UPDATE: Amex Slaps Best Buy, Obtains Refund For Reader's Box Of Tile Hard Drive

We love a happy ending. Sam has written in with the good news that Amex was able to get a full refund from Best Buy after they sold him a box of bathroom tiles instead of a hard drive.

Sam writes:

Morning Meg,

One more update, I was contacted by American Express and they were able to resolve the situation and they obtained a refund from Best Buy. I should be seeing that show up on my account in a couple of days. Thanks for the help and I’m glad this story was able to educate some people on how not to get screwed by Big Business.

-Sam

Way to go, Sam! Yay for Amex! Credit cards can offer an additional level of protection from fraud, and this is a great example of that.

PREVIOUSLY: Best Buy Sells You A Box Of Bathroom Tiles Instead Of Hard Drive, Won’t Issue Refund

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  1. newlywed says:

    you know, i’m really gonna have to get an amex, now…first the iphone refund, now these tiles…really impressive!

  2. warf0x0r says:

    When we see CCs get refunds for consumers I don’t think I’ve ever seen a post where a reader has used a non-Amex card. Has anyone ever had good luck with a non-Amex card getting a refund through a belligerent retailer?

  3. humphrmi says:

    @warf0x0r: I’ve had good luck with Citibank. They’re pit bulls with errant vendors. They took on a hopeless situation with Amazon for me, and prevailed.

  4. Hinomura says:

    and the moral of the story is…. f*ck best buy

  5. Sherryness says:

    My luck with using credit cards has been in being able to dispute the charge. I have never actually had to file an official dispute, though. I just tell the company who is treating me unfairly (which is rare for me, fortunately) that I *WILL* dispute the charge (I never use the word “may” or “might”), if the issue is not resolved fairly. Companies get spanked financially, big time, for disputed charges. So this carries a lot of weight.

  6. faust1200 says:

    I’ve probably had a half dozen disputes with Citibank since the early 90′s. All were easy and resolved in my favor.

  7. nick_r says:

    @warf0x0r: I’ve done a couple of successful chargebacks on my Bank of America Visa. In one case I ordered a peripheral that was shipped to me at work; UPS then delivered it to the wrong building but it was signed for and taken anyway. Since it was signed for, the company refused to give me a refund or replacement. B of A did their “investigation” and a short time later got my money back.

  8. He says:

    Why is it still not Best Buy’s (and other retailers) policy to open all returned items so people can’t pull this scam? Considering that they charge ten bucks more for opened items, it should totally work in their favor and prevent innocent people from getting cheated by whatever jerks are doing this in the first place.

  9. I’d like to know what action was taken against the manager by corporate, if any.

  10. Rando says:

    You have to side with best buy. We don’t know who is right and who is lying…could be best buy, could be the consumer. But thanks for the scamming tip.

    I’m going to head to my local best buy and buy a bunch of hard drives on my amex, replace them with tiles, then call amex and get a charge back done.

    Wow I’ll be rich.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Rando: What’s your point, that you can commit fraud and get away with it? No kidding, but it’s still illegal.

      If you get sold a box of bricks instead of a hard drive, you are legally entitled to your money back! If the guy is lying, which I highly doubt because he went to the trouble of posting his story, then he’s a criminal. Otherwise, he’s a guy who got screwed. If it’s the latter, best buy should be out the money, not the guy. They should’ve opened the box when it was returned the first time.

  11. warf0x0r says:

    @Hinomura: Yes, Hinomura. Yes it is.

  12. Sam2k says:

    @warf0x0r: I use my Amex for almost everything, but there are some places that won’t take it, such as my university. I had to pay for a parking hangtag and I put it on my MTVU CitiCard. The next day I noticed that it double charged. I went to see the university and they told me that there were lots of people that had been double charged on that day and that it was my credit card’s fault. They told me to take it up with citibank, which was bs. Anyway, I didn’t want to argue so I called citibank and told them the situation. The CSR immediately suggested that I let her put the charge in dispute and gave me a credit to cover the $30 charge. A few days latter, the second charge was refunded by my school and the credit from Citibank stayed. So for jerking me around, my school lost $30 and I got a free hangtag and a bit of spending money. :)

  13. Morgan says:

    @He: The scam is generally pulled by someone in the distribution line (the person who packs it after it’s manufactured, or someone at a local warehouse before it’s sent to the store, or someone in the store before it’s put on the shelves); it’s new items, not returned ones, that are the problem.

