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Best Buy's Pricing Problems

Best Buy is answering questions from the Connecticut Attorney General because of its alleged use of an internal Web site that lists higher prices for electronics than advertised on the World Wide Web.

Consumers complained that the lower prices they saw on the Web site were suddenly higher when employees logged on to what appeared to be the company's site from inside the store but was allegedly the company's Intranet site. That was the excuse offered by Best Buy employees to deny the customers in Connecticut the lower price, according to some customers. Angered, the customers turned to a consumer watchdog reporter at the Hartford Courant, who did some digging.

Best Buy initially denied using the employees-only site but has since altered its statement to say that it never intended to mislead customers.

Have you ever run into a situation like this? Tell us about it in the comments.

By Sam Diaz  |  March 6, 2007; 8:04 AM ET  | Category:  Sam Diaz
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Comments

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I did run into this but with Circuit City. I had gone online to their web site and found a VCR that I wanted with an excellent price. Since I wanted it for a Christmas present I indicated that I would pick it up at the store. I went to the store to pick up the item and was told that they were sold out. I went to the floor and found the item I wanted and attempted to purchase it and was informed that the price was 30 more than was on their web site. Only after I talked with a manager was I given the original price that I had found.

Posted by: tad | March 6, 2007 10:04 AM

So get this. As an employee I knew of this issue but didn't think it was prevalent enough to worry about it. A customer came in wondering why on the net a Netgear router was 44.99, and on our price tag, and intranet, it clearly stated 49. I gave the customer the price of 44 because it was the reasonable thing to do, 10 minutes later I was informed of this lawsuit.

Go figure.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 6, 2007 10:35 AM

I had this situation when I purchased a DVD from them. The ad in the paper said it was on sale for $5.99 but when I went to the store it rang up at $12.99. I informed them that the ad was for $5.99. An associate went to check and after waiting for about 30 minutes, they came back and told me that the full screen version of the movie was $5.99 and the widescreen version which I had picked up was full price. The ad in the paper and on the shelf mentioned no such thing, neither did the sale ticket on the display. I swapped the widescreen for the full and didn't feel like fighting it. But I think they should have had all of that same movie for the sale price, especially since they didn't take the time to distinguish and seperate the two versions on the shelf.

Posted by: Artful Dodger | March 6, 2007 11:17 AM

My version of going to Best Buy tends to involve printing off the page at BestBuy.com, bringing it with me, and then finding the thing at the store (sometimes by comparing product numbers when it's something I'm less familiar with). The nice thing about this, though, is that 90% of the time it's come up this is enough proof to get the clerks to ring me up at the advertised price. The sucky thing is that this is needed at all.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 6, 2007 11:34 AM

I ran into this problem at Christmas when buying a Creative Zen 30GB MP3 player. At home, it was listed on sale for $199. Went to the store, and it was listed at $249 on the "inside the store" website. A manager eventually gave me the $199 price because he "had seen this sort of thing before."

Posted by: Anonymous | March 6, 2007 11:36 AM

I encountered this a couple weeks ago purchasing a Sony DAVX1 home theatre system at Best Buy -- I mentioned that the marked price of $599 at the store was being advertised on the internet for $539, but when they checked it on their own internet system, it was listed at $599. The salesman I dealt with was nice (and maybe honest) enough to check with his manager and I was given the sales price from the internet. I think I may have encounterd a similar situation at Circuit City but don't remember the specific details. [Since purchasing the DAVX1 system, it has been listed on sale on the internet for $399, to which I immediately was able to receive the difference in a refund].

Posted by: Somewhat of a loyal Best Buy customer | March 6, 2007 11:37 AM

This revelation about an internal website with different prices does not surprise me in the least. Best Buy also offers different prices on its website based on a user's profile or internet viewing history. I was once quoted two different prices for the same product on my work and home computers. Since then, I have refused to buy anything from Best Buy. How can I know if they are charging me more than other people?

Posted by: Washington, D.C. | March 6, 2007 11:41 AM

Recently I was disappointed by Best Buy. About a month ago I decided to buy a labtop. I found one advertised at $399 that INCLUDED a printer. I went to the store first thing in the morning, waited in line, and then was told that there weren't enough in stock but that I could order the labtop through the in-store intranet. The employee told me, however, that often the intranet price would be higher by perhaps $100 dollars. Luckily this was not the case, and the labtop rung up for $399 plus $20 shipping. After about 3 weeks with no labtop being delivered I called Best Buy customer service to cancel my order, but all of a sudden they found that a store actually had it in stock. When I went to go pick it up, I found that the intranet deal for $399 did NOT include the free printer. After arguing for about an hour, the manager finally threw in the printer. I'm sure the absence of the printer was not accidental. I'm sad to think that less informed consumers would have been duped.

