Man Forces Best Buy To Sell Him $1999 PlasmaHDTV For $1499

By insisting on his consumer rights, Sandar got Best Buy to sell him a $1999 plasma HDTV for $1499.

Sandar went to BestBuy in Atlanta, GA, and got the hots for a 50 inch plasma. It had everything he was looking for and a great price.

A salesperson then informed him the unit was mispriced, Best Buy was really selling it for $1899.

Sandar kept asking Best Buy to sell him the TV at the price it was advertised at when he walked inside. Salesperson after salesperson, and a supervisor and a manager tried to tell him no, it was too much of a loss for Best Buy.

Sandar continued to reiterate his demands.

Finally, a supervisor relented and the store sold him the 50 inch Maxent plasma HDTV with 1080i resolution for $1499.

A good thing, because if Best Buy hadn’t, they would have been breaking the law. If an item is listed at a price inside the store, even if “by accident,” the store must, must honor that price. Remember this and insist upon it the next time it happens to you.

UPDATE: Laws on this vary by state, see inside for more info.

— BEN POPKEN

Sandar’s letter, inside…


Sandar writes:

    “So, I head over to my local Best Buy last Friday here in Atlanta. I was just stopping in to get a new Bluetooth headset. After I’d picked out what I wanted, I meandered over to the plasma tv section, per usual, to gaze longingly at the pretties. I did my usual stroll down the aisle, laughing at the high prices of the name brands and moving on to look at the less ridiculous prices of the not-so-name brands.

    I stopped in front of a good-looking tv from Maxent. It was the right-size–50 inches. The right resolution: 1080i. It had the black-border I was looking for and the inputs I needed for my components. And then, I saw the price: $1499. A good $500 less than what I was used to seeing for a 50-inch plasma. A couple salepersons had been eying me and moved over as soon as I stopped. We started talking about the tv and they were very helpful and knowledgeable, agreeing wholeheartedly with me that it was a good looking tv and a great price. We even slid the tv out and I got underneath and eyeballed the inputs just to whet my appetite some more.

    Now, I’ve been planning on buying a plasma for some time. I always say I’ll do it once the prices become reasonable. I’ve seen them keep going down and I was figuring I’d have my credit cards payed down and ready to buy around spring of ’07. But this was a good deal–a great price for what I knew I wanted. So, I decided. “I want it,” I said. The saleslady headed for the back to get my tv. I waited. Then I waited some more. Then I waited just a bit more. After a good 15 minutes she came back out and starts whispering furiously with a supervisor-type, then they both disappear. I figured it’s not in stock and I might have to take a rain check.

    Finally, after about 20-25 minutes, she comes back out (just the original saleslady, who takes the brunt of all this mess) and says, kind of sheepishly, “That, uh, isn’t the right price. This tv actually costs $1999. It is on sale today for $1899 if you still want it, though.” I was shocked when she said this and just kind of stared at her, and I felt my blood pressure start to rise. She walked over to another tv, uglier, smaller and said, “This is actually the Maxent one that’s $1499. Do you want it?” I got pissed. It was at that point I decided I was willing to fight for the tv–at the original price. So I said, “No. I want that tv, and I want the price it was advertised at when I walked into the store.”

    She left and came back about 10 minutes later–“Yeah, we’re sorry, but it’s just too much of a loss for us to take. My manager says we can’t do it.” So I asked to speak to the manager. After another good 10-15 minute wait, the manager finally shows her face. (What’s funny is that all the supervisor types were staying out of sight through alot of this whole situation–I don’t know if it was on purpose or not, but it seemed strangely empty.)

    I shake her hand and we exchange names and she asks, “What seems to be the problem here?” As if she doesn’t know. I say, for about the 4th time now (I was saying it to every unknowing sales associate who was coming up to to sell me another tv as I was standing in the plasma aisle), “I want to buy this tv at the price it was advertised at when I walked into the store.” Sheila looked at the tv, then at me, then started a whisper-conversation with the saleslady as they slowly walked away from me. I thought, “Great. Another 15 minute wait.” But, almost immediately the saleslady came back over and said, all depressed, “Yeah, she says we can do it.”

