Best Buy scamming customers with Intranet - UPDATED!

By Paul Michael on 15 March 2007 (Updated 10 June 2007) 16 comments

Best Buy?

George Gombossy, consumer watchdog for The Courant , broke this story on March 2nd of this month. It's a great story, and I apologise to George for not stating him as the source in my original post, my bad entirely. Anyway, other sites like The Consumerist have also covered it, but I wanted to do a follow-up of my own on the story. But first up, what is the story, if you don't already know? Well, read on...

WHAT'S THE SCAM?
It works quite simply. You see a great deal online. It's cool, you want it, you go into the store to pick it up. But hey, the price is higher than the one you saw at home. No worries, you indicate to the salesperson that the instore price is wrong and direct them to the instore Best Buy website. That's when you find out that YOU made the mistake because the price on the Intranet is the same as in the store. How can this be?

Well, the Best Buy Intranet is priced higher than the Best Buy site you access at home. And as the burden of proof is on you, you're really up a creek without a paddle. Unless, of course, you remembered to print out the deal you saw at home and bring it to the store. But how often does that happen?

BEST BUY ADMITTING GUILT...KINDA.
Justin Barber, a spokesman for Best Buy, earlier denied even the exsistence of this mythical website. Now he's changed his story, but is still insisting the company never intended to mislead or deceive Best Buy customers. If that's true, one has to wonder why this Intranet with higher prices was in stores at all. Why not just have the good old Best Buy website that we all access at home? Surely the answer is simple...money! Good for Best Buy, bad for us.

BEST BUY'S BAD TRACK RECORD
In New Jersey and Ohio, Best Buy have been accused of deceptive sales practices, by repackaging used merchandise and selling it as brand spanking new. Another case of not intending to mislead customers I'm sure. Best Buy paid just $135,000 to settle that suit in New Jersey, although the Ohio case is ongoing. But it's hardly a good indicator of fair business practices. Makes you wonder how new that item is that you bought last week from your trusty Best Buy store.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Well, let's hope that this Intranet is pulled from the stores so you don't have to worry about it. But nonetheless, take a printed copy of the Bestbuy.com page with you to the store. That's the page that contains the REAL deal. Or just buy online (althought shipping charges then apply). Even better, why not just boycott the big box giant for a while and go shopping at Circuit City, Ultimate Electronics or Media Play. I know I'm wary of Best Buy and its overfriendly staff now.

UPDATE: AND HOW IS BEST BUY NOW?
As it happens, I'm on the prowl for a new laptop of my very own. My first one actually. So I visited a couple of Best Buy stores a few days ago, just to see if the prices advertised online were the same as instore. Yes, they were. However, when I asked if I could see one or two of the laptops working via the Internet (I wanted to check out a few HD movie trailers to check the 1080 resolution) I was told that they don't have Internet hookup anywhere. When I asked why, I was informed by a very helpful Best Buy clerk that they have no way to control what people download (not true) or look at (also not true) so they had to disable Internet access throughout the store. It was the same story at a different Best Buy store. So, I'd like to know if anyone else is having the same issue, or has Best Buy got the Internet working again, without it's own suspicious Intranet anywhere to be found.

And while we're on the subject of suspicious, check this video out. It was made by an ex-employee and seems to indicate that Best Buy staff screw their customers. (If it's already been featured on The Consumerist I'm very, very sorry. But it relates to the post, so there.)

 

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Guest's picture
Guest

Gee Paul, did you get this from Consumerist? Because they covered it. A week ago.

http://consumerist.com/consumer/best-buy/best-buy-confirms-the-existence...

Guest's picture
Derik Zoolander

Hey genius,
Don't pretend to be the super-sleuth, investigatory reporter that you're not. This is a rehash of several articles from a few weeks ago -- give credit where credit is due. Hack.

Paul Michael's picture

A friend sent me a link to her local newspaper and thought it would be something I should let Wisebread readers know. Here's the link she sent me.

http://www.courant.com/news/local/hc-watchdog0302,0,5198012.column?coll=...

I have no interest, or gain, in rehashing articles from Consumerist or any other consumer blog as it only serves to make the article here defunct. 

And as I said, I never stated I uncovered the scam. I was only informing Wisebread readers.  If it's that appalling to everyone, I'll happily take it down.

