Very Strange Circuit City iPod Touch Bait And Switch

Ian writes:

Last Thursday 2/14, I ordered a 32GB iPod touch from at $474 + tax for a total of about $514. After thinking about it for a bit, I logged back in and canceled the order – just a bit too steep for an iPod, you know? I figured I’d have to wait a while for the price to drop, and left it at that. Well, believe it or not, I received a call at work today from a Circuit City sales rep at corporate telling me he’d offer me the iPod at a discount, so CC could keep my business. I was baffled – nothing like this has ever happened to me before, but the price he gave me $420 + tax… was too good to pass up.

I wondered if this wasn’t just a bit fishy, except the man did have all my previous order information… only Circuit City could possibly have that. When the man asked for my CC number, I told him I just don’t give it out to random people who called me (hehe), and asked him for a number where I could call him back – he gave me the number, and when I called back, it was very clearly a Circuit City number.

So I gave the rep my credit card number, and he told me the final charge would be about $469.

Seconds after I hung up, I realized that $420 plus tax was $455, NOT $469, so I called the number back so the rep could make an adjustment.

No answer, of course… just voicemail. I tried calling back several times throughout the morning and early afternoon as well, but still… just voicemail.

I started to get the feeling that something was wrong… so I logged on to the Circuit City site to see my order, ready to be picked up later that day in Midtown Manhattan – and was shocked to see that my card was charged for the amount of $550 – full retail plus tax. $100 more than he had quoted me over the phone!!!

I kept calm and called customer service, who escalated the problem to corporate. Corporate told me that they had no record of this gentleman offering me a discount, and all they could do was cancel my order.

There was no one else I could speak to, and due to “policy,” they couldn’t – read, “wouldn’t” honor the price I was given.

I calmly explained that they might as well cancel all of my FUTURE orders as well. What an outrageous business practice to have a rep call me and offer me one price for an item, only to charge my card nearly $100 more. What a great disappointment, as I had been a customer for many, many years. Still, nothing more than a half-hearted apology and a “we’ll look into it.”

I immediately called Amex to cancel my card – clearly, there’s some fraudulent activity going on at the City. Just a warning to other potential Circuit City customers out there. If it sounds too good to be true, it most definitely is.

Buyers beware!

– Ian

Very strange. Do stores do this, try to “retain” your online sale if you cancel it? First I’ve ever heard of it. Maybe the guy needed one last “save” before going home for the night and getting you to redo your order under false pretenses fit the bill.

(Photo: Vince Brown (attila))


Edit Your Comment

  1. I kept calm and called customer service, who escalated the problem to corporate. Corporate told me that they had no record of this gentleman offering me a discount, and all they could do was cancel my order.

    You did better than I did when I discovered, about a year ago, that I’d been successfully baited and switched. I flipped out, smoked about a thousand cigarettes, and stewed for the weekend.

    Never. Again.

  2. dieman says:

    Basically ever since CC wouldn’t let me buy a stereo without buying $1k in bose speakers I decided to write them off as a real place to by anything.

  3. Steve Trachsel, Ace says:

    I didnt know you could cancel a placed order once it processed, but Im not shocked to hear them trying to retain it.

    (Did the OP place the order for in-store pickup? That may explain the ability to cancel, and the call by what I assume was a retail salesperson)

  4. shadow735 says:

    buy direct from apple dont buy from anywhere else its not worth it

  5. cormar42 says:

    I’ve heard of stores trying to retain online orders. What usually happens is a person gets through most of the checkout process (at least to the point where they have your contact info) and then abandons their cart. The online checkout system see this and sends an email along the lines of “Hey, we see that you abandoned your cart, if you log back in now you can retrieve your cart and use this discount code for X% off of your order.”

    As for someone calling up and quoting you a discounted price and then charging you the full price, that’s a new one to me.

  6. rjhiggins says:

    @shadow735: Thanks, but the OP didn’t ask for advice on how to avoid this in the future (the knee-jerk “Don’t shop there” response). He asked if anyone else had heard of anything similar.