    Whoohoo! So I paid and then had to try to figure out how to get it home, which was another fun story. But it’s sitting in my living room now, HDMI from my Comcast Cable box/DVR, Component cables from my receiver which is feeding it my PS2 and DVD, and S-Video from my computer, making it my largest PC monitor yet. But I still think sticking it to Best Buy was the best part of the deal.”


UPDATE:

We asked Edgar Dworsky, former Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General, and current editor of ConsumerWorld and Mouseprint, “Isn’t it the law that if a product is displayed at a certain price inside the store, the store has to honor it, even if the price is a mistake?”

His response:

    “Pricing laws vary by state, rather than there being a federal law on point.

    In Mass, one regulation of the AG’s office says that it is an unfair or deceptive practice to state that an item can be purchased for a particular price when such is not the case.

    A Mass. law that I wrote says that in a supermarket, an item must be sold for the “lowest represented price” (that appears on a sign, ad, or price sticker) unless it is a gross error. A gross error is a price less than half of the correct price. For example if butter is marked 39cents when it should have been 2.39, you can’t get any for 39 cents. If it is marked 1.39, but should be 2.39, the consumer can get all the butter that is marked 1.39 on the item. There would be a $100 state fine for the incorrect display of butter if it scanned higher than marked.

    Michigan has a bounty law where the consumer gets x-dollars for incorrectly scanned items.

    Ultimately, in other states it is a weighing process to see if there really was a meeting of the minds to make a contract for the sale of that item at that price, whether the consumer is knowingly trying to take advantage of the store knowing that the price is wrong, whether the store was negligent (as by leaving last week’s price on the goods knowing that the sale was over), etc.”

So then, if BestBuy got away with refusing Sandar, they could have been subject to legal repercussion, depending on the state. However, since Best Buy acquiesced, we’ll bet dimes to donuts that the state this Best Buy was in one with laws protecting consumers and penalizing businesses for mispricing.

We’ve asked Sandar to tell us what state he bought his plasma in, and whether the price was a misprint or a misplace, hopefully he will be good enough to respond.

UPDATE: Sandar bought this in Atlanta, GA. He says the price tag was typed incorrectly.

He adds, “I didn’t really know it could be illegal for them to not sell it to me for that price. I just knew it felt wrong.”

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. I wasn’t aware that there was legal basis for demanding that stores honor posted prices. Any resources on this? Definitely would be a good thing to keep printed in one’s wallet.

    Just in case.

  2. kerry says:

    Many years ago I went to Best Buy to buy a cradle for my PDA. The list price for the item was $50, but the tag on the shelf said $25. I triple checked that the tag was for the item (it said the name of the product on the top of the tag), then went to check out. It rang up as $50. I complained, then argued until they went and looked at the tag. After some more arguing they gave it to me for the advertised price. Considering the fight they put up for $25, I’m seriously impressed that this guy got them to cave to his $500 difference.

  3. MarcAnthony says:

    I remember going into Macy’s once, and I saw a pair of jeans on sale ( the sign said 49.99), and there were several of them merchandised together underneath the sign. On the opposite side of the table, there were other jeans of lesser value with no sign facing that particular brand. When i went to pay for the jeans, the salesperson told me that they werent on sale, the ones without the sign facing them were the sale price. At any right I spoke to 3 different managers and I couldn’t get the jeans for the price advertised. I didn’t know it was against the law to not give the consumer the advertiesed price. I wish I would have known that then!

  4. Chongo says:

    If there really is a law, what’s to stop someone from going into the store… looking at the price… going home and then printing out their own version and then returning to the store?

    I know at least a dozen people with the (basic) skills to do something like that.

