Circuit City Manager Won't Exchange Item, Even After Circuit City's Help Desk States It's Eligible

The Auburn Hills, MI Circuit City refuses to exchange Eric’s broken TV, even though, according to Circuit City’s help desk, he is eligible for an exchange under his service plan. Eric purchased an open-box 17″ Magnavox LCD with built-in DVD player; it stopped ejecting disks, trapping his daughter’s sign-language DVD inside. Circuit City sent the unit for repair, but the TV was totaled. Eric was told to go back for an exchange unit.

Upon returning to the store, I was not happy to hear that the store would not exchange my TV because (1) it was an open box item, and (2) the only similar unit to mine cost $200 more than what I paid. I asked for and was given a copy of the service plan guidelines, which clearly state that items covered under a service plan are treated like new, sealed box items and qualify for the usual Circuit City exchange and return policy. I then called the phone number on the service plan and was told that the exchange should happen even if the replacement was a greater cost than the original. However, Greg (the store director) said there was no way he was exchanging the TV in his store. Left with no other option, and per the service agreement, I then asked for a gift card in the amount of purchase so I could pick out another TV. Greg also refused this, saying that gift cards are not issued for these issues, and that I would have to find another open-box item as a replacement.

Great service, Greg. Eric’s email and our suggestion, inside…


A year ago I bought an open-box (first mistake?) Magnavox 17 inch LCD tv with a built-in DVD player (second mistake?) from the Circuit City location in Pontiac, MI. A few weeks ago the DVD player stopped ejecting disks, trapping my daughter’s sign language tutorial for good. When I bought the TV I was talked into also buying the $199 service plan, which at the time I was skeptical about. But I was pretty happy to have it now that the DVD player stopped working. I took the TV into my closest Circuit City in Auburn Hills, MI and the promptly sent it off to service with an expected 3-4 week wait time for any resolution. I was very happy to get a call this week saying the TV could not be repaired, and that I should return to Circuit City for an exchange for a similar unit.

Upon returning to the store, I was not happy to hear that the store would not exchange my TV because (1) it was an open box item, and (2) the only similar unit to mine cost $200 more than what I paid. I asked for and was given a copy of the service plan guidelines, which clearly state that items covered under a service plan are treated like new, sealed box items and qualify for the usual Circuit City exchange and return policy. I then called the phone number on the service plan and was told that the exchange should happen even if the replacement was a greater cost than the original. However, Greg (the store director) said there was no way he was exchanging the TV in his store. Left with no other option, and per the service agreement, I then asked for a gift card in the amount of purchase so I could pick out another TV. Greg also refused this, saying that gift cards are not issued for these issues, and that I would have to find another open-box item as a replacement.

So here is my problem: The folks at the service plan “help desk” say the item should be exchanged or I should receive credit for the purchase price. The guy at the store refuses to honor this. I am trapped in the middle, and I could use some guidance from Consumerist or your readership.

Try bringing it in to another store. If there is a problem, have the other store manager call the help desk. What do you think, readership? — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Comments

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  1. swvaboy says:

    If it were me, I would call back to the company that handles the service plan and get a name and a case number. I would also ask for an email stating what you are entitled to.

    Having this in hand, then I would go back to the store and if they refused again, I would show them the email and have them call the company. If they still refuse I would escalate this to Circuit City corporate office, if you have to take this step make sure you mention The Consumerist.

  2. KevinQ says:

    I would skip swvaboy’s step (which is a good step), and just escalate it right now. Call Circuit City, and ask for the name and number of the District Manager, give him/her a call, explain the situation, and see what he can do.

    When I worked in corporate retail, it was the store’s job to say no, and the DM’s job to say yes. I’ve seen DMs agree to a whole host of things I didn’t think they could give away, just because the customer called.

    Give that a try.

    K

  3. ColoradoShark says:

    Eric should not think his first mistake was buying an open box item. It worked for a year and it is unlikely being an open box item shortened the lifetime.

    Buying the service plan was the mistake! How much was the original item? For the $199 he probably could have almost bought a new TV+DVD combo without the pain.

    When Eric goes back in he should have some kind of voice recorder so he can capture himself pointing out the policy about open box being treated like sealed/new and the manager telling him too bad. Then upload that audio!

  4. Amy Alkon says:

    When Eric goes back in he should have some kind of voice recorder so he can capture himself pointing out the policy about open box being treated like sealed/new and the manager telling him too bad. Then upload that audio!

    Then be prosecuted for secretly recording somebody.

    http://www.rcfp.org/taping/index.html

    Twelve states require, under most circumstances, the consent of all parties to a conversation. Those jurisdictions are California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. Be aware that you will sometimes hear these referred to inaccurately as “two-party consent” laws. If there are more than two people involved in the conversation, all must consent to the taping.

  5. ColdNorth says:

    The store manager is just plain wrong here.

    (1) ESP’s are NOT a good idea to purchase. However, they all clearly state that products covered under the plan WILL be replaced with a comparable item, expense not withstanding. While it would certainly be within the letter of the agreement to replace one open-box item with another open-box item, if none is available, then the store MUST replace it with a “comparable” NEW item. ESP’s are essentially insurance policies. While most are NEVER redeemed, when one is… then it’s time to pay.

