Best Buy Adds Disclaimer To Secret Website

In response to being sued and humiliated on the internet over their “secret website,” reader MK says Best Buy has added a disclaimer that warns customers that the in-store kiosk doesn’t display the same prices as the public website.

For those of you new to this issue, Best Buy was caught using a duplicate website to fool customers who tried to compare internet prices with in-store prices.

Customers who asked why the price was higher in the store were often told that “the sale must have ended” in the time it took them to drive to the store. They were then told to “check the website” to see for themselves, then were shown an identical-looking website that displayed different “in-store” prices.

We think Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said it best back in May (right after he sued Best Buy):

“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.

“The company commonly kept two sets of prices – one on its Internet site and an often higher set on its in-store, look-alike, available on kiosks. The in-store site was an Internet look-alike, commonly with higher prices, which were charged to consumers. Best Buy broke its promise to give the best price – an Internet version of bait-and-switch – a technological bait-and-switch-plus.

“Best Buy used in-store kiosks to conceal lower online prices and renege on its price match guarantee. Consumers seeking bargains were led to believe that lower online prices had expired or never existed. Best Buy treated its customers like suckers, not patrons to be prized.”

We hope this disclaimer puts a stop to that sort of behavior.

Attorney General, DCP Commissioner Sue Best Buy For Deceiving, Overcharging Customers [Connecticut AG]
(Photo:Thanks, MK!)

PREVIOUSLY: Connecticut Sues Best Buy For Tricking Customers With Secret Internal Website
UPDATE: Best Buy Still Using Its Secret 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
Best Buy’s Secret “Employee Only” In-Store Website Shows Different Prices Than Public Website

Comments

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  1. blue_duck says:

    Another reason to hate Best Buy. Crappy in person service as well as online.

  2. DashTheHand says:

    So they don’t have to honor the external website prices if they have the disclaimer on their modified internal website?

  3. rdm24 says:

    @DashTheHand: I’m guessing they do, but assuming people won’t challenge them after being falsely reassured by the instore kiosk.

  4. IphtashuFitz says:

    As mobile devices with web browsing capabilities (iPhone, etc) become more and more popular I wonder what Best Buys reaction will be when people come in and show sales droids what the price currently is on the internet. Will they give up this pathetic bait-and-switch charade and actually use the same prices in both places? Will they claim that the mobile devices aren’t accurate? Or will they do something really stupid and try to ban people from using mobile devices while in their stores?

    Not that any of these options matter to me. I can’t stand Best Buy and avoid them like the plague.

  5. When I worked in BBY as a 3rd party vendor.. I’d come across this all the time when trying to sell my company’s products in store. I brought my own laptop in and hooked it up to the “real internet” through BBY’s proxy over wifi that the geeksquad guys carelessly left avb (intenret explorer, proprties…wala).

  6. Internet*

  7. Chicago7 says:

    The only reason to buy anything at Best Buy ended about 5 years ago (maybe more!) when they drove a bunch other retailers out of business by low prices and then raised their own prices.

  8. lincolnparadox says:

    This is a perfect reason to print out any sale/price information from the intertubes. Especially if you’re already shopping around.

  9. warf0x0r says:

    This is what made BBY the best electronics store. You create such a disconnect between the corporate entity and the stores that communication breakdowns are almost plan able. No employee would ever know why this happened and would be limited in their ability to get an answer.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find out if there was a department committed to finding ways to use the horrible communication as a way to entrap customers in horrible deals that they end up paying more for.

  10. chasema says:

    I bought an SD Card in-store a couple months back. The price was higher in-store than online, and I told them and they simply price-matched it. They were also more than friendly though, which I doubt you would find in any BestBuy store…

  11. catnapped says:

    @lincolnparadox: But then they’ll just claim you photoshopped it and arrest you for committing “fraud” (emphasis on the quotes)

  12. OtterKing says:

    FILTHY! I know there are some mighty greedy people out there, but I am still shocked when I see something like this. The fact that such a huge company with such a visible public reputation would try to pull off some small time crookery like this just amazes me.

  13. drjayphd says:

    Dickie B strikes again. Ah, Connecticut.

  14. technotica says:

    I caught them on this shortly after the internal website debacle surfaced. However they did honor the ‘real’ website and I bought the software without complaint. Now if only when you lose your reward zone card they could replace it! Big ol’ dur on that one Best Buy.

  15. catnapped says:

    @technotica: So you can’t replace the card? The whole bar code/numbers rubbed off of mine (rendering it useless, natch)

  16. technotica says:

    @catnapped: No, on the reward zone website it says:

    “What should I do if I’ve lost my card?
    Don’t worry. You can still receive points for your purchases.

