Too Soon For Best Buy To Cash In On Heath Ledger's Death?

A reader over at Best Week Ever spotted this little makeshift “tribute” to recently deceased actor Heath Ledger in a San Diego Best Buy.

Mr. Ledger passed away yesterday at his home in New York. He was 28.

Too soon, Best Buy?

When Is a Makeshift Best Buy Tribute to Heath Ledger Too Soon? The Answer: Always. [Best Week Ever] (Thanks, Phil!)


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  1. Anonymous says:


  2. Joafu says:


  3. Coder4Life says:

    good marketing.. but c’mon seriously… Hopefully this store manager gets a slap on the wrist. Because there’s good and bad marketing. This would be BAD Marketing…

    Plus anyways, they don’t really even profit on those dvd’s so what are they really trying to do?

  4. renegadebarista says:

    This is not uncommon for DVD retailers at all, when I was with Hastings, a regional DVD/Music chain we would have e-mails waiting for us from our corp offices within hours of a actor/musician/author passing on. Anytime this happened we where instructed to do an endcap/display in a highly visable area. While I am not wild about the practice, and said so while I was working at the corp office I can tell you that part of the reason retailers do this is to cut down on staff frustration. Every time someone would die within minutes we would have customers wanting anything by that author/musician/actor, and they would be upset if they could not find it instantly. Kind of a no win situation for retailers. Upset customers if you don’t have a display because they can’t find something by the person in question, and upset customers if you do.

  5. cheera says:

    Awe man, thats just weird.

  6. doormat says:

    Wow, I didn’t think BB could get any lower. They just did.

  7. gobo718 says:

    Could this just be a tribute? A store manager paying respect by bringing attention to Ledger’s best works? I hate Best Buy along with the rest of you, but would have it been less tacky by giving a discount?

  8. martyz says:

    I am no longer shocked by anything Best Buy does.

  9. PassionateConsumer says:

    Better to do things behind the scenes to be ready for any ‘customer rush’, like making sure you have plenty of things in stock, keeping employees informed of titles to suggest to people who ask. Openly promoting DVDs “remember a great actor” … by renting his DVDs, comes across amateurish and disrespectful. Like Best Buy needs any more negative press. Is there a more hated electronics retailer?

  10. parad0x360 says:

    @Coder4Life: Good? In no way is this good. The guy died yesterday and cause of death hasnt even been made public as far as I know. A whole lot of speculation. If he died of some crazy drug overdose or killed himself should be honor him?

    This is just bad taste. Let the man be buried before you start using his name to drive you gross margin.

    People are going to look for his movies regardless, there is no need to make a sign because unless they dont know their ABC’s they should be able to find them all by themselves.

    Im not a spiritual person but even I find this terrible.

  11. bakertim says:

    Remember him with your dollars.
    This just screams opportunistic, shameless greed.

  12. shadow735 says:

    Nothing like capitalizing on the death of a human…

  13. m.ravian says:

    um, i was working at Borders when Elliott Smith died…the next day i made a little endcap tribute to him with (gasp) cds for people to BUY.

    ever think that this might be a fan wanting to pay tribute? you people are too cynical.

  14. mandarin says:

    Best Buy really is a slime bag…

  15. Amry says:

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s my retail background, but I’m really thinking this is less “slime bag” and “crass” and more “please stop asking me where the hell the Heath Ledger movies are.”

    Seriously…that sign totally screams “made on the back office computer.”

  16. spinachdip says:

    @renegadebarista: You’d think it would help to have people who are know movies working in the movie section, but maybe I’m just crazy.

  17. DaveB says:

    Glad Dark Knight is finished filming. It would suck to have to postpone that film. Is Heath Ledger considered a great actor or something?

  18. North of 49 says:

    why shouldn’t they? people are probably wanting to see his stuff and don’t know where to look or all the titles he was in. Put them all in one place and blammo! Sold out!

  19. The Count of Monte Fisto says:

    Why is this bad? He’s known for being an actor, his legacy will be his movies. Are they supposed to give them away?

  20. Youthier says:

    I think what’s a little crass is the sign. The idea of pulling a bunch of movies and putting them in a prominent area makes sense – there’s a really good chance people will be out, wanting to buy those movies (I know of some coworkers who are having a little movie night tribute this weekend).

