Connecticut AG Sues Best Buy Over Phony Version Of Company Website

from the bait-and-switched dept

Earlier this year, Best Buy was embarrassed when it was discovered that the store had a special version of its website for in-store use, which didn't display the sales and special offers that its actual site did. The result was a bait-and-switch situation, whereby customers would come into a store thinking they could get a deal that they found on the site, only to be told (and shown) that whatever deal they thought they saw was no longer being offered. While the company initially denied the existence of the site, it eventually admitted its existence to the Connecticut Attorney General, although it didn't offer an explanation. Apparently, the Connecticut AG, Richard Blumenthal, believes the company intentionally sought to mislead customers, and has filed a lawsuit against the company, seeking customer refunds and other penalties against the company. It's hard to judge the merits of the case before more details emerge, but it definitely looks bad for Best Buy, and it's doubtful that the issue is just contained to Connecticut (where it was discovered), so the company could have a PR mess on its hands if other states want in on the action.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    T.J., May 24th, 2007 @ 7:55pm

    I think Best Buy deserves it. Don't get me wrong, Best Buy is a cool store, and anyone semi-interested in technology could have an orgasm in there, but it consistently charges to much components and what not. And the whole bait and switch thing is just a very low move, terrible business ethics, and a great way to have your customer base grow very distrustful of you.

     

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    T.J., May 24th, 2007 @ 7:55pm

    *for components

     

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  3.  
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    Customer, May 24th, 2007 @ 7:56pm

    As much as I like Best Buy (Don't have A Fry's Electronics near us), I hope they get hit hard.

    That was just lowdown what they did.

     

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  4.  
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    linx, May 24th, 2007 @ 8:35pm

    I have been anti-best buy for a while. Always sick of them pushing shit down my throat that I didn't want or lie to me that a certain drive does not exist. The only reason I ever go in there now is for my own satisfaction of proving what ever computer tech they have working wrong. I swear they have a policy that anyone can work there and not know anything about the product they sell. They are better off hiring circus monkeys.

    I hope the get slapped hard with this lawsuit and every state should fallow suite

     

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  5.  
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    tomtomt, May 24th, 2007 @ 8:42pm

    and here I thought Fry's only hired the circus monkeys. Good thing I don't go to Best Buy.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Poster, May 24th, 2007 @ 8:53pm

    I forsee a settlement in the future.

     

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  7.  
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    Ajax 4Hire, May 24th, 2007 @ 10:26pm

    I prefer the Grocery Store approach where I

    can pick and choose what I want and then self-checkout
    without the assualt of "sales help."

    I don't need someone in the store pushing the latest crop of cow/peanut/coffee/packaged microwave re-fried turd. I don't need "sales help" picking out a can of peas/wine/shampoo.

    And I don't need or want help picking out harddrives, motherboards, HDTV, blah, blah, blah electronics or whatever.

    Long gone are the days of "Al Bundy" in-store help.
    The sales person is simply a walking advertisment.

    Probably one of the most humilating jobs I ever had was working at Targ-Mart as 'sales help', walking around with a full body display that would constantly change to display the latest 'specials' and point out to 'customers' the nearby best buys.

    I still remember the most embarrasing moment, I was trolling the HB&A (Health&Beauty Aids) when my full body OLED display failed to recognize the nearby customer demographics (bunch of old men) and point out that lubricated condoms were on sale. Its true what they say about dirty old men. I still hate that job.

    Sales Help, add that to oxymoron list.

    Targ-Mart (c) Target/GM/Wal-Mart;
    OLED - Organic Light Emmitting Display; its flexible, its kewl get an OLED browser tatoo today, start making money tomorrow.

    I miss the days when the street lights didn't talk to you.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Cowtard, May 24th, 2007 @ 11:00pm

    Greedy Greedy Bastids

    Bait and switch? "Phantom" websites?

    What's next?

    Oh I know, - term limitations on, and invalidating gift cards, dropping/rounding gift card balances, ...as if they didn't make enough on lost/unclaimed cards already.

    Ah, how the mighty will fall

     

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  9.  
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    Nunya, May 25th, 2007 @ 1:27am

    It true

    I worked for best buy for 4 years and yes as sad as it may seem the website did exsist. This site was supposed to mimic the www.bestbuy.com site but was very rarely updated and to my knowledge really not maintained by anyone since it was for instore use only. But yes misleading it was wrong it was..

