Fine Print Mars In-Store Pickup Guarantees

Best Buy, Sears, and Circuit City all promise fast and easy in-store pickup for online orders and are willing to pay if they fail to deliver. Mouseprint scoured the fine print of each guarantee in search of loopholes.

The guarantees vary significantly.

  • Sears: If your item is not delivered within five minutes, you get a $5 gift card. No fine print.
  • Best Buy: If your small item is not delivered withhin one minute, or your large item within five, you get a $10 credit. The guarantee comes with an exact procedure that must be followed before the credit can be redeemed.
  • Circuit City: The worst of all offers, Circuit City is confident that they can track down your item 24 minutes after you receive your confirmation email. If they can’t, their guarantee is so ambiguous that you stand little chance of redeeming the promised $24 gift card.

Preparation boosts your chance of holding any retailer to their guarantee. Before bolting from your house, print out the time-stamped confirmation email and any fine print you can find. Grab a stopwatch and head to the store. Follow any listed procedures listed, and have the offer details handy if the store refuses to honor their offer.

Have in-store pickup guarantees worked out for you before? Tell us in the comments or send your story to the tipline.

Etailers’ Promise: 1 to 24 Minute Pickup Guaranteed [Mouseprint]
(Photo: Wikipedia)


Edit Your Comment

  1. ptkdude says:

    My all-time favorite “in-store pickup” was CompUSA’s. You could go on the website and “buy” something for in-store pickup. This was absolutely no guarantee that the store even had the item in stock! On more than one occasion I tried it, drove to the store and they had either sold it already or never even had the item in stock. Their response? Tough titties. And yet I just can’t figure out why they’re closing every single remaining store. Hmmmm

  2. Exek says:

    @ PTKDUDE No wonder they are going out of business. Same thing happened to me at Compusa. I’ll be all excited about getting a deal online and being able to pick it up in the store and then when you get there their employees saying their website is wrong you should had come into the store and got it not on the web tough luck.

    Circuit City on the other hand I’ve been having good luck with them so far cross my fingers. I even ordered it from their parking lot via my laptop and came in a 10 minutes after ordering and they had it ready. I guess they really don’t want to give away those gift cards.

  3. Leiterfluid says:

    I bought Bender’s Big Score for $7.99 thanks to the guy at the Best Buy pick-up counter not looking hard enough. Apparently, my order was at the bottom of the pile, he didn’t see it, asked a couple of people about it, hemmed and hawed for a couple of minutes, checked again and found it.

    When he finally found it, he apologized for not noticing it the first time, and I said “That’s OK, you just saved me ten bucks!”

    He laughed, and I got the discount without any hassle.

  4. PricklyPete says:

    I wish I had known there was a guarantee for Best Buy in -store
    pickups. I spent more than 30 minutes waiting for them to find the Ipod
    Touch that I ordered online. They finally discovered that it had be
    mislabeled (had someone else’s name on it.)
    A $10 credit would have at least put me in a better mood. BTW, when I
    got home from the store I had received an email from BB telling me that
    my order was canceled because the item was out of stock.

  5. jaya9581 says:

    I actually very recently got Circuit City’s $24 guarantee.

    Even though he was getting Rock Band for his birthday one week later, my husband desperately wanted Guitar Hero 3 for his 360. We looked all weekend and then on a Sunday saw that a CC about 30 minutes from our house was showing that they had it on their website. I quickly made the order and we got the confirmation email. We were walking out the door when the phone rang – the store was calling to tell us that there was an inventory error and they did not have it. I was on the phone with the woman for about 10 minutes as she was trying to find another nearby store that had it, when she suddenly told me that they did, in fact, have it; some associate had placed it on hold for a customer, but they don’t allow holds, so that would be ours and to come on down. We hurried all the way down there, stood in a line, got to the counter and gave the woman – the same one who I had just spoken to on the phone – our email printout, and she said “Oh, I called you back a little while ago, the one we have is broken.” With no fuss, she refunded my money and handed over the $24 gift card. I didn’t even have to ask for it.