  7. shadow735 says:

    @rjhiggins: thanks, now can I have my head back or do you want to punch it somemore?

  8. UpsetPanda says:

    How did they get his work phone number?!

  9. Ben Popken says:

    @shadow735: Actually, only the text in grey is the OP. The other text is me, el editor.

  10. demonradio says:

    This isn’t relevant to the article.. But the one time I went into a Circuit City was to look at laptops and this creepy salesman tried to flirt with me and said I looked like I like “nice, expensive things” (I should add here that I’m always in jeans and a tshirt and canvas slip-on shoes) and then he said if I want my monies (sp?) worth to just go buy a macbook. It was kinda funny. But I’ve never gone back to that store for fear of being stalked.

  11. swalve says:

    @loquaciousmusic: That is not a bait and switch. Btw.

  12. spryte says:

    @UpsetPanda: He probably was having the package shipped to his work and put the number in as a contact number.

    The difference in totals from the order he placed then canceled and the one he did over the phone with the fishy rep was only $45 – is that really such a huge saving that it would totally reverse your thinking? When you’re spending that much on a frigging MP3 it seems like a small amount.

  13. scoobydoo says:

    @shadow735: Disagree. Amazon is cheaper, and many of us don’t pay taxes on their purchases. PLUS if you are a prime member you can get it 2 day or next day for $3.99.

    Apple can’t match the prices Amazon offers. When I wanted a 160Gb iPod classic I got it from Amazon for almost $80 less than Apple would have charged.

  14. aristan says:

    I have an Apple store account since I have bought several items from them before and I get an educational discount.

    I logged in one day to price an iMac. I wanted to know how much I needed to save, including AppleCare and any shipping if I needed it. After getting the final total, I deleted my cart and went on my merry way.

    The next day, I got an email from an Apple rep who mentioned my shopping the day before & offered to answer any questions I might have. I emailed back that I was just pricing things out and wasn’t ready to buy as I was saving toward a new iMac. The Apple rep emailed back and suggested I consider getting a refurbished unit and using my discount as it would make the final cost slightly cheaper.

    So yes, if you cancel an order, some companies do try to save the sale.

  15. MissPeacock says:

    @scoobydoo: Word. I bought my iPod directly from Amazon a while back and I used my Amazon Visa, so I got triple points for every dollar I spent on it. More free merchandise from Amazon!

    Having said that, what a fishy call this guy received! I don’t blame him one bit for canceling his credit card. Rogue agent indeed.

  16. Pylon83 says:

    I’m not sure how this is “bait and switch” at all. This is more like outright fraud. There is a difference. Bait and Switch has a very, very specific definition, and this doesn’t meet it. They didn’t “bait” him in with a low priced item, only to tell him they were out of it and offer to substitute a higher priced item, knowing full well the low-priced item was never in stock.

  17. dawime says:

    Last year I ordered a laptop online for in-store pickup. Next day when I went to go pick it up, they did not have it in stock (got the $24 gift card without any pain). I then proceeded to cancel the order, and drove to a different CC that had the laptop in stock and purchased it there.
    Next day I received a call from CC wanting to inquire as to why I had cancelled my order – In my case, I guess they were trying to improve their service (since I told him I bought the laptop at a different CC).
    I guess the rep screwed the OP, since I am sure he was some form of retention person

  18. Catperson says:

    @scoobydoo: Word. I just got a new nano from Amazon. Cheaper, no tax, and no shipping because it’s obviously over $25.

  19. cotr says:

    interesting tidbit about AMEX. if someone steals your card just have them convert it to something else. that scrambles the 4 digit verification code and keeps your account going! then a month later, just convert it back. no probs, saved the history, tried a new card!

  20. pyloff says:

    What kind of asshole is willing to pay 400 dollars for a 32 gig mp3 player.

    We found him.

