The Checkout

A Wii Sad Story

Today I bring you a story of one local man's quest for a Nintendo Wii. It's sure to strike a chord with anyone who has spent half a day glued to a Wii inventory tracker, slept outside a store for a Tickle Me Elmo, or simply been mistreated at the hands of Best Buy employees.

Our story began earlier this week when Dale Graham and his wife wanted to surprise their 15-year old daughter with a Wii on Valentines Day.

Graham owns a landscaping company. He's not a gamer. So he started his journey not quite realizing how popular the Wii is, or the Ahab-like saga he was in for.

Our hero set out Tuesday night for the local Best Buy in Fredericksburg, Va., where he was told the elusive Wii was out of stock. But, after a round of calls to other BB stores in the area, Graham was told, the Best Buy in Tyson's Corner had six consoles. Six!

Graham headed to Vienna and called the Tyson's Corner store along the way. "When one store says they've got a lot and the others don't have any, you've got to wonder," he said.

The employee who answered the phone at Tyson's told Graham he wasn't sure if there were six, but he had seen four consoles in the store. Graham asked if he could pay for it over the phone or put his name on a reserve list. The employee told him he couldn't do either but if Graham came first thing in the morning, the Wii was his.

Graham rose early Wednesday morning, as the area was digging out of the snow. He left his house at 7 a.m. to make it to Vienna by 10 a.m., when the store, which is more than 80 miles from his house, opened for business.

The drive took three hours.

"I had visions of people running through the door at 10 a.m. buying all four," Graham said. So he called one more time when he was about five minutes away from the store. He reached the head of the video game department who confirmed the store had four consoles, but they weren't for sale. At least not that day. The store was holding onto them for an upcoming promotion, she said. But she wouldn't say when that promotion would be.

"But I was told you had four," Graham pleaded. "I've driven a long ways over dangerous conditions..."

No Wii.

Graham asked to talk to a manager and got more of the same. He was told "you can buy it like anyone else who wants to stand and wait."

The fact that another employee at the same store had given him instructions to come to the store and all but promised him a Wii carried little weight.

Graham then spent two hours on the cellphone working his way up the Best Buy food chain. A customer service rep suggested he try to order one through told him they had none available. Graham ended up calling corporate headquarters, where a BB rep scolded him for putting his life at risk over a video game console.

What gets Graham, as a business owner, is what he feels is Best Buy's renegging on its word. If one of his employees told a customer they would plant a tree for $50 that cost $200, he says, he would plant the tree.

What gets me about this story is how close Graham got to his elusive quarry, only to be turned away. Our Canadian neighbors have accused Best Buy of helping to create an artificial shortage by withholding Wiis from consumers.

The hunt didn't end there. On his way back to Stafford County, he stopped in at Wal-Mart in Woodbridge, where he was told a shipment was coming in the next day. The employees there took his name and reserved a console for him to pick up on Thursday.

"It felt so good to be treated like a human being," he said last night as he stood in Wal-Mart.

Do you think Best Buy should've sold Graham a Wii? How far have you gone to snag a coveted product?

By Annys Shin |  February 15, 2007; 10:00 AM ET Customer Service
Previous: An Unreasonable Request? | Next: InPhonic Settlement


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I think it was wrong for Best Buy to not sell him the Wii since it was in stock. Whether the manager should take his word that an employee said he could buy it shouldn't matter (I foresee people coming in and saying "But I talked to an employee and then said I could buy them all" or something like that - people today aren't very honest).

But, I don't think he should have done what he did to get it. I believe this gives our kids the sense of entitlement and the like. It's one thing to wait for 5 minutes (or so) for a store to open but it's completely different to wait 2 days inline or pay 10x retail for something on eBay just so your kids could be the first on the block with something (I know, not the case here) but driving 3 hours yesterday's crap weather?

Posted by: Non debtor | February 15, 2007 10:09 AM

Best Buy could greatly improve its service by training the teenagers that make up most of its staff more about customer relations. I had a similar experience at Christmas, while shopping for an I-Pod Shuffle. None were in the display case, although an earlier phone call had indicated they had plenty. I tracked down and asked two teenage staffers engaged in a lively non-work related conversation, if any were left. After acted irritated at being interrupted they reached into a box sitting on the table in front of them and handed me one. Who knows how many sales Best Buy lost that day.

Posted by: BB | February 15, 2007 10:26 AM

Annys, how about some customer service for the people that read your blog: would it be so hard for you or someone else on the Post web team to block or remove the irrelevant spam that is continuously posted by che? (or any spammer for that matter) I mean, it's not like there are thousands of comments posted to each of your blog articles that you would have to slog through. I'm sure there's a technical solution that could prevent it altogether, but c'mon, a simple "Find" on "che" a couple or a few times a day on your comments page would take you to any of the crap this person posts pretty quickly so you could zap it if it's there. Sorry for the rant but this gets irritating.

Posted by: Rosslyn | February 15, 2007 10:28 AM

Honestly, I don't even understand why people shop at best buy anymore ... their prices are astronomical. As much as I hate Walmart, at least they are cheap. I don't think BB had any OBLIGATION to honor their employee's "word" about having Wii's, but I do think that if they cared about their customers, or their reputation, they should have. This just shows that BB thinks they are untouchable and don't need to deal with small time buyers.

Posted by: Best Buy sucks | February 15, 2007 10:32 AM

Best Buy "customer service" is, in my opinion, abysmal and this example only reinforces that belief. Mr. Graham went out of his way to check, more than once, that the Best Buy in question actually had the product. The manager should have sold him the Wii and, if not, then the corporate HQ folks should have directed the manager to do so. Best Buy, and many other companies, have completely forgotten how to provide customer service.

And no, I don't think that Mr. Graham went overboard. The gift was a surprise, so where's the "entitlement" mentioned above? He wanted to do something nice for his daughter. Good for him. His only mistake was choosing Best Buy.