    So,some kudos to the Van Nuys, CA CC for being honest, even if they’re also incompetent.

  6. XTC46 says:

    CompUSAs sucks. I am the one who processes those stupid orders. They take the customers CC info, then rely on an inventory system that is always out of date. Id say 1 in 3 wont get what they order if its a sale item.

  7. BigNutty says:

    Hey, I went through that tree when I was a kid on vacation with my parents in Northern California.

  8. Bay State Darren says:

    @ptkdude: When you say “buy” it online, please tell me you did not carry out a transaction on the website at the start of your tale of woe. [Or maybe tell me that you did, that’d make the story more interesting.] Either way, I’d love to know more.

  9. Doctor Cathattan says:

    About a year ago I bought a cable tv signal amplifier from Circuit City’s website. They promised to have the thing ready within 24 minutes. So when I go to the counter to pick it up the clerk checks my order and has me sign a pick-up confirmation,I do so (BIG MISTAKE!). The fine print of the confirmation says that by signing you acknowledge receipt of the merchandise. After signing the confirmation she asks me to stand by the merchandise receiving counter, where I wait and wait. After about 5 minutes of standing there I complain to the clerk and she apologizes and tells me that no one is working the back room. I eventually get the merchandise in my hands but well after the promised 24 minutes. I tried to complain to the CC corporate but they pretty much told me that their records show that the merchandise was delivered within the promised time frame but they would look into the matter. I was so ticked off I went ahead and returned the merchandise.

    No matter what the clerk tells you…DON’T SIGN ANYTHING UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY GET IT IN YOUR HANDS!

  10. humphrmi says:

    @ptkdude: I had the same problem with CompUSA years ago. I ordered something online, went to the store, no joy. I tell them to cancel the order, I’ll go down the street to Micro Center (cheaper there anyway). Then, a few days later, I start getting phone calls every day to come in and pick up my merchandise. They even charged my CC! Chargebacks ensued, no more biz goes to CompUSA. Good riddance to them.

  11. MumblesFumbles says:

    While there was no “guarantee”, I did an online buy/store pickup at Sears once (gotta be at least 5 years back by now). It was for an air conditioner on a day that was VERY hot. When I got to the store that evening, not knowing where to go for pickup I went to department that sold air conditioners. There were at least 50 people in various states of anger all trying to buy an air conditioner because they heard they had gotten a delivery.

    With my pickup order in hand, I was directed to where I could pick up my unit. When I got there, the folks were very nice and told me it was going to take a while because their computers crashed and they are having difficulty processing orders. Eventually, after 30-45 minutes, they processed my order and I was on my way home.

    Or so I thought. After getting home and installing the air conditioner, I checked my email to find an email from Sears telling me they apologize for not being able to fulfill my order and that they have canceled and refunded my money. Thanks!

  12. Major-General says:

    @ptkdude: Sounds like the one time I tried to do that at Best Buy. Apparently, there is no way for the inventory from the website to access the stores. The item I wanted was not available at any store for over 50 miles around. I was also going out of town in a few days, and it wasn’t available in my destination for more than 100 miles.

    But the exact same thing in a different color was in stock. And no, I couldn’t substitute. That was two years ago and I haven’t shopped with them since.

  13. Xerloq says:

    I bought a printer at CC online for store pickup. I arrived at the store 36 minutes after the order was placed. I handed my order to the clerk and said, “I’m here to pickup my order, is it ready?”

    “Oh yes, sir it is. I just have to ‘check-it-out’ of the system.”

    Five minutes later, he’s still checking it out. “Doesn’t look like it’s ready to me. I guess I get the giftcard.”

    “Oh no, sir. It’s ready. One more minute.” Five minutes pass, he has me sign the receipt and says, “I’ll send Bobby to the back to get it.”

    “I though you said it was ready.”

    “It is, just as soon as he gets it.”