  5. georget99 says:

    There are laws like that but I think, at the state level. It can’t be as simple as I take the $50 jeans and throw them onto the counter with a $9.99 sign.

    Here in Massachusetts, if a supermarket scanner rings up the wrong price, you can point it out and get the item for free, but there are limits. If you buy 10, you still get only one free, and on an over $10 item you get $10 off.

  6. alastaira says:

    It’s easy to trash Best Buy, but I have to pinch myself every time I go into one of their stores about how they continue to raise their game and how surprisingly good their staff are, given the challenges of training a HUGE number of staff as to very rapidly evolving technology and changing prices.

    I think that part of their success is with the quality of their managers, who seem more empowered than their competitors.

    On Black Friday, I had done extensive price comparison when looking for a Sony 32″ LCD. I tried to get Best Buy to match Sears’ lower price, plus asked for an additional 10% discount which is what Sears offers if you can find cheaper elsewhere. (Sears was also out of stock.)

    First rep – “no way we could do that”. I was then getting product assistance from a manager (different colored shirt) with something else and thought I would try my luck. After some friendly banter, to my slight surprise, he agreed.

    The price I ended up paying was within spitting distance of the less reputable online vendors – without all the hassle.

    They also continue to innovate – I love BestBuy.com with instore inventory checking and pickup – was able to get a somewhat scarce Directv HDDVR with minimal hassle.

    That said, I do occasionaly get crap service / misinformation etc., but by and large, they are easy to criticize, but I can’t think of anyone who does it consistently better, on a large scale, with such good pricing.

  7. JNelsonW says:

    I think the existence of this “law” is something of an urban legand.

  8. kidgenius says:

    MarcAnthony:

    The jeans thing is a little bit of a gray area. If it is one misplaced item that should be in another part of the sotre, then you don’t get the “advertised price” because the pricey jeans happen to be sitting on the clearance table or were incorrectly placed on the sale rack by a customer. I’ve been into stores before and had something similar happen, but when I saw that the same pair of pants was on a different, non-sale, rack, I realized that the pair I was holding was placed on the sale rack by either accident by an employee or by a customer that just didn’t care and racked something wherever there was space.

  9. RumorsDaily says:

    Anyone have a link to the ‘law’? I’m sure you can make a false advertising sort of argument. Sadly, basic contract law says mistakes do not create binding contracts (especially if the deal hasn’t gone through yet). It’s a crappy rule.

  10. castlecraver says:

    I’d be interested to find out whether the “mistake” price tag was actually misprinted or misplaced. I believe as most retailers now print model and/or UPC numbers on the shelf tags, Best Buy may have a basis for denying the customer by pointing out that the that price was clearly printed as corresponding to a different model number, as I suspect was the case in this instance.

    However, if the tag was actually misprinted and bore the model or UPC number of the corresponding unit in question, the retailer must honor it. It may vary based on state law, but here in Ohio, it falls under a violation of the Consumer Sales Practices Act.

  11. LTS! says:

    Indeed, I learned this lesson when I worked at Circuit City many many moons ago.

    The problem with the article as it was written is that it appeared a tag was placed under the incorrect television. Under no circumstances does Best Buy have to honor that price as the tag itself did not correspond to the item in question. As Sandar said, the salesperson showed him the CORRECT Maxent Plasma that was $1499.

    Usually the law is applied to advertisements where there is a print error, etc. When I worked at Circuit City we routinely had to match the items in the ad to the items on the shelf and confirm the prices matched. If there was a discrepancy we could print a “oops, my mistake” tag and post it on the front door. At that point the print error becomes moot as it has been corrected and notice served to the consumer.

    I have benefited from the law as we picked up a receiver for about $350 less than it should have been because the ad showed the wrong model. Because it was a great deal there were about 10 people waiting when the store opened, they all got the price advertised. Those who were just a few minutes later did not as the store had already posted a correction.