    For in-store purchases, just tell the cashier you are a member of the Reward Zone program and provide your telephone number to receive points for your purchase.

    For online purchases, once your order has been fulfilled, call Member Services at 1-888-BEST BUY (1-888-237-8289) and they can award the points for you. You will need your Member ID and either the transaction information or online purchase confirmation.”

  17. GearheadGeek says:

    @AngrySicilian: Wala?

  18. anonymous-julie says:

    Interesting indeed! Early in the summer, I went to Best Buy to pick up a camera advertised on sale online – and of course it didn’t show up on the in-store website. There was verbage on the website that it showed in-store prices only, but the associate thought the sale must have ended. (With so many sales, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt, but hey, it could be a conspiracy act.)

    After I looked with the sales rep at the in-store site, confirming the non-sale, I decided to double check the online site through an adjacent machine with Internet access. I’d seen it at work only hours before, after all. The price was for a color only available online.

    I showed her the website, and said I would be happy to buy a camera from the store if I could get the sale price on the available color; otherwise I’d just buy online. It worked.

    Caveat emptor.

  19. Phildawg says:

    @IphtashuFitz: They will tell you that you have to buy the item online and go through that process. They always make it hard to get a deal. We used to send people trying to do pricematches to customer service to have them call and see if the other store had it… knowing full well that the process would take 30-45 minutes on a fast day! If we couldn’t get a hold of the competitor it was a no go, and usually when the customer left the store over the long wait, it was a no go.

    Best Buy is more concerned about profit margins than actual revenue. They only became revenue friendly for a couple of years after 9/11 and the economic decline as they were hit 70% of their revenue goals which would dramatically hurt the stock price.

  20. superchou says:

    This happened to me and my fiance a few months back when we were looking to pick upi a digital elf for him. The online price was about 50 bucks lower and they guy in the shop tried to make us think they sale ended the day before and showed us the fake version of their site – in store. My fiance recalled reading something about this bullshit tactic a while back and jumped on the Macs on display in the store – for whatever reason they were connected to the real ‘net… low and behold, the correct sale price was right there… we jumped thru the customer service hoops and got the sale price of it but this is really just a cheap and dirty tactic by best buy.

  21. amoeba says:

    I remember that I was told by a BBY Manager that the stores “WILL NEVER” match prices from: their own online ads and/or other stores advertising a lower price. If I wanted a discount (5%-10%) I should enroll to some kind of club, buy a returned item or buy their overpriced warranties and other stuff they offer.

  22. Chicago7 says:

    OK, I don’t get it. It seems like it would cost more money to have 2 web sites than they would make by the overcharges.

  23. qbrad says:

    @IphtashuFitz: There’s a few BB’s in NYC that don’t get cell reception in them. Wonder if that would put a damper on the “independent checking” using a mobile web device.

  24. BlueModred says:

    @Chicago7: The reason for the two ads is that certain items will be discounted or clearanced in some markets and not others. The Logitech DiNovo keyboard is a good example. Some stores cleared them out recently for $39.99 a piece (from $200), while other markets did not.
    This is in reaction to market demand in some areas being different than on others.

    And just a tip to many here; don’t assume your sales rep is trying to rip you off. Especially in regards to sale prices, I ALWAYS have customers coming in on Tuesdays and Wednesdays looking for deals that ended on Saturday. They always get pissed off that we won’t/can’t give them the deal. So when an employee seems doubtful or asks for proof don’t be surprised.

    To fight this, if you go into a BestBuy and they show you the more expensive website, tell the sales associate to log in and look on the national website. Most kiosks in the stores have access to both local and national websites.

  25. bufftbone says:

    I found a printer online for $100 cheaper then in store. I went to the store to buy it and was told they wouldn’t honor the internet price. I told them I forgot my checkbook and went home to go get it. I bought it online with an in store pick up. There were only 2 left and I knew that the one I had there was for me. I got it at the cheaper price that way.

  26. FLConsumer says:

    Nice to see that they still haven’t truly learned. The internal website exists, but with a disclaimer. Somehow I don’t think the AG would be thrilled to hear this.

  27. geeksquaddave says:

    I found this out about a month after starting to work there. The internal store website reflects the local ad pricing, and sometimes is higher that the national website, and sometimes is lower, depending on the sale. When I found out, I would just get online to the national website, and give the customer the best deal, as did everyone at my store.