    Bobby comes back, 10 minutes later with the printer. “Here’s your printer sir. I just have to check it out of the system.”

    “Oh,” I replied, “so it’s not ready.”

    “No, it is. I just have to check it out.”

    My head nearly exploded as Bobby took 10 minutes to ‘check-out’ the printer, again. I demanded the gift card because I had been waiting at the store for over 25 minutes to pick up something that should have been ready 40 minutes ago, but obviously wasn’t.

    “Sir, you’ll see the agreement doesn’t include time wating in store lines…”

    I hope they go the way of CompUSA.

  14. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    I haven’t had a successful in store pickup at Best Buy yet. Typically I check online to see if they have the item in stock, then purchase online for instore pickup. 2-3 hours later (after confirmation) I go to the store to the in store pickup line and wait. And wait. And wait. There’s never anyone there. After getting someone’s attention, they take 5-10 minutes digging around trying to find my selection(s). If they find it, there’s usually one item that is not correct. Typically it hasn’t been picked yet.

    By this point, I’ve spent more time trying to utilize their in store pickup than walking to the products I need and checking out on my own.

  15. mgomega says:

    I worked at Sears in the warehouse of one of their stores back in the mid-1990’s. Their current computer system was rolled out around 1996 or so. It was tremendously buggy at first, but they quickly got it ironed out. Sears has always had the 5-minute goal for giving ordered items to customers, but it seems to be only recently that they’ve publicised it. Nevertheless, they’ve had plenty of time to figure out how to get it right. They usually keep customer orders in a special area right behind the door to their “package pickup” area. It was rare that we ever took longer than 5 minutes to retrieve an item, but it did happen. Still, the store managers have tremendous authority and leeway to satisfy customer demands, so I would be surprised if they didn’t honor the deal. But unless there’s a slew of customers picking up items at the same time, the 5-minutes-or-less guarantee is pretty accurate.

  16. Aladdyn says:

    I tried it once at circuit city wich is where i usually buy electronics/computer stuff that I need immediately since the employees they have are way better than the local best buy. I bought a DVD and went to pick it up. They make you get it through the customer service line which has the drawback of having to wait while ppl who have gotten screwed try and argue with the service rep. The guy ahead of me was trying to return a car stereo that didnt have a remote with it. I could see that on the box it was clearly marked “open box, remote included” the service rep. was saying they couldnt return it because it was already “discounted a lot, and he had gotten a good deal” while the kid argued that he wanted a remote with his stereo and wouldnt had bought it if it didnt have a remote but he figured it would have the remote since it clearly stated on the box that it did in fact contain a remote. So i had to wait while the two opposing arguments butted heads against each other untill the kid finally gave up. Then after a few minutes of finding my dvd and checking me out I was on my way. Havnt used online pickup since.

  17. Floobtronics says:

    I did this once at Circuit City, only to be utterly shocked and appalled. They delivered totally on-time. My total in-store time was about 3 minutes.

    Most atypical. Granted, it was only for a pair of earbuds, but still, I was impressed.

  18. FishingCrue says:

    I did Sears online checkout a few years ago, I went to pick it up and, I swear I’m not making this up, they had a sign that listed the previous day’s average wait time — 48 minutes. Like they were actually bragging about a 48 minute wait. If they had any form of timeliness guarantee this store would have been [more] bankrupt [than the rest of the chain].

    Also — two or so years ago I did in store pickup with Circuit City. I timed it so that I would be at the front of the line exactly 25 minutes after the confirmation email. They had to send someone to the floor to pick up my box. I collected the 24 dollar gift card without much hassle — at the time the store was PLASTERED with $24 guarantee posters. The clueless staff had never heard of such a guarantee but I just pointed to the wall behind them. Manager intervened and I walked out 24 bucks richer. Net cost after incentives of my upscaling dvd player (back when that wasn’t ubiquitous) was around 29 bucks.