  21. Lea9017 says:

    we did this at booksamillion when kurt vonnegut died, put all his books out on an endcap. just easier for the associates to point out than the shelf they usually are on

  22. Vanvi says:

    @lookatmissohio: Maybe I’m naive, but I agree with you. It could be like leaving flowers, just something someone wanted to do. Someone above mentioned they don’t even make much money on those DVDs, so maybe it is more memorializing than money-grubbing. This website makes people so paranoid.

  23. yg17 says:

    It goes both ways (and yes, it is too soon for you to turn “going both ways” into a joke about Brokeback Mountain). It’s a disturbing marketing practice, but when I worked at Target, whenever someone died, people would rush in and buy anything and everything they were involved with as if no more copies of that were ever going to be made. We didn’t rush out and set up displays. But I can see this being easier than a million customers asking where a certain CD or movie is. But, knowing Best Buy, they probably did this to cash in on the guy’s death, not make the lives of their employees and customers easier.

  24. MercuryPDX says:

    For Best Buy? What took them so long.

    Everyone else… too soon. :)

  25. spinachdip says:

    @lookatmissohio: Some people leave flowers. Some people write poems. Others leave sloppily made Microsoft Word printouts urging people to buy DVDs.

    I guess we all grieve differently.

  26. Bay State Darren says:

    Hate to defend Best Buy, but a lot of customers very likely walked into the store today specifically looking for Joker’s movies, so while this does scream, ‘Impulse buy!’, this is actually making things more convenient for some people who were gonna buy these DVD’s anyways.

  27. dapuddle says:

    American, what a country!

  28. renegadebarista says:

    Most of these stores, Hastings, Borders, etc do have staff trained in Movies, Music, Books, but they are usually trained in one area and if it is a more obscure author/musician/actor it is not always possible for every associate to know every title in every genre. Add to that crossover titles where a author dies and their are movies based on a title, but not titled the same as the book and you complicate things even further. Plus there is always that group of customers who walk up to someone in the book dept and ask a movie question and expect an answer instantly. For the love of God not everything a retailer does is some sort of evil plot to be unethical, or slimey, or to screw you. Sometimes a display is just a display.

  29. renegadebarista says:

    I want to add another point. because I think that the Best Buy hate doesn’t apply to this. I was still at Hastings in 2001 when Douglas Adams passed. I was managing the video dept, but before anything came out from our corp. offices I had a display of Douglas Adams books, and videos up with a blurb on what his writings and work ment to me. I didn’t do it to neccessarily boost sales, but to tell people how much Douglas Adams work ment to me. Like I said above not everything a big national retailer does is evil or slimey. Would any of you be upset if your neighborhood video store did this?

  30. MercuryPDX says:

    @Bay State Darren: OH… scratch that then… I was thinking Best Buy had some kind of “Buy Three Heath Movies, GET ONE FREE!” deal.

    Shame on me for automatically assuming Best Buy was going for dollar$, instead of just being servicey. :)

  31. benjimandodd says:

    i’m ok with this.

    say he’s your favorite actor. what are you going to do?

    buy his movies to watch and keep as a, idk, keepsake or something.

    if heath ledger was my favorite actor(he’s not) and i went into best buy to buy his stuff i would be happy that they are all together on one table.

    sure it’s marketing but everything a store DOES is marketing.

    a. he died. b. complaining about best buy grouping his movies together isn’t going to bring him back.

  32. DrGirlfriend says:

    I understand the idea of grouping the items for those who decide to become a fan of someone once they die. I thin kwhat bothers me about this particular instance is that it looks really hastily done and kind of crass. If an endcap had just been filled with his movies or something, then fine. But that little sign is in bad taste. Could have been done in a more discreet fashion, I think.

  33. gruffydd says:

    Is it any worse than HSN’s “Martin Luther King, Jr Clearance Sale”
    or an L.A. area mattress store “I Have a Dream” sale?

  34. spinachdip says:

    @renegadebarista: some Best Buy manager could do this in good faith. But my problems are:
    a) Heath Ledger is hardly “obscure” – I mean, he’s done Brokeback, A Knight’s Tale, 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot – there, I just named 4 mainstream/well publicized movies without even IMDbing and I’m not a Ledger fan or a cinephile by any means.

    b) Sure, it’s impossible even for a cinephile to know every movie ever made – would it be nuts for the DVD section staff to have a printout of Ledger films available on DVD? Of course, this would require BB’s floor staff to actually spend time helping customers, but we can all dream, right?

    c) Seriously, that’s some ugly ass sign. I don’t think I’d have as much issue with it if they’d left out “A REMEMBER A GREAT ACTOR THROUGH HIS GREAT PERFORMANCES” (WHY DO THEY HAVE TO SHOUT???!!!?!?!) – that’s just really tacky. At the very least, they could’ve had a simple sign saying “Movies starring Heath Ledger” or some shit. There’s a reason why corporate spends millions of dollars standardizing their CI – it’s exactly so some lowly store manager doesn’t print out some sloppy signange on the office laser printer.

    d) “or the love of God not everything a retailer does is some sort of evil plot to be unethical, or slimey, or to screw you.”

