Silly Jason. He thought a Best Buy sign reading “2 for $25” meant he could buy two DVDs for $25. He obviously didn’t read the part of the sign that requires customers to buy Saw IV.
Oh, that’s not part of the sign? Then why did the manager of the Best Buy in Beaumont, TX refuse to honor the in-store advertisement? Read Jason’s story, after the jump.
To preface this story, I would like to say I shop at this Best Buy almost exclusively for games, movies, electronics, and computer related items on a local level. Obviously online shopping is still typically the best place for this stuff, but when I want it in my hands, I go here. I happen to frequent this Best Buy every Tuesday like clockwork because I have about 30 minutes to waste when I leave my main day job and go to a freelance job just down the street from this store. I have been in this routine for over 4 years so I am obviously very familiar with this store. I wait for sales and try to pick up deals when I can. When it comes to deals, I am also very aware of the nuances of sales promotions and disclaimers. I never try to push an issue that I know is not correct based on disclaimers and so forth. I worked in advertising so I am actually sensitive to this stuff myself and I also know that people get paid very well to make sure they don’t let mistakes like that through, especially for a company the size of Best Buy. With that all being said, let me explain what happened.
I walk into the Best Buy Store #238 in Beaumont, TX at around 6:30pm Wednesday, January 23rd. I am looking for an extra little birthday present for my 66 year old father, specifically a movie, just as a little side gift as entertainment to counter the tools I already bought him. I wander around looking at the movies for awhile and finally decide on 3:10 to Yuma, a new release. The price on it is $19.99. I decide that standard definition movies are a pretty poor investment at that price and put it back and decide to look around for something else. I think standard definition movies should be $14.99 (and below) these days now that the HD formats are becoming the standard. But as I look through the movies, I see one of their sales promotions on a tiny yellow tag. The promotion says:
” 2 for $25 – Choose from: 3:10 to Yuma, Good Luck Chuck, Saw IV, and War. Disclaimer: Must be purchased on same receipt. No rainchecks. See a customer specialist for details. TempPart #b015021 Expires 01/26/08″
Now I think to myself, that’s a pretty good deal since all of these movies are new releases and it meets my self-imposed restriction of buying standard-def movies for under $15. So I am convinced at that point that it’s a good deal.
I end up choosing two copies of 3:10 to Yuma. One for my father, and the other for me.
Now some people may point and say that choice is not valid to begin with because I am buying two of the same movie….and typically, I might agree with that, but I thought since it didn’t say anything about not getting two copies of the same movie, then that must be a valid choice, so I was ready to put one back and get War instead…. the odd thing is, that was never the issue.
So I get to the register and they ring me up as I pull out my Reward Zone membership card to put the purchase on my card like I always do…….and the clerk tells me $43 dollars and change, meaning, of course, the movies are ringing at $19.99 each. I very politely say they should be ringing at 2 for $25. The clerk then grabs a mailer circular from under the register and says, “No sir, I think for that promotion one of the titles needs to be Saw IV.” and proceeds to show me a promotion in the mailer. I still politely tell him that I didn’t use the mailer to make my decision to buy these, I used the in-store advertising promotion listed in the DVD section and he asks to see the tag I was referring to. I leave the counter, go to the DVD section, grab the tag and then walk back over to the register to show him and he still says I need Saw IV to be one of the movies. I still at this point politely tell him that they must be different promotions because this tag mentions nothing like that and is spelled out in black and white that I can choose any two of the following movies with no reference to a specific movie required in the purchase.
