CompUSA Selling Empty Boxes

Good job, CompUSA. You sold a guy an empty box for the price of a digital camera, then said it was his fault for not examining the box. What? That’s not how it works. Trust us.

When Terry went to a nearby CompUSA, the manager there told him that, since a liquidation company technically sold him the camera, CompUSA wouldn’t give him a refund. So, Terry wrote a note to Roman Ross, CompUSA president and CEO. Ross passed it along to a staffer who had the nerve to blame Terry: “The return policy for all merchandise, as printed on your receipt and posted throughout the store, clearly stated ALL SALES FINAL…. if the camera you purchased was a clearance item, you should have inspected its content prior to purchase.” And there you have it. Terry is to blame for not inspecting the box to make sure he wasn’t being defrauded. All sales of empty boxes are, apparently, final. It doesn’t matter the technicality – in CompUSA’s name, on a CompUSA receipt, $269 was stolen from Terry and CompUSA won’t give it back. It’s not just “buyer beware,” it’s “don’t be a buyer.”

As Terry has obviously escalated this as far as it will go, we think its time for small claims court. All sales final is one thing, “Ha, ha, ha we tricked you into buying an empty box!” is another. At least, that’s what we think a judge would say.—MEGHANN MARCO

CompUSA sells Heaton empty box, won’t refund [Lost Remote via BoingBoing]
(Photo:Morton Fox)


Edit Your Comment

  1. enm4r says:

    This is a perfect example of why buying with credit provides you more avenues to resolve the issue than paying with cash.

  2. Moosehawk says:

    Well they’re going out of business, I don’t necessarily see why even the big wigs would care to keep long-term customers.

  3. Yourhero88 says:

    I love how they blamed him for not inspecting it prior to purchase… So the buyer is responsible for opening the box before he takes it to the register?

  4. etinterrapax says:

    Chargeback city!

  5. Ray Wert Jr says:

    I wonder what kind of superlight camera that guy bought.

    “This doesn’t feel like a $270 camera”

    Well then it probably isn’t. It is however, $270 worth of stale air.

  6. LowerHouseMember says:

    I am willing to give CompUSA the benefit of the doubt by believing they did not intentionally sell Terry an empty box. Therefore, the problem here is that CompUSA has no way of knowing whether or not the box was truly empty at the time they sold it. This is probably a legit complaint but for all CompUSA knows, Terry could be trying to scam them out of money.

    I don’t think it was Terry’s responsibility to look in the box before buying it. But if you’re going to buy something that isn’t factory sealed, then you should do that anyway just to be safe.

  7. TheJackOfHearts says:

    It seems like it would be akin to a bait and switch operation, which I believe is a “no-no” in the sales industry. “Sure, we’ll sell you a camera for 300$, but instead you get an empty box.”

  8. sizer says:

    I knew CompUSA were putting known defective merchandise back in the stacks to be sold with no possibility of return, but this is a pioneering new margin-enhancing strategy.

  9. mantari says:

    Didn’t I see something like this on Judge Judy?

    “Hi. This picture, below, is of a PS3.”
    (Seller is selling a ‘picture’. Not a PS3. LOL!)

  10. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    Chargeback! Chargeback! Now!!!!

  11. Skeptic says:

    I don’t think it was Terry’s responsibility to look in the box before buying it. But if you’re going to buy something that isn’t factory sealed, then you should do that anyway just to be safe.

    Well, being a liquidation this is a special case. But the exhortation to check the contents is a double edged one for everyday purchases from Comp USA. If you are giving a gift, opening the box is more problematic–especially since CompUSA charges an “open box” restocking fee. And on that note, I’ve actually seen a CompUSA cashier open a sealed box at the register. I’m not sure if it was to confirm the item, the SN or make sure the purchaser hadn’t stuffed the box with shopliftables–either way, Hello restocking fee!

  12. catastic says:

    Often electronic boxes are “heavy” because of the packaging, thick manuals, cords, and even CD software that is included besides the camera.

    This certainly seems like this could go to small claims court because the seller, not the customer, in this instance is in a better position to make sure the product they are selling actually exists. Often you see a camera in a display case and say, “Ill take that one” then a employee gives you a box. I don’t think a reasonably average person would then rip the box open to check that there is actually something inside or not before walking out of the store.

  13. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I’m pretty sure lots of CompUSA employees snagged some merchandise right before their stores were scheduled to be shut down. Somewhere out there, a former CompUSA employee is enjoying Terry’s new camera.

    Other than a charge back, I don’t think there’s much Terry can do. CompUSA is on a downward spiral. I don’t think bad PR or angry letters to the CEO will get him a refund.

  14. Slytherin says:

    One word: chargeback.

  15. rmz says:

    The CEO responded with, essentially, “tough s***”? Wow. I don’t think I’ve seen that level of crassness in a good long while.

    I suppose that in most cases, refunding the $269 would be better than suffering a negative PR hit but I guess given that they’re going out of business anyway there’s really nothing to lose, huh?

