Bitterwallet's Len Dastard wrestles online prices vs instore prices
Hola queridos lectores y lectoras! Once again, I am Len Dastard, a legal executive with the somewhat ambiguous backstory of a 1970s Mexican wrestler to shield my true identity from los ladrones de la justicia. I was a masked fighter in Veracruz, a savage man who fought under the name El Bastardo – Murderer of Dreams. Completely true.
Bitterwallet HQ received an email today from ávido lector Iain, who wanted to know where he stood regarding retailers advertising prices on their website which were much lower than their instore prices:
On two separate occasions I've been looking to buy outdoor gear - jackets, boots etc. On both occasions the cheapest deals for the specific items I wanted were at a particular sports outlet in the Lake District.
I don't live far from there so it's no problem to take a trip up to try on the gear for size etc, but every time I go their store prices are considerably higher than their online prices - often to the tune of £20 or more per item.
The first time I queried this I was told that it was because of the postage - but this is only £6 per consignment online. Yesterday they said that the online people often undercut the store to get the sale. I suspect that a certain advantage is being taken of their location and tourist interest. On both occasions the store would not honour the online price and were happy to let me leave empty handed.
While this isn't a major issue because I'm happy to buy online, I wondered if there was any legal issue to this practice? Can the two operations trade under the same name with wildly differing prices?
The epic battle of online prices vs instore prices. If you choose to purchase your goods online there is a high chance that the price will be slightly different to those instore. Many companies put this down to there being no or little “administration” charges to cover. In fact, this was the very reason I received from Gamestation some time ago when I politely requested that they honour an online price instore (it's true, Dastardly fans - I may be a fake retired wrestler, but I enjoy keeping my reflexes sharp).
I am aware that rental space of a high street outlet may be more than a warehouse on an industrial estate, but then perhaps there would be higher “administration” costs for operating a complex e-commerce website, for taking payment, for warehouse staff packaging the goods and then posting these off? Indignante! I shouted, as I performed a particularly vicious Hurricanrana on the member of staff as she explained the situation to me.
Alas, there is no law to favour the consumer at this point. Retailers do not have to honour any prices that are advertised on their website. There is no contract in place until the key requirements are met by the contracting parties and unless the retailer accepts your order, processes payment and then dispatches the goods they do not have to accept your order.
Iain did the right thing by asking whether the retailer would honour their online prices, but the retailer unfortunately refused to do so. Some high street retailers do have a policy of honouring online prices, and a quick scour of consumer forums suggests that some retailers will honour prices on the day - and some will not. I would put this down simply to being lucky enough to catch somebody who a) wants the sale and b) has the authority to reduce the price.
While the law cannot help amigo Iain this time, a polite word or two instore certainly did him no harm, and I would always suggest you do similar.
What are your thoughts on why prices can be significantly different online? Have any of you had a similar experience with a better outcome? Leave your comments below, and know I am watching you like La Muerte de Aves - the Hawk of Death.