Connecticut State's Attorney's Office Launches Investigation Into Best Buy's Secret Intranet Site

George Gombossy, the reporter who investigated Best Buy’s secret intranet site, has announced that the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s office is now investigating Best Buy. Hmmm, we wonder why!

The state attorney general’s office has started an investigation into whether Best Buy maintains a secret intranet site that may have been used by some salesmen to deny customers discounts that appear on the company’s public Internet site.

We applaud the CT State’s Attorney for moving so quickly on this, but wonder if the investigation will have any teeth. As commenter something_amazing pointed out, Best Buy’s price matching guidelines explicitly state that the website does not match store pricing, and the store only matches “a lower advertised price offered by a local retail competitor on the same available brand and model.”

Regardless of current legality, we think maintaining an identical website with different prices is a deceptive practice and should be investigated. The State’s Attorney will also be investigating other chain stores to see if the practice is common. Are there any Consumerist readers who would like to take it upon themselves to document these practices in other stores, or at Best Buy? Photos would be helpful.—MEGHANN MARCO

State Begins Investigation Of Best Buy’s Sales Practices [Hartford Courant]

PREVIOUSLY: Best Buy’s Secret “Employee’s Only” In-Store Website Shows Different Prices Than Public Website

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  1. acambras says:

    We applaud the CT State’s Attorney for moving so quickly on this, but wonder if the investigation will have any teeth.

    In the three years that I’ve lived in CT, I’ve noticed that Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s Attorney General, seems to have a pretty good record for looking out for the consumer. Although I don’t know him personally, I feel pretty confident that any investigation from his office will have teeth.

  2. rbf2000 says:

    “a lower advertised price offered by a local retail competitor on the same available brand and model.”

    I would interpret the prices on the website to be “advertised” prices, and certainly they are of a local retail competitor, since you can do in store pickup for most of the items on the website.

  3. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    The in-store pick-up seems futile. What’s the point in creating an account, submitting your credit card info, and then driving to the store to pick it up?

  4. heypal says:

    Seems to me that this would fall under the concept that a product should be sold for the price labeled, unless the label is obviously a gross mistake. In this case, the website becomes the store, as that is where the shopping is done. The moment they direct the customer to in-store pickup for the item purchased online, it would seem that they are on the hook to provide the item for that price. Otherwise they’re engaging in bait and switch practices which will ultimately land them in an assload of hotwater.

  5. John Stracke says:

    The in-store pick-up seems futile. What’s the point in creating an account, submitting your credit card info, and then driving to the store to pick it up?

    I do it sometimes because it means I don’t have to spend as much time in the store. When I’ve got two five-year-olds in tow, this can be a major advantage.

  6. Darren W. says:

    Doing in store pickup also often saves you the shipping costs, and allows you to purchase items that that location may not carry.

    BTW, I can’t provide any documentation, but I know for sure that I’ve seen sales on BB’s website, then gone to the store looking for a similar deal only to have the Rep point out that the deal isn’t actually on their website.

    Thank you, Consumerist, for reaffirming my sanity!

  7. lore says:

    Doing in-store pick-up also guarantees (well, to 99% accuracy) that the exact thing that you want, is available and in-stock and ready for you to pick-up.

    I’ve found it especially helpful when buying DVDs because I hate looking through the stacks and stacks of DVDs for the exact thing I want.

  8. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I’ve done in-store pickup at Sears and it’s great. It means you can do all your research and comparison at home and don’t have to pay for shipping or wait 7 days, but you get to avoid all the greasy salesmen that try to hump your leg the instant you walk into the store because they’re on commission.

  9. jmfc says:

    I ran into this issue at Best Buy about a month ago. I was getting a new kegerator (mmmm, beer) and they had it for $50 off on their site. When I went to the store it showed the normal price. I asked the guy “is this an internal site or your public site” and he stated it was an internal site and proceeded to pull up the public site, which listed the sale price. I didn’t really think anything of it until I saw this story though. Ended up not purchasing it from them in the end, not because of this, but kind of glad I didn’t buy it from them now.

  10. jmattey says:

    Although a bit dated, this post refers to a frequently used catch by retailers to completely avoid honoring the price matching guarantee.

    Note the phrase: “… a lower advertised price offered by a local retail competitor on the same available brand or model…”

    The local store will stipulate that this refers specifically to local printed ads (newspaper or flyer) for that specific model/brand combination.
    Many large retailers use this trick where a manufacturer will offer identical units for sale with different model numbers to various retailers within a geographic area. So while Best Buy may advertise a price on model #1234ABC, the competitor across the street sells a completely identical unit from the same manufacturer as model #1234XYZ. They never have to match the price since the model numbers are different.

  11. Anonymous says:

    If only the General Attorney would be so honorable to investigate insurance companies that are frauding people, not only of home owner claims, auto claims but also Workers Compensation claims. There are numerous injury workers that are losing everything they worked so hard for, only because the insurance industry “donates” money for political use. And when someone is injured and files a legit claim, and the insurance plays the “starve you out” and “deny, deny, deny” games tax paying citizens are losing everything. Letters have been written to the General Attorney as well as Gov. Rell. And it just seems to fall on deaf ears. If he is intent on protecting the consumers maybe he should be more intune with what is really happening. Nobody cares if its someone like Insurance companies since they get “donations”. And yet its one of the biggest legal scams in connecticut.

  12. Brock Clayton says:

    I don’t have a clue how people are mad about this intranet. The INTERNET prices are sometimes less than the in store prices, BECAUSE they are on Sale ONLINE. The Kiosks in the store clearly state “THIS KIOSK DISPLAYS THE LOWEST PRICE AVAILABLE IN THIS STORE”

    If you see an ad for the “Twin Draft Guard”, buy one get one free on TV,does that mean that when I go to the “As Seen on TV” outlet that I need to be mad if they are Regular price? NO.

    That’s like saying I need to Sue the Virginia DMV because they now charge $5.00 additional fee for renewing my registration in the local Bureau instead of by Phone, Net, or Mail. (This is TRUE)

    Honestly, the IntRAnet is not there to screw anyone. Sometimes its actually cheaper on that site than the IntERnet because something is on clearance in That particular store.

    Maybe I’ll go sue the state of New York because my kids burnt their feet on hot rubber, after ignoring the warning signs surrounding the playground saying “Keep Shoes on at all times”… (sad, but true also)