Man Forces Best Buy To Sell Him $1999 PlasmaHDTV For $1499

By insisting on his consumer rights, Sandar got Best Buy to sell him a $1999 plasma HDTV for $1499.

Sandar went to BestBuy in Atlanta, GA, and got the hots for a 50 inch plasma. It had everything he was looking for and a great price.

A salesperson then informed him the unit was mispriced, Best Buy was really selling it for $1899.

Sandar kept asking Best Buy to sell him the TV at the price it was advertised at when he walked inside. Salesperson after salesperson, and a supervisor and a manager tried to tell him no, it was too much of a loss for Best Buy.

Sandar continued to reiterate his demands.

Finally, a supervisor relented and the store sold him the 50 inch Maxent plasma HDTV with 1080i resolution for $1499.

A good thing, because if Best Buy hadn’t, they would have been breaking the law. If an item is listed at a price inside the store, even if “by accident,” the store must, must honor that price. Remember this and insist upon it the next time it happens to you.

UPDATE: Laws on this vary by state, see inside for more info.

— BEN POPKEN

Sandar’s letter, inside…


Sandar writes:

    “So, I head over to my local Best Buy last Friday here in Atlanta. I was just stopping in to get a new Bluetooth headset. After I’d picked out what I wanted, I meandered over to the plasma tv section, per usual, to gaze longingly at the pretties. I did my usual stroll down the aisle, laughing at the high prices of the name brands and moving on to look at the less ridiculous prices of the not-so-name brands.

    I stopped in front of a good-looking tv from Maxent. It was the right-size–50 inches. The right resolution: 1080i. It had the black-border I was looking for and the inputs I needed for my components. And then, I saw the price: $1499. A good $500 less than what I was used to seeing for a 50-inch plasma. A couple salepersons had been eying me and moved over as soon as I stopped. We started talking about the tv and they were very helpful and knowledgeable, agreeing wholeheartedly with me that it was a good looking tv and a great price. We even slid the tv out and I got underneath and eyeballed the inputs just to whet my appetite some more.

    Now, I’ve been planning on buying a plasma for some time. I always say I’ll do it once the prices become reasonable. I’ve seen them keep going down and I was figuring I’d have my credit cards payed down and ready to buy around spring of ’07. But this was a good deal–a great price for what I knew I wanted. So, I decided. “I want it,” I said. The saleslady headed for the back to get my tv. I waited. Then I waited some more. Then I waited just a bit more. After a good 15 minutes she came back out and starts whispering furiously with a supervisor-type, then they both disappear. I figured it’s not in stock and I might have to take a rain check.

    Finally, after about 20-25 minutes, she comes back out (just the original saleslady, who takes the brunt of all this mess) and says, kind of sheepishly, “That, uh, isn’t the right price. This tv actually costs $1999. It is on sale today for $1899 if you still want it, though.” I was shocked when she said this and just kind of stared at her, and I felt my blood pressure start to rise. She walked over to another tv, uglier, smaller and said, “This is actually the Maxent one that’s $1499. Do you want it?” I got pissed. It was at that point I decided I was willing to fight for the tv–at the original price. So I said, “No. I want that tv, and I want the price it was advertised at when I walked into the store.”

    She left and came back about 10 minutes later–“Yeah, we’re sorry, but it’s just too much of a loss for us to take. My manager says we can’t do it.” So I asked to speak to the manager. After another good 10-15 minute wait, the manager finally shows her face. (What’s funny is that all the supervisor types were staying out of sight through alot of this whole situation–I don’t know if it was on purpose or not, but it seemed strangely empty.)

    I shake her hand and we exchange names and she asks, “What seems to be the problem here?” As if she doesn’t know. I say, for about the 4th time now (I was saying it to every unknowing sales associate who was coming up to to sell me another tv as I was standing in the plasma aisle), “I want to buy this tv at the price it was advertised at when I walked into the store.” Sheila looked at the tv, then at me, then started a whisper-conversation with the saleslady as they slowly walked away from me. I thought, “Great. Another 15 minute wait.” But, almost immediately the saleslady came back over and said, all depressed, “Yeah, she says we can do it.”

    Whoohoo! So I paid and then had to try to figure out how to get it home, which was another fun story. But it’s sitting in my living room now, HDMI from my Comcast Cable box/DVR, Component cables from my receiver which is feeding it my PS2 and DVD, and S-Video from my computer, making it my largest PC monitor yet. But I still think sticking it to Best Buy was the best part of the deal.”


UPDATE:

We asked Edgar Dworsky, former Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General, and current editor of ConsumerWorld and Mouseprint, “Isn’t it the law that if a product is displayed at a certain price inside the store, the store has to honor it, even if the price is a mistake?”

His response:

    “Pricing laws vary by state, rather than there being a federal law on point.

    In Mass, one regulation of the AG’s office says that it is an unfair or deceptive practice to state that an item can be purchased for a particular price when such is not the case.

    A Mass. law that I wrote says that in a supermarket, an item must be sold for the “lowest represented price” (that appears on a sign, ad, or price sticker) unless it is a gross error. A gross error is a price less than half of the correct price. For example if butter is marked 39cents when it should have been 2.39, you can’t get any for 39 cents. If it is marked 1.39, but should be 2.39, the consumer can get all the butter that is marked 1.39 on the item. There would be a $100 state fine for the incorrect display of butter if it scanned higher than marked.

    Michigan has a bounty law where the consumer gets x-dollars for incorrectly scanned items.

    Ultimately, in other states it is a weighing process to see if there really was a meeting of the minds to make a contract for the sale of that item at that price, whether the consumer is knowingly trying to take advantage of the store knowing that the price is wrong, whether the store was negligent (as by leaving last week’s price on the goods knowing that the sale was over), etc.”

So then, if BestBuy got away with refusing Sandar, they could have been subject to legal repercussion, depending on the state. However, since Best Buy acquiesced, we’ll bet dimes to donuts that the state this Best Buy was in one with laws protecting consumers and penalizing businesses for mispricing.

We’ve asked Sandar to tell us what state he bought his plasma in, and whether the price was a misprint or a misplace, hopefully he will be good enough to respond.

UPDATE: Sandar bought this in Atlanta, GA. He says the price tag was typed incorrectly.

He adds, “I didn’t really know it could be illegal for them to not sell it to me for that price. I just knew it felt wrong.”