Best Buy: No Warranty? You Are Not A Valued Customer

A sleazy Best Buy salesman tried to scam Phil into buying a warranty. Phil was offered a “free warranty,” which may exist in Narnia, but not Best Buy. When Phil’s purchases were wrung up, he noticed the salesman scanning a warranty coupon with a gift card. Phil asked the salesman to scan only the gift card, not the warranty coupon.

He said that if I got $100 worth of merchandise, and warrantees, I’d get a gift card that I had to use on the warrantees. I asked how the computer could ring up the gift card if the warrantees hadn’t yet been purchased. That seems like an impossible paradox (and is.) I asked him to start over and just hand me the gift card instead of ringing up the warrantees. He said he couldn’t because I wasn’t a valued customer and could only become one by buying the warrantees.

This can only end well.


Phil complained to customer service, who, shockingly, defended their salesman, saying the computer would not accept the card without the warranty. They gave Phil a number to call Best Buy corporate. It connected Phil to a fax machine. Phil escalated to the store manager. The manager, a clever legal mind who knew that possession was 9/10ths of the law, respectfully conceded, saying, “fine, since you somehow got it you can use it.” Huzzah. The computer accepted the gift card without the warranty.

Phil’s email, below.

This all started with me being told “do you want a free warranty?” at best buy’s checkout. I, of course, said sure, and when I saw the guy process the checkout, I was suspicious. He rang up my items, scanned some sort of coupon, and then got a gift card. In a second purchase, he bought warrantees with that gift card. I asked him if I really needed the warrantees to get the gift card. He acted like a guilty moron, and said yes. He said that if I got 100$ worth of merchandise, and warrantees, I’d get a gift card that I had to use on the warrantees. I asked how the computer could ring up the gift card if the warrantees hadn’t yet been purchased. That seems like an impossible paradox (and is.) I asked him to start over and just hand me the gift card instead of ringing up the warrantees. He said he couldn’t because I wasn’t a valued customer and could only become one by buying the warrantees. To be a valued customer required me being in the system, and buying a warranty got me there. I asked if I could just buy 1 warranty (I had bought 3 Nintendo DS games for $30 each) and get in the system, then keep the remainder of the gift card. He said I had to buy all three.

As I left, I saw a coupon on the floor. It said: free $10 gift card if you spent $100 for the week of father’s day. The word warranty did not appear in the fine print (although plenty of stipulations did appear in that fine print, leading me to know that he was lying; they’d hardly leave a main term out of coupon, and besides, they have to honor coupons as printed).

Customer service backed him up claiming that the computer would not issue me the gift card unless I got the warranty next; a clear lie. The guy in customer service claimed he was the manager. Then he gave me a fake number that was supposedly best buy’s customer service hotline. It actually led to a fax tone.

I finally found the store manager and demanded that they honor the coupon. He said that the coupon was only given to valued customers. I said “Well I have it, ring it up.” He finally gave in and said “fine, since you somehow got it you can use it” (although they were laying all over the store). Another customer service person had no trouble ringing everything up without warrantees (so management had been lying about the computer not allowing this, although we knew that).

This leads me to believe that they were trying this scam with every customer. It was elaborate, and everyone in the store was in on it. The checkout guy sounded like he was reading from a script when he initiated the scam. Everyone knows that Best Buy makes most profits from warrantees and not products. If this was just a bad employee pulling a scam, the management would have fixed things immediately. I’ve kept the story simple, but each manager gave different elaborate lies about how best buy corporate either forgot to mention warranty on the coupon, or the “valued customer” bullshit, or something else. Clearly this was planned to bring up profits, and I cringe thinking about how much they made off this during that week that the coupon was around.

With this in mind, the intranet site does not surprise me. It’s the same kind of deal – trick consumers who don’t have time/expertise enough to fight to get the advertised deal. Show them the fake website and hope they give up and just buy it; tell them there are new random terms to a coupon and hope they buy warrantees.

The best buy was in Skokie, IL near old orchard mall.

Best Buy: Thousands of possibilities to get hosed. What will they think of next? — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER
(Photo: Tengaport)

Comments

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  1. bloodr says:

    I’m starting to think that ripping off the customer is corporate culture there. I too have been a victim, in my case I bought a warrantee and they won’t send me my “replacement voucher” aka gift card because my address is not valid (funny, I get all my other mail just fine) and recommended I get a new address.