  14. Girtych says:

    There’s still no proof as to whether the tiles were in the box before the hard disk was taken home. I think it’s awesome that AMEX makes it this easy to recover from a fraudulent transaction, but I’m not totally convinced that this was not a scam on the reader’s part. There’s not enough information.

    Here’s to hoping that manager gets his tail kicked for theft, though. Yanking the drive after it was paid for was totally wrong.

  15. DallasDMD says:

    @Girtych: Why on earth would someone spend all this time and energy on pulling this sort of scam just one time?

    If you’re going to do it, you don’t draw attention to yourself and take your losses as part of the strategy.

  16. HalOfBorg says:

    @warf0x0r:
    Visa. We bought a puppy at a petshop, then later decided our son was still too young for a dog.

    We went to return it next day, and the clerk said all they could do was give us store credit. I said “What about that?” pointing to the sign on wall behind clerk which read “Store credit given for animals returned after 10 days.”

    Clerk reads it, tears it down and sticks it under the register!

    “You can’t DO that!”

    We argued for a while, then I took the credit simply to get the dog returned, telling them I was not finished.

    Filed complaint with Visa. They threatened to pull their credit from the store. Visa had me send the store credit slip to Visa and I got my full refund. :)

  17. HalOfBorg says:

    @He:

    When I return anything expensive at Sam’s Club they open and inspect everything. And it’s all there.

    And FYI – all our dogs are now “pound-puppies”.

  18. markymags says:

    @warf0x0r:

    I’ve had good luck with my Discover card. I bought an item through eBay that was never sent. I tried reaching the seller but was unable to. I tried going through eBay and Paypal but they were moving too slow. Fortunately, I used my Discover card and was refunded my money very quickly. They are very nice on the phone… I have never had a problem with them and, *knock on wood*, hope that I never will.

  19. rkmc12 says:

    @Girtych: I always think we should be skeptical, but why go through all this trouble to get a free hard drive. Why would the guy draw so much attention to himself?

  20. Girtych says:

    @DallasDMD:

    Because it adds credibility by numbers, perhaps. The moment this hit Consumerist, there was a huge wave of anti-BB sentiment that drowned out anyone playing devil’s advocate. The only truly visible argument was the one in the consumer’s favor.

    I’m not saying that this guy’s really a scammer, don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying that there’s too little data to make a real conclusion. I certainly hope that this guy’s in the right, like I said back in my post on the original blog entry.

  21. DallasDMD says:

    @Girtych: Obviously, we can never know the purchaser’s intentions. However, it tells us how Best Buy may respond to everyone else, regardless of their honesty.

  22. cashmerewhore says:

    @HalOfBorg: Pets shouldn’t be returnable. Unless unforeseen health issues (on the pet’s part).

    Seeing this AmEx love makes me want one. Discovercard has been pretty nice with me though….

  23. MountainRooster says:

    Disputing a charge may loose you points on your credit report. The fiance and I are buying a house and she had a $1000 dispute against LOT- Polish Air. The wouldn’t even answer the customer service lines at any time of day. Visa had already credited her and it showed the dispute on the report.

    • Justin Harper says:

      @MountainRooster: I don’t think that this is correct. I have settled disputes through AMEX and monitor my credit reports regularly, and have never seen anything show up.

      However, for a charge that large, the merchant may have sent you to a collection agency when the credit card company refused to pay them. THAT would show up on your credit report.

  24. Rando says:

    Disputing charges does not affect your credit..

    But you have to side with best buy on their decision. This guy could be lying.

    Thanks for the good idea. I’m gonna buy a bunch of HDDs, replace the contents with tiles, then do a charge back through amex and resell the real HDDs on ebay. ILL BE RICH

  25. hypnotik_jello says:

    @randotheking: You already said that. Hope you get caught!

  26. DallasDMD says:

    @randotheking: I’ve had a dispute show up on my credit report (Wells Fargo Visa) even after I resolved the dispute with both parties. I’m attempting to dispute the dispute!

    I don’t side with BB. This sort of thing could honestly happen to any of us. They should, as a customer-focused retailer, factor in customer fraud, employee theft, and the manufacturers shipping faulty/non-existent goods. If BB wants to minimize return fraud, they should keep track of customer returns and flag people who have statistically high amount of returns and deny them future returns.