Posted by: JN | February 15, 2007 10:37 AM

Having worked at both Futureshop and Best Buy as a teenager I can completely agree with each of your frustations. However, it's not so much about the "teenage" staff, but rather, their managers and training that is provided by them. Staff are constantly reminded that sales are not sales unless it has the company's "Product Service Plan (PSP)". With no incentive such as commission, which Future Shop had for its employees, customer service at BB began to diminish. Why? Because as mentioned earlier, we were not graded on how much we sold but on how MANY warranties were attached. You literally got scolded for not attaching a minimum of warranties a day. Thus, employees would shy away from helping customers so that their warranty/sales ratio was more balanced. I, for one, hated this concept. Yes, the use this key point in their messaging, however, I'd rather go to a commission-driven store for their customer service!

Posted by: Ex Best Buy Employee | February 15, 2007 10:43 AM

If someone at the Washington Post told a reader/subscriber who traveled through the snow to get to a phone to call the paper that Annys is going to write and article on the PS 3 vs. the Wii and she had no intention of writing it, would she HAVE to write it just to please this one customer?

Hey, I understand this guys feelings, but if someone said they would sell it to him the next day, and the next day the manager of that store says "sorry but you should have to been told that we are holding these for a promotion", the employee from the night before is responsible, not the store. The employee who said they had it should have to by him a Wii.

But, if Best Buy wanted a lifetime customer then they should have sold the Wii to him and ordered a replacement for the promotion.

I choose not to shop at Best Buy.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | February 15, 2007 10:52 AM

Best Buy should have sold him the Wii. We tried obtaining a Wii for our sons--they pooled their savings to buy it--and trekked one weekend to 7 brick and mortar stores only to find a) none were in stock and b) no one had a clue when the next shipment would come in. It happened that last Saturday I noticed that Circuit City, Target and Toys R Us were advertising Wiis for sale starting Sunday. My husband went to Target where they had 20 on hand but no one would sell one to him because the sale hadn't started. Toys R Us said they had 80 on hand so on Sunday morning, my husband got in line at 8 AM and was able to buy the Wii. We were able to get an extra remote but not an extra numchuck. I hate Best Buy as much as I hate Wal-Mart. The Best Buy in Springfield has a nauseating odor and the help is nonexistent.

Posted by: cab91 | February 15, 2007 10:53 AM

Always get the name of the person you're talking to!! Not that it would have made a difference here, but it could prevent this person from doing something like this again to other customers.

Posted by: Columbia, MD | February 15, 2007 10:56 AM

I really do not understand Best Buy. I watched a manager at our local Best Buy basically tell a customer to go to H*ll, though he did not know I was listening. Then, it was my turn to hear the same thing as I tried to get my handy cam fixed. I had purchased the four-year extended warranty, but he was trying to renege.

When I went to pick up the camera, I bought a CD in full view of a guy standing at the exit. When I walked away from the cashier, the exit sentry wanted to look in my bag. I told him that was not necessary. He then stepped in front of me to stop me from leaving. I am not a thief, and I do not wish to be treated like one. I told him that if he touched me or attempted to stop me I would sue him so far into the ground he would no know which was up. He wisely stepped aside.

That was four years ago.

I no longer buy ANYTHING at Best Buy. I go to Lowes, Target, or Circuit City but NEVER Best Buy. Too bad for Best Buy. Last Christmas I bought a $500 camera for my wife, but it did not come from Best Buy. My $400 car stereo came from Circuit City. I have spent thousands on appliances for my rental business, and I am happy to report that none of that money has gone to Best Buy. Sit and spin Best Buy because those six refrigerators, four microwaves, four dishwashers and two stoves all came from Lowes! HA HA!

I suppose Best Buy feels that it has a bottomless pool of customers so it can mistreat and abuse its customers.

So here's my advice for that Wii buyer. Learn from this, and don't go the Best Buy anymore.

Posted by: Frank in Cary, NC | February 15, 2007 11:01 AM

I'm a recent business school grad, and we actually discussed Best Buy's atrocious customer service policies. Unlike most stores, who believe "the customer is always right", Best Buy actually believes that customers who are troublesome are not worth the time. They assume they'll keep revenues high strictly based on price and not service. So, I'm not surprised that this happened.

I'm one of the poor suckers who tried for weeks to get a Wii for myself, and had a terrible experience with Best Buy. A group of friends and I got to a BB 9 hours before opening in the freezing cold to wait and try to get systems. When the employees started arriving 6 hours later, they refused to tell us whether they had any systems available for sale. They made the 30 people who were waiting outside sit for another 6 hours.

The thing with the big box stores (Circuit City, Best Buy, etc.) is that with the new systems, they want to be able to advertise them. So, when you see Wiis in Sunday's ads, that's the day to get there 3 hours early or so to get one. But trust me, Best Buy doesn't care whether you get your Wii, because they know someone will buy it.

Posted by: loonatic | February 15, 2007 11:21 AM

Best Buy is full of sharks anyway. A roommate of mine used to work at one and said that the only way to move up in the company was to get the person above you fired. So I'm not surprised by Best Buy's actions at all.

I hope Graham is able to find a Wii for his daughter, it's a great little machine.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2007 11:23 AM

I have had similar issues with Best Buy and Circuit City. It does not matter where you go now a days customer service is poor. I agree with ExBestBuyEmployee that part of the reason service is so bad is because very few sales people work on commission anymore. I realize that commissioned sales people bring along a whole different set of problems but at least they have motivation to make you happy.

As for this particular incident, the employee who told the man that the Wii would be available was acting as a representative of Best Buy and therefor speaking for the company. Best Buy should have honored the representatives word and then disciplined the rep.

Posted by: Troy | February 15, 2007 11:27 AM

Best Buy was not obligated to sell this man a Wii. However a gesture of good faith was in order. A gift card or some token of apology for the misstep of their employee was in order. I started my career in customer service in an industry where much more was at stake than a game console. My first manager told me that we appease the customer period. Hopefully the man will file a complaint against the employee and store manager.

Posted by: Sam, Lorton, VA | February 15, 2007 11:27 AM

What's a Wii??

Posted by: Bob | February 15, 2007 11:27 AM

I fail to see how this is Best Buy's fault. Graham was told that there were four Wiis available at an area store, but was never actually promised one by the company. The blame lies with the employee who told Graham that he could pick one up in the morning.

Posted by: Tirade | February 15, 2007 11:28 AM

I am yet another person who refuses to go to Best Buy ever again. I finally got fed up with the disorganized merchandise, lackluster service, and inconvenient location here in Charlottesville.

