Circuit City Calls The Cops On Customer Who Tried To Redeem $40 DTV Coupon

Circuit City wouldn’t let Larry redeem his $40 digital transition converter box coupon unless he signed a credit slip agreeing to pay $40. Larry refused, and asked to cancel the transaction. Circuit City’s manager responded by calling the police before following Larry into the parking lot to write down his license plate number.

Larry writes:

I just attempted to buy, at Circuit City, using my charge card, and one of the $40.00 government-provided coupons, a TV converter box. After swiping both cards, the sales clerk presented me with two printouts to sign. One was for $21.19 and the other was for $40.00. Of course the $21.19 was the one for the difference between the purchase price minus the government coupon (plus the sales tax). Both printouts ended with this statement:

“The cardholder agrees to the credit card amount shown hereon and agrees to perform the obligations set forth in the cardholder agreement with the issuer.”

I refused to sign the one for $40.00. I spoke with the manager, Kim, (whose last name is “the only Kim in the store”) to cancel the transaction. She said she couldn’t and insisted that I sign both printouts. I could see this was going to turn into an issue so I quickly pocketed both unsigned receipts, the government coupon card, and my credit card and left while Kim was threatening to call the police. NOTE: I removed no merchandise from the store.

As I was driving away, Kim was standing outside writing down my license number and talking on her cell.

The government is distributing $40 coupons to subsidize converter boxes that will allow people to watch television over-the-air after February 17, 2009, when all broadcast signals switch from analog to digital.

Retailers are required to accept the coupons, and customers are required to sign a slip so the coupon can be redeemed. For some mindless reason, Circuit City is using a credit card agreement as their signature slip, and making it appear as if the customer is about to pay an extra $40.

Circuit City already called Larry to tell him that his $21 charge would be reversed. As for his $40 coupon, apparently, it will be “refunded to the government.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. dmolavi says:

    perhaps it’s the percocet for my spine injury, but if the coupon is refunded to the gov’t, isn’t this guy getting screwed again, or can he request another coupon?

  2. donTHEd says:

    So, this is the second story in 6 months about a York, PA store…York’s not a big city…

  3. BillyShears says:

    Yeah, get on my case for teh ZOMG CUSTOMER WAS WRONG. In the immortal words of our dear President, bring it on.

    Anyway, while I understand the confusion, the $40 slip clearly references a different account number than the $21 slip; presumably the $40 number is what’s imprinted on the government-issued card.

    Two problems here on the part of CC:
    1) Circuit City, as Carey points out, is treating the coupon as Just Another Credit Card, so the copy on the receipt is the same. To play Devll’s Advocate, Larry is the cardholder on both, even though he doesn’t have to shell out $40 at all.

    2) Calling the cops instead of calming the customer down to explain the concept both doesn’t make any sense and is indicative of Kim thinking she’s king of a very tiny island.

    As for Larry:
    Even a cursory glance at the two receipts – conveniently scanned – would’ve made him realize that he was making a big deal over nothing. The $40 charge wasn’t to his charge card at all.

  4. K-Bo says:

    The different numbers should be a tip off they aren’t charging your card 2x, just make sure the digits on the $40 one match your converter coupon (which is a credit card like plastic card with mag strip)

  5. vega480 says:

    In the story he refers to a card (his credit card) and then a coupon (govt. coupon), then he says they swipe both cards? Also looking at the recipts the $40 one has a different set of the last 4 of the card number then the $21, if he only gave them one credit card, he should have looked to see what card what was being charged to.

  6. Mudpuddle says:

    He may have freaked and ran but why didnt they explain this to the customer, what with the police involvement. He didnt rip anything off? So they freak the poor guy off even more, way to go? You’d thing the York police would get tired of being called everytime a CC customer breaks wind.