    Besides, this BB already committed a crime by taking her goods after doing the exchange.

  27. Trick says:

    @randotheking:

    Disputing charges does not affect your credit..

    But you have to side with best buy on their decision. This guy could be lying.

    Thanks for the good idea. I’m gonna buy a bunch of HDDs, replace the contents with tiles, then do a charge back through amex and resell the real HDDs on ebay. ILL BE RICH

    OK Randotheking. We get the point. Best Buy is great and the customer was out to rip them off. Now you are free to sing you Best Buy love songs…

  28. Snarkysnake says:

    I’ve had Amex since 1994.(Wife had to have a card to travel the world for her company).We’ve had a few disputes and Amex went to bat for us every time.They basically told the people trying to screw us that the burden of proof was on them to prove that the charge was legit.They backed down every time.Earlier this year,I wanted to buy a Toyota Yaris , found one at a dealer in Atlanta and plunked down a deposit (based on their quoted “internet only” price) and went to pick up my car.They tried the usual last minute bullshit dealer games – “prep” fees, “undercoating” etc…I told them no way,this is not what I agreed to.They said too bad,you put down a deposit,you have to take the car. Ha Ha . I told the poppin fresh lookalike closer that I knew my rights by paying with a credit card.That shut the little bastard up and I left. Paying by credit card (especially a big ticket item) gives you leverage if it is defective or in this case,missing altogether.Even if you have the money right there in your pocket,pay with the card and settle up later.

    BTW- It’s not all that easy to get a Visa/Amex/M/C merchant account.There are some fairly thorough checks that they do.This will give you some idea of how stable the company is that you’re dealing with.It’s a quick,dirty screening device to weed out the fly by night outfits. If someone purports to be a big volume seller and they can’t /don’t take credit cards, that’s a red flag.It means that they have no decent business credit or they have alredy screwed too many people over.Beware.

  29. AnnC says:

    @Trick: It’s also fraud. You’ll probably get away with it but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s fraud.

    Of course, if best buy did sell the guy a box of tiles instead of a hard drive then it is committing fraud if they don’t refund or exchange it.

  30. iamlost26 says:

    @cashmerewhore: Pets are returnable at all the major chains within a certain time period. My sister recently bought a hamster at PetsMart. It got sick the very next day, and when she went back to the store, they were willing to offer a full refund. Of course, when she realized they would just kill it, she opted to go see a vet instead.

    If pets couldn’t be returned, we would have pet stores selling sick, pound animals to unsuspecting pet lovers, knowing the animal would die the next week.

    btw, a vet visit = >$100. A new hamster = <$10.

  31. cashmerewhore says:

    @iamlost26: A dog should not be returned because your kid is too young. A pet is a committment, not a purchase.

    I did not say that sick animals should not be returned, but generally death is their fate when returned to a petstore.

  32. SJActress says:

    @randotheking:
    You’re right. WE don’t know who’s right or wrong, which means YOU don’t know who’s right or wrong. Before getting all George Bushy about it, think about the facts of the case. WE (meaning not including YOU–apparently you don’t want to be included) did that.

    Oh, and go suck a tree.

  33. BigNutty says:

    I have been waiting for a refund for over 30 days from my Visa credit card company for an unauthorized charge to Google when someone got my credit card number from the Internet.

    Even though Google determined (on the same day I called them) that it was indeed someone else using my card number, they refused to refund my money with a charge back to my credit card.

    They wanted me to go through the hassle of disputing the charge with my credit card company. Thanks Google, I know you need my $59 more than me.

    Amex here I come.

    • Justin Harper says:

      @BigNutty: I’m really surprised by this- usually the merchant will bend over backwards to get you to NOT send it through your credit card company, because when you do, not only do they not get the money, but they usually get slapped with a ~$30 chargeback fee from the CC company.

      Which is why I ask the company politely first (and only once) and if they refuse, hang up and go straight to the card company :-)

  34. Nezla says:

    @randotheking:
    You are not the first person who has thought of something like that and trust me, credit card companies are well aware of it and have processes in place to identify and stop that type of thing from happening.