  28. imajoebob says:

    Not a smart move by Best Buy. Blumenthal will scorch their criminal ass. This is a BS move by Best Buy to try getting around the laws, but it won’t work. Since the employee pulls up the info that disclaimer is likely to disappear as soon as you enter a search. In other words, they’re still going to act like criminals. And if Blumenthal is really pissed off he’ll probably have the US Attorney charge them under thr RICO statutes as an organized crime ring (3 or more conspirators). That’s jail time, not fines.

    There are some days I’m even happier to be from Connecticut than usual.

  29. selectman says:

    @Chicago7: It’s actually very easy to maintain two separate websites that are meant to look exactly alike. All you have to do is share the same pages, code, etc. and plug in different data sources. In other words, adding extra parallel sites has a relatively negligible effect on cost.

  30. @amoeba: If you were told that they would not match their website, they were telling you wrong, at least according to their BestBuy.com price match policy. Most stores have a policy to not match online prices, even their own online prices, but BB’s page clearly states that they will match their online prices.

  31. hmm, the html didn’t work.

    [www.bestbuy.com]

  32. Chicago7 says:

    @BlueModred:

    So, you put a sign on those “Blue Light Specials” and say “This store only” on them. You don’t have to change the whole web site.

    A simple “CLEARANCE” sign would work.

  33. mrsultana can't get a password to work says:

    Is this news? That sign has been up on the internal local site for three or four months. The associate just has to pull up the correct application under toolkit!

  34. Dennis says:

    @DASHTHEHAND: BB will honor price match against the website price. I was there a couple of weeks ago and their claim was that the website and the stores were run by “different companies” and that was the reason for the price differences. It was a huge PIA, and we ended up wasting about an hour there an not getting anything.

    Also of note, I found a similar happening at Staples and staples.com. I was looking for cat 5 patch cables and a surge protector over the weekend and because I didn’t feel like waiting decided to check staples since there was one nearby. When I went to the store I noticed the surge protector was $2 more in store and the cat 5 cable was $7 more (a 50% increase). I was in a hurry so I just bought the surge protector with the intention of price matching it. I feel like this is terrible corporate policy.

  35. jcole66 says:

    This disclaimer hasn’t been applied yet at my local BestBuy store.
    I recently had the same issue with their online price being different from the in store price.
    I was looking for a Panasonic phone for home and thier website had a basic one that would fit my needs for $39.99. I wanted to read more about it and visiting the manufactures website which showed the Retail price at $39.99. As I went shopping on Sunday to buy it, I stopped in Target and Staples, both of which sold this exact same model phone for $39.99. Upon arriving at BestBuy, wouldn’t you know their “in-store” price was $45.99. I went to the kiosk and looked it up and found that they showed the $45.99 price. I went to the external site via my iPhone and found the $39.99 price. An employee approached me and asked if I needed help. I explained it to her and she seemed oddly confused but said the cashier would price match.
    The cashier seemed irritated with me that I wanted to price match for $5 but it wasnt about the money at the point it was the principal! I told the cashier I thought this was a very shady business practice and that I was glad that I’m an educated consumer but I felt sorry for the other less educated shoppers in the store. She said she would need a managers approval to do the price match to deter me and I told her “Ok, I can wait”. Not the answer she wanted to hear I’m sure! She then just adjusted the price to $39.99 without waiting or calling her manager. I thanked her and left the store.
    So for shopping at Bestbuy, I’ve gotten to the point I research everything before buying from them.
    Very poor business practice!

  36. GregAshlin says:

    For one, this is sort of old news. Best Buy added that disclaimer to their internal site months ago. (I’m not sure how old this article is, but it’s just now on top of Digg, so I may be out of bounds on this one)

    This was not something that was happening at all Best Buy stores, only the ones run by crooked people (which will happen no matter what company you go through).

    Many retailers (Staples, CompUSA, Circuit City, Target, Best Buy, etc) do NOT run their own web site. It is much easier for them to hire someone else to put up a website and do the work for them. The small company gets the draw from the bigger name (BestBuy.com will be searched for more than ISellCheapElectronicsOnline.com) and the Big Box Retailer saves money on upkeep costs and doesn’t have to hire people to run the site.

    You will find many deals that are “online only” which means you have to go through the website to put the order in. These are deals that the Website Company decided to put in place. The actual stores will not honor them because they would just be losing revenue they are not budgeted to lose. These things are usually “free with purchase” items or sometimes “two day only” sales.

    Other times, you will simply see a different website price than what you see at the store. Retailers WILL match that price, and usually without much of a hassle (unless those crooks are still in place). Many retailers sent out big important memos stressing the importance of matching the online price after multiple companies were caught for similar practices to this one.