Andrea Karim's picture

Best Buy earned my ire a while back when the salesguy at cell phone kisok refused to show me the cell phone that I wanted to buy. They had a display model that could best be described as "completely and utterly fake". I kind of thought it might be some sort of joke at first, because it looked like a plastic shell with stickers on it. The sales guy was SUCH a jerk. I even gave him my credit card and guaranteed that I would buy the phone if he took it out of the box, and he said that Best Buy had a policy of not allowing customers to see the real phone.

That makes perfect sense to me.

So I only buy electronics at Costco now. They offer good models for the most part and never fuss about returns. Unlike Circuit Cit, which wouldn't tkae back my lousy Toshiba laptop because of a non-disclosed 13 day warranty.

Guest's picture
Guest

I know for a fact that all internet connections have been streaming through steadily, because not only employees have access to it, but also the customers. However, that's shady how the internet in store, and at home, is set-up. There are so many different persusation and marketing techniques out there, that we're fooled daily. It's pretty sad that Best Buy has to succomn to that level, when they are one of the highest leading retailers. That makes me sad, and I work there :(

Guest's picture
Guest

I don't think that video has any bearing on this article whatsoever. It seems to me it was made by a jaded ex-employee who probably lost his job over something ridiculous like discount abuse. As a former employee, I can attest to the fact that Best Buy's policies towards associates are not even remotely close to that. Unless that associate worked under Hitler, it's a gross exaggeration and has no tie in to the in store/in home .com pricing. The purpose of the in store intranet was to aid customers who were unable to be helped by an associate so they received the same information a sales person could give them. The original intent was not to mislead, but to my knowledge, Best Buy has corrected this.. and at least in the store I worked at, NO ONE ever made a fuss if a customer thought they saw a different price online. The associates would just find a computer in which they could access the commercial site to verifty the price and then match it.

Guest's picture
Guest

I work at Best Buy, and TRUST me I am NO advocate for the company, ask anyone who knows me, including my supervisor, and they will tell you that me and Best Buy DO NOT belong together, we don't agree on ANYTHING, but they pay my bills so anywho....BUT I will say that the website was COMPLETELY real up until recently, now there are two different sites in the store, one with local prices, and the other with national, and yes there is a difference, if you want to order something from the store MAKE SURE they check both, I work with cds and dvds and I personally have see $10 differences, so I can imagine if there is a difference on laptops, you MAY want to know about it. Buy my problem lies with the video, YES the company is crazy with rules, and videos and trainings, and honestly the closest thing I could compare it to is a cult....but it is not NEARLY as bad as the video tries to make it seem, even if it is a parody, it still doesn't represent the facts, no matter how bent they are in the name of comedy....once again Best Buy is bad but NO WHERE near that bad!

Guest's picture
Guest

i am a best buy employee.. it all depends which store you're working at and or shopping at..and frankly i love my job it's fun..

as for them not letting you access the internet on the laptop you were looking into buying we dont let anyone use the internet the only access we have is bestbuy.com national and local pages.. there are two computers at our store that get real internet access and that's in the manager's office and for geeksquad.. that's all.. for the exact reason that they told you, we can't fix it if people download junk on them and mess them up.. because if we are out of stock and a customer wanted that display model they wont want some messed up laptop that random people downloaded things on..

also display phones.. our phones are all real live phones at my store yet the vendors do send us dummy phones that are the plastic shell with stickers..we can't open and display a real one if we dont have it in stock at the time.. and no we can't just open a product for anyone to see.. if you were gonna buy it anyways what did it matter if the employee opened it right then and there for you? just frickin buy it then.. frankly like i said it all depends where you go.. my store may handle things differently.. and if you dont want to shop with us that's ok because the customers that are loyal to us we show loyalty back and that is why best buy is the large booming company that it is.

Andrea Karim's picture

Your attitidue towards customer complaints is precisely why Best Buy is such a crappy place to shop.

Issues raised here:

  • It'd be nice to see how the computer handles internet access - and there are many ways to prevent people from downloading things to a computer. Places like Kinkos rent out computer time, and have very strict user account settings that prevent the downloading or installing of malicious programs. No one is asking for the right to surf porn at Best Buy (at least, no one here).

and no we can't just open a product for anyone to see.. if you were gonna buy it anyways what did it matter if the employee opened it right then and there for you? just frickin buy it then.