I knew that all the major retailers were stockpiling Wiis for a Sunday, Jan 21 release, so I waited outside Circuit City starting at 6AM to get my Wii. It has been so worth it, but I did play according to the store's rules.

Posted by: Caroline | February 15, 2007 11:35 AM

Wow. Unbelievable that the entire stock of inventory could be reserved for a sale. Last I checked, a better way to make some money is to sell the product at the non-sale price to a customer if they want it! That makes no sense to hoard the Wiis only to sell them later at a reduced sale price. Poor Mr. Graham! When did the humanity leach out of salesmanship?

I don't often go to Best Buy as it is, but I tell ya, this story makes me wary of spending another dime there. I'd rather spend money where my money and Joe Blow's money is wanted at all times than where power hungry associates and managers seem to make a point to tick off customers.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | February 15, 2007 11:35 AM

The employee acts as a representative of the company- therefore any promise the employee makes is binding. Otherwise, using your logic, anyone, all the way up the chain to the director in the sky is not responsible for the actions of the company and any promise made by anyone is not valid. Where does responsibility come into play? Hold the employee accountable, but as he made a promise while wearing the BB uniform, it was a promise made by BB. That said, if he had a name and went to the manager, and the employee did not know better than to hold merchandise for someone on the way, the Wii should have been his.

Posted by: Chris | February 15, 2007 11:39 AM


How is the company responsible for an employee who was 1) wrong and 2) maybe not ever real. Customers have been known to make things up to get what they want. I'm not saying Graham is one of them but they are out there and managers tend error on the side of caution.

The best thing to do here is to avoid Best Buy all together. They're customer service is BAD.

Graham's story just reinforced what most of us here already know. Best Buy's customer service is non-existent.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | February 15, 2007 11:45 AM


The employee didn't "promise" anything. He said there were consoles for sale at the store, which was incorrect.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | February 15, 2007 11:49 AM

So, how come my $200 is worth less than someone else's $200? The Wii's cost the same whether or not there is an "event" going on -- the teasers (four in the store) are a way to get more people into the store -- not a way to sell them "on sale." BB could have easily solved their "event" problem by displaying empty boxes of Wii to get people into to store, since they have no intention of selling them for a different price than the day before.

Yes, BB owed it to the gentleman to sell him the Wii they told him was in their store. To use a language trick (yes we have them IN the store, but we have no intention of selling them) is extremely poor customer service.

I once purchased a computer (on sale) from BB. My local store didn't have one, but they called around and found another at a store 15 miles away. THAT action alone - after having verified that the other store had one, guaranteed me the computer. Otherwise what was the point of calling around to see if other stores had it in stock?

Posted by: Columbia MO | February 15, 2007 11:49 AM

Isn't Best Buy the company the WP reported a month or so ago that is letting it's corporate employee decide when and where they are going to work? Extremely flexible hours?

And BB was thinking of allowing BB store employees to do the same? Egads, they are going to go out of business, with this kind of 'customer service."!

Posted by: p | February 15, 2007 11:57 AM

I agree that Best Buy is simply horrible. I recently bought a very expensive digital movie camera at Ritz Camera. It was roughly the same price as at Best Buy, and I could have maybe saved a few bucks there, but you know what, it was worth it to have an educated, commissioned sales person who wanted to answer my questions, and who's only job was to make sure I left happy. After all, that's how he makes his income.

I don't shop at either Best Buy or Circuit City as it became apparent to me at least 6 or 7 years ago that the only way the sales people there get ahead is to push and push and push their worthless warranties on you when you purchase something.

Posted by: Josh | February 15, 2007 12:02 PM

I went throught the same exact thing as Graham did. I actually live in North Carolina now (but still love the Post), and I literally call around everyday in search of the mystical Wii. It has eluded me for a month now. As much as I hate Best Buy, I think the fault lies with Nintendo. There is such a demand for the Wii, but Nintendo just cant get their production together. I asked an employee of a gaming store when they would get their next shipment....and he informed me that they only get 3 a week! Only 3! No wonder Graham is driving 3 hours in the snow. That is what you have to do to get the stupid thing.......and Best Buy does hoard them so they can hit people up for warranties. What a coporate scam. You should read the guidelines of those warranties. They are practically void as soon as you open up your purchase out of its original packaging.

Posted by: Patchino | February 15, 2007 12:15 PM

I work at Best Buy (in the media department no less) and I am ashamed that Best Buy didn't sell him a console. I think what happened to Graham is appauling and extrememly frustrating to say the least. I would have sold him the console regardless, just because. We have held Wii systems at my store, but only for an Ad Sunday. As you know, if we advertise so many systems in stock, we have to have said systems in stock. Holding Wii's for a promotion other than a weekly flyer is ridiculous and I am sad to say that I work there. Sorry Graham, for your troubles, and I hope you have fun with your much coveted Wii.

Posted by: Michael | February 15, 2007 12:23 PM

When it comes to the Wii, It's not just BB, it's mostly all the retail chains. First, they've been hoarding them so they can be advertised in their Sunday ads. Circuit City, Best Buy, and Target do this.

Second, many major retailers force bundles on individuals. They won't sell a Wii individualy, but if you want to pay $500 you can get one with all the trappings. Nearly every major online retailer is an offenders in this practice. TRU, EB/Gamespot, Circuit City and others.

Finally, you have to look at the distribution strategies of Brick and Mortar Stores. They distribute quantity based on the local demand at a store. In other words, a Target in Salsbury MD might only get 20 Wii's, while the one near me in northern Delaware gets 120. That's just because of heavier population densities, more store traffic, greater demand, etc. But it can leave individuals in more rural or under developed areas out of luck in trying to find one.

As for me, I was lucky enough to win one in a contest. You might have a better chance trying to win one than find one in a store!

Posted by: Dave | February 15, 2007 12:30 PM

To "Sam," in Lorton, who suggested filing a complaint against the employee and store manager: in theory, that is a good idea, but in practice a waste of time. A company that does not care about customers does not care about their customers' complaints, either.

