Update 2007/08/20: eBags responded positively. See this post.
Don’t you hate it when you buy something at a store and then you find a few days later that the very store where you bought the item lowered the price of that item? If the retailer has a price guarantee, then you’re in luck. You can contact them so that they’ll honor the terms of their guarantee. At the very least, you’ll get the item at the new price and sometimes you can get even more than that. Well…. that’s the theory. In practice, it is usually pretty hard to get them to honor their guarantees. I’ve had a particularly bad experience with eBags recently and have yet to get them to honor their price matching policy.
I’ve bought a JanSport Exchange on eBags on August 14th 2007. As part of my purchasing process, I reviewed eBags’ price matching policy titled “110% ‘PLUS’ Price Guarantee”. I searched elsewhere and could not find a better price than eBags. I also noted that the policy applies to eBags’ own prices so, in effect, this is a guarantee against eBags selling the item for a lower price just after I bought the bag. Therefore I bought from eBags. However, on August 17th, 3 days after my purchase, I found a better price. Getting eBags to honor their price matching policy has been an unsuccessful endeavor so far. I believe I am reading their policy correctly but three of their CSRs do not agree with me. Let’s review the facts.
The “110% ‘PLUS’ Price Guarantee”
The full text of the policy is available at this page, I’ve kept a copy in appendix to this post in case they decide to edit their web site during this dispute. The relevant points of their policy are the following:
1. “If you find the same bag elsewhere, at a lower price, just tell us. We keep it simple; just use the form on this page.”
From this I understand that eBags will match the price of their competitors. eBags and I are in agreement on this. What this means concretely is that if I can buy a bag from a competitor at a lower price, then eBags will match that price. Note that I do not have to actually buy the bag from the competitor for eBags to price match. I merely must be able to buy it at a lower price. Note also that no exclusions are present in the language of eBags’ policy as to how this lower price is arrived at. There is specifically no language in eBags’ policy that says that lower prices obtained by means of discounts or coupons are outside the scope of the policy. This is not just clever editing on my part: it’s not there, period.
2. “We’ll even refund the difference if we lower the price at eBags!”
From this I understand that if eBags lowers the price of a bag I bought from them and they lower the price of that bag within a 10 day period after my purchase, they will treat their own price as if it were the price of a competitor. Namely, they will treat their own price as in point 1 above. Again, coupons and rebates are irrelevant to the issue of how the lower price is obtained. If I can within the 10 day period buy a bag from eBags at a lower price, then they must match the price.
This is something eBags and I do not agree about. Two of the three CSRs I talked to think that their policy applies only to competitor’s prices.
3. “Please understand that the item must be the same exact color and style number that is on eBags.com and we will not price match from any auction sites. The item must be in stock on competitor’s site. Price differences will be calculated on the final price of your purchase, excluding shipping and tax.”
I’m including more than I absolutely need here but that’s to show that eBags is not naive when it comes to putting conditions on its policies. All of these clauses are there because it needs to put restrictions on its policy.
The important part in that paragraph is the last sentence: the price match is done only on the price of the items bought excluding shipping and taxes. There’s a very good reason for this. Taxes paid depend on whether the customer is in the same state as where eBags does business and shipping costs depend on where the buyer lives relative to the seller. It would make no sense to include those on the price matching policy. Otherwise, eBags would find itself doing price matching on elements not under its control. The fact that shipping and taxes are not included in the policy is going to be important later.
This is another point on which the CSRs and I disagree because they keep talking about shipping charges.
Let’s suppose I bought a bag at eBags for $89.91. Then, within the 10 day limit of the price matching policy, I find a competitor which would sell it to me for $79.92.
eBags would have to match the price as per their policy. Shipping charges would be immaterial. The reason as to why the competitor would sell me the bag for $79.92 would also be immaterial. Whether it is because of a coupon, a general rebate, because they just like my face, that’s all immaterial.
I bought a bag at eBags for $89.91. That was with a rebate I obtained though my Student Advantage card: 10% off the price of the bag and no shipping charges.
3 days later, eBags sent me a coupon for 20% off on my next purchase. With this coupon the bag costs $79.92.
I contend that eBags should apply their price matching policy just as in the hypothetical case above.
Actual Objections From eBags
The CSRs at eBags objected in the following ways:
1. “Our policy applies only to the price of competitors.”
As I’ve shown above, the text of the policy itself says that eBags’ policy applies to their own prices too so that’s plain false.
2. “We cannot combine coupons.”
I am not asking to combine coupons. I’m asking to apply the price matching policy as it is stated on eBags’ web site. If I were asking to combine coupons, I would be asking for a 30% (20%+10%) rebate on the price of the bag. But I am not asking for that.
