Is Circuit City Eliminating The "Unbeatable Price Guarantee?"

A Circuit City manager told reader Ryan that the “unbeatable price guarantee” will soon be eliminated. Ryan was asking the Circuit City in Hicksville, NY to match Best Buy’s price for an Arrested Development DVD; though the cashier refused to honor the policy – which beats the advertised price of any local competitor by 10% – the manager explained that it was just a huge tiny mistake, and that so long as signs advertising the policy are up, the policy will be honored. After the jump, we ask Circuit City when the signs are coming down.

Ryan writes:

I recently changed from Best Buy to Circuit City. I figured if Circuit City isn’t cheaper, I’ll just bring the Best Buy ad and still get the cheaper price (plus 10%). Besides, this Circuit City is closer to my home. Anyway, a few weeks back I went in to the Hicksville Circuit City to get a couple of $9.99 CD’s (as advertised by Best Buy) which were 12.99 or so at Circuit City. The cashier price matched both CD’s at $9.99. I said, what about the extra 10%. She said, we stopped doing that. I said, OH, and went home. Not much to fight over anyway.

Now last week I go to a different Circuit City (Westbury, NY) and attempt to price match the Arrested Development seasons on DVD which were $14.99 at Best Buy (advertised) which beats Circuit City’s $34.99 by a long shot. They matched it and the computer calculated the extra 10% without a hitch. I was happy and figured something was up at Hicksville. Lucky for me, I still needed 1 more season.

So, back to Circuit City of Hicksville the next day… I am now armed with a printout of the pricematch policy from the web. I bring the DVD up to the cashier and I know what the total cost should be after price match. It’s off by the $2 or so, as expected. Why did I not get 110%? Again, “We don’t do that anymore”. I said, “The web site states that you do”. She turns to the manager for approval. He says, yeah we have to until they take those signs down and he nods toward the big yellow pricematch sign. She manually figures out 10% on a calculator and adjusts the price.

SO, one of two things is going on. The Hicksville Circuit City hasn’t been giving customers the 10% back in a long time and modified the systems to behave as such. OR, Circuit City is pulling the 10% price match policy and this store is a pilot for that (unlikely).

We called the Circuit City in Hicksville and had the following conversation:

The Consumerist: We heard that the price match policy is about to end and that you are about to take down the big yellow price match signs. Is that accurate?
Circuit City: When they take it down, then that will be in effect, but it’s still up.
TC: Are they taking it down?
CC: Um, it’s still up right now.
TC: Are they taking it down?
CC: Not that I know of.

Well that clears up nothing. If Circuit City refuses to honor the “unbeatable price guarantee,” immediately call corporate. If you see any stores without the big yellow price match signs, let us know at tips [at] consumerist dot com.

PREVIOUSLY: Circuit City Refuses To Honor “Unbeatable Price Guarantee” Because Competitor’s Price Is Too Low
(Photo: heartburn)

Comments

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  1. scoobydoo says:

    Getting them to honor it was like pulling teeth anyway. CircuitCity is probably heading the way of CompUSA as it is, so this will just help speed things along.

  2. morganlh85 says:

    Is there seriously a Hicksville NY? lol

  3. chili_dog says:

    People still go to Circuit City ON PURPOSE???

  4. Hawk07 says:

    That sure is an empty CC parking lot.

  5. peggyhill says:

    Give them 2 years and half the stores will be vacant. Not that BB is any better but CC is certainly proving their inability to manage their corporation out of a paper bag.

  6. lore says:

    @scoobydoo: Hrm, I have $24 in a CC gift card I should probably go use up. I’m taking suggestions in terms of what to buy! Let’s hear em!

