Best Buy Confirms The Existence Of Its Secret Website

In the wake of an investigation launched by the Connecticut Attorney General’s office, Best Buy has finally admitted that the now-infamous “secret intranet” (used to mislead in-store customers about BestBuy’s online prices) exists. The website looks identical to BestBuy.com…except for the prices.

The secret website was first revealed by George Gombossy of the Hartford Courant (Way to go, George!). While investigating a tip from a reader, George was shown the internal website. It was identical to BestBuy.com, but showed a higher price for the item he was interested in. George was mislead by Best Buy employees to believe it was the “real” BestBuy.com. Eventually he found some Best Buy employees who admitted to the site’s existence and even showed him how it worked.

Now, after initially denying the site existed, Best Buy is cooperating with the investigation. From George’s column:

Company spokesman Justin Barber, who in early February denied the existence of the internal website that could be accessed only by employees, says his company is “cooperating fully” with the state attorney general’s investigation.

Barber insists that the company never intended to mislead customers.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal ordered the investigation into Best Buy’s practices on Feb. 9 after my column disclosed the website and showed how employees at two Connecticut stores used it to deny customers a $150 discount on a computer advertised on BestBuy.com.

Blumenthal said Wednesday that Best Buy has also confirmed to his office the existence of the intranet site, but has so far failed to give clear answers about its purpose and use.

“Their responses seem to raise as many questions as they answer,” Blumenthal said in a telephone interview. “Their answers are less than crystal clear.”

There was a lot of speculation as to whether this “secret intranet” was real or not. It’s real. Was it designed and built with the specific intention of misleading customers? We shall see.—MEGHANN MARCO

Best Buy Confirms It Has Secret Website [Hartford Courant]

PREVIOUSLY: Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office Launches Investigation Into Best Buy’s Secret Intranet Site

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

Comments

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  1. billybastion says:

    this is why i think its unfair to put best buy up against companies like riaa and halliburton. there needs to be two categories next year for worst company of the year, one government/big scary business and one retail/directly screw over customers every day.

    best buy is the devil.

  2. mattshu says:

    I predict that after talking to it’s PR firm, Best Buy will announce that it’s entering rehab to take care of an addiction to alcohol or pain medication.

  3. royal72 says:

    “Barber insists that the company never intended to mislead customers.”

    of course not, but you were and are looking to rob them blind with or without their knowledge.

  4. humphrmi says:

    Yeah but I’d love to see Best Buy shave it’s head and get a tattoo on their butts…

  5. grouse says:

    I agree with billybastion.

  6. Art Vandelay says:

    … and beat up an SUV with an umbrella.

  7. Falconfire says:

    From what my buddy at the Woodbridge NJ store said, yeah it was real but they where supposed to go by whatever was lowest. If they weren’t the manager of that store was breaking corporate policy.

  8. davere says:

    @billybastion: I agree completely. I would have loved to see u-haul in the finals but I knew it had no chance again the giants like RIAA, Halliburton and Exxon.

  9. brooklynbs says:

    “I have sinned against you and I beg your forgiveness.”

  10. bhall03 says:

    Of course it wasn’t meant to “mislead customers.” It was designed to get customers in the door so they could bilk them out of money that they could have easily spent at competitors for the primary purchase and also drive some impulse purchases for Best Buy.

    Talk about a company that should be in the running for the Worst Company in America.

  11. Keegan99 says:

    Why do I have a feeling that someone in IT who is responsibile for architecting database synchronization between the intranet and internet backends is about to get canned?

  12. medalian1 says:

    BestBuy is one of the worst companies in america.

  13. markymags says:

    @billybastion:

    I agree that multiple brackets would make things a bit interesting but Best Buy still lost to U-Haul.

    What about this… each section has companies from similar sectors facing off against each other. The top left bracket of four can have big scary businesses like Halliburton, bottom left bracket can have retailers, top right bracket can have phone/Internet companies, and bottom right can have… well, it can have some other type of company that I can’t think of.

  14. markymags says:

    @billybastion:

    While I agree that it would be nice to have multiple brackets it still doesn’t change the fact that Best Buy lost to U-Haul (wouldn’t U-Haul be in a similar bracket as Best Buy?).