Like many who have posted here, I had a bad experience at Best Buy. Two or three days after Christmas, one of their employees sold me the wrong kind of equipment for my computer, and I had to exchange it that evening. That meant standing in the "returns" line, which was filled with people returning and exchanging Christmas gifts, was at least twenty people long and was staffed by one overworked teenager. I had to wait a good twenty minutes, until a second employee finally stepped in to help. When I asked the store manager why there were not more people staffing the return desk at what everyone knows is a peak time for such returns, he said that there was no way to know that demand would be so great, and someone had called in sick, yada yada yada. So I wrote to Best Buy to complain and got back a form note politely thanking me for my feedback. I'll bet THAT resulted in a lot of changes! The moral of the story: if you can, shop somewhere else.

Posted by: lydgate | February 15, 2007 12:33 PM

I fail to see how this is the fault of Nintendo. I live in the UK and the Wii is just as difficult to find in our stores unless you queue up on the day of delivery.

Nintendo are manufacturing a million consoles per month of which half are shipped to the USA. That leaves Europe, and Asia sharing 500,000 which is too few for such a large area.

All I can say is be patient. Once you have it you won't want to put it down. It's great family entertainment and super at a party.

Posted by: Nick.W | February 15, 2007 12:35 PM

Legally, the customer likely had a right to be sold the Wii. The employee who told him that there were four units on sale in the morning was acting with apparent agency authority. If a customer who has reason to rely on the eployee *does* rely to his detriment, then there is a contract claim there, or at the very least a promissory estoppel claim.

Of course, no one goes to court over such small amounts. But the legal theory holds.

Posted by: Matt | February 15, 2007 12:36 PM

I've been disappointed and badly treated by Best Buy several times and won't shop there for anything anymore. I think they should have sold him the console, if only for public relations reasons. Now that the story is out there, the damage is done, and all I can say is "GOOD".

Posted by: Barb | February 15, 2007 12:44 PM

The Best Buy business model is so odd. It seems like the place has a customer to floor staff ratio of 1:1, yet maybe one of them is doing anything other than playing video games or cranking the stereo. If BB's model is to provide zippo customer service and just crank out warranties, the place could function with two people on the floor who could churn out warranties, register service, and a manager even during peak hours. If I'm a stockholder, I seriously look into significantly reducing staff. Most provide negative value to the customer and stockholder.

That said, I kind of feel sorry for Mr. Graham, but even getting a Wii with four in the store was not a sure thing. At some point, you just need to not put your life in danger and give the girl and IOU. Explain that you didn't realize how difficult it was to get one. Perhaps even relating the story to her would bring a smile. Its similar to trying to make Valentine's Day restaurant reservations at the last second....its just bound to get screwed up.

BB could have easily have done what Wal Mart did, but couldn't be bothered. Shop there at your own risk...and NEVER, EVER buy a warranty from them. Its a total scam.

Posted by: SWB | February 15, 2007 12:46 PM

Geez guys, it's just a stupid video game system. It'll be there 6 months from now. How about teaching your kids to learn how to delay pleasure? Better yet, how about teaching them to study instead of wasting their time with video games?

Posted by: Chris | February 15, 2007 12:52 PM

I went to Toys R Us and they had some in but would not sell them till the next morning so I had to sleep all night in the cold to be the first to get my Wii. I really hate these big corporations now.

Posted by: Justin | February 15, 2007 12:52 PM

Best Buy is an atrocious company when it comes to customer service. Their sales staff is routinely sexist, condescending, and snide, when they're available for questions at all. The manager of the Potomac Yard Best Buy called me "honey" repeatedly and told me that "women don't understand televisions, so let me explain that to you." It's no surprise that they refused to follow through with their word. Poor man.

By the way, my roommate got a Wii at a GameStop in Northeast the same day he looked for one.

Posted by: bamagirlinVA | February 15, 2007 12:55 PM

It sounds like the employee on the phone gave bad information, but there is no way a store can honor the demands of every person who comes in claiming that, "someone told me..." Anyone who thinks otherwise has never worked retail and heard all the lies people try to get over on you.

Mostly I just had to laugh at a guy who drove three hours(!) in the snow to buy a toy for a non-holiday for a kid. For Valentine's Day from my folks, I got on of those heart-shaped cookies from the $0.99 case at the grocery store (and was never disappointed).

Many of the people here may rightly be annoyed at the service of the store in general, but this guy endangered his life and several hours for an exorbitantly priced toy. I think the (lack of) logic behind that is worth some consideration too.

Posted by: nld | February 15, 2007 12:57 PM

I don't mind Che. I can skip over if I don't want to read it. No harm done.

Posted by: Van Ness | February 15, 2007 12:59 PM

I absolutely refuse to shop at Best Buy due to their inept employees who would rather play with the merchandise than assist a customer. This does not surprise me at all.

A similar thing happened to a friend of mine trying to purchase a Wii -- Best Buy said there were getting a shipment in on a certain day, and promised him he could have one. When he showed up, one was not on reserve and he had to wait another month.

The only way to teach Best Buy a lesson about its business practices is to stop shopping there! I'm doing my part. It's time for everyone else to vote with their pocketbooks.

There's simply no reason to go there. Their sales staff is incompetent, the lines are long, their prices are significantly higher than other retailers, and anything they sell can be purchased elsewhere for less money and less hassle.

You couldn't pay me enough to ever go into a Best Buy again.

Posted by: lawgirl | February 15, 2007 12:59 PM

I got my Wii on launch day indirectly from Best Buy, through someone on craigslist. I would recomend it for anyone who does not want to deal with long lines and headaches of dealing with the stores on and around launch day. I got the system with the Zelda game and the best buy 2 year replacement plan for $400, just $50 markup... a fair price to pay for not having to wait in lines and deal with those stores!

Posted by: HappyD | February 15, 2007 1:07 PM

"Legally, the customer likely had a right to be sold the Wii."

Quote the law, Matt.

These is no law. It's business practices.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | February 15, 2007 1:14 PM

I left the customer service field after 14 years because I firmly believe and stated throughout those 14 years that THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR POOR CUSTOMER SERVICE; especially when you have to give a customer bad news. My co-workers (and managers) made my working life miserable for it; so much so that I now work in a totally different field. It is not enough to complain, although that is your very first step. Get the person's name before you do ANYTHING else. If you have to speak to a higher up, get the name first, before you complain. If you are still not satisfied, file a formal complaint with the Better Business Bureau. As a person who knows the ins and outs of the customer service profession, I can assure you that no matter what they say, no business can afford a complaint made against them with the Better Business Bureau. Unfortunately, I have used them several times in order to get my money back; and it is great for your self esteem! Take back your power, never spend your money there again AND tell anyone who will listen of the bad experience you had with a particular vendor. They will not change until we do.