     

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  10.  
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    Smudge, May 25th, 2007 @ 4:02am

    I live in PA, and discovered this phantom website a couple years ago, playing with it at B.B; it didn't match what I had just seen at home not 30 minutes earlier. Of course, employees, when quizzed about this, plead ignorance.

    So it's nothing new, and not restricted to Connecticut.

    I think B.B. is in deep doo-doo this time. I can see this blooming into a class-action lawsuit. Granted, we'll only get about $8 apiece, but it's still going to hurt them big time.

    Now, if we could only catch Wal-Mart pulling a stunt like this. We all know they play dirty- we just gotta quantify it somehow.

     

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  11.  
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    takeaswag, May 25th, 2007 @ 4:32am

    Like everything, there is a workaround to the best buy website issue. I learned about their instore website a while back and have done this often. Either order your stuff for in store pickup, or print the page with the special price on it and bring it to the store with you. With the print it method you usually have to get a supervisor to OK it.

    By the way, the issue is not only pricing, it is inventory as well. The web will say a store has an item while the in store web says it doesn't (then the POS says it does).

     

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  12.  
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    Steve R. (profile), May 25th, 2007 @ 5:27am

    And You Wonder Why Consumers Have Little Respect F

    In the span of two short days Techdirt has reported how companies seek to prevent the public from knowing of negative comments, how Best Buy is misleading its customers, and how corporations whine about the cost of being honest.

    If corporations expect honesty from their customers, they need to set a good example. PS: We can hope.

     

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  13.  
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    J J C, May 25th, 2007 @ 9:09am

    The company has always held the viewpoint that Best Buy stores and Bestbuy.com are two different companies, even though they both use the same trademark images. They maintain this view so that they do not have to honor prices from their online site, as they don't match competitors web prices. Any customer service rep or manager can of course ignore those rules set to maximize corporate profit, but most employees are brain washed into believing that their job entirely depends on raising the stores numbers and saving the website for a last resort as it doesn't reflect on the store. As a side affect, people are lured into the store from circulars, online promotions and emails only to have salespeople push whatever they have in stock (in addition to service plans, replacement plans, magazine subscriptions, installs, upgrades, accessories, etc...) so that they can meet their department's goals. Managers who meet these goals get cash bonuses and managers who surpass them get prizes.

     

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  14.  
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    Wiski, May 25th, 2007 @ 11:20am

    Had to INFORM the employee that the printer WAS on

    I just bought that new Kodak printer yesterday from Best Buy after checking it out online before hand to see what they were going for. The printer was listed as being "On Sale" and I was instructed to add it to the cart to see the sale price. So I did. It was nice that it did in fact show the sale price, and also included a button that said something to the tune of "here for price only, remove from cart." Remember, on the website, this printer was listed as being ON SALE. I go to the store and check out, and the price was higher in the store. I asked the check out person about it, and she said I would have to over to Customer Service to see if it was actually ON SALE, or if that was a "INTERNET ONLY PRICE." So I carry it over to Customer Service after waiting in line to find this out, and sure enough, it was on sale like I mentioned. The cashier said that as long as their Internet site doesn't say: "INTERNET PRICE ONLY" then they can, "...PRICE MATCH THE ITEM as listed on their own website." ???? WTF ???

    So there is reason to believe that Best Buy was actually doing this. I'm in Texas by the way.

    It makes no sense for them to have it this way because essentially, everyone will have to just line up at the Customer Service desk (for price checks) thus eliminating the need for an actual check out line.

    OR maybe they should create a new line called "Internet Pricing Inquiries"

    OR how about this: Advertising the correct prices for their stores on their website!?!? Gee, that might just work!

     

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  15.  
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    Wiski, May 25th, 2007 @ 11:29am

    Re: I prefer the Grocery Store approach where I

    yeah, and when the gas pumps didn't talk to you also.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike, May 26th, 2007 @ 2:31pm

    Human Error

    I love best buy, and I can say that most of the poeple who work there are not out to screw me. If an employee used that bait and switch tactic one someone I'm pretty sure that either a) they didnt realise it or b) they are getting fired as we speak.

    if there is one company out there that cares about it's customers its best buy. no one is going to give anything away, but if it comes to fair prices and customer service at a retail store, the only choice I see is bestbuy.