    What about this idea: Each section of 4 companies (upper left, bottom left, upper right, and bottom right) are of one type of company – i.e. upper left can be big companies like Halliburton, the RIAA, etc.; the bottom left can be retailers and/or service comapnies like Best Buy and U-Haul; upper right can be phone/Internet/cable tv/satellite tv companies; and bottom right can be… well, it can be miscellaneous or wildcard companies or something.

  15. markymags says:

    sorry about the double post… I thought my initial post didn’t go through =(…

  16. carsick says:

    I had an experience with their fack site. Recently, I saw a great price on an e deal was available in stores. I went to the store…no deal. We looked it up online there…still no deal. “Must have been last week’s deal,” I was told.
    Walking out of the store I grabbed one of their sale fliers. Lo and behold! There’s the deal right there in print. And it was $40. cheaper than the lowest price of a smaller unit we saw on their online site.

  17. exkon says:

    Sometimes we wonder why the economy is in such shit shape…because of comapanies like fucking best buy.

  18. snowferret says:

    “Barber insists that the company never intended to mislead customers.”

    What? Was it just for shit a gigles then? Did they think it would be funny?

  19. dpseal says:

    I was totally ripped off by Best Buy about 3 weeks ago using this “technique”. I just thought the cashier was trying to pull a fast one on me, I didn’t realize it was a corporate-wide scheme.

    They advertised a Bissell Spot bot on the website for $119. I recently moved, so I didn’t have my printer hooked up, but I saved a PDF of the website before I went to the store. It rang up $135 so I told the cashier it was cheaper on the website. He went to the customer servicer desk and printed out a page “from the website” showing a price of $135.

    I figured I may have goofed, or had the wrong model or something. When I got home, I checked the site again and it was still $119… (plus I have the PDF). I’m really pissed now and that store is getting a visit from me very soon now…

  20. InsaneNewman says:

    Rehash of a pst I made last time this subject came up:

    Most associates probably wouldn’t be aware of this (it’s not something they train), but it is true that there are two sites. When you go to any BestBuy.com kiosk in the store, it loads to an intranet site called kiosk.bestbuy.com. However, there was a workaround for employees who actually care – on Employee Toolkit, there was a section called external links, which listed both BestBuy.com (Web Pricing) and BestBuy.com (In-Store Pricing). Allegedly, this system exists to serve up in-store prices on store products while you’re there (Don’t ask me why).

    Additionally, most stores will match BestBuy.com if you badger them enough… though technically they don’t have to, it makes absolutely no sense to not take the revenue on that specific day. (Though they won’t match offers like “get a free DVD Recorder with purchase of an HDTV” because they say that their financing and in-store freebees supersede the online offers… and price matching of other stores never includes “offer matching” anyway.)

  21. PrinceTuesday says:

    “Blumenthal said Wednesday that Best Buy has also confirmed to his office the existence of the intranet site, but has so far failed to give clear answers about its purpose and use.

    Why does the second site exist, if not to mislead customers. Perhaps someone with more knowledge of retail or Best Buy might know. However, I cannot come up with a satisfactory reason to have two sites, one visible to the public, one only visible to Best Buy employees, where all of the information is exactly the same, except the price.

  22. dclxvi says:

    Wow, I worked at Best Buy for 5 years, and never knew of this “secret intranet.” I understand what we used to check stock info and the sort, but I did not know that checking the website went to a different URL.

    The only difference when going to bestbuy.com from a store kiosk is that the store number is appended to the end of the URL. This must redirect the kiosk to a separate database of some sort.

    This seriously pisses me off, and now I realize why quite often a customer would come in for a sweet deal, we’d look it up online and it would never say the same price. How odd.

  23. Chizo says:

    At my store this has always been common knowledge. When I train our new employees I make it a point of the two different sites. If I ever get a customer who mentions the price difference, I explain that the kiosk only reflects in-store price, and go check the online price. Most retailers prices will differ in-store and on-line, and since we aggressevly price match at my store, its no big deal. As a matter of fact there have been a few times where we were cheaper IN-store. Should I than price match the online price?

