Beware: CompUSA's 'In-Store Pick-Up' Is A Scam

Kevin purchased two DVD and CDR spindles using CompUSA’s “In-Store Pick-Up” option; when he got to the store, the price doubled. Kevin had already handed over his credit card information and had a printed receipt. Why did the price double?

CompUSA’s “In-Store Pick-Up” is a scam. Here’s how it works:

  • You find a great deal on CompUSA’s website.
  • You order the great deal and select “In-Store Pick-Up.”
  • You give your credit card information
  • You get a printable order receipt that says “Printable Order Receipt”
  • You go to the store and present your “receipt.”
  • The cashier fetches your item and rings it up for a price significantly higher price than what you “paid” online.
  • You are told that you did not pay online, and that your “receipt” is just a reservation.

This has happened to several of our readers. Though there is no mention of a “reservation” on the printable order receipt, CompUSA explains the scam on its website.

CompUSA’s website cautions, “Keep in mind, you are making a reservation at the store – not placing an order. We will not charge your credit card until you come to the store and purchase it.” Their FAQ also has some insightful answers.

Why do you not charge my credit card until I show up In-Store?
Flexibility. You don’t have to use the card you reserved with – If you want to pay cash, check or another card, you can. If you change your mind, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of messy refund credits. Also, you’re free to add to or change your order once you’re at the store. It’s quick and easy.

They don’t charge your credit card because they intend to charge you a significantly higher price once you get to the store.

Why ask for my credit card if you’re not going to use it?
It’s like making a hotel reservation – it’s simply to secure your reservation so we can take it off the selling floor in the store.

This would make sense, except that CompUSA doesn’t take the item “off the selling floor.” The cashier fetches the item.

Kevin’s email, below.

On the 18th I went to I didn’t get redirected from some deal site where they had linked to an obvious pricing mistake. I just went there because they’re local and usually have good prices. I needed blank DVD+Rs and CD-Rs and so I picked out two, spindles. Apparently there was an instant rebate for $10 on the CD-Rs and $27 on DVD+Rs. “Cool!”, I thought, “I saved some money.” I typed in my credit card, filled out the mailing address and checked if they were in stock at any local stores. Surprise, they were in stock at the local store and I could pick them up in 15 minutes. Well, I could have, except that, this particular store closes at 8pm. Anyways, I printed my receipt which read a total of $35.70(attached). It actually says “Printable Order Receipt” on the receipt. That’s because it’s a receipt, ofcourse it says it’s a receipt, right? 3 days later I finally get the time to get to compusa.

After standing at the pickup line with no one in sight for 10 minutes I just goto the 1 open register. The guy offers to go and get my stuff and rings me up….bam $72.70. “Uhh, my receipt says $35.70”, I say. “Oh, well that’s not a receipt, it’s a reservation. Those deals expired yesterday.”, the cashier says. “Actually, it says receipt at the top right here. And I already ordered it, I even paid with my credit card”, I said triumphantly. “Nope, sorry, it’s not a receipt” he repeats. “Then why did I enter my credit card info? I even could have had it shipped directly after I ordered it, I just chose to pick it up.” The cashier just stares at me. I told him that I didn’t want it then and he shrugged and looked to the next guy in line as if I was gone.

Later I sat in my car and figured I would read the fine print, expecting to find some sentence that says “this is not a receipt, but a reservation.” There are two blurbs at the bottom and none of them have anything to do with receipts. One is about varying tax rates and the other is about recycling your cell phone batteries. I have carefully inspected the receipt. If this is not a receipt, I don’t know what is. It seems like there should be some law preventing retailers from doing this. I mean I actually purchased the item and yet they won’t give me the price because I didn’t pick it up right away. I can guarantee that if I had it shipped, it wouldn’t have left the warehouse until monday which is later than now. It says it takes 3-4 days from the time you order to the time it ships! you find a great deal on CompUSA’s website, save yourself a headache; order it online and pay the shipping fees. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER


Edit Your Comment

  1. bklynrickel says:

    happened to me once with an hp laptop. went all the way down to the store only to be treated harshly. it was as if the store staff was deciding whether to give it to me or not. finally got it at another compusa and there the manager treated me well – even giving me a break on extended coverage. i was not a happy camper at first. i can tell you that.

