Reader Sues Best Buy In Small Claims Court And Wins

Should it take several months and a small claims lawsuit to get Best Buy to take back their defective washing machine? No, but that’s what it did take for reader Keith.

He’s sent in a timeline of his experience suing Best Buy. It’s a bit long, but we’re sure it’ll be helpful for those of you who are dealing with a similar problem.

Here’s a slightly shorter summary for those of you who are into “the whole brevity thing:”

  • Keith bought a washing machine that Best Buy said was a “floor model” for 15% of the list price. He also purchased a 5 year warranty.

  • Sloshing was heard from inside the washer as it was being loaded onto Keith’s vehicle. Suspicions were raised.

  • Keith installs the washer. Notices that his car is now damp.

  • Washer is used 3 times before it starts tripping the circuit breaker over and over again. A technician is dispatched.

  • Technician believes the washer has been used for a lot longer than Keith was led to believe, and is in need of major repair. Technician’s repair company contacts Keith and informs him ” that neither Integrity Appliance, nor Best Buy Warranty company AIGWS, would cover repair costs. When questioned, [technician] responded that GE had deemed the item a “total loss” and that the cost of repair would exceed the original purchase price of the item. “

  • Best Buy declines warranty coverage of the item and tells Keith to take it up with the individual store that sold him the washer. Blames him for breaking it when transporting it.

  • Store manager refuses return because of “30 day return policy” and for voiding the extended warranty by transporting the washer from Best Buy to his home.

  • Keith is hung up on a lot. Best Buy offers $300 gift card. (Keith paid around $800.)

  • Keith files a lawsuit in small claims court, asking for a full refund on both the washer and the extended warranty. Best Buy sends a representative. Best Buy loses. Keith collects $800.

    Keith writes:

    What follows is a timeline of an issue I had with Best Buy and an “Open Box” washer I purchased from them. 2 washes in, the unit stopped working. Thus began 7 months of work just to get my money back

    7/5/07
    Walked into Best Buy #130 in Northridge, CA. Located preferred washing machine (GE model #WBVH6240FWW) on store floor. Advertisement on product listed it as floor model, open box item. Listed price was $699.99. Inquired with sales woman as to status of item, whether it was a used item or returned, and price. Was told by saleswoman that item was floor display only, and would sell to me for 15% off listed price. Purchased item for $594.99, and also purchased 5 year warranty for washer (copy upon request) at a purchase price of $129.99. Saleswoman asked if I would be taking home in vehicle. I said that I would be taking home in 2002 Ford Excursion. Item was loaded into vehicle by two Best Buy employees. “Sloshing” sound was heard when item was loaded into vehicle, possible indication of water inside item.
    Drove from Best Buy store to home in Thousand Oaks, a distance of 17 miles. Item appeared to remain in identical location as to where loaded, did not slide around. Item was unloaded by myself, father, and friend. Item was carried through and installed in house. Item was installed by me, which included install water hoses, drain hose, and plugging item in. Location where item was transported in car was damp, item was slightly damp on bottom as well.

    7/19/07
    Item was used for first time. One load of darks and one load of whites. No problems were noticed, item worked as should.

    8/8/07

    Item was used for third time. During normal wash cycle (for darks) circuit breaker was tripped 3 separate times. Item completed cycle. When tried to run for fourth time, item did not work (would turn on but not power up or spin).
    Called Best Buy National Service hotline at 10:30 p.m. Notified service department that item had stopped working and needed service. Was told that service technicians would call following day to set up service time.
    8/9/07
    Service technicians for Integrity Appliance Company called to set up service appointment. Appointment was agreed upon for 8/17/07 in the afternoon.

    8/17/07
    Service technician (Vitaly) from Integrity Appliance Company arrived at 2:30 p.m. to service item. During inspection, technician questioned length of time that I had owned item. When I responded that I had owned since 7/5/07, technician commented that item looked to be used for “a lot longer than a month”. Technician commented on dust inside of item, as well as overall appearance. After further inspection, technician concluded that item needed major repair, including as to his best knowledge, “repair of cut wires, new shocks for stabilizer, and new basket”. He commented that item looks to have suffered major damage. When I asked if damage could have been sustained by the 4 instances I had used (and tried to use) item, he did not know. Technician assured me that supervisor from Integrity Appliance Company would be contacting me on 8/20/07.