Posted by: Victor | March 6, 2007 11:52 AM

Yes, I ran into this problem when I was purchasing a TV from Best Buy in December 2005. If I remember correctly the web price I checked from home was about $15 less than the price in the store. I was given the opportunity to check the web page in the store, and that price matched the display in the store. I figured the price had changed so I went ahead with the purchase. I rechecked the price later at home and it was the same as before. Since it was only $15 on a $350 TV, I didn't want to make the one hour round trip drive to complain. Seems like a version of the bait and switch at work here.

Posted by: Dan | March 6, 2007 11:59 AM

I can absolutely confirm that I experienced the fraudulent practice being investigated by the Connectcut AG while at the Norwalk, CT Best Buy. When called out on it, the store management was rude and insulting implying I didn't know how to "use" the internet. I'd love to be in the room when they try to explain to Richard Blumenthal, probably the most pro-consumer AG in the country, how the internet "works".

Posted by: Anonymous | March 6, 2007 12:03 PM

Here's the real question -- why would anybody buy anything at Best Buy? Their prices are mediocre on a good day. Their selection isn't great. Their customer service is non-existent. OK, they have many CATEGORIES of electionics -- you can look at computers AND audio AND t.V. AND gamegear AND CDs AND DVDs in one store. Why wouldn't you just look around there, and buy whatever you want on the Web? I gave up Best Buy the day some nimrod in a blue polo shirt tried to bait-and-switch me on a product, and he could barely keep a straight face as he tried to tell me why I should spend $300 more for a crappier computer.

Posted by: TMU | March 6, 2007 12:14 PM

I ran into this same problem at Circuit City when I went to purchase a new hard drive for my laptop. Before going into the store I reviewed hard drives on their website and figure out which one to buy. When I got to the store the hard drive I wanted was $20 more than what was advertised on the website. The associate pulled up the site in the store, that had the higer price also. Now that I see this article, I know it is a scam and will be printing out the price from the internet before I go into the store next time.

Posted by: ladyfree | March 6, 2007 12:16 PM

I ran into a similar thing at Best Buy. I was purchasing a DirecTV DVR and wanted to get the extended warranty because my sister has had a lot of problems with her DVR. I had looked it up on the Web, and their price for the warranty was 19.99, but in the store they wanted to charge me 39.99. They said that to get the lower price I had to place the order on the web, so I asked if I could use one of their computers to do it. I did, and got the lower price on my order, but then although they said it would just take a few minutes for the order to come through, after 20 min. it still had not reached the store, so they agreed to price adjust it for me. Only they rang up the sale without the extended warranty first and told me that they cancelled that transaction, then they rang it up as it should have been (but it took about 20min and 5 different people to figure out how to do it). When I checked my credit card a few days later, both transactions had posted, so I had paid for it twice. I called AmEx and they took care of it. A lot of hassles...

Posted by: Northern Virginia | March 6, 2007 12:54 PM

This is not a surprise to me either.....I used to purchase airline tickets from Delta and pretty much flew with them where ever I wanted to go....I was in their frequent-flier program and everything.....I knew what I had been purchasing tickets to Albuquerque for from them and went into their web site under my frequent flier # to search for tickets last spring....ALL the prices came up $75 - $100 more than I had ever paid in the previous three years.....well, I went in on my computer without my frequent flier #, the same thing still came up.....BUT, when I went in without my frequent flier number ON ANOTHER COMPUTER, the prices went down by $50 or $60.......I find that FASCINATING!!!! So watch out !!! Best Buy & Circuit City aren't the only ones who do it.....and don't think Priceline and Expedia are immune to such things.....If Delta & Best Buy can do it, so can they....