  2. clarity says:

    even if it’s a reservation, how is this not just bait and switch? I’d complain to your state attorney general.

  3. jeddeth says:

    almost the exact same story happened to me! Cheap price, site said store closed at 9pm but it closed at 8, long line and no attendant when I got to the store the next day, item was out of stock! I was told I had merely reserved it and the sale was not guaranteed!

    Comp usa is Rubbish!

  4. timmus says:

    One word: Newegg. Screw CompUSA.

  5. homerjay says:

    @clarity: I Was JUST coming in to say just that. This is a job for the AG.

    OR you could just wait a year and CompUSA will be dust… I hope….

  6. rbf2000 says:

    The associate should have offered to match the price and avoided the hassle all together. Since the associate was lazy and did not offer to do this, you should have asked for a manager to make the price adjustment for you.

  7. kerry says:

    CompUSA may be dust, but what’s to prevent other retailers (I’m looking at you, Best Buy and Circuit City) from doing the same? It’s shady and profitable for the company, why wouldn’t they?

  8. TPK says:

    Looks like the DVDs were Memorex, which is regularly referred to as Memowrecks on another board I frequent… he may very well be better off without them!

  9. irrationalyuppie says:

    I’m not sure if it’s bait and switch, since the “receipt” says items must be picked up within the timeframe of the offer in the second to last paragraph. Certainly sleazy, though.

  10. Bix says:

    Yeah, Memorex blank DVDs are usually by CMC, which are crap. is your friend.

  11. Blue says:

    Best advice:

    Dont shop there…………EVER!!!!!!!!

    and like Timmus siad….NewEgg.

  12. Blue says:

    Best advice:

    Dont shop there……….EVER.

    and like Timmus says…….NewEgg!!!!!!

  13. tubedogg says:

    It does say Receipt in the title of the page, but it also says this towards the bottom:
    “Note: To take advantage of rebates or special pricing with In-Store Pick-Up, your order must be picked up within the timeframe of the offer(s).”
    What did the product page actually say at the time you placed the order? Was there an end-date listed for the special price? Considering the intent with in-store pick-up is for you to, you know, pick-up the item that day or the next (otherwise, why not have it shipped?), that seems perfectly fair to me for them not to be willing to extend a special offer indefinitely.

    I must say that for both Kevin *and* Carley to miss this rather important bit before proclaiming “Scam” on the front page of Consumerist is rather troubling.

  14. Macroy says:

    This is the only problem I see…

    Had the deals already expired the day Kevin went in to pick up his items? Right under the line about varying tax rates, it clearly says (bold for emphasis):

    Note: To take advantage of rebates or special pricing with In-Store Pick-Up, your order must be picked up within the timeframe of the offer(s).

  15. Macroy says:

    @tubedogg: This is what I get for taking five minutes to find the post about neato comment formatting!

  16. Promethean says:

    This seems like a (only very slightly) less scammy parallel to Best Buy’s recent dual-website frauds.

  17. Craig says:

    And people wonder why they just had to close half their stores?!

  18. IanthePez says:

    Wow…I honestly can’t believe that people on here will believe WHATEVER they read. First of all, the store is supposed to take whatever item you order for in-store pickup and hold it up front for you. If a store is not doing this, they are not doing their job. Second, it is NEVER claimed on the website that they will charge your card, in fact it specifically says they won’t charge it. It also says that you must pick up and pay for the item within the sales period to get that deal. There is no funny business going on here. The prices on the website are the SAME as in store unless you wait until after the sale ENDS to pick up the end, in which case it is entirely your fault for not getting there in time. I am all for companies that do wrong getting called out, but just because you can’t read the rules, and pick up your item on time does not put CompUSA to blame. Sorry you had to read all of this, but I am tired of people not doing their homework before they blatenly bash a company that did no wrong.

  19. umonster says:

    Hmmm, Consumerist is really losing their edge. This isn’t a scam; the article is misleading. Kevin messed up, and Consumerist shoulda done a little legwork instead of throwing around scary headlines. If you do the pickup thing on Compusa, you get this message during checkout:

    Please Note:
    We’ll ask for your credit card for this reservation, but NOT charge it. That will take place in the store.
    We’ll hold your reservation item(s) for 72 hours, then release them back to inventory.
    Your reservation item(s) must be picked up BEFORE any rebate(s) or promotion(s) expire date to take advantage of any promotions/prices.