  7. The Stork says:

    There was always the unstated but understood policy of not doing the 110% match unless the customer brought it up. We would treat the policy somewhat liberally in favor of the customer, often matching prices in-store that weren’t advertised or occasionally even in stock (though that was rare,) but getting 110% was tricky. Several times I had a manager go back and add it because they just did the match out of habit, and given how idiotic the price match function was on the ancient DPS terminal this wasn’t an easy feat. I understand every dime adds up, but I never understood why giving the extra 10% would really hurt; the largest price matches on big merchandise is usually no more than a hundred or two bucks, so you’re talking $10 or $20.

  8. f3rg says:

    @lore: AA batteries.

  9. BruserJack says:

    Circuit City here in Fayetteville, North Carolina is still doing the (modified) guarantee as of last Saturday. Picked up a Garmin Nuvi 660 for $699 when Sam’s Club was advertising it at the same price. Now I didn’t get the extra 10% but I felt more comfortable buying from Circuit City who has never given me a problem.

  10. everclear75 says:

    @lore:

    I have a $30 card, that I got @ XMAS time. So I’m in the same boat!!
    I see that the Robot chicken season 2 is coming out in a few weeks.. That’s 20 bucks right there..

  11. Leiterfluid says:

    I’ve had problems with both Circuit City and Best Buy taking off 110% at the register. I’ve just taken to paying full price, and then walking directly over to Customer Service and making them refund the extra 10% on the spot.

  12. Nick says:

    Sadly, it is my experience that all price matching policies are a bunch of crap. Either the exceptions are so vague that everything is exempt (we do not match “sales”, “discounts”, or “percentage off” offers), or the stores just refuse to honor them. ;-/

    I haven’t tried this at Circuit City (are they really any items that are cheaper at Best Buy!?), but I know Best Buy won’t even price match at all half the time, let alone give you an extra 10%. I tried to buy a memory card for my camera last summer and the cashier refused to price match Office Depot. I brought the Office Depot flyer, and she even called Office Depot to verify that the flyer was correct (of course they told her it was). After all that, she said “I’m still not able to give it to your for that price” so I went across the street and purchased it at Office Depot. I’m embarrassed to say that one time in my life I did actually shop at Best Buy, but I didn’t actually purchase anything and I’ve never been back since. :-)

  13. Havok154 says:

    @scoobydoo:
    I used to work for CUSA before they closed my store and I would laugh every time I heard about CC laying off employees or anything because they were doing the same exact things we were about a year behind. I expect sometime next year we hear news of CC closing half it’s stores.

  14. yg17 says:

    Meh…I like CC. Never had any issues with them. Haven’t set foot in a Best Buy in over a year, and proud of that. I refuse to go there ever again. Circuit City has never given me any hassles. If they even ask, they take “no” for an answer when asking if I want a warranty. They never give me any trouble when I try to return something. Unlike Best Buy, every Circuit City rebate I’ve mailed in I’ve received, and the employees are usually pretty friendly and know what they’re talking about. Perhaps it’s just the one by me that’s good. Never tried price matching though, because everything I’ve bought was cheaper at CC already.

  15. triple says:

    I just realized CompUSA tried to pull a fast one on me.

    I was at the CompUSA in holyoke, MA. They were selling a printer for $130, and best buy was selling it for like $99, I think. So I asked for the price match, and the guy told me they only offered price matches through gift cards now.

    So I naturally go.. what? I price matched (for cash) at another compusa. He goes – well that was back then, now its only for gift cards. Uh no, it was yesterday. So he runs off to “get his manager” (i.e. hide in the back room)..

    So anyways, on the tip of this article, I go to compusa’s website and lo and behold – theres nothing there about a gift card. Its the same price match they’ve had all along.

    What dbags..

  16. raybury says:

    Could it just be a regional or personal idiomatic thing? I recall a classic retail story where Mr. Lazurus walked an unhelpful clerk to the entrance of his department store and, pointing to his name on the sign above the door, said, ‘as long as my name is on this sign, we’ll treat customers the way I say.’ He wasn’t expecting the sign to change anytime soon — indeed it didn’t until well after his death — so I had a similar reading of what the CC manager said.