  12. ElPresidente408 says:

    The federal law is limited as follows:

    “Any advertising or promotion that misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities or geographic origin of goods, services or commercial activities”

    One of the requirements is that 5) the deception has either resulted in or is likely to result in injury to the plaintiff.

    If they tell you up front it was a mistake and tell you the correct price before buying it, you’re going to have a difficult time proving injury. It would be different if they rang you up an extra $500 and never told you.

  13. Smoking Pope says:

    Uh oh, Chongo!

    “If there really is a law, what’s to stop someone from going into the store… looking at the price… going home and then printing out their own version and then returning to the store?”

    I assume you’re talking about recreating the sales tag displayed in store. What’s stopping someone from doing that are the video surveillance cameras around the store. If you’re caught swapping the real tag for a homemade tag, you’ll be arrested for attempted theft.

  14. Kaz says:

    One should always try to haggle at electronics stores. The managers are empowered to lower the price if they so chose at most places.

    I had a somewhat similar experience this weekend at Toys-r-Us. Although I hate to shop there, my daughter wanted a Thomas the Train set for Christmas, and they had a basic set and some “Add Ons” on a shelf that said “Buy One, Get one 50% on destinations, blah blah blah.”

    I don’t know the Thomas terminology (I’m not yet part of the Cult of Thomas), but this basic figure-eight set was on the shelf with the sign, so I grabbed it, and another over-priced piece that I was prepared to get 50% off on.

    It didn’t ring up that way, so I questioned it. I was prepared to accept that this piece did not qualify, and I’d just not buy the other piece. They sent someone back with my wife to look at the shelf and they felt I was right, that it was on that shelf, I should get 50% off.

    After 10 minutes of them attempting to correct it, another person there said, “I wanna see this for myself” so I showed him. When we got back to the service desk, he called the manager, who said this piece didn’t qualify.

    I explained to him that he should move that set from the shelf because it was confusing. He started to ring me up, not acknowledging what I said, and said, “so you want these two pieces?”

    At that point, it had been about 20 minutes and my daughter was late for lunch and her nap, so I said, “you know what? If it isn’t on sale, I’ll just buy it at [my local independant toy store], so, no, I don’t want either.”

    A few key presses and he called someone else over and told me, “since you’ve waited so long, I am gonna give you 50% off BOTH pieces.”

    Woot!

    I still avoid that place like the plague.

  15. Magister says:

    I am really waiting for Ben to post the law for us.

  16. limiter says:

    There is no such law, Consumerist is wrong. Best Buy did not have to sell the TV for the price listed because the price listed corresponded to a different TV. If you were to believe Consumerist one could take the sign from anything and stick it under anything else and demand it be sold for that price. So as much as you would like this to be a “Best Buy sucks ass” post, it really is a “Best Buy did good” post.

    That said, Best Buy sucks ass most of the time so it’s understandable how one could assume they are being asshats. If you want to complain about them how about the obnoxious way they push (and often lie about) the protection plan. Their car-stereo people are universally stupid, and dicks at the same time. The sales people rarely know what they are talking about and the way they push Monster cables makes me want to cause bodily harm.

    Just to name a few.

  17. DeeJayQueue says:

    from an inside perspective, at most of the stores I’ve worked at that allow the employees to print out custom sale signs, the sign has to have information about the product or a model no. or some other identifying factor in conjunction with the price. That way people can’t just take a sign that says $9.99 and put it on the cookware.

    In this story it’s foggy as to whether the shelf tag had the model number of the small crappy TV or the big glorious one. If the tag was misprinted then by all means stand up for data integrity and false advertising and get the lower price. If the TV was simply in the wrong space, count your lucky stars they gave you the deal they did. $500 is a lot of money.

  18. Ben Popken says:

    I’m having a henchmen look for a citation, but The Consumerist is pretty confident that as long as the price was a misprint, and not a misplace, the article is correct as written.

  19. cbearnm says:

    http://www.ag.state.oh.us/citizen/pubs/consumer_sales_2003
    has no applicable code that would apply in this situation. I doubt that any state has code that is different in any significant manner.