  • I'm not sure you understand the concept of "selling products". People should be allowed to VIEW the ACTUAL product that they want to purchase, not a dummy model. Let's say that I've found a phone that sounds like a good deal. It's got the features I want, and the price I want. But I hear that many people don't like the form factor, and I want to see if the form factor is enough to dissuade me from purchasing it. Shouldn't I, as a customer, be permitted to see the phone? You don't put a dummy television on display and tell people that they can't see how it works before they buy it, do you? Other stores have no problem helping customers in this regard - and anyway, my problem wasn't that the poor guy working the counter was bound by corporate policy not to open cell phones for customers- it was that he was an asshole who had no intention of offering even a modicum of customer service.
  • The intranet thing is OBVIOUSLY a real problem, or Best Buy wouldn't be scrambling to cover their butt over the controversy.

Your response (Don't shop here, we don't care, we have enough customers already) is what prevents Best Buy from providing the kind of consumer experience that will attract savvy shoppers who will be truly loyal. I actually kind of hope you're not a real Best Buy employee.

Guest's picture
Guest

The only reason why I even look at Best Buy's website, or go to the store is for the employee discount. I don't work there, never worked there, or plan on to, but I know people that do or did. So, the price difference on the home internet and the store intranet doesn't really matter to me. Just befriend someone that works there that you think is cool, if you don't know anyone already, and just have them buy the item for you... if it isn't too much (ex. TVs, Computers, etc.)

Guest's picture
Charles Del Campo

Be alerted that Best Buy is presently involved as defendants in multimillion dollar law suits for criminal offenses involving product fraud. Just type on your search engine Best Buy Fraud! This type of felony is being ignored by Law Enforcement Officials since Best Buy is a major influential conglomerate.

I'm a Private Detective and presently retained an Attorney in order to establish a Nationwide Class Action Law Suit against Best Buy. If you are a victim then read on...

They are selling all type of damaged electronic devices, computers, televisions, etc that are manufactured in Communist China and negligently put together. The result is that you get a mechanism that will not operate accordingly. Also their deceptive Insurance Plan is never honored and they refuse to be responsible for such!

Thus, this is a criminal enterprise that is misrepresenting the interest of the Public and many victims don\'t know where to go. Also, when you as a consumer contact Best Buy Headquarter in Minnesota, they also refuse to replace or exchange or refund your item. This is plan and simple "Fraud".

Therefore, my class action law suit will integrate and generate Millions of dollars in damages for all those who sign up with prove of purchases! Let\'s get the ball rolling and put these criminals out of business. Please also Network this email among all your friends and feel free to publish it freely on the Internet and printed material for others to see!

Do not buy products at the Kendall Drive store, Miami, Florida, under their criminal Manager named Oscar Valera. This Neanderthal is a real Gangster!

Best of Luck
Charles Del Campo
Miami, Florida
Tel: (305) 529-4949

Guest's picture
Dave

(1) Have you ever in your right mind thought what those computers kiosks in Best Buy are used for?  CUSTOMER CONVENIENCE! They are used so customers can view what is IN the store to see if they have something. Also Have you ever noticed that the intranet prices are the same as in store, so the customer can see how much it is. In some cases the employee will take them there, but what they should do is log in to the kiosk and switch it from "bestbuy.com local" to "bestbuy.com national" If Best Buy scams so much, then why are they the #1 electronic retailer in the country? Have any of you ever bought a warranty, they will come in handy if you dont purposely cause it to malfunction. Think about it next time you go to BEST BUY, not everyone is out to get you! And anyways Warranties are sold by everyone, even target.

Guest's picture
Hairboy

I'm a current best buy employee, and I just want to say a few things.

First, to Andrea: your typical best buy employee, unless s/he is a fairly young person, has made a career of this shitty retail job. Hence, they're reminded daily what failures they are, and it makes them pissy. These people usually trickle up into positions of power, simply because they're available (the old maxim '**** floats to the top' holds true), and thus the power goes to their little warped heads. They act a dick because they can. If the person in question is a younger person, they're just a cock, and unfortunately, there's not a whole lot you can do. You can report them to the manager, but your ire would be better spent elsewhere, since most managers don't give a ****. I don't particularly like my job, but I do everything I can to accomodate the customer while still keeping my job.