  17. jrdnjstn78 says:

    I don’t shop at Best Buy much only when something I want is on sale because BB is about 5min from me. I’ve had good luck with them price matching anyone and with 10% back. I’ve had good luck at CompUSA price matching. I bought a Canon printer at CompUSA, which I brought in a Fry’s ad that had the printer at 99$ with a mail-in rebate. CompUSA matched that price even though it was a mail-in rebate price. The following week Fry’s had that printer on sale for 69$ wiht a mail-in rebate. I went back to CompUSA and showed them the flyer from Fry’s and they matched it again.

  18. spin_2222 says:

    I had a terrible time with CC’s price match policy in January. Target was advertising an ipod accessory for $60 and CC was selling it for $90. Target was a total of 30 miles away from where we lived, so the CC was much closer. We went to CC and they wouldn’t match the price. We even took in the advertisement. They said it wasn’t a local store and we asked the definition of local store. They said that a local store was within 50 miles of the store. I pulled up a mileage count to Target and then they said that they get to define what a local store is. We then talked to the manager. He was extremely rude and said that they would have to call Target to see if it was in stock. He went in the back, came back out and told us he had called and it wasn’t in stock. We called Target with our cell and the person told us it was and that no one had just called. We contacted corporate who said they have to honor the price. Corporate called the store and had us on three way with the customer service agent and the manager. The manager asked to speak to the customer service agent without us on the phone, so we were put on hold. Then a few moments later, the customer service agent told us they wouldn’t be able to match the price. I teach college courses in technology and I will often tell my students to avoid Circuit City and Best Buy at all costs. I know most of them won’t go into the stores from the horror stories told in class. I quit shopping at Circuit City and Best Buy because they both have the worst customer service.

  19. daveghax says:

    huge tiny mistake. love it. and while circuit city is getting rid of their guarantee, i think they should go ahead and convert all their stores so they can become anything-goes pan-sexual bazaars by night.

  20. MajorOtis says:

    Last year, Circuit City had an online-only camera sale. I went to the store to try out the Panasonic DMC-FZ5, liked it, and told them I was going home to purchase it from them online for less. Instead, they price-matched their own online price, plus 10%! Made my day.

  21. ToadKillerDog says:

    Circuit City’s price match has always depended on how much middle management was beating up lower (store level) management. If the weasels in mid management were pressuring the store level managers, the store level managers always would end up trying to screw the customers.

    As a former circuit city employee I love watching it spiral down into death as a result of high end outright incompetence. Gotta sell my stock real soon.

  22. ajones4 says:

    To those who have commented about the difficulty of price match policies, there are some universal, rational exemptions.

    It has to be in stock. Stores (usually big-boxes) will intentionally advertise items which they knowingly have inventory issues on to pseudo-bait and switch. They figure once you’re in the store, you’ll pick out something else. Other stores who have those items in stock would take a huge profit loss price matching it.

    It has to be model-for-model. If the advertised model is black and you try to price match the silver, you’ll probably be denied. Subtle differences in the same product actually have different costs. A great example is the Sony DVPNC85h & DVPNC85hb. The black model (hb) costs $22 more than the silver. Not sure why, but it does.

    It has to be a local competitor. Some products have different MSRPs in different regions. A store in NY may sell something higher than a store in IL.

  23. alienorgy69 says:

    “they should go ahead and convert all their stores so they can become anything-goes pan-sexual bazaars by night”

    When I was a young one (a decade or so) my dad and I went into buy another HD. The person who handled us suggested some canned air. I said yeah since we needed some anyway. He went to grab some and out of my father’s ear-range, he told me about the “Whip-its” him and his co-workers would do after hours. He needed to find one that worked. CC has been that way for a while from what I’ve surmised.

  24. DeeJayQueue says:

    it’s important to note that the policy is for 110% of the difference in price. That doesn’t mean that you get an extra 10% off the total price. If they price match something that was 12.99 down to 9.99 you only get 10% of $3, not of $9.99.