    The urban myth of enforcing advertised prices is perpetuated by stores ‘doing the right thing’ and allowing the sale. You would need to prove intent and damages (and intention to damage) to receive any compensation. Anything short of an internal memo or message that confirms that they “intentionally” mis-advertised the price would be thrown out of court.

    So, touche’ to Sandar for making Best Buy flinch. But I agree with the above comment that it is actually kudos to Best Buy for doing so. I think the Consumerist is a valuable site and agree with most of what you post. Yet, I seriously doubt than anyone can specify legistlation that makes a store honor an honest mistake (even in print).

  20. Gopher bond says:

    It’s actually contract law that is called into question. The listed sale price is an offer, if you make acceptance of that offer with consideration (money) then a contract has been formed. Of course it’s not all that clear cut. For example, you have to determine reasonableness. Is it reasonable that this 50inch TV was being sold for $1499? Yes, in my opinion. Is it reasonable that a 50inch plasma TV would be on sale for $55? Not so much.

    Best Buy has to make a judgement on whether a court would believe that in this instance, would a reasonable person believe that the advertised price and tag were identifiable with the television in question. Best Buy obviously thought about it and figured a court case wasn’t entirely in their favor.

  21. MeOhMy says:

    It is illegal to swap price tags so the “That’s what would happen if this really were a law” argument doesn’t make any sense.

    I don’t know where it is in federal code, but here is an FTC publication that specifically states: “…it is against the law to charge more than the advertised shelf price. Stores that do may be subject to civil and criminal fines.”

    Perhaps it’s just such a pervasive urban legend that it’s worked its way into FTC literature, but even if that’s the case you could probably still use it to your advantage.

    In any case, the price tags usually have the SKU on them, so I would not expect to get good results if they don’t match.

    And you still have to be reasonable – if it’s obviously a misplaced item like a single pair of $50 pants on a shelf marked $20 when there are 30 of those pants on a nearby racked marked correctly, don’t expect much of a result either.

    Remember – even if the store is legally obligated to not charge above the price on the tag, they don’t have to sell it to you at all.

  22. Ben Popken says:

    Laws vary by state, but we’re not smoking myth crack. Check this post’s latest update.

  23. Scott in DC says:

    If a store has a price tag on the shelf listing item X for Y dollars, they have to sell you that item for Y dollars. I use this to my advantage at Home Depot all the time. They never update prices in the wire section, as as copper prices go up you can save a pretty penny by forcing them to give it to you for the shelf listed price.

    Of course, you do lose an hour of your life every time you do this, as nobody ever responds to pages for assistance, but it can be done.

  24. CMPalmer says:

    I went through this last year with Abercrombie and Fitch (Consumerist Link: http://consumerist.com/consumer/complaints/abercrombie–fi… In that case, they were ripping off the pre-printed price tag and replacing them with a price-gunned increased price. I found one that wasn’t marked up or ripped off and they refused to sell it to me at the attached price (they removed the price part when they rang it up).

    After much arguments on here and on my blog (http://cmpalmer.blogspot.com/2005/12/tis-season-to-mark-up-prices-at.html), the consensus was that (a) it is the law in some states, (b) it depends on what kind of mistake it was, and (c) many stores will go along to avoid bad publicity even if it isn’t the law.

  25. Yaotl says:

    This kind of happened to my mom when I was a kid. At a Best Products (now defunct but I did love them so), the advertised price for a nice wall clock was half of what it rang up at. She told the cashier, cashier got a manager to go look at the tag and rang it up for the lower price. I remember it being pretty hassle free and was very impressed my mother did that. This was in Texas, by the way.

  26. DaveB says:

    It’s a great law. Yesterday I went into Toys R Us to buy a 80 dollar Transformer for my buddies kid. Well the Transformer was marked 24.99! Guess which price I paid? Yep 24.99

  27. The_Truth says:

    I can probably save you some time Ben:

    State he brought it in, probably Georgia. Im not aware of too many other places named Atlanta.