     

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  17.  
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    Buzz, May 27th, 2007 @ 9:54am

    Sad Day

    I work for Best Buy. I love the company, but I can honestly say that they had this one coming to them. We had a customer come in a couple days ago with a printout from the national web site. He wanted a certain telephone system that cost $120 on our national site but was marked at over $200 in the store. Naturally, we honored the web site's price and sold him the item for $120.

    Before, I didn't see this as a big deal. Most items had roughly $1 to $5 in price discrepancies. However, when this man came in and saved himself more than $80 by bringing in proof of its actual price, I lost a bit of respect for the company.

    Best Buy is a great store. I'm sure many assume how biased I am since I work there, but I go to great lengths to please my customers. My co-workers are the same. Most of these bad experiences emanate from the corporate level. I can promise you all that we never have any sort of special training sessions on how to milk our customers of all their money. We honestly focus on making sure that customers have the complete solution; otherwise, they come back yelling at us, asking why we didn't recommend a memory card for their digital camera. We are not paid on commission.

     

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  18.  
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    Tom, May 29th, 2007 @ 10:08am

    This scam doesn't work when you have a laptop or c

    I ran into this before... BB tried to say the item was no longer being sold for the price on the web--the page brought up on the store must be more current even though I had checked the price at home not 20 minutes earlier. I returned a moment later with a laptop that I had in the car, and we navigated to the "correct" online price. They honored it. No explanation given for why it was different, other than the BB guy said they "have a different website for store-use."

     

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  19.  
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    semprfi, May 29th, 2007 @ 11:29pm

    Re: I prefer the Grocery Store approach where I

    Im in retail, been working for many years, im also a former U.S. Marine, in the deffense of retailers like the company I work for currently, what you called walking advertising people, are actually there to help people decide what they want. I dont put a gun on people heads and force them to get something. What the majority of us do is help people who do not have the knowledge of certain products or services and we explain what they do. AS a former U.S. i have ethics that i follow, i also have worked with different giant retailers in my many years of retail and the majority do not do what is emplied in these forums like yourself. Unfortunately you always here the bad stories more than you here alot of the good experiences which is in the majority. In my years in retail i do know this all retailers follow similar practices which are all ethical, if you think companies like best buy are in the business to swindle, mislead people on purpose, just like the other giant retailers, none of them would of been in business as long as they have been, many of them have been operating for more than 30 years. And you must be the most inteligent person in the world to know everything about everything and never needing help. I guess the majority of the world is dumb for asking for information and "sales Help".

     

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  20.  
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    El Jefe, Jun 7th, 2007 @ 9:30am

    This actually happened to a friend of mine

    He was trying to buy a camera in-store that he had seen online. After an hour+ of waiting/talking with the manager/more waiting/seeing the in-store website/arguing, he had to go home, print the page that he saw, and return to the store to get the sale price. I happened to be shopping there that day, and after hearing his ordeal and an extremely rude comment from a sales person to another customer, I dropped all of my items on the floor, left, and have never been back.

     

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  21.  
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    Nick, Jun 7th, 2007 @ 7:58pm

    This happened... to me!

    I drove 40 miles to get a hard drive on a great sale. I was paying with cash so I went there instead of ordering for in store pickup.... get there, no sale.

    The sales losers say they have no idea and they can check 'the website'. Not on sale there either! Guess I missed the sale by a few minutes eh?...

    Nope! I get home, and suddenly it's on sale again! I haven't been there since as this is what I expected was going on. I've been telling this story for ~18 months to everyone I know.

    This was in Utah.

     

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  22.  
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    Rob, Feb 25th, 2008 @ 5:04pm

    Ok, so here's the thing. Best Buy did screw the pooch by having the in-store site be a mystery to both the public and the employee... HOWEVER... most companies that operate nationally DO NOT have the same prices at a store in California as a store in Colorado. Thus there would routinely be issues if a person shopped a website based on national prices prior to visiting a store. I can call my local Target right now and get different pricing than that listed on the net. What they should have done, and many companies are starting to do this, is let consumers put in their zip code prior to surfing the site, this would give customers accurate pricing that would reflect the store's.

     

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