    (2) My guess is that the store manager does not want to show the negative value of the replacement on his books. I’m sure it affects his bonus program. Since we’re nearing the end of March, I’m supposing that the quarterly bonus period is nearing an end and the last thing Store Manager Smarmy wants is something dragging his bonus down.

    A contract is a contract. Call the District Manager and be SURE to make a complaint. Get a case number and document everything. If no resolution within five business days, file a suit in small claims. Be sure to name the specific store (by store number and street address) and store manager (by name) in the claim.

    Oh yeah, and IANAL. But I AM a retailer and I have no patience for charlatains who sell a bill of goods to their customers or refuse to honor a contract for which they are liable.

  6. oldscribe says:

    Small Claims Court would probably easier than trying to contact district managers, get emails, and wade through the corporate BS.

    Somehow subpoenas always tend to get their attention a bit fast. ;)

  7. Motor_Head says:

    Wow, a fellow consumerist from my area.
    1. Get Greg’s full name, and the name of the district manager.
    2. Explain what happened in a letter to both the district manager AND the Michigan AG’s dept of Consumer Protection:

    Department of the Attorney General
    Consumer Protection Division
    P.O. Box 30213
    Lansing, Michigan 48909

    3. Send both letters (make sure you include the CC on both, so Circuit City knows you sent it to the AG).

    This will automatically cause a case to be opened with the AG, and they will followup and do your dirty work.

    Michigan is one of the few states that has very strong consumer-protection laws.

  8. Scuba Steve says:

    I think the original manager should be responsible for his refusal to abide the contract.

    Corporate would be very interested in hearing about this, that’s for sure.

  9. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    i’m in yur tee-vee
    watchin’ yur tom an jereez

  10. NeoteriX says:

    Get corporate on the line and have them rip that store’s manager a new one.

  11. e-gadgetjunkie says:

    See, this is the problem with large retail stores. I work at one where we try to help out the customer as much as possible. Sometimes that means giving a customer what they want no matter how much it costs. This hurts our bottom line. Our manager just got fired because our numbers weren’t high enough, but customers love our store.
    If you were the manager, what would you be thinking about more: some guy who won’t stop whining about his broken tv or your job?

  12. royal72 says:

    seems like climbing the corporate ladder is your best bet. if you just make the jackass store manager look bad, then get a buddy video camera and replay go try again with the store manager and send it here.

  13. xanax25mg says:

    @e-gadgetjunkie– I’m a bit lost as to what your point was. “some guy whining about his broken tv”. The customer had a contract that entitled him to a replacement, even if it cost more than the original value. How is it whining because he is asking for what the frigging contract AND customer service rep says he is entitled to?!! And you bring up how it hurts the big corporation bottom line. Should the consumer say, “no, I”ll stick with the defective item because I don’t want the multibillion dollar corporation to lose $200 on me”.

  14. ericlakin says:

    Consumerist.com saved the day. I just sent an update to Carey the weekend editor. The following info helped get this issue resolved. Once the issue was in front of the right people things happened pretty quickly. Thanks to all for your advice.

    http://consumerist.com/consumer/howto/circuit-city-executi

  15. Scazza says:

    @e-gadgetjunkie: Actually, I would be thinking about not getting my ass canned for not abiding by my companies guidelines and standing behind my companies policies on warranty items. I work in retail too, and I agree, there are those morons who come in and have NO RIGHT to return an item (your son bought an M rated game from us my ass…) but in this case, it is completely warranted.

    Plus I don’t know how your store works, but any return items or exchanges are not taken out of the stores daily profit and are counted towards returns/RGD for most stores.

    My advice, find this managers district manager, complain directly to him, and keep moving up the chain. Greg by law must provide you with that contact information.

  16. Scazza says:

    @ericlakin: Excelent mate, glad to hear its all good now. Any chance in that update you posted info of the resolution? Did they compensate you at all (might not saying you might be getting 200$ more worth of a tv)…

    Anyway, glad you got it all sorted out.

  17. Buran says:

    @Scazza:

    Caring about your job is one thing, but breaking a contract, which is illegal and gets you in real trouble, the kind that involves lawyers, is another.

    This guy is entitled to what he wants as per the contract that he signed and that the store signed. The store needs to get over it. If they don’t like the fact that these things can look bad on their records, so what? They made the offer to enter into the contract and it was accepted.

  18. InsaneNewman says:

    I don’t know if it’s the same at CC, but I’m looking at a “Performance Service Plan” brochure from Best Buy, and it specifically states that “we will replace it with a product of comparable performance, not to exceed the original purchase price.” Ergo, it would seem that, at least at Best Buy, their maximum liability is what you paid for the thing, regardless of what’s wrong with it.