  21. pyloff says:

    By the by I paid 300 for a 60 gig mp3 player 2 years ago.

  22. nequam says:

    @pyloff: Apples and oranges.

  23. moorem2 says:

    There might not be an apple store near him. He could order online, and applecare does do great work, but often times it’s easier to go into a store, and exchange a faulty product out for a working model. The apple store near me is 45 mins away, when best buy / CC are only 5.

    @demonradio: I would have kicked that guy in the junk. Working in retail, I know sexually harrasing a customer is no way to make a sale. I would have hit him in the face had I heard him make comments like that.

  24. backbroken says:

    Dear gawd!!! People pay $500 for an mp3 player?????

  25. pyloff says:

    @nequam how so?

  26. Part-Time-Viking says:

    I’m actually having a bit of trouble as believing this to be true. We all know CC doesn’t have a customer service…

  27. ninjatales says:

    I usually get good service at the Roseville (St Paul – Minnesota) CC store. Purchasing over the phone always is risky. Next time, tell the rep that you have been recording the conversation and make sure you did so you get the rep giving you the low price.

  28. stageright says:

    I’ve never once had a good experience at Circuit City, going back to the early 90’s. As a result, I don’t go there unless the deal is just way to good to pass up.

  29. nequam says:

    @pyloff: What you have is not an iPod Touch. Just sayin’

  30. legerdemain says: tries to save sales. If you make it far enough into setting up cell service for them to have your email address, they’ll send you a message with a link to whatever cellphone+plan combo you’d built.

    I have no problem with this. The OP had something shady happen though – tisk tisk.

  31. Myotheralt says:

    @shadow735: I bought my 8gb touch from BB. They listed the price pm the display as 274$ but when they rang it up they said it was $299. When I called them out on this, the rep went over to look at the display. And came back and fixed the sale.

  32. Myotheralt says:

    @myotheralt: sorry for the spelling and gramitical errors, the keyboard on the iPod touch is diffucult to master.

  33. efesus says:

    this guy’s a moron for even buying from circuit city to begin with. he gets what he deserves for shopping at crappy hell-holes like BB and CC.

  34. cloudedice says:

    @camelontherun: I’m pretty positive that EVERY credit card company will cancel you card and issue you a replacement. This is reported to the credit reporting agencies as the same account as before so you don’t lose any history. It’s a pretty painless process (I’ve lost quite a few cards) and you don’t have to give up ANY of your rewards.

  35. samurailynn says:

    @pyloff: The Touch is more than a regular mp3 player. Well, I’ve actually just used the iPhone, not the Touch, but it’s like having a computer with you, not just a phone.

  36. crazylady says:

    @samurailynn: The useless part about the iPod Touch being it only has wifi and you’d have to be a lucky person to live somewhere with so much wifi. The only time I ever use wifi on my iPhone is for third party apps (jailbroken phone) because downloading 10mb takes too long on edge. With apple’s initial webapps-only attitude, the touch was even more useless. Unless someone really loved their existing phone or couldn’t switch to at&t (well, i wouldn’t blame you, they’re not that great) there really doesn’t seem to be tooo much of a reason to buy an overpriced and limited iPod Touch.

    @shadow735: The one nice thing about buying from Apple is that I live within walking distance of one of the retail stores (and a half hour drive from about a dozen other stores..why there are so many in LA I will never understand). And if I were purchasing a product other than the iPods, I’d usually be able to get an edu discount in store, or a developer discount online. Those tend to make Apple cheaper than buying from the alternatives. But for the general public, resellers like Amazon and MacMall will often sell the same product for cheaper and throw in a few goodies (extra RAM, free/cheaper .mac, free case, you get the idea). Plus like others have mentioned if you have Amazon Prime or an Amazon Visa or whatever, the perks of purchasing from a reseller are greater.

  37. deadlizard says:

    The difference between $455 and $550 is not $100. No wonder he got fooled with the tax amount twice.