  20. rockss65 says:

    Yeah — this is a bit overblown and sensational. There are enough real items of interest and/or outrage to have to “fluff” up the claim from a lazy customer.

  21. Tzvi_Katowitz says:

    I really enjoy the Consumerist, and visit it everyday. (sometimes multiple times a day.)

    Unfortunatly I see more and more sensationalizm in the headlines. Things made to grab our attention despite being inaccurate. Such as this story or the one about American Airlines computer system (where the guy was clearly trying to make it screw up.)

    It reminds me of one of my local TV station’s news broadcast. They refer to everything as an alert. The top headline is an alert, the nation news is an alert, and my favorite: the weather is an alert, even if they are calling for clear skies and no wind.

    The point is that reporting on things that are inaccurate is misleading and unprofessional. CompUSA did nothing wrong, yet we have people ready to rip them a new one for a mistake the customer made and the Consumerist also made.


  22. Rajio says:

    agreed. we need more information. did they go to the store in 72 hours or within the appropriate timeframe for the offer? if you’re going to proclaim ‘scam’ we need all the facts to be sure the consumers in question weren’t in the wrong here.

  23. superbmtsub says:

    Bought a laptop with built-in wifi for my girlfriend only to discover months down the road that it didnt have wifi. Didnt feel like haggling with CompUSA but swore to myself never to shop there again!

  24. chuuchdizzle says:

    this article is just stupid, compusa, never charges your card for in-store pick-ups, they send a confirmation email explaining that, consumerist, next time do your homework, don’t just believe everything your told, sometimes customers are just as retarded as the retailers mmkay

  25. Kryndis says:

    I agree with the folks who are saying that the fine print technically justifies the outcome here. All the same, the only possible reason to do things this way is to make it harder on the consumer. The supposed benefits they list are silly.

    They’re literally the only ones that do it this way (at least I certainly haven’t heard of anyone else only “making reservations”) and they know darn well most people aren’t going to notice the fine print explaining how they are purposely obfuscating the process for no good reason until after they get screwed over.

  26. Falconfire says:

    Fine print = scam.

    If your going to have a catch to the whole thing, and you make it in small text at the bottom while in big bold numbers and letters spell out something different, YOUR SCAMMING PEOPLE.

    People here are enjoying their smug satisfaction with pointing out that the fine print says that there is a time limit, yet forget the fact that many states ruled fine print catches like that to be completely illegal.

  27. Lacclolith says:

    The Office Depot here in Columbia SC does the same thing, I should know as I used to work there. A lot of times, we’d get people who’d use Dealhack and the like to find items that we were clearancing out, and they’d order up our entire stock for in-store pickup later. Most of the time, my manager would basically tell me simply to “not bother with them” if the product was in lock-up or top stock. He’d then explain to the customer that the in-store pickup is simply another way to put a product on hold for someone without having to phone in, and that the amount reported on hand is incorrect.

    I got my ass throughly chewed out once, when I let a guy buy three packs of photo paper with the in-store pickup system.

  28. Lacclolith says:

    Crap, I wish I could edit my posts. Ignore the “simply” in the third sentence, please?

  29. Macroy says:

    @Falconfire: I didn’t think I was smug; I haven’t even RIDDEN in a hybrid car!

    I’d love to see some examples of the illegal fine print thing. I’m not disagreeing with you, I’ve just honestly never heard of it. I guess I’m a poor excuse for a Consumerist commenter :(

  30. anexkahn says:

    Another interesting bit to consider is that if you read the compusa rebate policy, it says this:

    “Date of purchase” for rebate validity is based on order date, not invoice date.”

    I think initiating a online purchase, even if it is only a “reservation” constitutes an order date…

  31. raybury says:

    In-store pickup needs to have a reasonable time limit and, yes, sales end or else they wouldnt be sales. But I think the reasonable question asked above is why do they take your credit card (and personal) information? Screwy. Make me not want to go to the CompUSA that’s just a few miles… oh wait they’re closing that one anyway.