  19. falcon241073 says:

    @ColoradoShark: you stated: “Buying the service plan was the mistake! How much was the original item? For the $199 he probably could have almost bought a new TV+DVD combo without the pain.”

    while I agree with the not buying a service plan from a big box store. The TV he bought was a 17″LCD w/ built in DVD player. Seen here in a 20″ version (sorry not sure how to “clicky” here) http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Magnavox-20-LCD-TV-HD-Monit
    Which costs $499 new right now. So for double the service contract he could buy a new one. I will say though he got royally stiffed on the contract price, even if it was probably a 3 yr one

  20. Coder4Life says:

    If you contact the district manager, the problem will be resolved in 1 call. I gaurantee it, because they just closed down 70 stores, and they cannot afford to loose customers over this ordeal. For $200.

    Plus district managers pretty much think customers are always right, even if you tell them you “NO i dindt drop my laptop the screen just cracked by itself”, they will believe you. Thats’ thier job…

    Also if you goto the store and ask for that #, the store manager will get bitched at, so go for it. He’ll probably do it for you soon as you tell him you are calling the district manager.

  21. r81984 says:

    @e-gadgetjunkie:

    If your manager got fired because he was doing his job, I think he has grounds to sue under wrongful termination.

    I cannot see how you can legally get away with firing a manager because the only reason his sales were low was because he had to take in too many returns and exchanges.

  22. Vilgrom says:

    That cat looks exactly like my cat.

    Color pattern.. fur texture (from what I can tell from the picture)… same eye-color… and same marking (a wishbone) on his forehead.

    Pretty awesome.

  23. TPK says:

    I think my favorite kind of thing to say in these situations goes something like…

    “This IS going to get done. We can do it the easy way, here and now, or we can do it the hard way, which will take more time and more people. It’s up to you how you want to look in the end…”

    Kind of similar to the really big gun: “Sir, you may wish to carefully reconsider, I assure you, you are making a career decision…”

  24. mac-phisto says:

    i was in a similar situation once. after arguing back & forth, i finally said, “fine, i’ll buy the tv.” they sold me the tv, i immediately opened the box with my keys in the store & promptly said, “i would like to return this tv.” then i said, “i would like to exchange my faulty tv for this open box tv.”

    it wasn’t actually a tv, it was satellite radio. anyway, i got my replacement unit.

  25. Duffym says:

    I’m in the same exact situation right now — Firedog support at Albany, NY store told me I could come into the store and return my brand new Gateway laptop which can’t even get on the internet because of Vista driver issues!

    I called the help desk (had to press ‘0’ to get a human operator) and the woman got very testy and started arguing with me! Then she put me on hold indefinately after she told me that her night manager would be in a conference call for “several hours”

    I product is now past its 14-day return period (just 14, WTF?!), and its still under warranty, and I can’t return it? How does this make sense!?

  26. dix99 says:

    I also had a problem with the same store. It started on 18th Dec after I purchase a Sony HDR-SR1 camera that turned out to be faulty. Christmas was close & I took it back on the 22nd for a replacement, only to be told that there was no more camera’s available. I asked for an alternative, but similar models were also out of stock. As I wanted to film my 3-year-old sons Christmas in HD, I asked for a refund so I could try another store, for which I was charged $189.00. I wrote a letter to Circuit City HQ, but never had a response. In the end I decided to call Customer Service, but after getting the run-around & shrug off, I spoke to Nathaniel (ID 21496) who, after explaining everything, sent me back to the store manager to fix my problem. I called the store & Richard the manager basically throw it back at me as if it was my fault & said that I better get in & get it sorted out ASAP, as it’s being so long, it’ll be a problem for them. I told him I’d try to get in soon & the reason for the delay, was that I was waiting to hear from Customer Service. Well, after checking on-line, I found only one in stock. The only problem was, that the only camera they had available, was one that was at the Troy store. Richard then told me that I would have to come to his store in Auburn Hills, pay for it & then drive another 20 miles to pick it up. He said, as he wouldn’t be in that evening & that I would have to speak to Rick, another manager who knew what was going on. I said OK & went to the store that evening. I found Rick & told him the situation & at first looked at me like I was an idiot & he didn’t know anything about it, but after explaining it again, it then all came back to him. I then told him there was a Sony HDR-HC3 camera was at the Troy store & that I would pay the difference. I also gave him a AAA Members 10% coupon towards the purchase, which he refused to take. He said that I was already getting a $189 discount & that was all he would give me. I said that the $189.00 was not a discount, but the money from my original purchase of a faulty item. After telling him of the trouble I’ve been through, I asked that as a manager, doesn’t he also have the discretion to make decisions & as I’ve still got to travel an extra 20 miles to go pick up the camera, that it would be good customer service to give the discount. Well, that was just a joke to him. The only thing they were interested in was to keep the money & make things difficult for me. Well, you did in fact make it difficult & very time consuming for me, for which I was fighting a loosing battle & some customer satisfaction. In the end, I wrote to Sony & a number of others, including a CC Director. Then, out of the blue, the Director called me back, but it was “If I didn’t go in their and buy it, then I would loose the money”. Everything is the managers decision & corporate won’t make the store do anything, so maybe that’s why stores are closing. Well in the end, instead of loosing the $189, I purchased a camera that had dropped a $100, but I will never shop their again.