Another Best Buy employee walks over and asks if he can help me…….now this guy comes over with a chip on his shoulder already it seems like, and a headset on. (At this point, I am wondering where the drive-thru is.) He seems like some kind of floor manager or assistant manager. He is very abrupt and not too friendly in his demeanor and I am a little sick from the winter weather, a little tired after working all day, and really not looking for a confrontation or anything. I am staying very calm and never raising my voice or causing a scene or anything. Besides, this is MY Best Buy…..I come in here all the time….and none of these people recognize me? I shop here every week, sometimes twice a week or more….and have been for over 4 years now. This new guy with the headset is telling me that I can’t take advantage of the promotion without one of the movies being Saw IV. I told him, I understand that promotion from the mailer…..but this is a different contradictory promotion in the store. I show him the tag. I also show him the 10 tags or so in the store that are identical to it. He then tells me that the mailer circular takes precendence over the in-store advertising, which is kind of shocking to me, since I never saw the mailer and didn’t receive one, yet I am shopping in the store. I finally realize I am getting nowhere with this individual and decide to go the old “manager route.” At this point, I don’t even care about the movies at that price, I am just wanting to make sure they understand that the promotion in-store is a direct contradiction to their mailer promotion. No one will even admit this yet. So I ask him to get the manager to resolve this so I can go on about my evening. The headset guy goes off to find the manager and leaves me for over 10 minutes, just standing around in the front of the store. He finally comes back talking over his headset and says in a mumbling way “I talked to the managers and they said you need to buy Saw IV.” At this stage, I am standing here in disbelief that a manager didn’t come out to talk to me. I am not even sure this guy ever TALKED to a manager now. I tell him that I need a MANAGER to tell me that for me to understand. This headset guy actually tells me at this point that the managers are too busy to talk to me about it. Well, now I am getting a little irritated. Since when, at any retail establishment, is a store manager too busy to handle a customer problem? I am dumbfounded and annoyed all at once. This same headset guy is now getting belligerent when I have shown no signs of being “one of those customers” who is about to cause a scene. I am calmly and quietly trying to take advantage of an offer that is advertised in the store. Normally I don’t even care about this kind of stuff. Typically I would have left empty-handed if the employees would have said “Sir, I see your point and that advertising is misleading or false, I really apologize, but the register won’t even allow me to do that kind of deal. Let me pull that advertising off the shelf right now to resolve the matter.” I would have been fine with that response and left the store and never thought about it again. My real problem now is that these two employees and the absent manager are basically reacting to me like I am crazy to not “get” their promotion. They think the tag spells it out completely for me and that I must be mentally challenged.
Finally, the store manager shows up and is over-the-top friendly, in a QVC talk show host kind-of-way. I explain to him very politely the whole story from scratch. Let me remind you that we are standing in the check-out area among several other customers checking out with their own purchases. The manager listens intently to my story and finally without missing a beat upon me saying “So there ya have it, isn’t that crazy?”, he says as if he rehearsed it “Yes, but you have to buy Saw IV.” Now I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone here because I just explained to him the difference in the promotional wording from the mailer and the promotional wording from the in-store advertising. It is right here in black and white. I am showing it to him right here in front of us. He refuses to acknowledge that it even remotely seems inaccurate or misleading. I finally get irritated and say, “You need to sell me these two DVDs for $25 to make good on your in-store advertising.” and he says “No, I don’t.” I am seriously floored at this point. I am three levels deep into Best Buy employees and they are all treating me as if I am crazy and we are seriously talking about $15 here. It’s crazy. So I tell him that this whole thing has kind of gotten out of hand and that if he just honors the deal then I will be on my way. He still says “No, I can’t help you…..unless you buy Saw IV.” At this point, I swore if I heard “Saw IV” one more time, I was going to throw up. So basically, I finally tell the manager as a last resort that I could call the consumer hotline and report the store for not honoring the deal. He responds with “It doesn’t matter, call them, I make the final decisions at this store and you are NOT getting those movies for $25.” Oh man, I have NEVER been talked to by a store manager like that in my life. I worked in retail and I worked in advertising and I know what it’s like on both ends of the business. This is just unbelievable at this point for me. I ask the manager what his name is and he says “Brian” and I follow with “Brian what” and he says “BRIAN…THE MANAGER” and then I ask him to get his full name so I know who to report and he says “Brian the Manager is all you need to know.”
