Toys-R-Us Price Match Guarantee Found Overly Broad

Unknown-1A Krustyburger commercial featured in a Simpsons episode loudly promised a $50 check for every consumer who purchased a particularly repulsive sandwich. This generous offer was immediately followed by a brief disclaimer that said “Checks will not be honored.”

This reference ties in to a recent decision in a case brought before the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division (NAD) regarding an advertised price match guarantee by Toys-R-Us.  While visiting the toy store, a consumer noted signs throughout the store that read: “Price Match Guarantee—Spot a lower advertised price? We’ll match it.”  The sign also said “See a Team Member for details.”

In an effort to take advantage of the offer, the consumer found a lower price online and presented it to a Toys-R-Us team member, who informed the consumer that the price match guarantee only extended to prices advertised by  brick and mortar stores, and did not include those offered online.  Now for the tie-in: like the Krustyburger commercial, this restriction represented a direct contradiction of the advertised statement.

However, unlike Krusty, Toys-R-Us did not feature the restriction in its ad.   The NAD concluded that consumers would not reasonably expect the “Price Match Guarantee” to exclude prices advertised online, and that the disclaimer instructing consumers to “see a Team Member for details” in order to be informed about a restriction contradicting the offer did not make it acceptable.   Basically, the NAD found the price match guarantee, like Krusty’s free check offer, was overly broad. 

The NAD recommended that Toys-R-Us either (1) discontinue the overly broad price match guarantee language, or (2) modify the advertising to more accurately describe that the price match guarantee for toys only applies to in-store prices.  

The clear lesson?  When a broadly worded offer naturally leads a consumer to a certain conclusion that is then contradicted by a significant limitation, advertisers should be certain to include that limitation in the ad copy, regardless of how it affects the offer.  This is what Krusty did, which lessened the impact of the offer to hilarious effect. 

Author: Seth Heyman
Seth D. Heyman is a California attorney with extensive experience in advertising and marketing law, corporate law, contracts, governmental regulations, international business, and Internet law. He has counseled numerous successful companies, both public and private, and was responsible for regulatory compliance, contract management, corporate governance, and HR best practices for multiple organizations in many diverse industries, including marketing, telecommunications, energy, and technology development. He offers insight and guidance on federal and state direct mail, TV, radio, telemarketing, and Internet marketing laws, as well as online promotions, Internet privacy, data protection regulations, and similar matters.

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