Connecticut Sues Best Buy For Tricking Customers With Secret Internal Website

The Connecticut Attorney General has announced a lawsuit against Best Buy in regards to a secret internal website that is identical to their public website except for the prices. Consumerist has received reports of this website being used to attempt to trick our readers as recently as March 19, 2007.

Customers coming into the store looking for prices they saw at home on the public website were told that the sale had ended and were shown a separate internal website that reflected different in-store prices. The customers were led to believe that they were looking at the same website they accessed at home. From the AP:

“Best Buy gave consumers the worst deal — a bait-and-switch-plus scheme luring consumers into stores with promised online discounts, only to charge higher in-store prices,” Blumenthal said….

Jerry Farrell Jr., Connecticut’s consumer protection commissioner, said the lawsuit should be a warning to companies to be more transparent in their business practices.

“There certainly was an element of deception here,” Farrell said.

We’ve been following this story for several months, and have to confess to being very pleased with the Connecticut Attorney General for taking this seriously. —MEGHANN MARCO

Best Buy accused of overcharging buyers [Yahoo!] (Thanks, Eric!)
(Photo: Vince Brown)

PREVIOUSLY: Best Buy’s Secret “Employee Only” In-Store Website Shows Different Prices Than Public Website
Best Buy Confirms The Existence Of Its Secret Website
Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office Launches Investigation Into Best Buy’s Secret Intranet Site
UPDATE: Best Buy Still Using Its Secret Website

Comments

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  1. Asterchild says:

    Best Buy insider here:

    Since this whole debacle began Best Buy has taken steps to prevent this very issue from occuring again. When you go to access Bestbuy.com, there are two options you have: BBY.COM Local (your store pricing which does not show internet) and BBY.COM National (which does show internet).

    So if employees are still going to the wrong one…time to flush the ignorant.

  2. timmus says:

    “There certainly was an element of deception here,” Farrell said.

    I hate mealymouthed crap like that. There was deception here.

  3. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    But is this worse than CC not honoring their web pricing instore? Sure if you order online you can pick it up in the store, but I want to see the product before I buy it.
    True story: I printed the online price for a receiver, and went into the store to check it out, then decided to buy it. They didn’t want to honor the web price (it was about 15% lower than the instore sale price), but told me if I went back home and ordered it online, I could come back into the store and pick up the SAME box for the lower price. (Finally cooler heads and persistence paid off and I got it for the same price).

    What is the rationale for this kind of thing? And don’t even get me started about wallyworld (“Sure we price match, but not against our own web site.”)

  4. nickripley says:

    >>And don’t even get me started about wallyworld

    Then please don’t shop there.

  5. notallcompaniesarebad says:

    @doctor_cos: I actually can understand the rationale of not offering the web price to in-store sales. There are costs with maintaining a store that you don’t have when you order online. They are trying to motivate people to shop online. And I think that’s what BestBuy was trying to do here — prevent the situation you are describing where people would complain about two prices. Of course, in order to do so, they had to be sneaky and lie. This is wrong, and it’s only a matter of time before such scams are found out.

    And therefore, it’s also stupid.

    So unfortunately, though I can understand the rationale for charging two different prices, it sure sounds like a whole heap of trouble and not worth it.

  6. oldhat says:

    There’s a formula for calculating when a bureaucrat/politician becomes courageous and does the right thing, becoming a hero of the people, at least for the moment.

    Might be related to the price of tea in China, or completely random…some say the moon’s relation to the sun controls it.

    But when it happens, it’s beautiful and precious. Usually just the press release. The actual outcome is never as gratifying.

  7. joopiter says:

    Woo-hoo… go Connecticut!

  8. mac-phisto says:

    @oldhat: it’s directly proportional to their desire & ability to win a gubernatorial bid in a couple years.

  9. Darkvampbiker says:

    So I’m guessing you won’t approve this message as it is in contrary to what you’d like to believe however, as an employee the point of the “secret website” which is really not secret is to be used when the real website is down etc. As it is not the actual website the pricing often does not match the website it is just there to for employees to get product info. Thus this went down one of two ways.

    1. Employees at the store in question are untrained. Unfortunately it is kind of likely.

    2. Whatever employee at the store that knowingly did this did so against company policy and I’m sure that after this incident especially will be disciplined for it.

  10. notallcompaniesarebad says:

    @mac-phisto: Blumenthal has been a mini spitzer for a while now.

  11. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @nickripley: You can send all the money you want to China. I send mine to France via Tar-get :)

  12. hop says:

    BEST BUY SUCKETH…………………

  13. JustAGuy2 says:

    @doctor_cos: It’s Minneapolis, actually.

  14. Dick Blumenthal is the MAN. We’re very proud of our AG.

  15. cgi5877 says:

    check your rumors bro…Target=USA


    http://www.snopes.com/politics/military/target.asp

  16. bricklayer says:

    I don’t get it. I went to Fry’s to buy an online-advertised $60 router. At the physical store it cost $80. When I asked about the descrepency, the manager just told me that they don’t match their online prices. I understand the cost difference in running an online shop vs. a brick-and-mortar store, and I wanted the router immediately, so I swallowed the $20.

    Don’t get me wrong, I hate Fry’s as much as the next guy. I just don’t understand Best Buy’s need to lie to their customers.

  17. oldhat says:

    @Darkvampbiker: Hahah. Yeah right. Good shill, pony boy.

    @cgi5877: Yeah, well, all the shit they sell comes from China, so they might as well be Chinese. At what point are all these stores just Chinese branch offices, like franchises?

  18. eldergias says:

    @notallcompaniesarebad: What people seem to be forgetting was not that the price displayed online away from the store was different than the price displayed in the store, but rather, that when people went to the store seeking the online price, the people working at the store said there was no such lower price, even online, and would show the customer a SECRET HIDDEN website that only the employees had access to, that was IDENTICAL to the public website with the only difference being the prices of items. This is clear and unequivocal deception. It was a ploy to bring people into the store with one price but make them pay another price by lying to them about the information they had already seen.

    Okay, if you are going to say that Best Buy wants people to show online to reduce overheat associated with maintaining stores, fine. Then you will need one heck of an explanation as to why you can choose to pick up the item you order online from your local Best Buy. The same overhead is required, no money is being saved.

  19. Sudonum says:

    @doctor_cos:
    I had the same experience at CC. My wife and I wanted to buy a new digital camera. We had already decided on the Canon SD1000. Went to CC’s web site they had it for $229, with in store pick up. Well we went out to dinner and stopped by CC after dinner to check out the camera. Decided to buy it, only it was $249 in store. The sales guy said he couldn’t make an adjustment. I asked him to check with his manager. Came back and said no. We left, went home and ordered it online and picked it up in the same store the next day.

    Didn’t make much sense to me.

  20. eldergias says:

    @Sudonum: Circuit City does the same thing.

  21. Sudonum says:

    @eldergias:
    CC=Circuit City

  22. Sudonum says:

    @eldergias:
    ummm CC= Circuit City… sorry if this is a double post

  23. mac-phisto says:

    @notallcompaniesarebad: “mini spitzer”?!? spitzer only wishes he had the enemies blumenthal has.

    persoanlly, i like him too. that doesn’t mean he won’t be running for governor when rell is done.

  24. eldergias says:

    @Sudonum: Oops! I know CC mean Circuit City, but I just quickly skimmed your post (while at work) and didn’t notice that. Thought you were talking about BB. :-)