  16. number9 says:

    I never shop at CompUSA after a few years ago. I bought a $400 video card, got home, and it had chips in the bottom of the box (that should be ON THE CARD). I take it back and get another, and it only displays a pink screen, and nothing else. I go back AGAIN, and tell them I want a different make of card from another manufacturer and they say “no”. I tell them I want my money back, and they tell me I have to pay a restocking fee.

    So I walked out of the store with $340 of my $400 I gave them, and no product. And I will never shop there again, and don’t hesitate to tell this story to everyone I know thinking about shopping there.

  17. Coder4Life says:

    CompUSA shoudl be giving him the money back. If Ross really wrote that letter saying something like that, forwarding that message and showing it in Carlos Slim’s face will make sure that Ross is no longer with the company.

    Since compusa is falling apart carlos slim is starting to take the company into his own hands and is breaking alot of rules that previous management whom were all fired for reasons made. Because he himself is wodnering who the hell would of made these rules up, we are ripping of our custoemrs adn telling them we dont want your money.

    In anycase, I have seen many times usually with video cards where customers will buy a video card and go home to find nothing in the box. With Digital Camera if it was an open box item, he could of been shown the camera box and then just been rung out. Some stores used to have it so it would say in fine print “Camera not in box. See customer service for the product”

    If it was sold as a new camera, more than likely an employee opened the box and used it but never put it back in and sealed the camera again.
    or They stole the camera put their big fancy RETURN POLICY sticker and you would never know if it had been opened or not until you got home.

    He should try writing this letter again, but to another person. Obviously the new CEO brough in his worthless as the last one.

  18. Coder4Life says:

    Oh yeah by the way a few “compusa” regional managers were fired for THEFT… About 2 months ago.


  19. Hawk07 says:

    This EXACT same thing happened to me at Office Depot. They sold me the box for the floor model by mistake. The camera weighs 4 ounces out of a 2 lb box. Of course when they gave it to me, I didn’t suspect the camera was missing and I didn’t think a corporation would intentionally slight a customer this way. Also, at this store they keep ALL their digital cameras locked up and away from consumers.

    Anyways, I went back, spoke to the manager and we figured out what happened and they fixed it for me. I feel for this guy because that could have very easily have been me.

  20. Toast442 says:

    I think I posted here a few days ago that a CompUSA employee tried to sell me an open-box camera with missing cables (and at full retail.) I only just caught it at the register when I noticed that the factory seal was broken. Looked like a customer return.

    Refreshing to see they’re upfront about their sucks-to-be-you refund policy. Guess this is why they’re on the fast-track to liquidation.

  21. Crazytree says:

    So hard to win this… who is to say if the box really was or wasn’t empty, really?

    The lesson here is:

    OPEN THE BOX BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE PREMISES. If they give you a hard time, tell them you’re EXPLICITLY following CompUSA policies.

  22. existential says:

    I will never shop at CompUSA ever again. They’ve screwed people to the ground over anything they could get their hands around. They deserve to go under, the whole company.

    If the CEO basically says “Screw you” then you know you’re dealing with the wrong people.

    I’m glad they’re going out of business. Best buy might not be that great, but they are a hell of a lot better than CompUSA.

  23. Naval Patel says:

    This sounds like something that happened to me about a year ago. I bought a Sony digital camera and got home to realize that it was the box and cables. I went back to CompUSA and the manager was more than friendly and gladly took the package back to give me a new one.

    It may just have been an oversight because they leave the empty boxes for the displays.

    Now that you’ve exhausted your resources through CompUSA, you should contact your credit card company and initiate a chargeback… then the BBB.

  24. Trick says:

    Well there is a reason why CompUSA is going out of business and this is just one of many examples on why they suck.

    CompUSA doesn’t have to worry about return costumers because they are very few. They rip-off who they can and will do so until the very last store is closed.

    Don’t want to get rip-offed by CompUSA… Simple, don’t shop at CompUSA.

  25. timmus says:

    I’ve always wondered why these retail stores always seem to break the manufacturers’ seals on box packaging for expensive items like cameras, DVD players, etc. I always see the seal taped over, usually in a crappy fashion that doesn’t suggest the factory did it. Even when I pick through several boxes for the one that’s in best shape, they’re all taped over. If the stores would stop breaking open the boxes then maybe this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.

  26. It’s a clearance sale! If he bought the $200 camera (probably at a deal) and opened it to find a $2000 camera, would he take it back and say “hey! you put the wrong item in here!”?? Would any of you? Please try not to lie, of course we would not. We would write to Ben and chortle over the “deal” we got.

    In a clearance “all sales are final” world, you open the box, you check everything it, you do your due diligence. He didn’t, and he’s whining.

    If this was not a clearance, and compusa were still being buttheads, then yea, they get my wrath (heck, they get my wrath anyone – you suck compusa) but in this one case? they could of been more polite, but no, clearance sale discounts are just that.

    if he has issues, chargeback the card and see what happens.

  27. Havok154 says:


    You do realize the CEO is from Phillip-Morris. The company that is around just to sell you cancer and get millions for it without any regret.

  28. Seth_Went_to_the_Bank says:

    This is interesting. CompUSA is essentially telling the customer “Don’t trust us.”

    That’s a very odd position for them to take.