    On the flip side of things, there was a story that I saw the other day about a father who was disputing the $53,000 that his son charged at a strip club. The strip club provided Amex with the signed and initialed receipts so Amex sided with the strip club. (which they were right in doing)

  35. bobsmithhome says:

    Regarding @warf0x0r:

    I don’t think it’s really about the logo on the card; it’s more a matter of the bank that issued the card. I have a VISA through my local credit union. If there is a dispute, I deal with people who know me, who live in my community, attend my church, and see me when I stop by the Credit Union. Who do you think they’ll side with… me or some crap store like Best Buy that has a well earned reputation for being sleazy? No need to get an Amex. Just be careful which bank you choose.

    It’s interesting to read the comments by a couple of turkeys up-thread who eagerly jump to Best Buy’s defense. These are the same types of folks who still support GW, gleefully cross picket lines, and rat out their co-workers for minor offenses… you know the type. Sycophants.

  36. john_nyc says:

    A similar thing happened to me yesterday. I bought a shrink wrapped WD Raptor drive from the BB on 23rd St NYC. When I got home I opened it to find that it instead contained a beat-to-shit Maxtor 300G drive with all but two of the interface pins bent flat.

    I called the BB nearest to my home and told them exactly what happened and the in-store CSR told me to bring it in to exchange it. She even offered to have one waiting for me at the counter.

    Long story short, when I got there the “service manager” told me that since I got it from a NYC store I had to take it back there because “he wasn’t going to pay for it”. It was also sort of funny that he didn’t say that he didn’t believe that I got the wrong product, but he did indicate that I may have lied to his CSR to get her to say that the’d take it back.

    In the parking lot I called the original store and they told me that the NJ store should in fact have done the exchange. He then put me on hold to check with his manager because this was an “unusual” situation. When he came back he said that unfortunately NO BB would take it back and that I had to work it out with Western Digital. To his credit, he did acknowledge that he thought that this was wrong.

    Unfortunately I paid for it with my Citibank debit card and Citibank told me they weren’t going to do anything because as far as they were concerned, it was a valid transaction.

    Eventually I got someone at BB’s Corporate Office Customer Relations dept. At first he also told me that I was screwed and that I’d have to go to WD for a resolution. Then he offered to send me a BB gift card for the exact amount of the purchase. Supposedly it’ll arrive in 2 weeks, but I’m not exactly holding my breath.

    In the meantime, I’ve straightened out the pins on the drive and mounted in an external enclosure. I’m trying to restore data from it, but the structure seems to be pretty heavily damaged, so it’s slow going. I also left a vm with a corporate communications person at WD.

    I’m very curious to find the origins of the drive. I suspect that it was the leftover drive of a repair either in-store or at a BB service depot.

    I also noticed that the shrink wrap material itself on my drive was different than the one that was sitting on the counter in the store (that they wouldn’t let me have). The bad one’s wrap was sort of stiff like cellophane and the new one’s wrap was more supple.

    Yes, yes… I could be lying about all of this. But, if I was truly a criminal mastermind I could have just not said anything and returned the drive saying it was just the wrong one or something. I would have then had the new drive and a refund for the box with the bad one. I could have then gone to another BB and bought a 2nd Raptor. Then I’d have a blazingly fast 3 Raptor RAID-0 system volume. Instead I have $216 less to my name and a significant dislike of Best Buy.

    John

  37. CleverID says:

    2 things come to mind here.

    The first is a piece of advice I got from my boss when I was a new employee: never use a debit card. The reason? When it comes time for a dispute, you are already out the $$ and the bank has much less incentive to take your side. By contrast when you have a credit card, the $$ at risk is the bank’s. They are much more interested in helping you out when it’s in their own self-interest.

    The second was a terrific experience I had at Home Depot and why I am a committed HD shopper. A similar thing happened; I purchased a window insulation kit that had obviously been opened. Despite my misgivings, I figured that HD wouldn’t stock a bad product so I went with it. I got home and found that it was, in fact trash bags, rather than the shrink-wrap plastic I had expected. I called HD told them my story and they immediately offered to replace or refund my purchase. I replied that was great, but what about my time? (Back then it was a good 45 min drive to the nearest HD) The Mgr asked how much was my time worth? $20 I said, and he said OK and that was that. I went down to the store, met the manager, he gave me the new box, and a $20, and I gave him the old box and I gave HD my undying loyalty.

