Shoppers are being duped by price-matching offers, with only 5 per cent taking advantage.
Retailers are increasingly offering to match a better price if you can find one, but Massey University associate professor in the school of marketing, Valentyna Melnyk, warns it's a sneaky tactic targeting "the laziness of consumers".
She said customers assumed if a company was offering a price-match deal, it would have the best prices. And so it works out cheaper for retailers to offer the occasional customer a discount, than to offer everyone a lower price.
Only about 5 per cent of customers took advantage of price-matching offers, she said.
"A lot of companies are doing it in the hopes of providing a cue to customers so they won't be checking. It gives a false sense of security so you're not feeling you should spend time comparing prices."
She said New Zealand consumers tended to be less likely to make a fuss than shoppers overseas.
"I would recommend that for bigger items and higher-priced items that shoppers take the time to compare prices, even if the shop is offering to match prices."
A report in Marketing Science by Australian researchers in 2011 outlined Jetstar's use of price matching. The company offered a 10 per cent "price reward" to people who found a lower fare online for the same route at a comparable time, to counteract the impression that it was more expensive than Virgin Blue.
People are becoming less afraid
to say 'is this your best price?'
Within a year, the public perception of its prices had improved dramatically, even if its prices had not moved, the report found.
Louisa Currie, of online baby gear retailer Belly Beyond, said it was becoming common for online shops to offer price matching because it was so easy to compare prices online.
Her site offers a price-match challenge, rather than a guarantee.
"It's a great way to take business off competitors. It can be really effective on some ranges and hurt on others because some have large margins and some less."
She said unlike a retailer such as Bunnings, which stocked brand names that were unique to it, the chance of a Belly Beyond customer finding the same product elsewhere to compare prices was much higher.
"[Bunnings] has that level of security because it's unlikely that someone can beat that price but we definitely can be beaten and often are. That's why we do it on a case-by-case basis."
A Bunnings spokeswoman said it would beat the price in an online store or physical store in New Zealand by 15 per cent. "With the proviso that the price for the product in question is not a trade quote, part of a stock liquidation or is of a commercial quantity. It applies where the other store's final price, inclusive of delivery, taxes and charges, is lower than the Bunnings price."
She would not say how often it had to lower its prices to beat competitors.
Currie said she had to turn away about 5 per cent of price matches. "People are becoming less afraid to say 'is this your best price'?"
Mighty Ape is another online retailer offering price matching. Spokesman Paul Minors said it was common practice on other sites but people would choose an online retailer for reliability as well as the price.