    This guy should know those in-store warrantees are worthless if you ever have to actually use one.

  2. IanthePez says:

    Since you had no expectation when you came in the store that you would get a $10 gift card, I fail to see how this is a “scam”. When you leave the store, you have exactly what you came in expecting, plus a warranty.

    If you had come in knowing about the $10 gift card, and they then tried to tell you you had to get a warranty, then that is a scam.

  3. Scuba Steve says:

    “I’m starting to think that ripping off the customer is corporate culture there.”

    It’s more of an unspoken rule. Aka being nice could get you fired, allegedly.

    Of course, having read every one of the customer and employee complaints over at http://www.bestbuysux.org/ , I have to admit that I may be a little paranoid about them.

    I would never risk a major purchase from them without serious thoughts about how much hassle I’m willing to go through if I need any support.

  4. CustomersRevenge says:

    Best Buy bought Future Shop in Canada, and it sounds like they run the same way. I thought Best Buy was better than that. Every single time I go into a Future Shop I meet moronic, sleazy salespeople. I guess Best Buy is about the same. I’m going to have a look at the SUX site.

  5. Firstborn Dragon says:

    Guess I lucked out. I went there twice, no problems.

    Once was to get the graphic card I still use in my PC (Which I bought about a year ago), which was half price. The other was the day Narnia came out and I got a deal on that (Used a cupon that got me 20$ off any purchase over 100$, and bought a pair of speakers.)

    Hell, when I took the speakers back, they didn’t even deduct the 20$ so I go the Narnia DVD for 10$. (Collector’s edition went for around 40 at the time, they had a deal for 10$ off if you bought it first day, + 20$ discount cupon)

  6. Panhandler says:

    “Wrung up?” I feel “wrung up” every time I go in a BB. Great Freudian typo!

  7. When I worked at Best Buy in a Columbus, Ohio suburb many years ago, we were told to use this trick by management. There was a $30 off coupon for stereo receivers that we had many copies of in our department. We were instructed to only offer this coupon to customers who were willing to purchase the $30 “Performance Service Plan” (warranty).

    The trick was to offer to give them the ‘free rebate’ by sneaking in the coupon and not telling them how the discount really worked. They’d pay full price for the warranty and $30 less on the item. The coupon itself said nothing about the warranty- it was just a in-store scam to raise ‘the numbers’. It was definitely shady, and I disliked doing it.

    One catch about working at Best Buy was that the sales associates don’t make commission on the warranties, but if your attachment percentage wasn’t high enough, you got in trouble. The incentive was backwards- no bonuses for selling particularly well, but if you didn’t, your job would be on the line. This sort of policy goes all the way up the chain- associates, supervisors and management alike all needed to keep the attachment rates of accessories and service plans high to keep their jobs. ‘The numbers’ as they called them were their own religion. Every morning and every night there was a brief store-wide meeting where they would review the numbers for every department.

  8. Michael Bauser says:

    I used to see this kind of crap when I worked for a subsidiary of Ritz Camera (the retail camera business and the retail electronic business have very similar business models). What you’re seeing is probably corruption at the store, district, or regional level.

    What’s almost certainly happening is that store/district/region warranty sales are being used as a performance metric and/or incentivized with bonuses or stupid contests. Some manager came up with the coupon scam to juice his numbers, and is making all his underlings do it. If the manager responsible is a district or regional manager, you could have dozens of stores in one part of the country doing this, and the home office won’t even notice.

    The fact that his complaint was short-cicuited at the local manager level is telling. The manager didn’t want to risk his higher-ups getting wind of the scam.

    So I’ll say don’t be so hard on the salesman. If he’s a gullible sort, he may really believe this scam is corporate policy. And even if he saw through his manager’s scam, the manager probably threatened to fire the salesman for not playing along.

    (My mysterious firing from Ritz Camera may or may not have been related to my failure to go along with a regional manager’s incentive-manipulation. In my defense, nobody in the store was going along with it, I just happened to be the sucker who was working the day the regional manager decided to stop by and demand total obedience.)

  9. scoobydoo says:

    HA! I know this BestBuy… It’s one of the worst in their chain. The staff are just downright useless. Last time I tried to purchase a camcorder from them and they knew so little about their products that they just kept saying “yes” to every question I had.

    Worthless.

  10. Hawkins says:

    I’m torn about this.

    Obviously, it’s greasiness at a highly oleaginous level.

