the competition too won’t let consumers do their own comparison shopping?
I asked David Brennan, a retail analyst at St. Thomas, why Wal-Mart has its underwear in a bunch over comparison price shoppers when Target doesn’t seem to care. Since Target is generally more expensive by a slight margin, why wouldn’t Target be the one to try to discourage price comparisons? Brennan said that maybe a decade ago, Wal-Mart used to have dry erase whiteboards posted in their stores comparing Wal-Mart’s and Target’s prices. Apparently, Wal-Mart wasn’t always comparing apples to apples (differing sizes or different versions of the same product) so they were asked to stop. Now those price comparison whiteboards are gone and they’ve been replaced with a sour grapes sign ”outlawing” price comparisons by consumers or competitors.
Maybe Wal-Mart has a better explanation for this than I’ve given. I’ll check with their PR department and report back. In the meantime, Wal-Mart, your policy strikes me as hypocritical. You can do better.