Posted by: Grass Roots | February 15, 2007 1:20 PM

nld must have no kids so he doesn't understand why Graham did what he did. I have done the same for my daughter.
Grahams actions speak louder than the Wii itself and his daughter will understand that someday. has it and can ship it overnight if Graham is still in need of a Wii

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | February 15, 2007 1:21 PM

Ok Van Ness, then by your logic, anyone can post any kind of mass propaganda on this blog that is totally unrelated to topic, and everyone can scroll through 100 messages to read the 10 that have anything to do with the article - yeah, that would be fantastic. Won't bother you though, you can just skip it if you don't want to read it.

Posted by: 22209 | February 15, 2007 1:24 PM

Similiarly, I had a horrible experience with Best Buy just a month ago. It took two months, about 30 phone calls to corporate and visits to four stores to replace a television. I'll never set foot in a Best Buy in my life.

Posted by: Ban Best Buy | February 15, 2007 1:31 PM

I have a friend who works at a big department store (though I'm not telling which one). He told me how some miniature car collectors have store employees on their payroll to check the inventory when it arrives, and then, if necessary, hide a particularly valuable car on a shelf somewhere or buy it and then resell it to the collector. In essence, this cheats the people willing to wait and check for themselves.

I'm sure this practice is illegal in some way, but he said it goes on everywhere.

I wonder if this same kind of thing happens with this Wii thing. I mean, how expensive would it be to bribe some kid making minimum wage to use his position to get you a Wii?

Posted by: Frank in NC | February 15, 2007 1:42 PM

On a more important note, my local hardware store ran out of ice melt products again. I only wanted to buy some in anticipation for next week's *wintry mix*. They seem to think the optimal strategy is to stock as many bags of rock salt as snow shovels, not realizing that shovels are somewhat durable and salt is disposable, and therefore would be needed more often. Also, they are stocked to the ceiling with potting soil and mulch, in case anyone is doing any major landscaping projects in the middle of winter. Oh well.

I concluded long ago that nobody know what they are doing. The less I worry about it, the longer I'll live.

Posted by: bkp | February 15, 2007 1:42 PM

I have to admit that I have purchased several times through Best Buy. Most of this 'loyalty' is prompted by gift cards that I have received and need to spend. I also like the fact that they have these don't pay for x amount of time sales so I can get an interest free loan from them. Tonight I will make my last payment on my stove which cost BB 92$ in deferred finance charges and let me replace my 30 year old stove in a leisurely payment schedule kind of way.

I haven't found their customer service to be any better or any worse than any other store that I have shopped at. None of them are particularly stellar. I suppose until BB makes my life totally miserable, I will likely continue shopping there.

Posted by: Billie | February 15, 2007 1:47 PM


When best Buy hired the employee and then assigned responsibilities that include answering the telephone and interacting with customers they made him or her a representative of the company. Best Buy needs to stand by their representatives and accept responsibility for their actions. Anything less is an insult to their customers.

As for whether or not the gentleman was REALLY told what he was told, we can never know. However, the blog post was written in such a way that it implied that he was telling the truth. This is the reason that I keep a "journal" of all calls I make to any company. I record the date and time of the call, the representative I spoke to (along with any other info about them such as employee ID number) and notes on our conversation. I have found that once you are able to present information like this any question as to whether you are telling the truth or not goes right out the window.

Posted by: Troy | February 15, 2007 1:51 PM

Frank in NC is probably talking about WalMart. It is no big secret; people have been doing this for at least a decade. Why would this be illegal, exactly? Against company rules, but I did it for free. I felt sorry for anyone so desperate for a stupid toy.

My family came from the Soviet Union where we often had to wait in line for food and oher products. And in 1930s grandparents were waiting in line to hear news of family members deported to SIberia. I totally understand about this Wii thing (that is irony,).

This country makes me want to cry sometimes.

Posted by: joe | February 15, 2007 1:52 PM uses a very sophisticated e-commerce platform which is designed to discourage "high cost" customers. They use cookies and other techniques to aggressively track browsing and shopping behavior so that they can tell buyers from price checkers or people who return a lot of merchandise. The differences are subtle and you would never be able to tell unless two people were browsing the site at the same time, but the system will display special pricing and incentives to one group and not to others. The theory is that some customers are not worth having since they create a lot of overhead and cost in areas like customer care.

Posted by: Lester Burnham | February 15, 2007 2:01 PM

Best Buy is one of the worst places to buy anything anytime. Their #1 reason is customer service as mentioned many times already. For instance, I have bought a PS3 and tried to return it because it was defective. They blamed it on me and told me that I was throwing it around or something. Of course I had done nothing to it and it wouldn't ouput sound through an HDMI cable and that makes me angry for something that costs more than $700 after buying cables. They basically told me to screw myself and get out of their store. Whatever happened to 90 day warranty!!! Shoot, when it comes to customer service, Wal-Mart all the way! They let my friend return an Xbox 360 even when he didn't have the receipt, and like 6 months after he bought it, HA! But they honored his request and gave him a shiny new 360! Me, I'll probaly have to go through freakin' Sony to get a new PS3 or go to Wal-Mart and say I bought it there, HA!

Posted by: Tony P | February 15, 2007 2:03 PM


I never said Best Buy wasn't wrong from a customer service perspective. It's a business ethics issue hands down.

"Representatives" of the company have been known to be wrong and unless the company is obligated legally by what the employee said or did, they do not HAVE to honor it.

Should have Best Buy given Graham a Wii? You bet.

Did they HAVE too? Not at all.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2007 2:09 PM

It pretty much spells Bad Business when a store is one-upped by Wal-Mart.

Posted by: EvilMammoth | February 15, 2007 2:21 PM

I swore off Best Buy a long time ago due to its terrible customer service. How it stays in business is beyond me. The staff knows nothing about the products it sells. Smaller, local businesses generally have competitive, if not better price. And if you believe that time is money, you'll save both going to a place with shorter lines and knowledgeable staff.