Posted by: jesabol | March 6, 2007 12:56 PM

I learned several years ago to print out web pages, with prices, before going to stores to purchase items shown on websites. In July I bought a computer at Best Buy that was advertised on its site for $450, after a $50 rebate. To buy it, I went to a branch where the website had advised that it was in stock. It was; however, in the store it had to be purchased with a "free" printer and monitor - neither of which I needed - for $550. Once I showed the clerk the website printout he sold me the unit for $450 without the extras, and without my having to go through rebate rigaramole. That was good; when I first told the clerk what I wanted, however, he gave me a memorized spiel to try to get me to buy a more expensive unit (I could tell it was memorized because he didn't have the slightest idea of the meaning of a few technical terms he used). I'm pleased with the computer and its price but the experience with Best Buy was less than edifying.

Posted by: Marshall | March 6, 2007 2:20 PM

Do people not realize that errors happen? Imagine having to be in charge of thousands of products and making sure that they are updated for bestbuy.com, the employee toolkit, as well as the POS system.

You're going to miss something... This is something that has happened, and will happened. We're supposed to match our own prices when they don't match up. If bestbuy.com has product A listed at $50.99, but our price tag in store has $55.99, and you know of this, you tell us and we price match.

It's not Best Buy as a company, that screws you over. It's the Manager or employee that doesn't override the price and give you the right price, that's at fault.

Posted by: Jordan | March 6, 2007 4:43 PM

ex-BB employee here...

the site that comes up on the computers in store shows you the store prices. those prices ARE often different from online prices for lots of reasons - but they are NOT always higher, they are often lower - it depends on the product.

store prices vary according to region due to different competitors across the country and other marketing stuff, that's why when you go online it asks you to enter your zip before it gives you a copy of the weekly ad. the stores obviously reflect this regional pricing, the website has its own competitors in its own "region" and will price accordingly. stores can't be expected to keep up with the fast paced changes that the website will make in order to stay competitive. this used to make customers mad b/c the site would change between one day and the next and they would bring in a printed page that had basically "expired"... we still usually matched the price, but it involved more cajoling of managers.

employees have a very backwards way to get to the "public" website, although i'm sure new-er employees or dumber ones don't ever use it or know it exists - that's not a deliberate thing so much as a horrible interface for the employee intranet that makes everything more difficult than it should be. however i have never heard of anyone NOT price-matching the website, so as long as they see the prices online (either a printed page or from the site if they can get to it) you shouldn't have a problem. the register even has a price match bb.com option in one of the menus.

the only exceptions to this that i can think of would be a product not carried in store or a "package" of stuff. i know that quite often they would advertise laptop packages with computer, bag, mouse, etc. the register just would not let you ring those up correctly and would honestly just annoy the customer while waiting and trying to make it work. at that point we would let customers complete the order process online wait the ridiculous hours it takes to hit our system, and give them the product. that process sucks, but it could be done.

which brings me to my final point... if you're that stressed about getting THAT EXACT PRICE then order the stupid thing online! there's no way to guarantee that what you want will be in stock at the store anyway!

this whole thing amounts to employees ignorant of company policy who were unwilling to get a manager and/or customers who didn't ask to see a manager. employees CAN'T drop the price of an item $150 without a manager, and managers will be reluctant but with proof of something on the BB website there's no real reason why that wouldn't have gone through.

in general employees at the stores are hit or miss, and i have worked with plenty of idiots as well as way-too-bright employees. however in a business when you want your $399 laptop and your $5 spindle of CDs, how much do you think the floor staff is being paid? minimum wage isn't going to get you the smart and motivated ones very often, and that's something customers need to accept as a direct by-product of cheap prices and non-commisioned sales staff.

Posted by: Lani | March 6, 2007 4:43 PM

I work at Best Buy. Yes, there is an internal website that matches the prices in the store. The External website is in place to allow customers to order product themselves for shipment or store pick up. The reason prices are sometimes less expensive on the External website than in the store is usually due to a 'Web only special.' This is completely understandable... The reason why most stuff can be found online for a couple of bucks cheaper than in a store is because they don't have to pay people to sell them the product. So it makes scene. Self Service = Web = Cheaper prices

As an employee, the last thing I need to have happen is when I happen to take a customer to a computer to access the website to get more detailed specs of some device and have the website showing a cheaper price. Now I have a customer in the store that thinks I'm purposely trying to rip them off. Not fun... So our internal site matches the price in the store.

No store should have any problem with matching the external website's price. As with all price match you are technically required to prove the price difference. AKA bring in an ad. But, we have ways of accessing the external site and can check if it is a large price difference and you didn't bring in a print out. Now the only problem is with training the associates that this internal website does actually exist. I just recently showed my General Manager of the fact there is and internal and external website. That's just stupid, because he's been with the company for years and years.

