People expect to save money when they shop at Walmart. From 1988 through 2007, in fact, the Arkansas-based maxi-chain Walmart’s slogan was “Always Low Prices.” Today, it’s “Save Money. Live Better” — still suggesting low prices but adding the implication that spending less would improve quality of life for the store’s customers.
However they express it, Walmart has earned its reputation — and built its immense customer base — by selling merchandise of almost every kind for less than its competitors do.
But while its competitors post ads and cover their stores with notices of “Discount,” “Sale,” or “Clearance,” savvy bargain-hunters at the store look for a different word as the key to major savings: Rollback.
Walmart offers plenty of clearance items, usually stacked at the ends of aisles. These are often seasonally determined: heavy winter gear at spring approaches, swimsuits and pool toys around Labor Day, and so on. And like other big-box retailers, Walmart typically rolls back prices on many more items than usual for Black Friday and holiday shopping in general.
“Rollback” prices are something else entirely. These tend to be deep discounts that the store is able to provide because the manufacturer or distributor gives the chain a price break on large orders — or else that Walmart chooses to offer because they have excessive inventory of a product and/or sales of it haven’t met projections.
Insiders say that there are three kinds of rollbacks: company-wide, district-wide, and store-wide. There’s no way to predict how long a rollback will last, but it can be as long as 90 days — though sometimes store-wide rollbacks are gone within 24 hours.
The term “rollback” itself apparently attracts shoppers. Studies have shown that how consumers perceive prices is as important as the prices themselves.
Are rollback prices the absolute lowest at Walmart? Theoretically, yes. A class action suit filed in California in 2017 did claim that the chain deceptively compared rollback prices to false regular prices, but the case was dismissed without prejudice. And insiders report that rollback pricetags ending in .00 or .01 represent the final markdowns, so those are pretty good bets.
Walmart, founded in 1962, has an astonishing 2,300,000 employees today, more than any other American company. In fact, it is the biggest employer in almost half the 50 states.