  28. Gopher bond says:

    There are 11 possible states where this happened.

    Atlanta, TX
    Atlanta, MO
    Atlanta, IL
    Atlanta, KS
    Atlanta, IN
    Atlanta, LA
    Atlanta, NE
    Atlanta, NY
    Atlanta, MI
    Atlanta, ID
    Atlanta, GA

  29. Jupiter Jones says:

    A friend of mine – Kev – who lives in Montreal had his wife pick him up a really nice bottle of scotch while she was in the States. It usually retails for about $75 bucks in the stores he’s been to in Montreal. She picked up a bottle for about the equivalent of $50 Canadian from the States.

    A week later, they’re in a depanneur in Montreal and he wants to compare the price so he can boast about it to his friends, so they find the same bottle on the shelves there, and it is marked for something like $15. He realizes this is a mistake, but being cheap he wants to give it a shot, so he takes it up to the front along with his cheap bottle of wine. The clerk scans it and immediately notices something isn’t right. Kev’s like “I figured as much.” The clerk goes and speaks to the manager, and the manager comes back and tells him that because it was marked wrong on the shelves, he’s going to get it for the advertised price plus like 30% off. So his total bill comes to something like $23 bucks. Then, being Kev, he breaks out the dollar off coupon and tells the clerk that they forgot to ring up the coupon.

    I don’t know what the law is in Quebec, but it’s a good policy for keeping customers. And now we get to drink the extra bottle with him when he comes for New Years.

  30. jeffrayc says:

    I was in a Best Buy in Chicago on Black Friday, and they honored a “bad” price on a CD Box Set that I was purchasing. I thought it was a misprint, but right there on the sign it said $19.99. So when the clerk rang it up, of course it rang up for $49.99. I pointed out the error, and he personally went wandering the store for the next fifteen minutes to check the price himself. He came back and said that it was the wrong price on the sign, but that they’d honor the price anyway. Good for Best Buy.

    Truly, the most shocking part of the whole ordeal was that the cashier left me standing unattended at his register for fifteen minutes to check the price, all while dozens of people were in line behind me. You’d think they’d have someone they could call on to check prices.

  31. michwood73 says:

    This happen to me at a Home Depot store and they honored the mis-marked price tag, but they changed it REAL quick!

  32. “UPDATE: Sandar bought this in Atlanta, GA. He says the price tag was typed incorrectly.”

    This is mildly strange, being as how Best Buy price tags are not typed up at the store. They’re created at head office, distributed through the internal computer system, and printed out each morning by whichever manager/employee gets stuck with it.

    Unless it was a custom price tag (IE. Stuff printed on normal paper by the store for made-up packages), it’s entirely possible this deal may be up in other Best Buy’s for at least another day or two. The updates are sent out to all stores that carry the product and would require a tag.

    One caution is that Best Buy does give themselves an out by placing a tiny ‘valid until x date’ in the corner of the tag, which can often get them off the hook legally. You may have to press the customer service/ill-tell-the-papers/tantrum angle a bit more.

  33. annelise13 says:

    I had an experience with this sort of thing (incorrect print ad) a year or so ago. I was in a Michael’s Craft Store for other crafting needs, and as I was checking out the casher was pointing out to all of the customers the fact that a misprint meant a huge $30 package of scrapbook paper was marked down to $12.99. I think everyone in my line picked up a package, and I’ve been cheaply scrapbooking ever since!

    Whether it was obeying the law or just trying to do the right thing, kudos to Michael’s and thanks to the helpful cashier!