    On the other hand, as IanthePez points out, the customer lost nothing. He was sold his items at the agreed-on price. Had he agreed to go along with the scam, he would have gotten a free warranty (perhaps of dubious worth, but whatever).

    I’m afraid this is just whining.

  11. TechnoDestructo says:

    Best Buy has applied the Monster Cable model to computer cables.

    I needed a SATA data cable for my new hard disk (which had come to me without one), and I stopped by the Best Buy in Prescott, AZ, since I was in town, and live 100 miles from the nearest decent computer retailer that isn’t a hole in the wall.

    The cheapest cable they had was 20 bucks. Fuck that. I left. Ordered on on Ebay for 4 bucks, shipped.

  12. nequam says:

    Is he merely complaining, or has he offered a helpful general warning about Best Buy? I think it’s good to know that Best Buy (or this location in particular) pulls this type of shady shit. The comment about Ritz Camera too sort of confirms my suspicion about these electronics retailers taking advantage of customers and requiring high volume sales at the expense of helpful and honest customer service. Thanks for the post, Phil.

  13. Coder4Life says:

    True, Best Buy employees do not make commission but by selling their warranties they get to keep their job.

    Sell Warranty = Keep Your Job

  14. Smashville says:

    I’m confused.

    Guy purchases item. Salesman offers him a free warranty. Salesman takes a gift card and rings up the warranty on that. Guy gets mad because he can’t keep the gift card.

    Why is the guy entitled to a gift card?

    And why did he wait almost a year to make this complaint? Father’s Day is in the middle of the summer. It’s March.

  15. dewrock says:

    I’m not sure I understand what the guy’s issue is. He says in the email that the employee asked him if he wanted a free warranty. Phil says sure but then gets mad when the cashier rings up the warranty and the GIFT CARD in order for it to be paid for(in other words…get for free). Am I missing something?

    Now maybe he was supposed to get a $10 gift card anyhow and they weren’t forthcoming with that, but he was offered a free warranty and they were trying to give him one.

  16. Michael Bauser says:

    He’s entitled to the gift card because Best Buy’s coupon said everybody who spent a $100 that day got $10 gift card. It wasn’t really a free warranty. It was a sneaky attempt to spend the customer’s free gift card on a warranty. The salesman lied.

  17. Nygdan says:

    It definitely a scam. If it wasn’t a scam, then it’d be a ‘coupon for a free warranty’, not coupon for any merchandise. If they want to give away free warranties, then they’ll just give them away, they won’t muck around with coupons that don’t say anything about warranties.

    This is definitely something to watch out for, I can see a person going in to best buy, inquiring about a product and asking about free warranties or discounted warranties, then seeing that they’re doing it through this coupon and saying you don’t want the warranty and want the coupon (which you’re entitled to, at least in this case, because it was supposed to be given to people that spent a certain amount).

  18. Powr2dex says:

    In IL this might be a scam, but in some decent areas i think best buys aren’t that blatantly stupid. also the sales person might of offered the warranty information incorrectly. The warranty is technically free after the deduction of the gift card…but then again I’m sure the service plan is worth purchasing because people love to believe that they are covered with best buy when they buy a pc: AND THEY ARE NOT, ONLY MANUFACTURE WARRANTY. With a warranty now the customer has a free diag and if comp has to be sent out for repair its free with best buy.

  19. hop says:

    best buy sucketh……………

  20. cynon says:

    Wow, and I had an actually good experience at Best Buy over the weekend.
    I bought an APC UPS before December. Due to various circumstances, I didn’t even open it until month ago, which is when I found it was defective. Oh Joy. No receipt. More Joy.

    I took it to Best Buy and was told that since the box was open, I had to have a receipt. The CS girl looked up my information (and I’m not so happy they keep a record of every friggen transaction made with a credit card) and couldn’t find one (I think I paid cash for the UPS) and so said no, you can’t exchange it.

    I was not amused, and got the store manager. She couldn’t find evidence of the transaction either, but I pointed out that, just behind me, they had the exact same make and model, and all I wanted to do was exchange it.

    With no crap, nastiness or hassle, she did — which is why I bought a few other items there afterward.

  21. @IanthePez: You don’t have to know about a sale or special in order to be entitled to it. You only have to meet the conditions, which he did by purchasing at least $100 worth of merchandise.

    It is a scam for Best Buy to make their customers spend their gift cards on warranties.

  22. mantari says:

    The smart Consumerist plays the scam in reverse.

