Do You Offer Price Adjustments for Sale Items?


I was chatting with a friend recently, and we were discussing shopping and retail customer service. When she had found out that something she bought had gone on sale, after she paid full price, she planned on going to the store with her receipt for an adjustment. The rationale for her (and the store’s official policy) was that it was still within the store’s 60-day return policy. This was an interesting topic to me, and I’m curious what you think, from your perspectives as a customer and from your perspectives as merchants.

For me on a personal level, I’m too close to the retail trade to be very neutral on this topic. I’ve worked in many a retail environment, and know how people asking for adjustments regarded by the staff. (I’ve seen some compulsive shoppers who will pull out baseball-sized wads of receipts that they carry around with them just for this purpose.) Generally, there’s lots of behind the back disdain, and I would not want to be subjected to it. So unless it was within a few days to a week max, and the money was substantial, I just wouldn’t ask. But perhaps I’ve got a skewed sense of fairness or a neurosis that’s acting up.

On the other hand, I can see the main point in favor of it. If you are still within the return policy dates, in theory, you could just return the item and re-purchase it at the new sale price. Therefore, the merchant offers an “adjustment,” which is essentially a return and re-purchase without the customer necessarily even having to bring the item in. A receipt will be honored as good faith, and they make the customer happy. I do think making customers happy is nice.

Oh dear, but then I think about the merchants again, many of which are people like my clients, and I think the idea of adjustments is so unfair. Merchants set their sales prices according to various time tables, and price adjustments basically manipulate the retailer into taking a loss on a sale they already made. I can’t help but feel that if the customer bought something on a day when they wanted it, needed it, and thought the price was worth paying, then that should be the end of it. Maybe I’m not so customer-service oriented afterall!

This is somewhat of an ethical dilemma for me. I suppose that bottom-line, my friend’s point about it being acceptable policy if a price adjustment is made within the refund window is the determining point. If a merchant declined an adjustment request under those circumstances, it would be customer service suicide because the person would then exert their power to simply return the item (and probably be cranky and upsetting.) Maybe the dilemma is just more of a social one really, where I don’t like the subtle power play that lurks within the dynamic. I’m just too merchant-focused to be neutral on it.

In trying to find some online opinions, I found these articles.

This article called Learning How to Haggle mentions it as tip #10.

This article says you should ask first if a store will Adjust the Recipt, which makes me think it’s not obligatory or assumed merchants provide this.

Another article recommends price adjustments, but also says stores are becoming stricter and shortening the time restrictions (in other words, an adjustment period can be shorter than the store’s return policy limitation.) It also mentions that some stores require customers to bring the merchandise in too, which makes me suspect that is a policy meant to lessen the requests by making them more inconvenient.

This article by ABC TV News lists price adjustment policies for 14 major retailers. Eight of them have 14 day policies (which is much shorter than their regular return policy dates.) That seems the most fair to me. If an item is defective or you regret the purchase, you should have longer to decide. But if you still want to keep the item, and it’s more about feeling bad because you bought something that went on sale soon after, then you get a 2 week window where they’ll compensate you to make you feel better about it.

I’m really curious what everyone else thinks about this. If you’re a retailer, I’d also like to know if you have a written policy about price adjustments in your business. Please share with us.


About the Author

Jaya Savannah - Chief Inspiration Officer. Strategy Coach for Holistic Businesses. Trainer, speaker, and writer. Spiritually aware, yet street smart. Elephant lover.

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