  34. sanlaan says:

    So, this is interesting, seeing all the responses to his post. This is actually me, Sandar. I’m the one that bought the tv at, basically, %25 off. To respond to the person that said this is a “Best Buy did good” story, I’d have to agree. Like most consumer situations, I entered the fray fully expecting to have a negative outcome. In general, I believe the consumer gets shat on more often than not, so the fact that they let me buy it at that price actually kind of shocked me. As for the conspiracy theorists wondering about someone coming in with incorrectly printed tags, etc, well, that’s just not the way the real world works. These were actual humans I was interacting with, and they could sense I wasn’t trying to scam them. I actually wondered if part of the time they spent away from the “scene” was evaluating in-store security camera info to determine if I switched the tags while I was enthusiastically checking out the A/V inputs. Of course, I wasn’t, so if that’s what they were doing, they were disappointed.

    All in all, I would agree that Best Buy did well. I have nothing against them and love their stores, my story is more one of sticking it to the man than sticking it to Best Buy specifically. I think the current consumer culture in the US of A sucks–the consumer seems to be viewed as the sucker born every minute, so to beat them at their own game, as it were, is quite satisfying.

    Sandar

  35. jwissick says:

    It’s no urban legand. Read California Business and Professions code §17500. If and item has a advertised price, they MUST sell it at that price.

    It is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or association, or any employee thereof with intent directly or indirectly to dispose of real or personal property or to perform services, professional or otherwise, or anything of any nature whatsoever or to induce the public to enter into any obligation relating thereto, to make or disseminate or cause to be made or disseminated before the public in this state, or to make or disseminate or cause to be made or disseminated from this state before the public in any state, in any newspaper or other publication, or any advertising device, or by public outcry or proclamation, or in any other manner or means whatever, including over the Internet, any statement, concerning that real or personal property or those services, professional or otherwise, or concerning any circumstance or matter of fact connected with the proposed performance or disposition thereof, which is untrue or misleading, and which is known, or which by the exercise of reasonable care should be known, to be untrue or misleading, or for any person, firm, or corporation to so make or disseminate or cause to be so made or disseminated any such statement as part of a plan or scheme with the intent not to sell that personal property or those services, professional or otherwise, so advertised at the price stated therein, or as so advertised. Any violation of the provisions of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or by both that imprisonment and fine.

  36. edisoncarter says:

    The thing that I often find to be frustrating when I read comments in articles like this, is the overwhelming number of people espousing some knowledge of First-Year Contract Law or, worse yet, the law of Contracts as learned through some undergrad Business Law course. What these commenters fail to recall is that “offer and acceptance” as learned in Contracts courses is common law – which is not the law. In a contract for the sale of goods, the common law does not apply; statutory law applies. Most states use the Uniform Commercial Code as a guide, but are free to legislate as they see fit. That being said, jwissik had it right by going to the code. The spirit of commercial law when it comes to dealings between a merchant and a consumer/non-merchant is generally geared towards protecting the ignorant consumer, as the merchant is in a better position to understand and bear the consequences of error. Thus, it is not unreasonable that most states have a law like this on the books.
    There is a reason law students are not permitted to tender legal advice until they have passed the bar and are licensed. If you were advising a client you would be guilty of malpractice. So, kids, when your registration materials arrive for second-year classes. Make sure you sign up for a course on Sales and Transactions (also called U.C.C. or Commercial Law).

  37. Nataku says:

    To respond to a post made about contract law earlier on. An offer was never made by Best Buy. It was an invitation to treat (I believe it is called invitation to bargain in the US). The offer will be made by you going to the counter and asking for the item. It is up to the store whether or not to give acceptance. They can flat out refuse should they want.

    I am not sure of precedence for the US but in the UK the case of Pharmaceuticals Society of Great Britain v. Boots Cash Chemists (1953) outlines the situation of when offer and acceptance are made.

    I’m not sure on US Law (as I alluded to) but it does seem that though the law would likely be on their side, Best Buy decided to show good will and honour the price.

  38. forgeten says:

    I was under the impression that the store had to honor the price marked as long as it was reasonable to believe the price was correct. IE a Lexus that is marked as $450 not reasonable to believe , a Tv for $1499 , reasonable.

