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BestBuy Pricing Scandal – The New Bait-and-Switch

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Best Buy’s got some ‘splaining to do. Connecticut’s Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has launched an investigation into allegations that Best Buy is intentionally employing a 21st Century bait-and-switch model, enticing customers with sale prices on the store Website and then jacking up the price once they get to the store itself.

Best Buy, of course, denies any such charlatanistic practices.

The investigation is the result of some good old-fashioned investigative reporting on the part of Hartford Courant’s Consumer Watchdog George Gombossy, who, upon a tip from a reader, discovered that Best Buy has two digitized faces.

Here’s the way it works (the sinister version):

The consumer researches a product on Best Buy’s Website, notes the excellent sale price, and runs down to the store for a more tactile buying experience. The in-store price, he notes, is significantly higher than the price listed on the Internet site. He questions the salesperson about this discrepancy and the salesperson pulls up that product page on store computers, showing that the either the customer is mistaken or too late

BestBuy Pricing Scandal – The New Bait-and-Switch
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  • R Towles

    In late August 2006 I read in a Wednesday newspaper insert that Best Buy had a sale on computers that was advertised for $357, no rebates, actual price. I went to Best Buy the following morning, 10:00 a.m, just at store opening, to purchase that computer. I looked for the computer but did not find at the advertised price. A sales clerk approached me and I asked to see the computer that was advertised on sale. He left to find out about the sale and approximately 5 minutes later he returned to tell me they had “sold out” of that particular model and introduced me to another ‘similar’ computer that was priced $450. I asked if he would call the other Best Buy store (we have two in Fort Wayne, Indiana) to see if they had any sale models. He called and returned to me with the same message “they sold out”. I asked to speak to the manager because I had experienced this same ‘bait & switch’ activity the year before. The store manager, who seemed to have no idea of what computer was supposed to be sold came to see me. I asked, “How could you have sold out of this computer when I was here at store opening and was first to arrive in the electronics department?”, his response was “MAYBE we only had one.” I was furious that he thought I was stupid enough to think that a major electronic store such as Best Buy would spend hundreds of $$ to advertise a sale for ONE computer!!! I told him that IF there was only one computer, typically the store would do an “In-House” sale and advertise ‘IN THE STORE – LAST DISPLAY MODEL’. I asked why should I believe that Best Buy would spend that kind of advertisement money in a newspaper full-blown colored ad for ONE computer? He couldn’t respond. I told him I felt this was another bait & switch tactic that they have been so guilty of the last several years. I threatned to write a complaint letter but I never pursued my case because I felt my argument would not reach the CEO’s or their marketing department, and I surely did not have the financial resource to bring their activity to national focus, so I dropped it. I’m glad to see some attention is being brought to this store and other stores inappropriate activity.

  • Brad Berthold

    A year later (Sept ’07), my brother responded to an ad for a $399 computer.

    He was the first one in the store. Manager gave him short shrift, saying he couldn’t buy the computer at that price. A “sympathetic” employee spent some time, came up with a price $50.00 higher.

    A pox on Best Buy and their (still) deceptive advertising!

  • lisa elizondo

    I agree totally , it is bait and switch but they seem to do it everytime. Just today I went to get the Compaz laptop that was on sale on line.  I said then order me one and they said they had discontinued it. Then take it off the website!  Then they try to sell me something else. I know their tactics but who do I  complain to?

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