    I think that’s one of the reasons employees don’t make a practice of giving the discount unless people ask for it, because if they see it they’ll think it’s wrong, and then you have to explain the difference between “10% off the total price” and “10% off the difference in prices” because they’re not the same. Also, I’d bet that a lot of employees and managers alike just don’t get it either, so rather than do it wrong and mess it up, they just don’t do it at all.

  25. Yourhero88 says:

    *Walks out of Circuit City after trying to buy Arrested Development*

    I’ve made a huge mistake…

  26. thewiseman says:

    I used to work at Circuit City and have since moved on but here is how the Price Match works in the computer, when I worked there.

    The people at the front counters, CSAs, hit a button and usually two options appear. Exact Price Match, they imput the price and it drops it to that. Price Match + 10%, again imputting the price and then the computer does extra 10% off.

    So honestly, it can be that stores policy to not honor the Companies policy. When I worked there, depending on the manager, customer, and what they purchased we would sometimes not give the price match plus the 10%.

  27. Xenuite says:

    Circuit City always has been a bit of a piss-pot when it comes to customer service. Admittedly, most other CE stores don’t do so well either, but when I waited one hour for someone to help me find a SATA cable (Which they didn’t have of course) it starts to get stupid. I actually walked up to a customer service rep, told them how poor the service is and how I was looking for something specific. The rep said “sorry” and “Those guys in the back near the computers can answer your questions.”
    “The ones I’ve been waiting for and who haven’t acknowledged my existence?”
    “Um…”

  28. dvdchris says:

    “She manually figures out 10% on a calculator and adjusts the price.”
    Funniest part of the story.

  29. adamondi says:

    I worked at Circuit City about 10 years ago, and we hated the price match guarantee. Why? Because any time you had to have a price adjusted for a customer, your commission was cut in half. Even if the customer came back three days later and had one of the Customer Service people do the price match. So there was automatic breakage encouraged by the implementation of the policy.

    At any rate, I hate Circuit City, and would love to see them go down in flames (which they appear to be doing).

  30. Flibbetigibbet says:

    Interesting. I bought a GPS for my wife right before Christmas, Staples had a sale price that was (IIRC) something like $150 cheaper than CircuitCity. I had no problem getting CC (Harrisburg, PA) to match the price (with the extra 10%), but the kid at the customer service desk told me as he was checking me out that they were dropping the price match in the new year. Don’t think I’ve been back to a CC since then to check whether he was right or not.

  31. thewiseman says:

    @ Adamondi’s Comment

    100% Correct. This is why a lot of the “lifers” at CC dont do the pricematch. Its that commission mentality, which has been switched into the managers trying to keep their monthly bonuses by having lower return rates and lower open box rates.

  32. mst3kzz says:

    Long live Staples!!!

  33. sarajean says:

    there are no more “lifers” @ circuit city. they were all fired in march. duh.

  34. Ressly says:

    Here is Circuit City’s “Unbeatable Price Guarantee” (from circuitcity.com):

    “Circuit City is proud to offer the best prices on consumer electronics. Period. Buy a product from us and if, within 30 days of your purchase, you find a local competitor offering a lower advertised price for the same in-stock item, we’ll refund 110% of the difference. If you haven’t yet purchased the product, we’ll beat the competitor’s price by 10% of the difference between our price and theirs. Either way, you win.

    “If you purchase an item from Circuit City and we advertise the same item for a lower price within 30 days of your purchase, we will refund 100% of the difference.

    “Our policy applies only to local, advertised store prices. It does not apply to online offers, special offers or promotions, including rebates, free-with-purchase offers and special financing. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide price matches online, so please visit your local Circuit City store to take advantage of our Unbeatable Price Guarantee.”

    So the Hicksville Circuit City saying that they don’t do the 110% anymore is obviously a matter of ignorance.