  39. limiter says:

    I think a lot of people are confusing these two things:

    50in Brand X TV has tag that says “50in Brand X TV $1500″

    and

    50in Brand X TV has tag that says “45in Brand Y TV $1500″

    In most states these are two completely different things. The first means you have a good chance at getting the TV for $1500. The second one means you really probably don’t have any legal leg to stand on, so you are lucky if you get it. I thought (in my original comment) that the sign for a cheaper TV was under the wrong TV, but Ben’s update seems to imply the sign was specifically for the larger TV and the price was wrong on it. Thus consumerist is teh right.

  40. Walter Sobchek says:

    Here’s the rub: A merchant can refuse to sell you anything, at any time, for any reason in most states. They can simply refuse to do business with you. In practice, most people at the customer-service level in large chains don’t know this, and won’t excercise it, but don’t bother getting fired up about an incorrect price at a small, locally owned store. A smart owner or employee will simply ignore you, or toss you out on your butt. And legally, an advertised price on in-store POP does not a binding contract make, implied or otherwise, as El Presidente noted earlier the contract aspect of the law at the Federal level is only enforceable if you can prove intent to cause injury. Best Buy probably took the financial hit to avoid taking the thing to trial, if the guy really wanted to take it to that level, as it would obviously cost much more than $500 to settle it that way. The moral of the story is: Don’t push too much about this if it happens to you, at least at small places. They’ll laugh you right out. On the other hand, at big chains, by all means, push away. They can afford it.

  41. zachleat says:

    I was in a Circuit City buying an external USB hard drive and the listed price included a mail in rebate. When they went to ring it up, the mail in rebate was expired and no longer could be given. So the manager was called and they ended up giving me the expired mail in rebate as an INSTANT rebate. Amazing. This was a few years ago, but the hard drive went from $180 original to $100 with mail-in->instant rebate.

  42. Gopher bond says:

    The truth is it has to do with the often forgotten and misconstrued Purgamentum init, exit purgamentum federal laws.

  43. Hangemhi says:

    Should have gotten the SXRD 1080p 50″ Sony projection for 1499.99 (just went off sale I think.) Granted I’d normally choose Plasma over Projection, but not when it’s a 1080p sony vs. a 1080i Maxent.

    *pushes up geeky glasses*

    :/

    Even if the tag was misplaced, If the employee was saying that it was the right price for that T.V. then it was still the right thing to do. I hope the salesperson didn’t get reamed for it though.

  44. wholzem says:

    Chances are, if the state in question has a law regarding honoring mismarked prices, the fine for a single violation would be less than what the store would lose on this single transaction. Looking at the purchase in isolation, it would appear to be better for them to just say “no”.

    But there are other factors involved: Customer satisfaction is a big one. But how much do you want to satisfy a customer who’s trying to take so much money off your bottom line?

    In this case we’re talking about a piece of junk TV that might not sell at the correct price. It becomes a question of giving it away today, and clearing some space in the back room, or letting it gather dust until it goes on clearance for an even lower price.

    The store simply chose to move it out, and take a hit now rather than later. And in the process, perhaps they could make a customer happy enough to come back and buy some things that will contribute to the bottom line.

    So if it were just about the law, when you’re talking about a purchase so big, and a margin so small, adding in the probability of a formal complaint actually being filed (and investigated and proven), they would have just laughed. They gave the TV away because it suited their needs.

  45. Hey Sandar:

    Odds are very strong in favour of the managers reviewing security camera footage to determine if you adjusted any tags. It’s common practice in those situations.

    Other things that probably happened in the back would be:

    -The manager checking how much profit margin they would lose on the sale.

    -The manager checking the daily sales numbers for where they were at compared to their profit margin target and their overall sales volume (in dollars) target, and weighing in if it was worth the trade-off.

    -The manager really drilling into the associate the importance of selling warranty, high end cables & accessories, etc on this sale to make up for lost margin.

    That’s usually what’s done when management goes in the back to review a claim such as this.