    There is a reason for the “store price” website, and it’s two-fold. The first is mostly just to look up inventory. If you’re looking to pick up, say, a TV Stand, but there is no price tag or identifying information with the stand, it’s not very likely that someone will know a model number to look it up. This way they could go look it up on the web site and see actual pictures.

    The reason they keep this site up with the store prices is basically so they don’t have to discount everything they look up online. Many people do not check online prices before they come to the store, and if they can keep from having to discount things, it helps them actually stay in business (There is not as much profit in most electronics as the standard consumer believes).

    You should also keep in mind that many promotions are based off of the “regular price”, so you can’t combine it with a “price matching” deal. So if you’re going in looking for that ‘free stand with tv” offer you say in the Sunday paper, but saw that the TV was cheaper online without the stand, go in knowing you’re going to get one or the other – not both.

    While the customer is important, the number one worry about business will always be profit. This sometimes leads to unfortunate situations like what Best Buy went through, but in my opinion, no one should really end up being that surprised.(but being upset is another thing entirely)

  37. foxdiddy says:

    It seems as if Best Buy has given up on the whole PM thing? Has anyone had any luck with it lately? I was there two weeks ago. I wanted the guy to PM a HD-DVD player. Amazon had it for $239 + 7 free DVDs at the time (a week earlier Amazon had them for $199). I brought in the stuff I printed off the website I showed a sales associate. No go. I asked for a manager, the manager came over and told me that Best Buy does not PM online competitors. He said they only PM stores within a 10 minute drive of their location. I asked if BB online would price match? No go… So I guess they just don’t compete with anyone anymore. Buy from them or else leave. That’s fine, Amazon ships for free and I don’t actually have to leave my house.

  38. MSUHitman says:

    They still have a different price on the in-store site vs. the online site. The only difference is the disclaimer. For example, the last week in August when Heroes HD-DVD came out the real Best Buy website had it for 69.99 while the “in-store” Best Buy website had it for 89.99.

  39. Krycek says:

    I just had this happen today but they actually gave me the online price. The employee actually went out of his way to access the best buy website in the store through google and found the item I was buying for $10.00 less than what they had it for in the store. He printed it out for me and had me take it to the cashier and I got the online price. This is possibly the first time in years that I’ve gone into a best buy and not vowed to never come back… of course I’ve never been able to keep that because they ran all of the other competiton out of business and there’s nowhere else to go.

  40. mrsultana can't get a password to work says:

    Foxdiddy, do you leave in Seattle? As in, within 10 minutes of the Amazon warehouse? Then the statement about “online competitors” apply to you. 99% of the problems with [insert Best Buy, Circuit City, Target, etc] can be solved if people read the policies printed in the store, on the receipt, on the website, and at the registers. The other 1% can be stopped by the companies stopping their policies of hiring idiots in upper management and only paying enough that slacker teens and burnout adults want to work in the stores.
    They have policies. Why didn’t you just buy from Amazon to begin with and stop terrorizing a $9/hour customer service rep with your attitude? Oh, because then you would have nothing to whine about on the internet.

  41. blkhrt1 says:

    If the damn price is cheaper online at home rather than online in the store, fucking buy it at home! You still make Best Buy money and you still are buying from the place everyone hates so much. If you stopped bitching, it’ll probably go away, but you people are arrogant enough to think otherwise.

    Every region of the United States is in a different tax bracket, different cost of living, and different societies. So WHY would the price stay the same in EVERY store. Wal-Mart, Target, Circuit City, etc. ALL have different prices in different stores. Every store has a retail price and a cost price. In order to make profit they must sell ABOVE cost, not at or below. That would be called “LOSING MONEY”. Interesting concept, that economics. Who would think supply and demand, macroeconomics and the good ol’ concept of the American dollar would even matter in cases such as these.

  42. Anonymous says:

    They need to post another disclaimer across the foreheads of their Geek Morons…

    “Geek, and Works for Best Buy does NOT imply this moron is either trained, skilled, or knowledgeable in ANYTHING technical or computer related, in fact, it most likely means the opposite”

  43. gtoph says:

    They are still doing it!! I went in today to find a network switch that was advertised on there site (the one I get to from home) for $15. Went to the local best buy, found the switch, went to a computer to make sure it still pulled up as the $15…. nope, came up as $50.. the same price as labeled on the shelf.

    I found an employee who “logged in” and then I took the same steps to find the product… what a supprise, $15.

  44. Anonymous says:

    What goes around comes around. This is why Best Buy was duped for years by a couple in suburban Chicago. They took Best Buy for millions of dollars and was recently arrested. The arrest resulted in the couple’s assets, automobiles, and home furnishings being frozen and seized.