I set the movies down on the counter and grab my cell phone and dial the 1-888-BEST-BUY on the back of my reward zone membership. The manager and all of the employees have now scattered and I am wandering around the DVD section again on hold. I want to be able to see this tag again to read it verbatim to the consumer hotline because the headset guy took the tag I was holding up at the front. Finally someone comes on the line and it sounds like a young guy, probably early to mid-twenties from his mannerisms and vocal cues. I tell him the entire story from the beginning and that I have now been in the store for over an hour to buy two DVDs. I also tell him I am calling now just to prove to the manager that he can’t treat people poorly like that. It has become a challenge to right this wrong. He listens without interruption and says, “Okay, let me verify all of this while I put you on hold.” He is of course calling the store, or so I assume. I am thinking he is going to contact the manager and then the manager will fold under pressure thinking I wouldn’t really call, and certainly not call while I am there in the store no less. So at this point, I am on hold for about 10 minutes. The consumer hotline guy comes back on the phone and says the story checks out and that he just got off the phone with the manager. I tell him “Great, I am so glad we can finally get this resolved.” and I kind of laughingly tell him “This is so crazy isn’t it?” He kind of laughs and goes “Yea….crazy…..but you need to buy Saw IV……”
Wow……I just went through all of the channels…..I followed the system the way a customer is supposed to……..and the system failed.
I tell the guy on the phone that this is really crazy now. He tells me the store manager has final say over all transactions in the store. That’s the boast that “Brian the Manager” had made. So now I am in the understanding that Brian is basically all powerful, even over corporate. Wow. I stand corrected. I should have never doubted the power of “Brian the Manager.” I tell the guy on the phone that this is now totally unacceptable and I wasted an hour and a half of trying to get two movies advertised for $25. The guy tells me he can’t help me to resolve the matter and that he’s sorry for my trouble, but to take advantage of the promotion, I would need to buy Saw IV. Now I go off on a mild rant about how this is 2008 and I am standing in a retail store trying to resolve a matter based on the idea that “the customer is always right” and I have a corporate employee at the consumer hotline for one of the largest retail chains in the country and they are telling me they can’t help me. Knowing that I am at my wit’s end at this point, the guy on the phone finally makes me an offer to send me a $15 gift card in the mail to make up the difference in me buying the two DVDs. I say that’s finally at least SOMETHING, but how does that resolve the matter right now? I don’t even want the gift card (and who knows if I will ever see it), I just want them to honor the deal right now and then we can call it a day. He says the manager refuses to honor the deal. I tell him, fine, give me a $15 gift card in the store right now and then I can use it at the register and the guy on the phone tells me he can’t do that, he can only issue one in the mail. I am still not satisfied and I go off on a rant again about how I could post this whole story on the internet and that if they just resolve my issue, we could all save ourselves a lot of trouble and hassle. The guy on the phone still says he can’t resolve it and can’t help me. I ask him if they are going to pull the in-store promotion to not mislead people and he says “No, those are produced by corporate and will be left in the store unless the manager sees fit to remove them.” Wow, the manager STILL is all powerful. So finally, I go off on another rant about how this whole scenario is one of the most ludicrous experiences I have ever had and finally the guy on the phone basically tells me that he doesn’t really care about the advertising or anything at this point and that the absolute most he can do (to get me off the phone) is to up my gift card to $25. I finally concede defeat and say, “Fine, send it.” He verifies my address and we hang up.
Here’s where the cherry is put on top…..as I hang up the phone……the manager walks out from the back and looks at me across the store and gives me this smug look of “I win.” That’s what kills me.
I begrudgingly go and buy one copy of the movie for $19.99 and leave the store because I needed the birthday present regardless of the outcome. Now some people may feel like I won this battle because I came out ahead financially, but I don’t feel that way. I still feel like Best Buy won overall because they are still promoting misleading, inaccurate in-store advertising and not honoring it. I also went into the store again the next day to pick up the promotional advertising pieces to write this article and needless to say they were still up throughout the DVD section.
So take a look at these advertisements and you guys tell me if you think these two things are the same. What conclusions would you draw if you saw the in-store promotion and had never seen the circular mailer?
Here is Best Buy’s circular:
The circular is not an incontrovertible edict from headquarters. Any responsible manager would have honored and then removed the incorrect in-store advertisement. Instead, Brian chose absolutism and pissed off a religious customer.
Best Buy could easily have defused the situation. Jason didn’t want a $25 gift card. He wanted an apology, and for someone to acknowledge the first rule of customer service: the customer is always right.