It’s happened over and over again, and retailers never learn their lesson. A big-box store e-mails a coupon to their customers, then freaks out and backpedals when customers actually show up at the cash register and try to use it, withdrawing the coupon and accusing customers of trying to scam the store. This time, the retailer was Best Buy, which offered a coupon for $50 off a purchase of $100 or more as long as the customer used a Mastercard. The coupon excluded most of the items you’d expect it to exclude: prepaid cell phones, iPods, certain brands of TVs and cameras. One very key thing that it didn’t exclude: gift cards.
Here’s the glorious coupon that customers received by e-mail, valid for an entire week and with surprisingly few restrictions.
Bargain-hunters over at Slickdeals couldn’t believe that the offer was real, and they soon shared their amazing scores. Televisions! Phones! An Apple TV! $100 iTunes gift cards! Hard drives! DVDs! The coupon didn’t limit purchases to one per customer, or to a single medium-ticket item. They just had to have $100 worth of stuff.
Frequent tipster Victor set the scene:
So, when the sun came up on the East coast on MLK’s big day, and the inauguration of President Obama, there was a much LARGER parade getting off the ground. People leaving their homes to take advantage of Best Buy’s largesse before the coupon was inevitably cancelled – a wave of deal-seeking locusts with a 50% off coupons missing important restrictions that would wash across the US, time zone by time zone. It was a race against the clock. Would it be gone in hours, would it be gone before the west coast stores opened, or would it last the whole day? One thing was sure, it wouldn’t last the 7 days stated on the coupon. No way.
Shoppers who were clearly out to ruin things for everyone began scooping up thousands of dollars’ worth of gift cards. One shopper claims to have snagged $2500 worth of Amazon cards. Really?
Not everyone succeeded. One store manager refused to take the coupon, first assuming that it was a gift certificate, then claiming that it was fake. “[The manager] refused to honor the coupon on ANYTHING…” wrote one forum member, [And [he] said no to GC’s first then when i tried to buy some video games he said it will not be honored as it is a scam.”
As the feeding frenzy grew more frenzied, by early afternoon at the company’s Midwestern headquarters, Best Buy issued a revised coupon with more normal restrictions. They posted an announcement clarifying the change, which reads in part:
The $50 Master Card Bonus – Save $50 When you Spend $100 In-Store and Pay With Any Master Card (valid 1/21/13-1/27/13) Promotional Offer was sent out with incorrect product inclusions, product exclusions, single product call out and end date. An ad correction is available in our retail stores, where you can see a Sales Consultant or Customer Service for any questions or to view a list of the included and excluded products.
We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused.
The promotion is valid for TODAY ONLY, January 21, 2013.
The offer is valid on a single, regular priced item purchase of $100 or more.
iTunes, Amazon and other gift cards are excluded.
Limit 1 offer per coupon, per household.
See below for full list of conditions and exclusions
Here’s what the revised coupon looked like.
Still pretty generous, especially if you’re after a single medium-ticket non-Apple electronic item. Victor, who frequently reports about spectacular deals like this from on the ground, feels bad for the confused customers who will wander in with the coupon all week. Then there are the poor employees who will have to explain the mixup to those upset customers. You can still download the coupon from Best Buy’s web site.
Mistakes happen (a LOT at Best Buy), but once they made the corrected coupon, Best Buy should not have left the “better” coupon up on their site as they wasted a lot of time for customers and soon to be former customers today. AND, they have 6 more days of bad feelings as more customers, unaware of the coupon cancellation trickle in over the week. Not too surprising they’re in the sinking ship, but the crazy thing is, they’re the ones blowing holes in it.
We’re not sure whether we should say “congratulations!” or “shame on you” to the shoppers who took home fistfuls of gift cards.