    Mmmmm! That’s a tasty strawman pie you baked up!

  35. Phildawg says:

    @dapuddle: That’s actually a nationality.

  36. ivealwaysgotmail10 says:

    thats really horrible, Like, seriously, insanely, disgustingly horrible. I mean come on, The guy hasnt even been dead a week, They are obviously taking advantage of the recent news frenzy about his death.

    But im not surprised at all that best buy would do something like this, Im surprised they arent selling the same brand of sleeping pills he took, clothes he was wearing, and car he drove right next to this display…. Horrible

  37. Frostberg says:

    you guys who say it is in bad taste are crazy. People would by the movies anyway and the sign is respectful. How are fans supposed to honor him? Would you rather people didnt see his films?

  38. vliam says:

    @renegadebarista: I was going to say the same thing.

    /also worked at Hastings coincidently
    //for five years

  39. Jon Mason says:

    I worked in retail music/video store for about 4 years – this is nothing compared to the rushed together, reissued Greatest Hits CDs that would sometimes arrive within DAYS of a musician dying. Some manager printing up a sign is one thing – a whole record company putting a new album together to cash in is something else.

    And I second the fact, that while printing a sign like that is a little crass – interest in dead actors/musicians skyrockets, and you can bet that stores will all be ordering much bigger quantities of Ledger’s work and movie studios will be looking at reissuing discs and getting any more obscure films he was in back on the market.

  40. spinachdip says:

    @Frostberg: How are fans supposed to honor him? Would you rather people didnt see his films?

    I have a feeling Heath Ledger’s fans have seen his movies.

    Look, I understand that nothing raises an artist’s profile like death, and I don’t have an issue with businesses benefitting from that. That doesn’t make the sign any less tacky, though.

  41. XTC46 says:

    cool, I own all three of those. :)

  42. morganlh85 says:


  43. vliam says:

    Well, regardless of whether you might think something like this is rather tasteless, the fact is these displays exist for one reason, consumer demand.
    I can guarantee that every Best Buy employee in the nation had to hear the inevitable, “where are your Heath Ledger movies?”, a hundred times today. Coupled with the fact that his movies are located in a number of different categories, it makes a lot of sense to offer them on a single display.

    It’s much simpler to point them to this display than to play the twenty questions game.

    “Which one are you looking for?”
    “Uhhh… I can’t remember the name of it. It was the one were he played that guy. You know. It had that other guy in it.”

    “Brokeback Mountain?”
    “No. Dude! Do I look like I’d watch that?”


    FWIW, the signage still sucks.

  44. ludwigk says:

    I don’t think they were ‘cashing in’. I know a lot of passionate movie fans who are quite upset over his death. BB manager probably just wanted to pay respects in a small way. I mean, what else exactly is best buy going to do? They don’t sell coffins or funerals, but they have a ton of DVDs.

  45. TangDrinker says:

    I was a manager at Strawberries (anyone remember them?) when Jerry Garcia died. The first message of the day on our phone system the next morning was to pull the end caps and load up the Grateful Dead crap with a hand made sign “RIP, Jerry.”

    I bet the Best Buy guy probably had to make a sign and put this stuff on that table you see when you first walk in because the end-caps have been “Rented” by major labels already (and, also, as pointed out several times above, retail customers need things spelled out for them with clearly marked displays).

  46. Mrs. Stephen Fry says:

    I went out and filled a lot of holes in my Grateful Dead collection after Jerry died.

    I don’t think the display is a big deal. The sign is really quite nice.

  47. Critcol says:

    I’m siding with the idea the endcap is about appreciating a talented actor who died young.

    I think I’m going to find my copy of Knight’s Tale and 10 Things I Hate About You and remember someone who had appreciable talent and is a tragic loss to the art of cinema.

    Not that I’m watching his best performances, just my favorites.