  19. nuton2wheels says:

    @BigNutty: That tree gets around :/

  20. dogwipe says:

    I work at SEARS as a car-pickup employee. We usually cheat and stop the timer early, or restart it to meet our goal or 98% of pickups in under 5 minutes. Actual wait times are 10-15 mins.

    Even when the timer rolls over 5 mins we just brush off the customers request for a  $5 coupon. We haven’t given out a coupon in months because our printer is broke, and management hasn’t ordered a new one.

  21. dogwipe says:

    The warehouse employees are REQUIRED to confirm every online order in stock. Sometimes sales employees will call customer to notify them, but usually the customer doesn’t know theres a problem until they arrive at the store and nobody can find their merchandise.

  22. mrstu says:

    @pricklypete: Actually, most likely, based on what you are saying, they did not mislable you’re product, you got someone elses ipod, most likely due to incompetince on the part of the customer service employee. I work in the warehouse at a Best Buy store, and I’ve seen it happen a couple times.
    The way a order for in store pickup works is this:
    1: Customer orders the item online… The stores stock system is checked to insure that the product SHOULD be in stock. The customer is given a “print this for your records” page with the order number and such. This page also says “please wait until your order is confirmed via email before going to the store to pick up your product” This is important, and many customers seem to miss it. The reason it is important is step two:
    2: The order is forwarded to the warehouse employees at the store you have selected. A picking list is automatically generated for them with all the items you want to pick up in store. Now, according to the stores stocking computer, these items are all in stock, so there should be no need to confirm them, right? Wrong. The stores numbers could be off, resulting in them not having the item. The item could be a display model or open box item that was not properly entered as such, resulting in them not having the item. The item could be in the hands of a customer who has picked it up off the shelf but hasn’t gone through the checkout yet, again, no item. And heck, sometimes stuff gets put down someplace other then where it goes… a shopper picks up a 50 cent CD, walks around, changes his mind, and leaves it over with Johnny Cash. Guess what? They’re not going to find that until the next time someone straitens the department, so, no item.
    The warehouse employees will go around the store, grabbing your items as quickly as possible (and I mean as quickly as possible… we get timed on these, and messing up too many is bad for your chances of continuing employment. If they have your item(s), great, they say so in the computer, at which point you get a confirmation email, and you can go pick up your stuff. If not, you get an email explaining that some of the items where unavailable, and depending upon those items availability in other stores in your area and online, either giving you the option to get it from another store, have it shipped to your home, or simply cancel the order. Please note that, as the system is set up, there is no way I can see that you could get a confirmation email AND a cancelation email… and given the fact that you mentioned nothing about the confirmation, I am inclined to believe that you failed to read the part about waiting for said email (don’t feel to bad, lots of people do the same thing) For whatever reason, they were unable to find the ipod for you, so they no-picked it, sending you the cancelation email, but you were already on the way to the store. Once in store, the incompitents at customer service, in an attempt to avoid having to call for help, gave you someone elses ipod. Keep in mind, you can’t just “mis-label” a dot com order like that. The labels are printed by the computer automatically when inventory picks the order, and include the order number, the customers name, and the model number/sku/description of the item. In other words, unless the label was for an entirly different product, you got the ipod that had been set aside for a customer who ordered it before you. If I were you, I would check the credit card you payed for the ipod with… given the fact that refunds are automatically given when orders are canceled, I would guess that you may have gotten a bit more then ten dollars off for your trouble.

  23. tedyc03 says:

    I experienced the “Best Buy” guarantee…and I can assure you that no one will ever collect on it.

    The guarantee is incumbent upon the presentation of your ID, credit card, and confirmation e-mail. The timer starts when Best Buy scans your confirmation e-mail into the system – something that never happens until the product has ALREADY been located and handed to you – voiding the guarantee entirely.

    I spent nine minutes in line, plus a minute and a half waiting for the incompetent employee to find my stuff. Guarantee? Nope! Why? Because he scanned my document AFTER finding my stuff, and by scanning my credit card I ended the transaction – which made it seem as though the transaction lasted 15 seconds, not the full 1:30.

