Best Buy Overcharges For Out-Of-Stock GPS, Won't Cancel Order

Daniel is the latest Consumerist reader to experience problems with ordering an item from Best Buy’s website. He writes that a retail sales associate who was either misinformed or dishonest led him to order GPS units as Christmas presents. Daniel’s debit card was charged before the items were delivered, which isn’t supposed to happen. Then Best Buy charged him the wrong price and lost his order, which really isn’t supposed to happen.

While Christmas shopping, my girlfriend and I noticed a automotive GPS unit on sale at Best Buy, but alas the last one was sold to a gentleman in front of me. A seemingly helpful employee offered to check the inventory of nearby stores. He stated that I can buy the units online and reserve them for in-store pickup, but the price online wasn’t the sale price but the full retail price. He assured me that my debit card would not be charged until I picked up my purchase and that the lower sale price would be given to me at that time. He noticed that I was hesitant and reassured me that everything would be ok and that I would not be charged the lower price until I got there to verify.

So on Sunday 12/20/09, I completed what I thought was going to be a simple transaction for a couple gps units on BestBuy.com. I got a confirmation email that stated what the rep. told me at the store- that my card will not be charged until I picked up my order and that I woud receive the lower price. The exact wording in the email was:

“Before going to the store, please wait to receive your store pickup notification e-mail. This e-mail arrives within 45 minutes* on average, and confirms that your product is in stock and available for pickup. If you used a credit card, your card will not be charged until we confirm store availability. “

Anyways, I waited and waited for this “pickup notification” email to arrive so I could pick up my order and complete the other Christmas shopping that I still had to do. 4 1/2 hours later, I called 1-888-best buy and asked about my order. The rep. stated that my order might have “got lost in the system” and that there was really nothing he could do. I asked if he could call the store because when I did about an hour before, they just directed me the 888 number. The rep. stated that I should just wait because they are “probably busy because of the holidays” and “backed up.” Having little choice, I waited and I finally received the magical email that was going to let me get on with my day.

Instead of informing me to pick up my order however, it advised me that the items were out of stock. I thought it was ridiculous that it would take them almost 5 hours to figure that out, but whatever, at least I had my answer and I could now consider other options.

While shopping however, my debit card was rejected at Macy’s. I quickly ran through the numbers in my head and thought impossible, I had more than a several hundred dollars that I set aside for Christmas shopping. I called my bank and they informed me that Best Buy not only charged my debit card, but charged my debit card at the higher full price for the gps units they did not even have in stock for me to pick up!!

Infuriated, I called 1-888-best buy again, and a rep. insisted that I was not “charged” but a “hold” was placed on my card and that she really didn’t know how long it would be on “hold.” I explained that I needed to finish my Christmas shopping and I have very few other options because I cut up my credit cards when I was laid off from my job. She quickly got impatient and hung up on me. I called back, and the rep. I got was even ruder and again emphasized the “hold” not “charged” explanation. I ended up calling back and speaking with 9 reps. and 2 supervisors which turned out to be just a big waste of time and energy.

So the bottom line is, I have had to borrow money to finish my Christmas shopping this year. It was embarassing and turned something I was so proud of- it would have been the first year in a long while I was able to buy modest gifts since I got laid off from my previous job, into a humilating mess. I even had to borrow money to get my secret santa gift for a co-worker at my new job which only had a $20 limit!

It is now Christmas day and I still don’t have access to my money- almost $400! – since last Sun.

Has anyone else had a similar experience with Best Buy preorders? Especially at a time when finances are tight and people are having their credit cards canceled out from under them or giving up credit use voluntarily, this is probably a more common situation than one would think.

It sounds like an EECB is in order–here’s some Best Buy contact information to get started.