  38. gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

    @camelontherun: i’m unfamiliar with the workings of AMEX, but with visa (and i’m pretty sure, mastercard) they will issue a new card at any time for any reason, free of charge.

  39. JustAGuy2 says:


    Wow, it must suck to live in a world of “assholes” less enlightened than you, who don’t truly understand the value of things, and hence pay the “wrong” price for them.

  40. trillium says:

    I won’t deal with CC ever since the TV incident of 2000. I had purchased a brand new TV there (in DE – no sales tax). I carried it home myself and installed it myself. Less then 1 month later the TV died. CC would ONLY honor the warranty (extended even – that I purchased) or replace it (even if I took it back myself), if I paid MD state sales tax.

    So I called Panasonic. Who not only contacted a local (read MD / not DE) repair person, who came to my apt., who carried the TV away and fixed it. And even in the process of carrying it, they digned the front cover panel. So Panasonic replaced it – no questions asked.

    Years later its still why I even refuse to browse in CC, knowing full well that they’ll just play another shoddy game.

    Btw – it took me weeks to get CC to refund the cost of the warranty (which they would not honor unless I paid MD state sales tax on it – something that wasn’t part of the sales pitch). After doing so, I signed up for Panasonic extended warranty. Didn’t need it but hey, I’d rather give my business to someone who gives a “flying rodents read-end” then mistreats its customers.

  41. joeblevins says:

    I thought I understood the term ‘Bait and Switch’. I thought it was the scheme of promising one item at a certain price, then ‘tricking’ the customer into buying another item. How is this case ‘Bait and Switch’?

  42. dix99 says:

    I don’t know if a lot of you know this, but if you work for a big company, you can usually get a corporate discount through Apple. If you go to an Apple store & show them your ID badge (if you have one), they’ll check to see if your company is on the list. It’s not a great amount off, but it makes it less than BB, or CC.

  43. floydianslip6 says:

    I know that there are ticket websites where if you put tickets in your shopping cart but don’t complete the order they will discount you after a day or two. Saved some money that way.

  44. floydianslip6 says:

    ^^ Only thing is they do it through email and with a coupon code.

  45. drdavidge says:

    His card was probably charged or authorized from the online order for the $550. Doesn’t it usually take a day or two to reverse a charge? Why would the new charge show up within seconds? Seems like he freaked out a little too fast if you ask me. I wonder if the correct price would have been charged if he waited a day or two.

  46. asphix20 says:


    “Can’t” and “Won’t” are two entirely different things.

    Apple makes a >50% profit on every ipod sold directly to a consumer. I’m sure they mark it down significantly when a company like buys in massive bulk — hence amazons lower price.

  47. Ayo says:

    props for the American gangster album on the picture…

    By the way, how do you guys get all these amazing pictures that basically match evenly with the topic. It seams like y’all are always on point with that!

    But yeah, thats some shady biz with the call back.

  48. sthames says:

    I ordered a monitor from Circuit City with in store pickup. I later canceled it as I realized there was nothing wrong with my current monitor. A Circuit City person called me and asked me why I canceled my order. I told them I no longer needed a monitor. They asked if there was something else I needed to buy and that they could get me a better deal than on the website. I was considering getting a Wireless Router but when I told them I wanted to use a gift card and didn’t have it with me, they told me to just buy it online.

  49. Wormfather says:

    @loquaciousmusic: People who say “Never. Again.” scare me, it’s like I know they have a mass murderer in them dying to get out…and they know it too.

  50. kekyurhi says:

    I live and work in NYC w/ some pretty shaddy finance guys. One of these guys buys lists of people who went onto internet retail sites almost purchased items, then were litterally at the checkout page and then decided to not buy the product. He then calls the people and offers them the purchase they didn’t go thru with; at a lower price. This sounds very similar to what happened to.