This objection stems from CSRs being troubled because at the end of the day I would get the bag for $79.92 and would not have to pay for shipping. In their mind that’s a combination of my initial rebate (10% and no sipping fee) and the 20% rebate (which does not waive shipping). The important thing to consider here is not the final result but the mechanism by which the final price is obtained. I am getting to that price by the application of the price matching policy as stated by eBags on its web site, period.
Again I need to point out that eBags is supposed to apply their price matching policy to their own prices the same way they apply it to the prices of their competitors. If I could buy the bag for $79.92 from a competitor, they could not talk about the impossibility of combining coupons. Why does it become an issue if I ask them to match their
3. “But the 20% coupon would result in a higher price.”
The CSRs say that because they are not applying the policy as stated on eBags’ web site. The policy (as I have noted above) clearly excludes shipping charges and taxes from the price difference calculations. I am not asking to change one rebate for another. I am not asking to combine two rebates. I’m asking them to apply the price matching policy as stated on their web site.
The following are objections that were never raised by eBags but that I’m dealing with here for good measure.
4. “Ah, but the 20% coupon is for a next purchase.”
That’s neither here nor there. The price matching policy applies if I have the ability to buy the same bag at a lower price. I do not have to actually buy it. The fact of the matter is that if I were to buy a second bag at eBags today with that coupon the bag would cost me $79.92. Canceling my initial order and reordering is not an option because I would have to pay for shipping if I did that. Asking for the application of the price matching policy is a better deal because they explicitly exclude shipping charges and taxes from consideration during price matching.
5. “But this is not what we intended with our policy.”
I’m sorry. eBags cannot claim innocence. eBags certainly has the accounting and legal resources to check the language of their policies before they publish them on the web. When you say you have a “110% ‘PLUS’ Price Guarantee” and tell people what this means on your web site, you can’t add new clauses at the 11th hour because you wrote a policy that sometimes will result in situation you’d rather avoid. The thing to do when such situations happen is to take a deep breath, give the customer the benefit of having done their homework and update the policy to avoid such problem in the future.
My Interaction with eBags’ CSRs
All the CSRs I talked to were polite. However, they often did not address what I was telling them. Rather than really replying to what I was saying, they were bringing in specious reasons for denying my claim. It felt like they were looking into the “Big Book of Reasons to Deny a Price Match” and throwing at me the first thing that could possibly have a chance to shut me up.
A Note about Comments
Comments on this post are going to be heavily moderated. I’m not going to let through posts that say my argument is flawed unless the commenter gives a clear and coherent explanation for the perceived flaw. It’s too easy to just say “I believe you are incorrect”. Tell me why or stay silent. Positive comments should also contain something substantial. If I were conducting a poll, terse statements of agreement or disagreement would be fine but I’m trying to get beyond a mere poll.
Appendix: Full Text of eBags’ Policy
[I’ve kept only the text of the policy itself and formatted it to fit this document. I believe I have not inadvertently introduced mistakes in editing.]
110% ‘PLUS’ Price Guarantee
Hi, I’m Jonathan Fox, Director of Merchandising. I am committed to guarantee you a very good value. Part of providing good value is making sure you get the best available price.
If you find the same bag elsewhere, at a lower price, just tell us. We keep it simple; just use the form on this page.
We will give you 110% of the difference between the lower price and our price up to 10 days after your purchase. PLUS, we’ll also give you a $10 Award Certificate towards your next purchase*. For complete details of our 110% ‘PLUS’ price match policy, please click here.
My goal is to make sure you and every eBags shopper feels wonderful about your eBags experience.
Happy travels and thank you,
* – The $10 Award Certificate upon will not be valid with any other eBags Coupon or Discount and cannot be applied to any existing order.
To Receive Your Refund and $10.00 Award Certificate
eBags Price Match Guidelines:
We’ll even refund the difference if we lower the price at eBags! Please understand that the item must be the same exact color and style number that is on eBags.com and we will not price match from any auction sites. The item must be in stock on competitor’s site. Price differences will be calculated on the final price of your purchase, excluding shipping and tax.
– Place your order on eBags.com.
– Please use the form on this page to submit your price match information. Please be sure to include the competitors URL so we can verify their price. If you discovered a lower price at a local retail store, please include their contact information so we are able to verify the lower price.
– We will then verify the price and process your price adjustment to your method of payment. Once this is complete, we will send you confirmation along with your $10.00 off coupon code via email. Please note Award Certificate cannot be applied to any existing order.
– Our Credits are issued bi-weekly after your method of payment is charged for the full amount. *
* Please note, if PayPay or Bill Me Later was your method of payment, your refund will be submitted to your Paypal or Bill Me Later Account.