    Basic idea: agree to the warranty only if you can get them to agree to take some $$ off of the price of the merchandise. (They will never discount the warranty agreement.) Next day (or different store), return the warranty. Enjoy joy your merchandise which still has the discount.

  23. squidhat says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:
    I am amazed that I had to read through 4 negative confused posts before finding someone who actually RTFA. Thanks Rectilinear Propagation, for not being a whiner.

  24. Twitch says:

    why does ANYONE still shop there?

  25. dewrock says:

    @Michael_Bauser: Come on dude, what warranty do you think costs only $10? They should have given him the $10 gift card too, but for all intents and purposes they were trying to give him a free warranty.

  26. dewrock says:

    @Nygdan: But the two have nothing to do with each other. The guy should have been given the $10 gift card but for all we know the cashier forgot or didn’t know about that offer. The cashier did offer a free warranty, he didn’t say, “I’ll pay for you warranty with your free gift card” or “I’ll trade you”. I just don’t think there was anything really underhanded about this unless they deliberately didn’t give him the free $10 gift card.

  27. Mogbert says:

    Working at retail, I’ve seen this before. I haven’t read all the other comments, as I’m on a short lunch, but this is what I’ve seen…
    Often, management is given a budget or loophole to use gift cards for customer satisfaction (usually to shut up people who are complaining in line). What they generally do is tell the poeple to use them to boost the warrenty numbers (a metric they are measured on) by saying that the gift cards are FOR the warranty.
    The reason the manager gave in is he knows he was pulling a scam, not on the customer, but on his company to make his warranty numbers look better without actually bringing in any money for them. He would rather you go tyour gift cards and got out of there then you made a big deal about it.

    Too late…

  28. Michael Bauser says:

    @dewrock: Are you reading the same article as the rest of us, dewrock? The cashier did say the gift card had to be used for the warranty. It’s right here in the first paragraph of Phil’s full e-mail:

    In a second purchase, he bought warrantees with that gift card. I asked him if I really needed the warrantees to get the gift card. He acted like a guilty moron, and said yes. He said that if I got 100$ worth of merchandise, and warrantees, I’d get a gift card that I had to use on the warrantees.

    The cashier gave the customer the free giftcard on the first transaction (like the cashier was supposed to) and immediately started a second sale that used the card to buy the “free” warranty.

    Please stop insulting other people with your illiteracy.

  29. TechnoDestructo says:

    @Jaideepg:

    Basically their whole business model and employment system is based upon a certain percentage of their customers being idiots, then? (Warrantees, cables, Geek Squad, secret website)

    You know, there’s not much that gets my blood boiling more than being someplace that assumes all people are morons, thieves, liars, while simultaneously depending on them, either just because they need SOMEONE or because they’re depending on those character flaws. I hate being lumped in with those people with no way out.

    It’s why walmart kind of makes my skin crawl a bit, why I don’t generally shop at electronics chains (except Fry’s…they may have other ways in which they suck, but they aren’t bad about this sort of crap), and why I left the military.

  30. ilhed12 says:

    I used to work for best buy, and all of your comments are ridiculous! This IS a scam of course, but your ignorant rants and reasoning are amazingly incorrect. It may look nice to sell more of these warranties, but we were NEVER threatened with our jobs. As stated, there is no commision or personal gain. They sell warranties for a reason, and they work. The warranty in question I believe was on a video game. I have a friend who got drunk, knocked his 360 over, ruined his game, and got it replaced problem-free. I saved $100 on an ipod battery with a 3 year service plan. I blew my car speakers and had them replaced without an arguement. So some asshole gets pissed because HE broke something that isn’t covered under warranty and wants it fixed. Should they type in the small print that it’s not covered if you nut all over it? That’s obviously not covered. Maybe they should start selling common sense instead of helpful warranties. Stop crying. By the way, those people at that store are a disgrace, and that is shady as hell. I just think that if you don’t know what you are talking about you should shut the fuck up!

  31. m4nea says:

    I agree with ILHED12…
    I work at a Canadian Best Buy, and I consider it a great place to buy stuff.
    Perhaps my store is an exception to the rule, but there are only knowledgeable people working there with the full intention of helping out anyone who steps through the door.
    Stuff like this happens (the coupon thing); hell, I’ve done it a couple times, but NEVER without informing the customer that the coupon is available to them for anything.

    Sound like BBYUS is the crappiest place in the universe…