  48. t0fu says:

    People still shop at best buy?

  49. @gobo718: That’s kind of how I saw it. I was working at B&N when Reagan died and we put up an endcap of books about him–both positive and negative–because it was news, and people would be asking for them. Same thing here. The BB signage could have been more professional, though.

  50. StevieD says:

    This was not a tribute, nor was it marketing. It was simplifying the life of the employees at BB and the customers that shop at that store.

    Think about it.

    There is always a peaked interest in a movie/music star after a good or bad event. Somebody wins a grammy and there is a sudden interest in prior works. Somebody wins an Oscar and everybody is trying to view the current movie as well as prior works. The same thing can be said when somebody dies.

    The store was justing cutting through the clutter and saying here are the works of this particular actor that we have in store stock. It made the life of the employees easier and it allowed quicker access for the interested public.

    Was it it really in poor taste? Maybe slightly. But I bet every movie information page, such as IMBD, suddenly had a quick link that showed up on a news page. And I know every mainstream news organization had a story about the actor. Of course those same news stories were conveniently filled with links to Amazon etc so you could buy a copy of the movie.

  51. puka_pai says:


    I, too, worked at Hastings as a video manager at the same time you did. And I put together a Douglas Adams endcap, too. And then I worked for *bux. Are you sure you’re not me?!?

    Keith Olbermann featured this on Countdown tonight and castigated the store for their crassness. I thought he was totally wrong — anybody working in retail knows that when anything major happens to someone famous, anything they’ve produced runs out the door. This is just making everybody’s life easier, both staff and customers, by helping people find the movies they’re interested in.

    As for Ledger’s work being famous enough to not need the help, I read a story earlier today saying that one of the more popular search terms since yesterday is KEITH Ledger. So not everybody knows him and his work well enough to not need some help.

    I thought the sign was just fine. Quickly made, yes, but worded nicely enough to not seem exploitive. You know THAT didn’t come from corporate.

  52. Hambriq says:


    I would bet fifty bucks that this was a store employee legitimately trying to honor Heath Ledger and not a corporate-sponsored attempt at cashing in on his death.

    P.S. I am really sad about this. I liked A Knight’s Tale, and I was really looking forward to his role as The Joker.

  53. renegadebarista says:

    I’ve struggled with posting this comment because I know I’m going to get nailed for it. I find it slightly hypocritical that the consumerist and Ms. Marco went after Best Buy for this when Gawker Media, via, has rated right up their with sites like TMZ for trying to cash in on this via site hits. Remember the more site hits gawker gets the more money Gawker Media makes and has exploited this just as much as TMZ or any of the other gossip sites. Plus gawker is not a news site, it is simply a gossip site. Their own tagline even says it:


    My point with all this is, is that if you believe that Best Buy is trying to cash in, which I don’t believe they are, then shouldn’t you be upset with Gawker Media as well. Heath Ledger is one of their featured story topic links right now, how is this any different from what Best Buy is doing?

  54. CPC24 says:

    The local CompUSA has just stopped playing “A Knight’s Tale”, but only because they sold the TVs they were showing it on.

  55. riverstyxxx says:

    It’s been a few days since I’ve seen another best buy situation.
    Best buy would sell out their own mothers to push a product, they’re disgusting.
    What the company was thinking: “Someone died, come on people, time is money!”

    Scummy retail shops like BB and CompUsa lose revenue because they do stuff like this. If people would learn some discipline, the same thing would happen to the fast food industry and we’d see nothing but healthy fast food within a month.

  56. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @riverstyxxx: If people would learn some discipline lots and lots of good things would happen, healthy fast food would certainly not be #1 on that list.

    Also, I am pissed to be too late to jump on the “BB sucks” train in this thread.

  57. BFIrrera says:

    To be honest, most of the stuff that “Best Buy” does appalls me. However, this is simple economics. Supply and Demand. I worked at a video rental store years ago (not a chain, privately owned little ma and pa store) and would always almost immediately put a shelf together for whomever was the most recent big celebrity that had died. When someone major dies, there is always an almost immediate influx of the “vulture” customers who walk in and must have/see the deceased’s body of work.