    It would be like Starbucks not willing to guarantee what’s in your cup. “Not coffee? Maybe you better take a sip before you leave the store, just in case.”


  29. altoidboy says:

    i’m gonna be the black sheep here, and say that i tentatively agree with compusa. it’s their word against his. who’s to say he isn’t lying and trying to get something for free? it was an open-box clearance sale, no? a box with no camera in it should feel suspiciously light to ANYONE who’s considering buying it. we’re not talking about a fingernail sized sd card here.

    compusa simply can’t hand out a refund or a free camera to every whining tom dick and harry who claims their box was empty. they’re running a business. if they gave this guy his money back, what do they do to the guy’s friend who tries to pull the same scam tomorrow?

    of course i have no idea who’s telling the truth. only that the facts, as laid out in the original post, don’t necessarily convince me that the customer’s absolutely right.

    granted, compusa is the MORE likely of the two parties to be lying. but that’s just my cynical view, and not grounds for a legal determination.

  30. e-gadgetjunkie says:

    @Hawk07: Do you live in St. Louis? I think (if you do) that was our store! A few times, we have accidentally sold empty camera boxes (the manuals are usually heavier than the cameras) and once we sold a dummy phone. Stupid things happen when it’s busy.
    But during a closeout, when you know you won’t be able to return things, check the boxes, check everything. There was a guy trying to return a defective Apple keyboard at the CompUSA store near me that closed. They wouldn’t let him and there were perfectly justified. He said that it was the display model and some of the keys jammed. They said to him that he should have checked to make sure all the components worked before purchasing the system. I’m sorry, but it was made quite clear that once it was out of the store, it wasn’t their problem.

  31. notebook says:

    Does this mean I’ll have to check my bags every time I buy from CompUSA like I do my Wendy’s bags?

  32. 5h17h34d says:

    CompUSA isn’t going out of business. They are liquidating and closing certain stores.

  33. ObtuseGoose says:

    I think a lot of this depends on the camera he was buying. There are pocket cameras that only weigh a few ounces. So it might be difficult to tell if it were missing. Also, did the box look like it had been resealed? If it looked like someone working there opened the box and resealed it, you might have a better case. Hopefully you paid with a credit card. Otherwise you’re screwed.

  34. ngth says:

    This is another good reason why CompUSA just sucks @$$

  35. ExGC says:

    You aren’t going to get an argument from me about CompUSA sucking. They are complete crap and I think closing half their stores is just a preview of their eventual demise. That said, I shopped at their going out of business sale and while my experience at one of the stores might not be indicative of any other, they were extremely explicit about the no returns policy and asked me at check out if I had inspected my purchase (an unlocked cell phone). Terry should dispute the charge, but he’s going to be SOL on a small claims court suit or criminal complaint against CompUSA. The liquidator sold him the box and he needs to go after them if anyone. These guys generally are complete scum. This is par for the course from bottom feeders.

  36. Buran says:

    @e-gadgetjunkie: I’m sorry, but no. There is no excuse for this. This is why there’s such things as chargeback rules.

  37. lestat730 says:

    Sickening how greedy these company’s can be. This reminds me of that Judge Judy episode where a woman thought she bid on a new cell phone on eBay, only to receive a photo of the phone after payment. Then the seller had the audacity to claim that it was to bad for the buyer because they should have read the fine print (as if a photo of the phone was worth 90 bucks) If interested you can see that here:

  38. krunk4ever says:

    @ExGC: I agree that Terry should just dispute the charge on his credit card.

  39. revmatty says:

    They’re going out of business. They just aren’t admitting it yet. This is the first of what will likely be three phases (close 50% of stores, close 50% of remaining stores, go ‘online only’). The fourth phase of course being go out of business because if you’re shopping online the Amazon or Newegg will always have more in stock and be better priced than CompUSA.

  40. Wormfather says:


    “But if you’re going to buy something that isn’t factory sealed, then you should do that anyway just to be safe.”

    It cuts both ways. A few months ago I decided to try “World of (you’re never going to be productive again in your life, ever)Craft I went to target bought the game sealed int he box, got home and it was empty. Luckily Target was very cool about it and gave me a new one pronto.

  41. tvh2k says:

    Hey, I recognize that CompUSA. Good old Palisades Center Mall!

  42. tvh2k says:

    @notebook: No, It means you shouldn’t buy from CompUSA!

  43. Red_Eye says:

    Keep in mind. If he bought this at one of the CompUSA that have already been sold to a liquidation company then Comp USA has nothing to do with that store anymore other than the name still hanging on it. They literally sold the stores to the liquidation company lock stock and barrel. Should CompUSA care that its their name being dragged through the mud? Sure. Are they under any legal or moral obligation to do anything here, I dont think so.

    It sucks but you need to be aware stuff like this can happen with closeouts. The only solution here is to sue the Liquidation company in small claims court.

  44. palaste says:

    According to my layman’s understanding (IANAL), “all sales are final” applies only when there is a sale in the first place. Agreeing to sell a camera and then selling an empty box does not constitute a sale. Now, if the guy did get a camera, but (a) broke it, or (b) decided that he didn’t want it after all, then it would be only his own fault.