  51. kekyurhi says:

    I know a guy who buys lists of people who were in the “checkout line” on a website but then never completed the purchase. He then calls the people and convinces them to buy the products at a discounted rate. This is probably the work of him or someone like him. Your order may have been subject to taxes from a diff state / city which would explain the disparity in the price.

  52. vladthepaler says:

    Isn’t bait and switch when they tell him they don’t have the discounted product that was advertised (or it sucks) and get him to buy a different, more expensive product? This post is about overcharging, not bait-and-switch.

  53. sventurata says:

    “When the man asked for my CC number, I told him I just don’t give it out to random people who called me (hehe), and asked him for a number where I could call him back – he gave me the number, and when I called back, it was very clearly a Circuit City number.”

    (long, drawn-out sigh)

    No offense, OP, but that completely misses the point of call verification. Did you check online to see if it’s registered to Circuit City? Did you call back the official CC customer care number?

    If not, then you might as well have given the credit card info during the first call. Any dupe can set up a legitimate-sounding automated voice menu (in many cases, better than the actual company, for shame!).

  54. hi says:

    If you’re going to use CC as “Circuit City” please don’t use it again as “Credit Card”.

    “I received a call at work today from a Circuit City sales rep at corporate telling me he’d offer me the iPod at a discount, so CC could keep my business”

    “When the man asked for my CC number, I told him I just don’t give it out to random people who called me”

    Unless CC is Circuit City in both??

  55. shadow735 says:

    @crazylady: I prefer to buy direct I have had bad xp with circuit city and their “super warranty” basically they can change the terms of the deluxe warranty when I signed up if something went wrong I was supposed to get a gift card for the purchase amt, then they got a deal with apple and instead refurbished ipod would be sent by mail.
    They never notified me, I found this out after, so now I buy direct. If there is a problem I get a new ipod right then and there.
    I am more concerned about warranties then how cheap it is.
    As for the Ipod touch I wouldnt Touch them (no pun intended) until they get the same mem capacity as the regular Ipods $300 bucks for a 8gp touch is a rip off.

    I have two ipods a 60gb and a 80 gb the 60 hold my music and is half full the 80 my video and it is full. I would love a touch but its worthless to me for video because of how little memory it has

  56. UpsetPanda says:

    @hi: It’s pretty obvious at this point. The rep didn’t ask for a Circuit City number and the OP didn’t get a call from credit card wanting to keep his business. Context, context.

  57. wallapuctus says:

    I bought a Touch last week. I originally went to Circuit City because they had an ad on their website “All iPods on sale!” Turns out that was a giant lie, every iPod in the store was at regular retail price with a red SALE sticker. When I called the sales rep on it, he claimed Apple was having the sale, and they (Apple) were going to raise the prices soon. “You know how Apple is.”

    I ended up going to another store and paying the same price Circuit City had, but I really didn’t want to give them business after fibbing.

  58. SaraAB87 says:

    I don’t think Ipods ever go on sale (so any “sale” involving Ipods is obviously a scam), or at least that is what I heard a while ago, it might have changed now. I have heard apple has fixed pricing on them and does not allow sales.

  59. CSUSam says:

    I work at Circuit City, and it is shit like this that makes me happy it’s just a college job and not where I’m trying to have a career.

  60. Buran says:

    @trillium: The heck? What business is it of theirs where you bought something? I wasn’t aware that national chains only support your purchase in the state where you originally bought your gizmo. I bought a Macbook Pro (I’m typing this on it) in DE over the summer due to the lack of tax, and Apple has given me no grief whatsoever about tying it to my appleID which has my home address plugged in for billing purposes.

    As for the “ipods on sale!” thing, well, by store logic, you can buy them, so they are out for sale, hence on sale? I guess that’s their excuse.

  61. advocate1342 says:

    Its obvious that “trillium” if full of S%^&*. The warranty is considered a “service” and therefore tax-free anyway. You have 30 days to return it to them if it goes out. If you were trying to get a different TV tax-free in a tax charging state…good luck you cheap bastard. The price of saving money is very high