    I now work at a major chain CD/DVD store. I, again, almost immediately grabbed all of Heath Ledger’s movies and put them up near the registers to serve as impulse items. This did serve us well the other day since we sold some used DVDs and some cheaper titles (Brokeback Mountain was actually on sale right now and 10 Things I Hate About You was on sale WITH a mail-in rebate…both entirely coincidentally). I was shocked to hear that this young man died (simply because he was so young and we haven’t really heard anything about him in tabloids…it wouldn’t have shocked ANYONE if the person was Britney Spears or Amy Winehouse since their drug abuse has been so public), but I’ve been in the business long enough to know that many people will come in seeking these films out simply BECAUSE he died. Now, it’s as simple as stepping up to the register (which is right up near the front door and hard to miss).

    Don’t hate me for simply providing service for my customers, which this boils down to.

  58. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist but do you think Best Buy had something to do with his death? Perhaps we should investigate when this sign was actually printed? All I’m saying………

  59. Hambriq says:



  60. dgcaste says:

    @BFIrrera: “simple economics: supply and demand” or “economics 101: supply and demand” posts FTW!!! next up: “simple life: don’t drive drunk”.

  61. tmed says:

    I’m more upset by the cheapness of the display, than by the concept.

    When Brando died, I wanted to show my son some of his movies and found it was handy to have them in one spot. This makes for good customer service.

    It is unlikely that this is making anyone appear at the store, it’s not like they advertised outside the store, they simply made a small display to gather movies by a reasonable purpose.

    They probably sold fewer movies than if they were on the shelves mixed with everything else, because the people there to buy one or two of Ledger’s movies would not be tempted by the other movies sitting next to them target on the shelf.

    Best Buy still sucks, but I see nothing wrong with this.

  62. VnlaThndr775 says:

    @smartwatermelon: If you really wanted to pay tribute to Reagan, when customers asked you where the Reagan books were you should have responded, “I don’t recall.”

    Too soon?

  63. HOP says:


  64. It probably would have been less tacky without the sign. I imagine there will be lots of customers coming in for Heath Ledger movies (I know I starting thinking, “Did I ever see The Patriot? Do I want to see Knight’s Tale again?”), and I think customers will appreciate having the works collected in one place, and it’ll make it easy for employees to direct them to the comprehensive filmography without dragging them all over the store.

    But the sign that makes it BLATANT advertising should probably wait a few days.

  65. Mary says:

    @lookatmissohio: Exactly, I was working at Borders when Lloyd Alexander died and the first thing I did was set up a display. Then I spent the rest of the day directing people to his books because I honestly felt that more people should read his stuff, it’s all brilliant.

    It’s entirely likely this was a fan who didn’t realize that people would take it the wrong way. Plus, I completely agree that it also could have been somebody saying, “Please, stop asking where they are. They’re all here, take as many as you want and get out of the store.”

    It’s a sad fact that death means dollars when it’s a celebrity.

  66. topgun says:

    @renegadebarista: Apples to Oranges. One is a “media” providing news on events.
    Should a newspaper not publish anything on this because they might sell more papers? Or network television news ignore it because it might spike viewership?
    The only thing this little sign in the Best Buy intended was to drive up sales. If they wanted a tribute to him why not offer 20% of the sales to a charitable organization, say like….”Save the Koala Bears”

  67. Mary says:

    @DrGirlfriend: “I understand the idea of grouping the items for those who decide to become a fan of someone once they die. I thin kwhat bothers me about this particular instance is that it looks really hastily done and kind of crass. If an endcap had just been filled with his movies or something, then fine. But that little sign is in bad taste. Could have been done in a more discreet fashion, I think.”

    I agree with this completely. I’m amazed that Best Buy doesn’t have a sign template and some type of high quality printer around. Borders has a stack of blank signs and a nice printer, plus a computer template to get the font correct and matching. The signs they use for author deaths are basically

    Birth year-Death year

    That seems a lot more tactful.

  68. renegadebarista says:

    @topgun: is a gossip site, not a news site. One of its main features is having people e-mail where celebs are so that others in NYC can go and get pics, etc. Galker even by its own admission is not a news site. It is a site designed to profit off of gossip, (unproven rumors) about celebs. Comparing to a news outlet is like comparing TMZ to the Wall Street Journal.

  69. Pulling a collection of Mr. Ledger’s movies together isn’t so bad. The sign does seem tacky. Plus — as Keith Olbermann pointed out — this was set up within about an hour of the death being reported. Ghoulish at the very least.

    But the worst person in the world on the show that night was John Gibson, who was making jokes about Ledger’s death that same night. Something about it was funny that he was dead because he played teh ghey in Brokeback. Stay classy, Gibby.