Posted by: Falls Church | February 15, 2007 2:23 PM

Any amount of good will that Best Buy was going to gain by their "Promotion" can get shot down in a heartbeat with stories like this.

The real truth of the matter is this:

Che is hoarded the Wii consoles to sell on EBay. The story can be found at:

Posted by: SoMD | February 15, 2007 2:28 PM

Best Buy would have sold that man the last Wii in the store if they had any clue about Customer Service. I go out of my way to avoid using Best Buy but some immediate technical requirements force me to shop there three or four time a year. The stores are all poorly arranged, products on-sale are consistently out-of-stock and the employees have very little interest in any customer not buying a high price item such as a TV or PC. Best Buy employees have sent me hustling to another store in vain too many times. I shop on the web, pay for overnight shipping and still save $$ over Best Buy prices.

Posted by: thw2001 | February 15, 2007 2:30 PM

Actually, there is a legal theory, and one that fits into the jurisdiction of small claims court. There was an oral contract and it was breached. If we consumers used the small claims court process (which does not require us to have a lawyer but usually requires the business to do so), then this garbage would shop. You should also contact the Attorney General - this is the reason to make a complaint for unfair business practices. They have an incentive to drag you out on a wild goose chase - Dad might well have bought an iPod to avoid having nothing for his lovely and undoubtedly deserving daughter. BB has nothing to lose and a potential sale to gain from this bait and disappoint tactic.

Posted by: KK | February 15, 2007 2:32 PM


There is no small claims court case here so don't give anyone any dumb ideas. You don't know the content of the conversation between Graham and the store clerk to even claim that. It would cost Graham 100 Wii's just to get a lawyer to look it over an laugh at him.

Saying "our store has 4 and you can come by and get on in the morning" is not an oral contract by any sense.

Good thought, KK but no case.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | February 15, 2007 2:45 PM


There is no small claims court case here so don't give anyone any dumb ideas. You don't know the content of the conversation between Graham and the store clerk to even claim that. It would cost Graham 100 Wii's just to get a lawyer to look it over an laugh at him.

Saying "our store has 4 and you can come by and get on in the morning" is not an oral contract by any sense.

Good thought, KK but no case.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | February 15, 2007 2:45 PM

In June of 2005 I talked my wife into getting a older type PC for my son. Using the internet (the sites I pre-screened) for looking up reference materials and the MS Office apps to develop the docs to turn in, he pulled off straight A's for the sixth grade - the entire year.

His reward: We had a new PC built for him with dual-core processor, 2GM RAM, 512 MB video card, 19" flat panel with 4ms refresh rate, ... you get the idea. He even burns his own HD DVD's from the DirecTV feed to the PC (got a password controlled profile set up for his DirecTV box)

My point? His PC screams; he maintains his "A" average; he plays computer games both stand-alone & against other folks on the web (I screeen the servers there too); the video destroys anything on the market except another PC; and, best of all, we did not have to worry about shortages before we built the machine. He also has a tool he can use for years to improve himself.

Everything was available either through or off-the-shelf at Best Buy.

We won't be looking for a Wii, PS3, XBox 360, or whatever the latest/greatest toy is next week. He has more machine than he can handle.

My recommendation to Dale Graham and his wife is to take the same path and avoid the "games-in-a-box" approach.

Posted by: SoMD | February 15, 2007 2:59 PM

Typical Best Buy as far as I am concerned. to hold them for a special promotion is a farce. Its the hottest ticket in town, 8-weeks after Christmas, and you plan another promotion. that's a lie. Tell me a business that put off one sale today for the same sale tomorrow.

Posted by: RobGreg | February 15, 2007 3:00 PM

And same advice with Circuit City. I was given a TV from them for Christmas, which has now started to go on the fritz. Still under warranty. Circuit City says, sorry charlie, 14 day return period on TVs. Same with the swing arm support stand for it....even though that's in the box still unopened.

The girl at the Circuit City local to me, in manassas, said I should try to sell it on eBay. Please.

Posted by: JD | February 15, 2007 3:03 PM

What aren't people getting that employees represent the company they work for? All of you who think that Best Buy wasn't at fault because the employee mispoke go ask your bosses what their reaction would be if you did that or better yet, go ask your bosses boss. It doesn't matter what industry you are in. If you are an employee of that company your are a representative of that company. It is your company's responsibility to make sure that you are educated on how to respond to any public inquiries. If an employee is unable to grasp that concept than they shouldn't be an employee of that company.

Posted by: SA | February 15, 2007 3:19 PM

As I have read throu these post the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that BB has very poor customer service. The one thing that some of you question is the truth in Graham's statement that he spoke with someone at the store that told him they would sell him one if he came in the next morning. I believe him for several reasons. One it sounds to me Graham would have gone the night before it the store was open but it was not due to a power outage. Second, how did he know that they had the Wii unless he spoke with someone there. The store admitted to having them, they just weren't going to sell them that day. They were "holding" them for a promotion. It seems to me they would have wanted to "promote " good customer service. I know for myself I will not shop at BB if they can't be true to their word.

Posted by: biblethumper | February 15, 2007 3:25 PM

Customer service is nonexistent at these big box stores. I bought a home theater package from Circuit City and paid extra for installation and setup. Naive person that I am, I didn't realilze that installation and setup is contracted out, in my case to a fly-by-night operation which did some damage to my family room that I noticed a few minutes after the installer left my house. When I complained to Circuit City, they washed their hands of it and told me to call the installer directly. The installer accused me of making up the whole story since I hadn't complained before he left. I went through numerous hoops with both Circuit City and the installer before I got the installer to repair the damage.

I don't shop at big box stores anymore. I agree with the other comments about local merchants providing better service.

Posted by: Kevin | February 15, 2007 3:25 PM

To all the bestbuy haters... is it even like you really can BUY anything at best buy if it is a big ticket item? The one in Pasadena, CA is kind of funny, if you try and find someone for help they have a very intricate dance in which they manage to keep at least an ear shot distance away from you... so they never ever have to help you, pretty impressive actually.