    Lest there is some HD exec patrolling this list, let me say that since that time, I have spent tens of thousands of dollars in your store, often going out of my way to shop there.

    J

  38. HalOfBorg says:

    My brother-in-law has a TV from BB with extended warranty. It needs fixed and he is having trouble getting it done.

    Guess which webpage I have directed him to?? :)

  39. xamarshahx says:

    AMEX is the best card to use, period. Except internationally, where no one excepts it.

  40. Bassdrop says:

    I’ve done a couple of chargebacks on my RBC Visa without any issues.

  41. elf6c says:

    Me hearts my Amex. Its like Raid for scummy companies.

  42. john_nyc says:

    @CleverID:

    Both of your points are excellent. I’m not usually one to buy anything except food/gas/small stuff with my debit card. I made the wrong decision this time and I’m paying for it now.

    Your HD story is an excellent example of what a retail manager with presence of mind should do in that situation. I short sighted clock-puncher with a chip would have blown you off because the rules (or his interpretation of them) said he could. In your example the amount that the store will eat by accepting your return and giving you $20 dwarfs the amount that they’ll reap by you coming back over the course of your life.

    If only more people in that line of work understood that…

    John

  43. XTC46 says:

    @He: It actually is a lot of their policy to do this, the problem is they then hire minimum wage workers to sit at customer service you don’t bother. CS is a hard job because you sit there ang et complained to, thats it. They need to be paid better so they will do good work.

    I have see a customer come in, return a 1500 dollar laptop for a refund, but when the cs rep turned around to get some paperwork, the customer put the laptop back in her stroller, took the credit then walk out the door, past the receipt checker (who she showed the receipt with the credit on it)and he let her out with her refund and the laptop. companies can write what ever policy they want, but if you treat your employees like crap, and pay them poorly, they wont do good work and wont enforce those policies.

  44. jeblis says:

    If best buy wants to be sure they aren’t selling tile have the customer open the box upon purchase and sign something certifying that they got the product they paid for.

  45. john_nyc says:

    @jeblis:

    Right.. because Best Buy is exactly the kind of store where if you started opening sealed product you’d have loss prevention or a manager on your ass like white on rice.

    Maybe what they should do is re-task the receipt checkers to be product checkers. They can make sure that Best Buy isn’t ripping YOU off instead of the other way around. It would go something like this:

    “Excuse me, madame… I see on your receipt it says that you’ve purchased an XQJ-37 Roto-Plooker. Please allow me to look in the box. Oh my goodness! It seems that you’ve been swindled and were sold a box of rocks! Please accept our apology and this nifty electric toothpick. I’ll be right back with another XJQ!”

    John

  46. duffbeer703 says:

    Hey John_NYC -

    Federal law established something called “The Special Rule for Credit Card Purchases”. Basically, if you have a problem with something that costs more than $50 and that was purchased within 100 miles of your mailing address, you aren’t liable for the charges.

    Unless you use AMEX, however, most cards will give you shit about invoking it on the the phone. Write a paper letter to the customer service address describing the situation, the distance from your house to the store and a copy of the receipt. You’ll typically get your money back pretty quickly.

    Lesson: use AMEX.

  47. no.no.notorious says:

    theres no proof that the tiles were actually in the box during purchase…i know people that do these sorts of things.

    the difference is they use cash to avoid a paper trail.

  48. Snakeophelia says:

    AmEx treats you right. That and a debit card (for small local purchases) are all you need.

  49. sjmoreau says:

    It seems that Best Buy is notorious for this kind of treatment. A couple years back, I bought a CD and a DVD with my Debit Card. The cashier gave me the total and swiped my card. As the transaction was processing, I realized the total price was off as the CD was marked for less than what it rang up as. I informed the cashier who acknowledged that I was correct and supposedly returned and refunded the first transaction. She swiped my card again for the new total, gave me my receipt and I was out the door. Once I received my bank statement, I realized that I had been charged twice for the same thing; the return and refund had never happened. I took my bank statements and receipts to the store where I voiced my complaint. I probably talked with three different people before getting an 800 number to call at the corporate offices. Following phone calls and multiple visits and complaints, I have still not gotten my refund…

  50. buckeyegoose says:

    So go walk into Best Buy and take the 2nd one off the shelf. LP gives you a hassle, tell them if not right for you to be talking it, they how is it right that best buy did.