  24. HOP says:

    bust buy sucketh

  25. crabbyman6 says:

    I’ve never had a problem with Circuit City, they gave me the $24 card because they couldn’t find the $9 camera case I had ordered online. In this case the woman offered me a different case and when I said no she just handed me the gift card, I didn’t even know they had this policy, it was great!

    Every time I try in store pickup from Best Buy its a hassle and I never get even an offer for a gift card, not that I’d want it anymore anyway. The last time I needed a camera charger and extra battery the day before my honeymoon, so we tried in store pickup since its the only place that had them. We get to the store 3 hours after the order is placed, and they still “can’t find my order”. I had already sent my wife back to find the items in store, which she did in about 2 minutes, so I asked the guy to cancel my order. I’m told “oh, we can’t cancel your order since I can’t find it”. At this point I ask if I’ll be charged and he tells me no, since he can’t find the order, so we go buy the charger at the counter. When I get back from our honeymoon there’s a barrage of emails from Best Buy reminding me to pickup my item, which they didn’t forget to charge me for. Although, this was better than my previous in store pickup where they had about 3 hours to fill my order again and still didn’t have it, made us wait in the store for about 2 hours to still not have the order ready. Then they cancelled it and we just bought it at the counter. I then complained to the manager and was told that it “wasn’t his problem, this is the busiest store in the country”. Wow. Why does Best Buy even HAVE in store pickup???

  26. erratapage says:

    A couple of years ago, I bought a Toshiba laptop using in store pickup at Circuit City. No problems. And I got a good deal.

  27. strife1012 says:

    Circuit City Internal Policy is:

    “When in doubt give it out” We would rather have a consumer that gets a $24 card than to have a pissed off customer. I have been finalizing and grabbing all of my stores Web Orders for years. At least 90% will be found, if the item is not found in 15 mins, the entire store knows about it until the item is finalized. The only items that cannot be stored up front like a TV or Home Theater System. However abuse of the system is not tollerated. $24 Gift Card for $5 headphones have been tried many times, we know fraud, we see people try it.

  28. PricklyPete says:

    @mrstu: Good point, I’ll have to check my cc statement again. Thanks
    for the info. Interesting to learn how the whole process works. I did
    neglect to mention the confirmation email, which I did receive. I
    placed the order Saturday afternoon, got a confirmation Saturday
    evening and went to the store on Sunday. I got the cancellation email
    Sunday morning after I had returned from the store. In any event, I got
    my Ipod, but from what you said, it sounds like someone else probably
    didn’t get theirs. That’s no good.

  29. goodkitty says:

    I ordered a (very hard-to-find) DVD for in-store pickup at Best Buy. Not available online, but a local store had it, so I figured I’d do the pick-up thing. Was notified 15 minutes after checkout (via email) that the local store had no stock and sorry, you’re SOL. What’s the point?

    And if the line at customer service every time I go into a Worst Buy is any evidence, I don’t see how you can get anything done there in under 5 minutes.

  30. boxoman says:

    I talked with a girl at circuit city about this. She told me that if they did not get the product to me in time, the discount would be taken out of their paychecks. It is great to see a big company guarantee something that they cannot always do, and then when it goes wrong, punish the employees.

  31. mrstu says:

    @goodkitty: Unfortunetly, thats just going to happen sometime… a store is not like a warehouse, the inventory in the computer will NEVER be 100% accurate… even if it says something in stock, it could be in a costomers hand, on a shelf halfway across the store where someone set it down, in a shoplifter’s pocket, etc… It’s either wait a bit for a human being to go out and physically set aside the product after you order it, or just hope we’re right, and have a lot of customers come in and be told we don’t have an item after all… It’s something I’ll never understand… We get so much flack from some customers because they have to wait 10-15 minutes after they place the order before they can come pick it up. Yet, if we DIDN’T do this, and just assumed the computer was correct, we would have a post on the front of the consumerist about bait and switch tactics, and rightly so. I know it’s a pain to have to wait, but there simply isn’t any way to avoid it.