As for the guy... in the old days yeah, I think they should have given him the Wii. Based on today's standards where just about every company seems comfortable treating the customer like **** I still think they should have allowed him to purchase the Wii, but I'm not the least surprised that they didn't. What bothers me is how he was actually scolded for driving in bad weather to try and get the Wii... oh well, this is capitalism, in a couple of years BB will get enough people mad and their profits will fall, in theory anyways.

Posted by: Charles | February 15, 2007 3:34 PM

Now, i'm not very smart, but one thing i've learned in a few years of living in DC is that customer service here is nonexistent. On top of that, Best Buy in general has the worst customer service, and the most poorly-trained and malcontent staff on the planet. so to drive 80 miles based on what a DC-area Best Buy employee said...lesson learned.

I personally never go to a Best Buy unless i know exactly what i want, don't need any questions answered by their worthless staff, and even then i go in there prepared to be disappointed. I bet they won't put that last sentence on their annual report. :)

Posted by: Kelly | February 15, 2007 3:50 PM

Wii no likey; Everyone's stories about these evil corporations is making you miss the point. This story represents so much of what is wrong with today's (parent) consumer. He willingly drove hours in icy weather (after being advised to stay off the roads) putting others in danger as well to get a "surprise" for his teenager, and on Valentine's Day no less??? Here's a tip for those clueless parents blindly buying kids whatever they want or trying to win over our teens: before you buy a "gift" for your kid, be informed of it so you know what you're getting into; and after that, it's on you.

Posted by: Moe | February 15, 2007 4:13 PM

Boo hoo

the day before Valentines day he decideds he wants to get it. They are getting more common. Places have stock trackers you can sign up for. Back when they were being originally released stores had preorders.

I did not wait in line. I did not obsess. I simply signed up for a notification via email. Got that notification, ordered my wii and nicely accepted the box from the fed ex man.

Best buy is releasing their stock of wii's on Sundays. Anyone who has been searching for one any length of time knows this. THUS is it -fair- people can go and wait in line on Sunday and it gives the stores all time to get their week's stock.

To go out in bad weather for something trivial like a video game system is stupid, ask any state patrol who had to deal with the accidents.

Posted by: Alex | February 15, 2007 4:19 PM

I walked into target and bought a wii console for $250 on Sunday morning. Many targets had them in stock this past sunday. I found them through's target wii finder. They have them in alexandria right now.

Best Buy sucks.

Posted by: Scott | February 15, 2007 4:26 PM

It just sounds like this poor guy went about getting the Wii in the very worst possible way - I feel bad for him, but there's no way a store like BB would cave on something like that. If they had advertised the promotion - which seems likely, given how many "In-stock on Sunday!" ads the various electronics stores are running for Wiis - they could've gotten in trouble for making an exception for him that they weren't willing to make for the dozens of other people who probably called to get them.

My husband and I got our Wii at Game Stop at Montgomery Mall. We got in line at 10:40 am on a Sunday, they opened at 11, and we were number 13 for 18 in stock. But they wouldn't sell them the day before, even though they had them, because it wasn't fair to the people who thought the consoles were unavailable till Sunday.

Posted by: Kate | February 15, 2007 4:43 PM

Best Buy will match the price of any local retail competitor, plus 10%, so all of you complaining about high prices are wrong.

The guy in the story engenders no sympathy from me for driving a long distance in bad weather. That doesn't make BBY's service worse. It just makes his judgement suspect.

And who buys their kid a 250 dollar present for Valentine's Day? Mine are lucky to get a bag of hershey kisses.

I have bought several items at Best Buy. Never had a problem. Last one, salesgirl who sold us the camcorder was really nice, knew her stuff, and while she pushed the warranty, we had enough willpower to resist her magical charms.

Looking at the BBY stock chart for the last 10 years, looks like all is going pretty well...

Posted by: Buy | February 15, 2007 4:47 PM

If you still need a wii, contact me: I got a good price for you.

Posted by: Your Wii Dealer | February 15, 2007 5:22 PM

I can't believe that, with all that is happening in the world today, this was seen as a newsworthy story for the WashingtonPost webpage. I understand that, as a local and national paper, the Post has a commitment to cover local, national and world news. But, this doesn't seem to me to be newsworthy on any of those levels. Notice in the comments that one reader doesn't even know what a "Wii" is. The article is well written but surely it is also a poor choice for this news source. If readers were interested in this sort of tale they would have logged onto MSNBC.

Posted by: Derek | February 15, 2007 5:50 PM

If you drive 80 miles each way in blizzard conditions to buy a toy, you deserve not to get it. A father's love is best shown by being alive for his daughter, not chasing electronic windmills.

I'm sure it was frustrating, but I fail to see how long-distrance drives on poor roads are the fault of Best Buy. Plus, the gift was a surprise. It could have waited until the weekend and any reasonable recipient would have appreciated it all the same.

Posted by: DG | February 15, 2007 5:55 PM

My dad went through some **** to get me a Wii, 3 months after my B-Day, I can wait. I know how the gaming industry is (been a gamer for 2 decades now), it's no surprise that the hottest system of the year (sorry PS3, but I've seen plenty of you on the shelves) is impossible to get.

Best to avoid the big box stores and find either a smaller store (and preorder for their next shipment), or preorder online.

"ExBestBuyEmployee's" post really opened my eyes though. I don't think I'll be shopping at BB again if they force their employees to hassle customers over warranties (that always bothered me).

BTW "Chris" playing video games is a great hobby (in moderation). I'm an accomplished, educated 26 year old woman with a fast career and busy social life, and I still find time for a relaxing game of Grand Theft Auto! So poo on you!

Posted by: Xrys | February 15, 2007 6:25 PM

I hope a follow-up is posted on this man's trip to Wal-Mart. I experieneced the frustration of trying to purhcase a Wii for my grandsons for Xmas. Wal-Mart told me they would hold one for me, but when I when in that morning to pick it up, their story changed. Hope they don't disappoint this man's quest.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2007 6:43 PM

So many of you seem to be hung up on the fact that there was bad weather. Put that aside. Lets say Graham was looking for a Wii on a sunny May afternoon. He was told by his local BB that there were Wii located at another location. Knowing its a poplar item and computers can be wrong calls the store that has the Wii just to double check. The person answering the phone says they are closed for inventory but yes they do have them and if he came in the morning he could get one since they were closed the inventory would not change. So the next morning he gets up and heads out to BB with the sun shining and birds singing. He gets to BB and they tell him there they have the Wii but aren't going to sale them just yet that they were going to hold them for a weekend promotion.
The point here is that an employee said they had the desired item and would sale him one. If he drove 80 miles or 8 miles they were not going to sale it to him after he was told they would. BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE. So put aside the weather and the distances and look at it from a humanity side of it.

