This is why we can’t have nice things. Black Friday came early for some enterprising scam artists who used Walmart’s new online price-matching policy to get items like the PlayStation 4 on the cheap.
The scams started less than a week after Walmart formalized an activity that many stores in the U.S. were already doing. The original price-matching policy allowed Walmart stores across the country to sell items at the same price that customers could find from online retailers, with only a few restrictions.
On Wednesday, Walmart modified its new online price-matching policy by restricting price-matching to only 30 competing retailers. The newly revised policy also disallows price-matching with third-party sellers on sites such as Amazon. Walmart will still match prices on any good sold directly from Amazon.
The impact on you at home: Walmart’s new online price-matching policy is still pretty good if you’re hoping for the immediate gratification of brick-and-mortar stores while paying online prices. Most of the major online retailers are included in Walmart’s list, including Amazon, Best Buy, New Egg, Staples, Target, and TigerDirect. As before, Walmart won’t match Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals from its rivals.
PS4 pricing insanity
Walmart cited fraud and other trickery as the reason for backing off on its original, and more liberal, policy. “We can’t tolerate fraud or attempts to trick our cashiers,” Walmart said in a statement Wedensday. “With this in mind, we’ve updated our policy to clarify that we will match prices from Walmart.com and 30 major online retailers, but we won’t honor prices from marketplace vendors, third-party sellers, auction sites or sites requiring memberships.”
Walmart didn’t specify what the problem was or how it was being scammed, but Kotaku recently detailed what was going on. Someone would set-up a third-party marketplace retailer listing on Amazon for items like PlayStation 4 consoles priced at $90—more than $300 off the suggested retail price.
Then the crooks take a screenshot of the listing before Amazon pulled it, print it out and take it to Walmart. The end result was a dramatically deep discount on the most popular gaming console of the current generation, courtesy of Walmart.
A few people even posted their successful price-matching hijinx on Twitter.
It’s not clear how many people pulled off this scam, but a Walmart spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that it was enough to “recognize it was significant and change the policy quickly.”