    @boxoman: I doubt that the money is actually taken out of their paychecks… doing so would most likely be a violation of labor laws. I know at Best Buy, we have a bonus that we are able to recieve that is based on our stores NOP (net operating profit). That is, instead of a bunch of little statistics, the sole determiner of our bonus is how much our store is in the black at the end of the year. I would guess that Circuit city has a similar program, and this is what the girl was referring to. That is, having to pay out $25 dollars to customers, if done on a regular basis, would reduce the stores NOP, therfor reducing the employee’s bonuses. This is exactly how the bonus is supposed to work… as opposed to a revenue goal, which only rewards sales, basing the bonus on NOP encourages employees to save the store money in other ways (Help prevent theft, minimize the discounts/refunds they have to give to customers, keep labor under budget, etc.) It kind of stinks that it can be effected by things like that that are out of your control, but at least it’s just a bonus, not your base pay, which, if I recall correctly, there are just about zero legal reasons they can reduce.

  32. madmari says:

    I bought a cordless drill at last week and once I got to the store they handed me the drill 1 min 48 sec after they scanned my confirmation e-mail. I was quite impressed.

  33. Red_Eye says:

    WOW I posted a comment over at mouse print when I saw this story last week. I mentioned my own discovery of the circuit city 24 min guarantee and that I had blogged about it and included a link. Before they approved my comment they stripped out the content about me having blogged about it and the link.

    Nice to know that mouse print is even editorializing their loyal readers comments!

  34. aquanetta says:

    Last time I bought something for in-store pickup at Best Buy, I waited for 15 minutes at the “In Store Pickups” sign and kept getting ignored by employees who walked by but pretended not to see me, or they said, “wait here and someone will be with you.” Eventually, an actual cashier guy said, “oh, that sign is wrong, you should stand next to the Customer Returns sign.” By that point, someone actually had something to return so he helped her, then when I showed him my order confirmation and ID, he hemmed and hawed, said, “I don’t see your order here.” My order was one of two orders on that freaking shelf.

    So yeah, technically, they gave me my order within 1 minute of presenting my confirmation, but it was about 10 minutes before someone even acknowledged my presence.

  35. ravana says:

    @ptkdude: Exact same thing happened to me at CompUSA numerous times. As much as I love their prices, I am glad their goin under.

    Your crappy customer service will not be missed.

  36. rustyni says:

    @boxoman: Actually, you were misinformed. In the miserable two years I worked at Circuit City as a Customer Service Associate, I gave out quite a few 24.00 gift cards, and not once was it ever taken out of my paycheck, otherwise there would have been hell to pay. For the most part, we managed to get the customer’s merchandise to them withen the 24 minutes, but hey. Sometimes s*** happens, things get hectic, warehouse misplaces things, and we end up with a disgruntled customer and having to take an extra 2 minutes to dish out the gift card. No sweat. I’d rather give out that card than stand and listen to someone throw a tantrum for the next thirty minutes. :)

  37. RottNDude says:

    I bought a cheap junker laptop from Best Buy for in store pickup, and had to wait 20 minutes after I got to the store so they could pull it down from the shelf. I got my $10 credit automatically – the rep at the counter kind of mumbled “oh, you get a $10 credit” and that was that.

    I was totally shocked.

  38. coold8 says:

    I got a $24 gift card from Circuit City. When I got to the store, the person behind the counter tried to find it, could not find it, and gave me a $24 gift card, and then asked if I wanted a refund or a gift card to get a similar item. I chose the similar item (500gb hard drive, I upgraded to 750gb for like an extra $20 with gift card). I didn’t ask for the gift card, he just said you qualify for the $24, here you go. All the other times it was ready far less than 24 minutes, usually within 5-6 minutes. Bravo to circuit city.