  24. dextrone says:

    A good idea: in front of BESTBUY STORES…..where it is legal AND NOT ON THEIR PROPERTY, hand out anti-bestbuy pamphlets….it’s do-able

    …Infact you can even ask (the police or similar) where it is not their property, and where you can protest against bestbuy (big or not, this thing still needs a protest, and protests are legal for any cause, possibly a table with a big yellow banner and some thing else to catch people’s attention….)
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Incredibly Extreme BUT perfect to take down BestBuy, they won’t stop at anything less…(thank you George Washington for making the first few laws sensible :) )

  25. medalian1 says:

    Best Buy doesn’t price match their site do they? Doesn’t it say that? I haven’t bought from them in awhile and let alone attempted a never approved pricematch.

  26. gorckat says:

    @PrinceTuesday: When I was at CompUSA ~5-6 years ago, they rolled out an online tool similar to the regular website that could look at the inventory of any store and show available stock.

    Best Buy’s may have originated as something similar and gradually came to look more and more like the actual website, the only difference being what data it displayed- perhaps the internal site showed regular retail pricing/Market Area Pricing while the public site was updated for sale’s and such.

    I think it’d be easier to maintain one ‘look’ and simply have employess access a specific URL for stock info than to keep 2 sets of pics and product specs both updated with prices individually.

  27. Dick Blumenthal is the man. Good on him for investigating this nonsense.

  28. Chizo says:

    [quote]Best Buy doesn’t price match their site do they?[/quote]
    I can’t vouch for all stores but we always price match all local competitors, and their web sites, ie. Circut, Sears, etc. Most of us use it in our sales pitch, and sometimes have their ads out in the dept.

  29. speedmaster says:

    True. Ive bought a 42 inch LCD display there that was 300.00 higher in the fake site. I went back home printed the ad and got the price plus a 200.00 discount with the manager…

    This happened around January 2005, don’t know if it is still the same

  30. Keegan99 says:

    I’m no fan of Best Buy, but let’s be rational. What’s more likely?

    1) They have these two sites and architected their stores and IT infrastructure with the malicious intent of duping a small percentage of customers out of a few bucks – all while twirling their villianous mustaches and hoping that their master plan returned a profit on the investment in took to build and install.

    2) They have an intranet and extranet, and their IT department – like most large corporate IT departments – isn’t super efficient, has a mediocre technical architecture, and has issues keeping the prices between the two sites identical.


    “Sometimes we wonder why the economy is in such shit shape…because of comapanies like fucking best buy.”

    Yea, that low unemployment, low interest rate, low inflation, high standard of living economy we’ve had over the past few years really stinks.

  31. jitrobug says:

    uh.

    howabout:

    a) they have 1 site called bestbuy.com and it always looks the same no matter where you come from.

    b) they make a site that, when on the local intranet, pretends to be bestbuy.com but actually isn’t.

    I wonder which one would be easier to accomplish.

  32. elljay says:

    Just a quick note of my most recent Best Buy purchase. I was buying a new LCD (399$). I needed a DVI cable to work with it and my iMac.

    There were two available one single link (24$ or so) and one dual link (49$ or so). I asked the guy by the monitors which I needed. He directed me to the ‘Geek Squad’ up front where I went and asked.

    The guy at the ‘Geek Squad’ was very helpful, and even though he didn’t know the answer he got on his computer with me and we Wikipedied’ed it.

    Mid process the store’s General Manager stopped by (as I had both cables in hand.. one twice the price of the other). “If you were getting this as a gift, which one would you want?” Obviously trying to get me to buy the more expensive item.

    I bought the cheaper one per advice from the ‘Geek Squad’ guy.

    Best Buy has some good people working for them, unfortunately they are obviously tainted by their management.

  33. theredcupcake says:

    I’m tired of this story. why do two sites exist? Market reactions.

    Most large retailers have different prices for items in different geographical areas, based on factors like demographics and local competition. Bestbuy.com can be seen by everyone everywhere. The intranet site reflects the prices of the particular store you are in, based on market reactions.

    I guess it’s fun for some to think companies are out to get you for no good reason, but it’s not very logical.