I'll tell you this, though: my managers have oft told me to tell a customer go elsewhere than drop the price $20. It's all about profit.

To anyone concerned with the video, yeah, he's exaggerating a touch (much like the ocean is a tad wet), but it's still pretty bad. They want you to live, breathe, and eat Best Buy and it's policies/philosophies/whatthefuckever. This kind of ties into the first wall of text. The employees are either into it, hate it, or don't care. This means that they are either so indoctrinated that the policies and profit are all that counts, think that the entire company is a fucking joke, or just want to get through the day, go home, and smoke a bowl. Good customer service people and salesmen soon outgrow best buy, because they realize their skills will earn them more elsewhere. So you're left with a curious mix of the dregs of retail, people who can't do any better, and people who are too afraid to go elsewhere.

A part of me is always surprised when people get angry at Best Buy. It's like nobody does the math, and realizes that it's staffed by losers and failures.

Guest's picture
Hairboy

Also, wow, ressurecting a dead story. My bad, guys. I just got off work and wanted to vent.

Best Buy sucks.

Guest's picture
Guest

I made a purchase at my local Best Buy after checking prices on their website. In the store, I was being charged a higher price than shown on the companies website. A slick supervisor took my merchandise and went into a front office to check the price behind a closed door. A couple of minutes later, he came out and told me the items were being sold at the regular price, and were not on sale as I mentioned was advertised on their website. I had to show the clerk a printout of the exact same merchandise with the exact same sku #'s from their website. After doing so, they then decided to price adjust accordingly. When I asked them, "What is your price accuracy policy?" They were rather reluctant to answer me. Some stores will give you an additional $.$$ off the purchase or if the item is less than a certain amount of $.$$ they will give it to you for free. However, at Best Buy, they do not want their customers in their stores to know exactly what their policy is.

I have found in the past when I take the online survey posted on their website for evaluating my visit to their store, swift action is taken immediatly. I disagree with another post on this website where someone else said the managers do not give a s---. I rated my local Best Buy for having empty display cases in the store for months. On my next visit two weeks later, I found the discrepancies were corrected, product was now available when it was not for several months. Here is an example how a manager took action against someone who was supposed to be managing or supervising a department, and was failing miserably. I encourage everyone else to take the online survey from the instructions printed on their store receipts when they visit their local stores. Swift action is taken and out of stocks created by lazy associates are addressed.

However, keep in mind, when you go to Best Buy, always check the price online first, and print out the item you are interested in to avoid being overcharged in their store.

Guest's picture
Justin La Plante

There is another more pricey scam that wal-mart and best buy are conducting in more backward states like Texas where customers are not that IT savey and the state reps care little for ethical service/sales in IT with ADSL service and routers. In Houston and most of east Texas ADSL (internet via standard phone line into an ADSL router/modem) is sold from a comapny and provided via an ADSL router/modem that the customer is instructed to buy if not provided by the ISP. What the ISPs, Best Buy and Wal-mart have NOT been telling customers is that the low grade telephone infrastructure on most homes in this area (most still have ceramic phone post mounts from the 60s/70s with no buffering or protection) and many other southern states where most homes are like this will destroy these modem/routers at some point because of the over delivery of surges and garbage packets from un-buffered and un-protected lines running directly to the equipment from these old posts on the house.
They don't even offer the alternative of a line protector like on and APC or Belkin power and date cable surge protectors. Which I know for a FACT best Buy employees in Wisconsin and Michigan will advise in this same situation in those areas.
I've run into several customers in the Houston area and surrounding communities who have purchased sometimes SIX ADSL routers A YEAR. These things cost at least $90.00 per unit at Wal-mart and Best Buy in these areas and after speaking with EVRY wal-mart and Best Buy location in Huston alone I've found that they can't keep them on the shelves. Speaking with geek Squad employees in Houston I fond that they didn't even KNOW that power surge protectors also had data line protectors on them and most aren't even comp TIA (computer service tech) CERTIFIED!!!!
This is a sick scam ripping off thousands of people in the east Texas area alone.
The customers try to claim the units are defective but since it isn't the units but the service lines that are causing the problem and states like Texas that don't want to hear anything bad about wal-mart are turning the other cheek when the complaints come in and allowing Best buy and wal mart to access the loop hole.