  32. Havok154 says:

    I work at CompUSA and the in-store prices are the same as the websites. If they aren’t we’ll match them. Normally the item is recieved to the customer service computer and the employee should print the order and pull the item for that customer.

    There are a couple reasons for this. The most prominent one is that they didn’t go the same day as the day they did an in-store pickup. Normally, the stuff that is pulled will be held for a certain # of days. If it’s not picked up, it gets put back out. This would make sence because you don’t actually buy it when you reserve it, so if you wait, you may miss the sale.

    If the sale is still going on and it rings up wrong, the employee should have just price changed it to match the website since that is within our policy. The other reason for the employee “fetching” the item may be because they didn’t get a chance to get it if they had just received the order a short while ago.

    While our execs are scum and treat us employees as so, stuff like wrong prices between the store and the website aren’t very common and usually are matched without issue. Obviously there can very easily be stores with less savory employees, but that goes for any kind of retail chain.

    Usually, most complaints are just due to the customers lack of common sense. My store is one of the ones closing and even though “ALL SALES ARE FINAL” is plastered everywhere, even on every register and every receipt, not to mention we remind customers before they buy anything, we get so many people coming in and screaming because we won’t return the product they bought because it’s the wrong item then what they needed.

    Like other people said anyway, it doesn’t matter since the rest of the stores will be gone within the next 2 years.

  33. lindyman77 says:

    Big-Box retailers are not your friends. They are not trying to help you get a deal, they want your money because they answer to their shareholders not to the consumer. They will do anything to trick, swindle, cajole, mask, and deceive. Saving money against these giants is a game that they want to win. I’m sorry, Kevin was lazy and he paid the price for it. He should have gone in the very next day (if they were closed that night) and collected his merchandise. He didn’t and they won.

  34. dancing_bear says:

    Had CompUSA not requested a credit card on-line I would agree that the purchaser blew it by not showing up the same day. However due to the requirement that you submit a credit card, it is the company’s option to not charge you, and the company’s strategy to bait and switch.

  35. umonster says:

    Anyway, the notice about the terms is not in fine print. It’s big and bold in the middle of a short page (above the fold) when they ask for your zip code. As for credit cards, even a lot of restaurants ask for your CC when you make a reservation, at least here in NY. My point is, this is wasn’t a scam. Kevin waited three days to pick up the item, but the sale was over, and now he’s in a snit.

  36. Cap'n Jack says:

    Hopefully, the stores that CompUSA is closing is just the beginning of the end for this vortex of customer service issues. I hated their policies even when I worked there. Everything is designed to screw the customer.

  37. aka Cat says:

    Or, you know, you could order it online and pick it up the same day. Though that’s apparently pointless, since the ‘reservation’ isn’t actually reserving anything.

    Yeah, buy from newegg instead.

  38. FezMan88 says:

    Bait and Switch

    its a crime

  39. FezMan88 says:

    And… I used to work at Circuit CIty not too long ago, and we even allowed customers to purchase items through the internet on the computers on display and pick them up at the customer service department at a discount, it was a system my manager hated, but we got a lot of customers coming back because of it.

  40. Falconfire says:

    @Macroy: Many states consider fine print of the type that this is to be considered “Bait and Switch.” I know NJ for one considered this a bait and switch tactic and Im sure others do too.

  41. rareddy says:

    Clearly the consumer screwed up on this one. It is NOT a scam. He blew it. The people that are claiming “scam” and “bait and switch” don’t know what the hell they are talking about.

    You agreed to the terms when reserving this product, but you didn’t abide by them. How long do you expect CompUSA to hold your merchandise?

  42. Coder4Life says:

    I like the consumerist and all, but dude, read the bottom line.

    “Note: To take advantage of rebates or special pricing with in-store pick up, your order must be picked up within the timeframe of the offer(s)”.

    I am sorry you cannot reserve a item thats not sale, and then expect to pick it up a week later. When its not on sale.

    If that was the case than on any sale, people would just go online and be like. Oh its Christmas time, and I dont want to wait in long lines. I’ll just reserve it, go in a month later. and I’ll still get the offers.. NOPE.