  34. BotchedJoke says:

    This is why we have a free market, even with Satan pelosi in charge of the House. Don’t do business with these scumbags. Use brick and mortor stores to test out new electronics and then buy them online cheaper and even better, TAX FREE!

    Just so you leftist anti-capitalists know, your freind and fellow anti-American, George Sorros, just bought 24 million dollars worth of Halliburton stock. They are an AWSOME company, from every standpoint: Christian, Capitalist and Vicious.

  35. evilhapposai says:

    SIGH, New Worst Buy opening here soon and my lack of money has forced me to working IN the media section that does this. First day is tomorrow. Wish me the best of luck, seems I am REALLY going to need it and keep posting all the crap they try to get away with on Consumerist so I don’t fall in with the rest of the corporate brainwashed minions that the other stores I have shopped at seems to employ.

    Best Buy is indeed the devil….unfortunatly they are the only ones hiring right now =/

  36. elisa says:

    BotchedJoke should be banned. I just checked his/her post history and you always have nasty, hateful things to say. And you’ll probably attack me now, but whatever…

    it’s time for another mass banning, Consumerist!

  37. JenniferK says:

    Why can’t they have multiple pricing. It is cheaper to sell on-line merchandise because fewer people are needed to help customers and the decor can be early american wharehouse. They have a day or two to located stock and it can be shipped from anywhere.

    Bricks and mortar store should be the price match with which to compare BB vs. Cir City, etc. Why should you expect them to match web pricing. The web site is competing with other web sites.

    I can understand the variable pricing. Each city/location has unique circumstances affecting pricing, so it is not one price for all.

    I think the problem lies in communicating this fact and offering On-Line In-Store deals then pulling a bait and switch. So while I am not a huge fan of Best Buy, I can as a professional cost engineer understand the model.

  38. datawalla says:

    Well, JenniferK, the problem with that model, even when communicated well, is that most big-ticket, brick and mortar stores using it end up going away. I mean, if I can find something I like online and check it out at a store (any store, it doesn’t have to be the one whose website I found it on) to make sure its what I want, why would I pay more to the store, rather than order it online if its cheaper online? I live near Washington, DC, like NYC a high cost of living region. BestBuy.com, trying to compete nationally, isn’t going to price many of its items as it might at a local store and I have no qualms about using that to my advantage. No amount of communication is going to convince me to pay more for an item, just ’cause I’m getting it from a store (especially if its a large item that I have to have delivered either way). I’ve already done this numerous times with many items, including the slick new HP computer I bought three months ago. I’ve always printed out the online item, just for my own convenience (this is the first I heard of the secret intranet site). If the brick and mortar stores don’t price-match, they don’t get the sales. If their sales decline too much they go away. Call it the Tower Records effect. It doesn’t just apply to music, it applies to anything that can be purchased more cheaply online. Are we, as consumers, shooting ourselves in the foot with this approach? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how enamored you are with touching something before you buy it.

  39. David_n_LafayetteLA says:

    Ah yes, Best Buy.
    I knew we we’re gonna get the screws when the Geek Squad started parachuting in to say the day. I work in IT and The Geek Squad is the worst- best thing to EVER happen to me.
    Did you know they’ve even set a drees code standard that a man’s pants must be NO CLOSER than a 2 full inches from to top of his shoes – HIGH-WADERS.
    Arrrrrgh!

  40. Anonymous says:

    Do most of you have nothing better to do? This is sad. The main issue here was training at the stores. The site was just used for information about the products. They were not misleading customers. The internal site had access to more product specs than the public one. They need this info when doing exchanges and looking up receipts when most customers forget them. They weren’t being misleading, they just weren’t training the employees to this effect. It was overlooked. I used to work at Best Buy long ago. And no, I’m not a loyal employee. I am glad I don’t work there anymore. I just think it’s a waste of time for people to waste their time putting so much energy into bashing a business. There is always something bad in any big business that exists. That is what is sad about capitalism. Companies get too big and can’t always keep an eye on every aspect of their business. Instead of focusing on negatives in the world. Embrace life, people. Find the good in the world and hold on to it. It makes life so much better.