I hope everyone understands that point I'm trying to get across. Best Buy is not trying to deceive you. They are just incapable of training their staff to know whats going on.

Posted by: Mark | March 6, 2007 9:32 PM

I work for a company that runs a major toy retailers e-commerce site. The issue of higher pricing in-store is one that we've dealt with. At some stores, most notably in Manhattan, the prices may be higher in-store than online. This is largely due to the cost of doing business in Manhattan. We addressed this issue by putting a disclaimer on the product pages saying that there's a possibility that store prices may differ (up or down) than online. Our company and the toy retailer were very concerned that people don't perceive that there's a bait-and-switch going on. So we're up front about the fact that occasionally may be higher prices in-store.

Posted by: Spanky | March 7, 2007 10:21 AM

I was just at Best Buy over the weekend, and it is indeed an ironic name.

THey have the *worst* price on everything. Movies are prices at $20-25 versus $14-19 at Costco. CD's are priced at $13-20 versus $10-13 at Target.

Here's the kicker... A sony LCD TV, big screen, $5200 in store, but $4400 on the Best Buy web, and $4000-4200 everywhere else.

Best Buy is the most expensive place to buy across the board. Everything. I think you've got to be a sucker to buy anything there.

Posted by: TR | March 7, 2007 9:46 PM

Update!

As of today employees now have 2 links in there toolkit. One for BBY.com National and one for BBY.com Local.

Ha... I guess they responded

Posted by: Mark | March 8, 2007 10:12 PM

I experienced something at Best Buy. I bought a mouse for my computer and it was $24.99. Went up to the counter and she tried charging me thirty something for it. Well I wasn't having that, so someone tore off the price tag, brought it to the cashier and it was then balled up and thrown out. 2-3 weeks went by and out of curiosity, I happened to check the mouses. The same one I bought went up to $40.00, then $50.00, thereafter! I no longer shop there, it's appalling to rip off consumers.

Posted by: Christy | March 13, 2007 6:25 PM

I just got back from Best Buy...NCAA 07 March Madness for XBox 360 is on sale on the web site for 47.99..It is 59.99 at the store and on their "web site". After a little convincing I paid 47.99 for it.

Posted by: Barbara | March 21, 2007 7:06 PM

I recently ran into the same issue at Wal-mart. When I told the associate that it was cheaper on-line he said "Everything is cheaper on-line". When I called Weights and Measures about the ordeal they said "There is nothing illegal with what they are doing."

Posted by: Anonymous | April 4, 2007 11:35 AM

I recently ran into this same situation at a store in Albuquerque. I returned a Westinghouse TV because of a problem with the volume control. They offered to exchange it, but were out of that particular TV. I found a Samsung that was quite a bit better quality, and about $160 more. I decided to go ahead and bite the bullet and spend the extra $. After I got home and installed the new TV I got on Best Buy's website, just out of curiosity, to see what the price was. Surprise, surprise, it was $48 less expensive than it was at the store. I called the store that day and told them the situation. They said to bring the receipt in within 30 days and they'd refund the difference. I didn't feel real comfortable with this, as some of the people that answer the phone and give you information don't always know what they're talking about, but I waited until the next day, a Sunday. I got on their website again, and the TV wasn't on sale anymore; it was the original price I had paid in the store. Luckily, I had printed out the page the day before with the information that said it was on sale. When I took it to the customer service desk they said that there were sometimes "web only" specials. I said that I agreed, but that this wasn't one of them; it didn't say "web only" anywhere. I also added that it shouldn't matter if I bought in the store or on the web because it gave you the option to either have it shipped to your house or pick it up in the store. Why should it matter if I order it on my computer at home and then make the trip down to the store to pick it up, or if I walk into the store and buy it there? The woman helping me had to talk to a manager. They took my print out of the sales ad, went over to a computer behind the counter and were looking at something for about 5 minutes or so. She then came back and told me that they couldn't find ANY history of that TV being sold at the price I had the print out for, ever. However, they were going to make an exception in this case and take my word for it that I had printed out the web ad the day before. (When the page was printed out, it didn't print the date at the bottom for some reason). In the end, I ended up getting my refund for the difference, so I was happy. It wasn't until after I got home that my wife told me that she'd seen reports on the news of this practice with Best Buy. By the way, this happened just recently; April 1, 2007.

Posted by: Matt | April 7, 2007 11:57 AM

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