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No, Walmart, you can’t walk away with my smartphone for price-matching purposes

Nov 23, 20146 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

Thanks to Amazon Marketplace fraudsters listing PS4 consoles for $90, Walmart fell prey to the scam before changing its online price-matching policy.

No, Walmart, you can’t walk away to a back office with my smartphone in hand to check that an item is truly at a certain price for price-matching. Thanks to a few jerks who scammed Walmart via price-match abuse, the giant retailer’s online price-matching policy that could have benefited the masses has been changed.

First accidentally listed the $300 Wii U and $200 Nintendo 3DS bundles for $60 each. But the fact that some gamers jumped on it before Sears could change the price back must have birthed the evil idea of price-match scamming.

Some jerk created a fake Amazon Marketplace sales page listing a $399.99 PlayStation 4 console available on sale for $89.99. Other scammers jumped on it and listed the PS4 for prices allegedly starting from $50; people dashed out to Walmart and Best Buy for price-matching and then tweeted about the steal.

In light of the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished price-matching abuse, Walmart changed its price matching policies. Since the price-matching fraud scheme occurred, prices via Amazon Marketplace and third-party sellers are no longer listed as honored; Walmart’s new online price match policy is limited to the following online retailers:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, and

Thanks to fraudsters abusing Walmart’s online price-matching policy, Walmart has adopted several other “We do not honor” rules, including “ will not price match items purchased on between Thanksgiving and Cyber-Monday; will not price match on behalf of Walmart Marketplace Retailers to other online competitors;” if the price “cannot be determined independent of other items, e.g., fees, shipping charges;” and “misprinted or inaccurate prices,” although I’m not sure how it could be proven that a sale is a misprint…and no price matches from online auctions or membership store such as at Sam’s Club.

So I have the app on my phone. Periodically it vibrates an alert to news about good Black Friday priced deals available now. Since I was out running errands on Friday evening when it vibrated, I decided to grab a movie regularly price at $34.96 for $9.96 to serve as entertaining purposes for young restless souls on Thanksgiving. After it rang up for full price, I show the cashier the price via my phone, as well as the “news” about Walmart’s pre-Black Friday sales that started on Friday.

The cashier calls over a manager to OK the price override. Then the manager calls another manager, who later calls the head manager. They all kept talking about how many scams are out there. At this point, I was blissfully unaware of the price-matching abuse that had gone on. The Walmart personnel kept asking the same questions; where was this good deal posted? While I didn’t physically have a Pre-Black Friday sales flier on me, I showed them the actual Walmart flier via my phone.

But if you clicked on the plus sign hovering over the items on the Walmart sales ad, it took you to another page with the regular price crossed out and the sales price listed. Each and every one read the “news” about the deals, and at that time the (3D Blu-ray + Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital HD) How to Train your Dragon 2 was listed on that page. (It has since been removed and changed from “now” to available “soon.”) Yet another click takes you to where it didn’t show up at $9.96 like Marvel’s The Avengers did.

The managers kept saying they couldn’t price match some places that were scams but the $9.96 for How to Train your Dragon 2 was in Walmart’s own ad. Granted, I don’t work at Walmart, but it seemed like the logical thing to do would have been for one of the three managers to go grab a physical copy of their Pre-Black Friday sales flier. Silly me, I suggested that after the price-matching discussion went on for 20 minutes…this wasn’t even a case of price-matching as it was theoretically a Walmart sale.

After about 25 minutes of waiting, the head-honcho manager tried to take my phone from my hand while saying he’d take it to the office to check it out. No, Walmart, you can’t walk away to a back office with my smartphone in hand to quadruple check that an item is truly at a certain price for “price-matching.” I added, “no offense,” but “no, I’m not comfortable handing my smartphone over to anyone and letting them walk away with.”

The manager said he couldn’t give the price if he couldn’t check it. By then, I was irritated and said I’ve done nothing for the last 20 minutes but show you the price. I added either honor your ad and the price it states or don’t; I’m beyond ready to leave and not paying $35 for the kids’ movie.

I could feel my hackles rising later when I was relating the story to someone who said she wouldn’t have minded handing over her phone because she has nothing on her phone that she wouldn’t care if other people saw. The whole “nothing to hide” argument seriously trips my trigger since it implies that protecting your privacy means you do have something to hide. At any rate, I am not comfortable handing over my phone to a third-party and that alone is enough to insure I won’t be switching to Geico with a digital insurance card.

Lastly, I’m just curious as I don’t know you feel about waiting in long lines at brick and mortar stores to get to the check out. Personally, if I have to wait a long time in a long line, there had better be a roller coaster to ride when I reach the front of the line. That’s why self-checkout seem appealing; but since that is the point-of-sale spot previously targeted by cybercriminals such as at Home Depot, will it stop you from using the self-checkout and instead opting for a longer line where a cashier will ring up your sales?

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.