    And as a former Circuit City manager, here are nine different “outs” the guarantee gave me, any one of which by itself gives me justification to not beat someone else’s price.

    1) “within 30 days of your purchase” – 31 days? Sorry. After thirty days, we don’t have to return the item, either, for you to get your money back to buy it someplace else.

    2) “you find” – it’s not my job to call competitor after competitor because you saw it someplace for less, but you can’t remember if it was Best Buy or Target or Office Depot.

    3) “a local competitor” – usually interpreted as in the same metro area, or within about 50 miles, that is open to the public and an authorized retailer of the product. No Costco, Sam’s Club, or other club stores. If “Joey’s Bargain Basement Hi-Fi” down the street isn’t an authorized Sony retailer, I’m not beating their price.

    4) “advertised price” – this is a huge “out”. I don’t care if you brought me the price tag from Best Buy’s shelf, or show me your receipt from Wal-mart. If the product isn’t currently advertised in their weekly ad or other media, I don’t have to beat it.

    5) “same” – If the competitor’s advertised iPod Nano is blue, then I don’t have to beat the price on a different color Nano (yes, different-colored products usually have different model numbers, and therefore technically not the “same” item). Contrary to popular myth, retailers generally don’t have customized model numbers for products to avoid price guarantees. Very infrequently, we would carry a product that was exclusive to Circuit City. It may be similar to a competitor’s product, but it is truly unique in more ways than just the model number.

    6) “in-stock item” – if I call the competitor, and am told that they do not have the item in stock, no price guarantee for you. If the competitor has several local locations, I’ll try all of them. But if none of them have the item in stock at that moment, too bad. Rainchecks and back-orders don’t fly.

    5) “online offers” – I don’t care if it’s Amazon, NewEgg, or even BestBuy.com, I don’t have to beat the price.

    6) “special offers or promotions” – if the ad says “No rainchecks,” “While supplies last,” “quantites limited,” or anything like that, no price guarantee.

    7) “rebates” – Competitor has a rebate? Don’t have to match it.

    8) “free-with-purchase offers” – if Target is giving you a free memory card with a digital camera, I don’t have to match it.

    9) “special financing” – This is another huge “out”. I don’t have to match any no-interest and/or no-payment financing.

    In practice, I didn’t know any manager who took the guarantee so literally in every case, but if at any time we didn’t think it was in our interest to beat a price, we always had one of these “outs” at the ready.

  35. acambras says:

    @Mark73Online:

    Well, those are so many “outs” that I imagine a lot of people are wondering, “why bother even driving to CC and asking?” I guess if people give up before they even start, then Circuit City has already won.

    Doesn’t apply to me, since I haven’t set foot in a CC for years. Or Best Buy. I’ve had such lousy experiences at both places that I just don’t spend my money in there anymore.

  36. firebirdude says:

    Mark37online has a lot of valid points, however he didn’t have to be such a jerk about it. lol ;-) I too work for CC, but let it be known that we will almost always match/beat an advertised price from the newspaper or website. But let’s be reasonable.

    #1 We don’t do club prices. (Sams, BJ’s, etc) If you have to pay a fee to shop there, it’s not happening. A small reason why they can offer those low prices is because they charge you a fee to shop there. Circuit City does not.

    #2 It cannot be some random “Joes TVs” web site. Major local retailers only. (Best Buy, Rex, Comp USA, WalMart,Sears,etc) And as Mark stated, “authorized” retailers. Meaning your manufacture’s warranty will still be valid because you purchased it from us. Try getting service on an item you bought “new” off Ebay.(or any other random website)

    #3 No matching/beating on “while supplies last” or “limited quantities”, etc etc. The retailer must have the item in stock. The customer must be able to leave our store and buy it there instead. This is to prevent, say, Office Depot from advertising 32″ LCD TVs for $299 while supplies last, but each store has two in stock. Now Circuit City has a line of people wanting our stock of 20 for $299 each.