  43. xanax25mg says:

    I think ben and Meghan might be guilty of bait and switch here also. They blare “SCAM” on the headline of this article but when you read the details, including what the consumer himself acknowledges, this story becomes not a scam at all but more of a customer not reading the terms of the sale. The receipts and the website both tell him the rebate conditions but he still chose to show up after the sale ended. Sure, CompUSA is guilty of general douchebaggery, but they didn’t pull a scam here and I think the editors here need to be a bit more restrained when they state as such.

  44. Mogbert says:

    OK, first of all:

    Like a previous person stated, everything is written on their site and I expect an update to this article after Consumerist has done some homework.

    I’ve WORKED on the other side of the decrepid computer that in-store reservations go to (It was a 486 in our store). Here is how it works:

    Now to answer the poorly thought out questions:
    Why do you not charge my credit card until I show up In-Store?
    How about a little thing called “FRAUD PREVENTION”??? If they DID charge the credit card simply because you knew what the billing address was, Consumerist would be all over them for putting charges on the card without any verification of identity.

    Why ask for my credit card if you’re not going to use it?
    So that people don’t reserve half the store when being idiotic. The credit card doesn’t get charged, but the stuff DOES get pulled at the better stores. I WAS the one who had to pull it. We kept it behind the Corporate Pick-Up with our printed copy of the in-store reservation.

    Why did the price go up?
    BECAUSE THE SALE ENDED! You can’t just put something on reserve when it’s on sale and stroll in any time to get it. When it is on sale, corporate or the manufactuer handles the money we lost on the item. After the sale is over, we would lose any difference between the sale price and the cost. The sales are put into the system, after the sale is over, the price is pulled OUT of the system. It CAN be overridden, but if it happens too often, there are regional people the managemant has to answer to.

    In short, PLEASE DO YOU HOMEWORK before championing a misguided cause.

  45. latemodel says:

    Nope. If I supply my CC info along with ZIP code, I am conducting a transaction. Since CrapUSA does not charge anything if the item is not picked up, then why the CC info? For a RESERVATION, all you get is my phone number. And what about the idea of layaway? The gut didnt bother to hurry down to the store because he thought he had PURCHASED the items. A fine example of how to drive a retail store out of business.

  46. mst3kzz says:

    21-day Low Price Guarantee. Kevin, you probably should have asked to speak to a manager to get a price override.

    This practice does sound very sketchy considering in every other competing retail store if you purchase it online for in-store, you actually purchase the product, but I wouldn’t call it a scam.

  47. xanax25mg says:

    one other comment as I actually looked at the receipt print out. People are hollering here about the “tiny fine print”. When you look at the receipt scan, the font describing the rebate rules is the same size as the font of the item description. The only larger font is the actual price of the item. So again, people are getting all lathered up here over something that isn’t really CompUSA’s fault. I really want Ben or Meghann to respond as to how this story got labeled a “SCAM!!!”, as it really detracts from stories on here that are legitimately screwing consumers.

  48. ndavies says:

    To be fair, the deal had expired by the time he got there, and if CompUSA doesn’t pricematch their own items, that’s what they should be blamed for.

  49. Mogbert says:

    for latemodel:
    And if you supply someone elses credit card and their zip code, are you still “conducting a transaction”? How about if you are “conducting a transaction” and they aren’t? Did a “transaction” still get, as they say, “conducted”?

    If the products are pulled, as they are supposed to be, when someone makes a reservation, and they don’t require some form of limitation to the reservation, then people would get on there and try and reserve the entire store. At that point, none of the stores would be pulling reservations, and it would be as good as if no reservations were made. Also, if you are reserving an item for some hot sale that is in limited quantities, and they run out, they may decide to sell your reservation to someone who is already there. This is one of the points where I disagreed with their procedures because my customers were businesses I had a relationship with, and if they said they were coming in, and I told them I had held the item for them, then it had BETTER be there when they came in. When it wasn’t, it made ME look bad and CompUSA look bad.