    8/20/07
    Received call from Integrity Appliance Company, Alex, who stated that item was in need of major repair. Was informed that neither Integrity Appliance, nor Best Buy Warranty company AIGWS, would cover repair costs. When questioned, Alex responded that GE had deemed the item a “total loss” and that the cost of repair would exceed the original purchase price of the item. Alex proceeded to inform me as well that there was nothing else that Integrity Appliance Company could do and directed me to Best Buy Warranty Center to resolve claim.
    Called Best Buy Nationwide Service hotline, and spoke to customer service agent, Jessica. Discussed problem and was informed that Best Buy would not be covering repair costs or claim and warranty would not cover this item. When asked about what I should do, was told that “fault” was of the store that sold the item to me and claim must be resolved with store where item was purchased. Also informed me that cause for damage to item was being blamed on my transport of item in my vehicle, and was store’s fault for letting me pick item up.
    Called Best Buy store #130 in Northridge, CA. Spoke to customer service agent in appliance department. After discussing problem to this point, was told that agent needed to speak to supervisor, Norma, and would call me back. Call was returned an hour later. Agent proceeded to tell me that supervisor had informed him that item would not be covered by store policy due to item being past the “30 day” return policy. In addition, was informed that loading item into vehicle had “voided extended warranty, and thus item repair cost was my responsibility”. Also was told that if I did not agree (which I did not), that I needed to contact Nationwide Service hotline.
    Called Nationwide Service hotline for third time and asked for Corporate Consumer Relations department. Call was not transferred and I was hung up on. Repeated process and was transferred to customer service agent, Dennis. After relating issue to this point, agent proceeded to put me on hold in order to “research this case”. After 20 minute delay, agent proceeded to tell me that item would not be repaired by Best Buy, nor would repair cost by covered. Was told that transport of item had voided warranty and warranty claims for this item. Was told that official Best Buy position for this case was that item was “damaged beyond repair during transport in my vehicle, thus voiding the warranty”. Also was told that if I agreed to pay the full repair cost for this item, then 5 year warranty would be reinstated. Per earlier discussion, repair cost would be approximately $800. I responded by asking to speak to supervisor, and after 43 minute wait, was connected with supervisor, Scott. After relating entire story again, I was told by Scott that Best Buy position was firm and that no recourse would be offered. I proceeded to ask Scott if he had proof that item was in good working condition before it was sold to me. Response was no. Also asked Scott if he had proof that item was “only a display” as advertised. Was told no. Further questioning resulted in Scott offering to refund purchase price of 5-year warranty at a pro-rated rate. In addition, Scott agreed to provide me with a “Best Buy Gift Card” for half of the purchase price of the item. I was also told that this offer would remain in effect for as long as I needed to “think about it”. I responded by saying that this offer was not satisfactory, and that I would be contacting my attorney for an official response. Was given a Best Buy Case #40079620 in order to follow up at a later date.

    9/11/07
    Lawyer sends letter to Best Buy and AIG Warrantyguard (who carries the 5 year performance plans for Best Buy in California). Letter demands full reimbursement of money paid for washer as well as for warranty plan. Listed cause for reimbursement was breach of contract and gross misrepresentation of quality of product sold.

    10/18/07
    Received response letter from Best Buy with copy of Performance Service Plan highlighted: “This plan does not cover repairs caused by accidental or intentional physical damage… or damage caused by non-authorized repair personnel” Best Buy reoffers the $300 Gift Card, only if I agree to the following: (1) Best Buy makes no admission of liability, (2) I agree to release Best Buy of all liability regarding this matter and agree that the terms of any settlement reached are to remain confidential, (3) I agree to sign a settlement agreement.

    11/25/07

    I have my lawyer file a small claims lawsuit with courthouse in Simi Valley, CA. Served both Best Buy Corporate and AIG Warranty Guard as defendants in the small claims case. Court case was set for February 25, 2008.

    2/25/08

    Case was heard by judge at Simi Valley Courthouse. After presenting my case and evidence, and after listening to representative from Best Buy, judge questions the Best Buy representative about the original condition of the item at the time it was sold to me. Specifically, he questioned whether the item could have been a return and if Best Buy has a way of determining an items condition when it is listed as “Open Box”. Representative states that Best Buy has no way of testing “special items like washing machines”. Judge rules that Best Buy must refund the entire paid amount for the washer and warranty to me, and that I must return the washer to the nearest Best Buy in the condition it is presently in.

    So there it is. 7 months to get just under $800 back from Best Buy. Also, as a side note, my lawyer feels that a class action suit against Best Buy for its “Open Item” policy and Best Buy’s labeling of such items is a real possibility. Has anyone else been screwed by an open item like me? My guess is there are plenty.

    Thanks for your time, sorry for the lengthy read,

    Keith

    (Photo:meghannmarco)