    #4 Mail in rebates or financing are non-negotiable. Most of these are out of the retailer’s hands so to speak. We cannot make up mail in rebates for customers to match. And we’re obviously not just giving them instant rebates instead. That’s not how mail in’s work. We all know that. Been happening for years. “Mail in 20 UPCs for a free decoder ring!” Knowing that every customer will not/will forget to mail it in. Plus, the company uses your money in the 6-8 weeks it takes to refund.

    Thats the most of it. Those are the common ones people seem to get hung up on. All seem reasonable to me. Best Buy is the same way. NOW THEN, that all being said. Most manager’s will match the price just out of good nature. Surely don’t expect it, but if 20 bucks is going to make the customer want to shop there again, there so be it. Make them happy. We can’t have 20 people lined up trying to get $230 monitors for $119 when infact the offer was clearly while supplies last, but we can bend a rule here and there for a few bucks. If a customer says an item is cheaper at WalMart for example, I’ll hop on the website and check. If it’s there, we’ll do it for them 9/10 times.

  37. Ressly says:

    @acambras: A price guarantee like this is not unique to Circuit City or Best Buy. Most price guarantees have a long list of stipulations. Any salesperson or retailer can say to you, “We guarantee you the best price.” That doesn’t mean the guarantee doesn’t have conditions. This is the reason a retailer prints its price guarantee in detail on the receipt (sometimes on the back) and/or a large sign near the checkout or customer service. It’s not to boast about it. It’s so that if you sue over the retailer not matching a competitor’s price, the retailer can point out that the full details of the guarantee were conspicuously posted and readily available.

    I think FIREBIRDUDE understands that I was listing all the “technicalities” that can be brought up by Circuit City in refusing to honor someone else’s price. No Circuit City manager whom I knew interpreted the conditions of the guarantee as being set in stone.

    FIREBIRDUDE’s post reflects much more accurately how the price guarantee was enforced “in practice.”

    The “advertised price” rule is almost always ignored. Like FIREBIRDUDE said, as long as I could call the store and verify that it was in stock at a lower price, that was fine.

    An “online offer” was generally acceptable as long as it was the site of a actual local competitor (BestBuy.com, Target.com, etc.), the item was in stock, and it was not an online-only special.

    The general rule with special offers, free-with-purchase offers, and financing was the “no stacked offers.” Suppose Circuit City was selling a TV for $500, and included a TV stand valued at $100 for free. Suppose at the same time that Best Buy was selling the same TV for $450, but without any free stand. “No stacked offers” meant that a shopper could buy the TV from us for $500 with the free $100 stand included, or for $445 from us without the free stand (110% of $50 price difference equals $55 off). The shopper could not have the TV from us for $445 AND get the free stand. We would not “stack” or “combine” offers.

    Aside from the above, which I believe is pretty universal in Circuit City-land, how far the managers of a store could bend on a price guarantee was usually established by the District Manager, who had 6-10 stores under him. In my store outside Kansas City, Missouri, we were able to price guarantee against Nebraska Furniture Mart, 170 miles away. This was at our District Manager’s discretion because Nebraska Furniture Mart had free delivery to the Kansas City area. Now, Nebraska Furniture Mart has a store just west of Kansas City in Kansas, so they are a true local competitor, anyway.

    Our district manager also gave us the OK to beat some Costco prices. But Costco wouldn’t release prices over the phone, so we could only beat the prices on items that a manager had personally seen in Costco on a weekly “competitive-shopping” trip.

    There were other exceptions, taken on a case-by-case basis, but in the end it would be about protecting the store’s profit and my job.

  38. acambras says:

    @Mark73Online:

    in the end it would be about protecting the store’s profit and my job.

    That’s fine — I get that. I’m just saying that all the loopholes and “outs” make me believe that, more likely than not, it’s not even worth it to try dealing with all that rigamarole. So I don’t shop at Circuit City.

    In the end it would be about protecting my sanity. ;-)