    I’m no longer with CompUSA, I left about 6 months ago before anyone knew they would be closing all the Comp’s in my state. There are a number of things that I disagree with about them, but we RARELY had a problem with ours, mostly because if a reservation was made and our part of the page wasn’t printed out in a timely manner, someone called our GM (had to be a regional guy, but I don’t know any more then that) and I would get pulled from whatever I was doing to go hunt down these items. Are there other ways to make sure people didn’t reserve items they don’t intend to pick up, yes. Did entering the CC number make sure people actually bought what they reserved, no. But it was a happy medium.

    If you DON’T want to give them your CC number, call into the service desk and ask if someone call “pull” the product for you. Tell them when you will be in. If it is over a day, try the business desk instead.

    As far as the “21 day Low Price Guarantee”, you need to go read it, you have it backwards.
    If you buy something and THEN it goes on sale, that’s when that goes into effect. Not if you came in late for a sale and still want to get the same price.

    Nomally, Consumerist and even most of the commenters have some idea what they are talking about, but this lack of information on this subject is saddening.

  50. hobnob says:

    @ Mogbert

    If you put someone else’s CC info in to complete a transaction, that is credit card fraud. It’s honour system that you’re not using someone else’s info… Just like when you order ANYTHING online…

    To sum it up … xanax25mg had it right. It’s not a scam. It’s douchebaggery.

  51. CustomersRevenge says:

    Future Shop, owned by Best Buy, has a little twist on the same thing. At Future Shop’s in-store pickup scam you do actually pay, but nothing is reserved. You just pay in advance for nothing.

  52. misterbill says:

    I agree with many of the recent posts that point out that the original poster and many replies are WRONG. CompUSA makes it very clear what is going on when you place the order. Yes, they probably should be clearer and let you know exactly when the sale ends, but anyone who’s bought from CompUSA knows that it is Sunday through Saturday (except in rare cases).

    The reason they do not charge you is that their in-store stock is not real-time so they don’t know that they really have it. And at my local store (which is now closing), many times you’d get there and they hadn’t even pulled it.

    I do not know why someone said that Office Depot works the same way because it is not true. With Office Depot (as well as Circuit City and Best Buy), when you order for in-store pickup you have purchased it and it does not matter when you get it. Sadly, that is not the way that CompUSA works. At Best Buy, you even get email when the order has been pulled and it’s ready for pickup.

    Even worse about this whole thread is that some idiot posted a link to it at misc.consumers, so we get to rehash the whole thing there.

  53. BrentNewland says:

    I agree with the last post. The former employee that witnessed this happening needs to post what store and manager it was so that manager can be reported. Office Depot does not tolerate practices like this – if you but a product and pick it up in the store, it brings down the store inventory, and you’ve already paid for it. Not giving you the items you ordered at an OD Store, unless it’s a phantom item, is THEFT.

    If ever told that they don’t have a product, then tell them to bring up the CICS inventory system for THEIR STORE (the first command they type will be CICS #### – that is their store number). Option 2, then option 1 (At least in my region) will give them a place to enter the sku. Once they put an item in and hit enter, it will show the current available amount in the bottom right corner under “saleable”. If it’s less than 2 for a larger item, or less than 5 for a smaller item, and the “last received” date is older than 30 days, then the inventory system is actually off.

  54. I-Disagree says:

    I’m posting to a dead thread, but… Officedepot does the same thing.

    I bought a desk online using a “good deal aggregator.” I distinctly remember putting in my credit card, and came into the store to pick it up. I got an email saying my “order was placed and it was ready for pickup the next day.”

    Looking back the email wording was careful to avoid saying I had actually bought it. Why would it need my credit card for a “reservation?” It never used the word reservation. It said order. The credit card field said “payment method.”

    It’s a bait and switch. And to the Office Depot fan boy I am willing to bet you money the same thing will happen to you if you buy stuff on the site sale and attempt to pick it up in store.

    Looking back it all makes perfect sense. The cashier and manager feigned “surprise” that I had purchased it online. It wasn’t complete surprise though, it was more of a “oh that’s weird — change the subject” type of move.

    The manager gave me the discount and said it was “because I called ahead about it.” Um, yeah, whatever your excuse is. I was just going to leave if they didn’t honor the price, I don’t waste my breath arguing with corporate tools. They’re just their to perform the bait and switch, it wasn’t their idea. It was some bean counters. There’s no point taking it out on them. I just shop elsewhere when I get disappointed.