Posted by: Biblethumper | February 15, 2007 6:54 PM

As for the "hoarding" issues, it has been fairly well-documented that this comes from Nintendo, not the big-box distributors. Doesn't strike you as kinda weird that every chain releases Wiis on Sunday, each time they get a new shipment? This is an intentional marketing ploy by Nintendo. Blaming the distributors for this is rather pointless.

This, of course, does not speak to the customer service issues at all.

Posted by: jb | February 15, 2007 7:50 PM

People need to get a grip on this gotta-have-it-now attitude towards gadgets and passing it on their kids. All of this hysteria is whipped up by the gadget industry to get press, and the press and consumers are dumb enough to fall for it.

Posted by: bigolpoofter | February 15, 2007 8:53 PM

You're an accomplished 26 year old who still lets her dad buy her video game systems? Ummm...sounds like a failure to launch to me. :)

Posted by: Chris | February 15, 2007 10:49 PM

Radioactive S,

I think you may be forgetting about the doctrine of Respondent Superior. However, what everyone else is forgetting, but you have not seemed to put you finger on, is that the employee's (agent) comment was mere "puffery."

Posted by: Elroy | February 16, 2007 12:13 AM

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Posted by: che | February 16, 2007 4:53 AM

Not only do I think Best Buy was soundly in the wrong for refusing to sell available stock - which their own inventory system flagged as available for purchase, I strongly suspect the "future promotion" the manager referred to is a Wii game release next week (2/20-2/26.) The store manager in Tyson's Corner is probably horrified at the thought of the ad going public with no new stock forthcoming - which signals that the corporate office most likely informed their stores that this will indeed be an issue. Overall I very much suspect Best Buy, knowing they have no stock of the item they are due to advertise soon, are still choosing to falsely advertise the availability of the product anyway. Most states have laws discouraging this behavior and investigations of complaints usually result in embarassment for the store manager(s) involved, multiple fines for the corporate office, and bad press all round. At the very least, if I were Dale, I would alert whatever consumer advocate office Virginia has in place about Best Buy's behavior and what they told him about "future promotions."

Posted by: Ex-Retail | February 16, 2007 6:28 AM

My younger sister works in the electronics department at Target and she has some interesting stories about store policy when it comes to game consules. If your name is on the reserve list and a new shipment comes in then you have first dips on a Wii or PS3 or whatever the hell your heart desires. A lot of times Target will get a shipment in and that entire shipment will go to people on the reserve list so the consules won't even hit the sales floor. The store will still say they have Wiis in the sales flyer because those go out waaaay before anything comes in, but in reality there are no game consules because they are all spoken for. Your best bet is to just wait till all the hype dies down (cause it will) or put your name on a list. (Oh, another interesting thing about Target, you have so many days to come in a pick up your reserved consule or else they can sell it.)

Posted by: Melissa | February 16, 2007 12:27 PM

This just puts the nail in the coffin of why I will never shop at BB again.

Posted by: Dennis McGrath | February 16, 2007 5:12 PM

Che hit this post twice! Snorts...

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | February 16, 2007 5:58 PM

This site tells it like it is:

Posted by: joblo | February 17, 2007 4:36 PM

This site tells it like it is:

Posted by: joblo | February 17, 2007 4:38 PM

As a electronics employee of the Stafford Wal-Mart i can point out a few things here. First, Wiis come in boxes of 3. The simple fact that the BB had 4 shows that at least 2 were sold at some point. Second, we are told by managment, usualy the day we revice a Wii shipment, weather they will be in the sunday ad so that we can tell the customer to return on that date. Third, while i dont disbleave Mr. Graham, i can count at least three times a customer said i told them something on my day off. So having the employee's name does not carry very much weight with most managers. My last point is a little off subject, however i must say that unless you have worked in "big box" retail you have no grounds to fuss over how you are treated. Today alone i worked in three different departments at the same time because we are understaffed weekend mornings. I was insulted by at least five customers and reported to my manager twice. while i do try my best to serve every one, the simple fact is that most of you feel that we should treat you like a god simple because you have money. should i have to choose a customer to assist, and from time to time i do, i choose the customer that does not throw a fit over an extra min.

Posted by: WalMart employee | February 17, 2007 5:43 PM

I don't like what BB did to this guy. But I may have a different opinion on the store itself because I bought my Wii at Best Buy, with little problem. Circuit City and Wal-mart could never tell me when they were getting shipments, and they didn't care to find out for me. Best Buy would normally say, check this day or that.
I had a nice coupon I wanted to use at Circuit City. But if they did get Wiis in, which was rare, they got maybe two or three.
BB was the only store, ONLY store that had a regular and substantial number of consoles. The day I went, which was in January after the X-mas crush, the store had 34 consoles. The Sunday paper had a ad for them. We all waited in line, received a voucher and bought them with little problem.
I've used BB's membership card for years and recieve gift certificates for shopping there. Also, I typically can buy a product at and pick it up in the store that day for free. And most of the time, I can get it a lot cheaper than I can in the store. I realize that sounds strange, but it's true. Just my two cents.

Posted by: Robert | February 20, 2007 3:46 PM

Every store manager of any large retail chain are normally trained to treat it as "their business" in order to take pride of your career .

That store manager should be fired. The whole point of a retail business is to provide a product or service to a consumer, and to take care of your customer for repeat business.

Could he have sold him a wii? Absolutely. Was he told not to sell them until a certain date? Probably. If i were HIS manager and he sold it before the intended "promotion", and told me the story, i'd let it go. Why? Because we're taking care of the customer, which is our business.

Sometimes, anymore.....I think we as consumers are just doomed.

Posted by: Bill | February 22, 2007 8:03 AM

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