  7. Bush2008 says:

    Well, Circuit City acted stupid here. Why would they clal the police? Perhaps they were so dumbfounded that someone refused to sign a simple statement. I seriously cannot fathom why you refused to sign the statement, when it’s clear that it’s not charging to your credit card. The agreement of the government card is on the back of the card. “May be redeemed for $40”. Did you not agree to those terms?

    But to let you guys know, when it gets that far into the transaction, they *really* can’t cancel it. They must return the item. There’s no cancel button that far in. It’s already tendered through, whether you sign it or not.

    And the “mindless reason” Circuit City is putting that where the credit card agreement is that well, do you expect them to redesign their pos because of this?

  8. Silversmok3 says:

    If you pay attention to the scanned recipts, the one with ‘VSA’ abbreviated is the one that is being charged $40.00

    The one with ‘MCG’ is being charged $21.Since government DTV cupons are not issued by Visa, its safe to conclude that CC was charging the OP $40.00 , then charged $21 to the government coupon.

    I wouldn’t have signed a thing either.I would have asked for clarification , and if I was greeted with BS (like this guy) , I would have called the District Manager’s Office on the spot.

    What, you didn’t have the CC’s DM contact number on hand before you went to the store? Shame on you…..

    In all seriousness, either don’t shop at CC (or Best Buy) , or bring some executive phone numbers with your shopping list. You just might be calling them.

  9. jedsa says:

    Absolutely, Bush2008. I expect them to redesign their POS because of it. For that language to have any legal effect, signing it has to be voluntary-if people are forced to sign it, it’s duress, which is a defense for breaking a contract.

  10. humphrmi says:

    @Silversmok3: Good catch. Since we don’t know the last four digits of the OP’s credit card, we can’t tell here which is which. I could see a store like CC mischarging the customer $40 and using the $21 for the coupon. Although, why, I don’t know, other than it fits the general incompetence that these people display.

  11. JPropaganda says:

    @BillyShears: agreed! I was about to write the very same thing.

  12. lizzybee says:

    @Silversmok3: That might actually say “USA” and not “VSA”– the print isn’t really clear. “MCG” is most likely an abbreviation for “Master Charge,” or the credit card type used by the customer to pay. Either way, the store should be a little more forthcoming with explanations rather than calling the cops on some poor confused customer :- I’d be baffled myself if I were in poor Larry’s shoes. I swear, these stories get more and more ridiculous every day!

  13. EricaKane says:

    Customer in the wrong.

  14. t325 says:

    @lizzybee: I had a Circuit City receipt laying on my desk from when I used my MasterCard there, and it is indeed abbreviated as MCG.

    I googled and found a comment on Digg that said the DTV coupons are essentially $40 Visa gift cards that can only be used on the tuners. Makes sense, since just about every place takes Visa, they don’t have to implement any special hardware or software to accept the coupons. It’s just ran through like any other credit card, thus, the little blurb on the receipt.

    Sounds like Larry is amoron.

  15. grayskies says:

    I work at CC, and the 40 dollar cards are just like visa cards. You have to sign for both pieces in the DPS credit system. If Larry had checked his receipts, he would have noticed that the card numbers are different (check the last 4, 0447 and 5337).

    Larry is a moron, and needs to drink a nice cup of STFU.

  16. catnapped says:

    He should’ve showed his damn receipt!!!!!

  17. henwy says:

    Poor Larry. Looks like his ignorance bit him in the arse.

  18. humphrmi says:


    Sounds like Larry is amoron.

    I think Amoron died in the fifth century BC. Besides, I hardly see what the Nephites have to do with this.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. ;-)

  19. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Don’t blame the customer. When you are standing at the counter & confused it’s easy to miss the nuances that jump out after viewing, re-viewing and comparing the receipts on a web page from the comfort of your armchair. The sales clerk and the manager obviously did a poor job of explaining and pointing out the differences.

  20. LogicalOne says:

    @grayskies: No, Larry isn’t the moron here. The folks at his CC are the morons for not training the cashiers on how to explain this double receipt signing to the customers.

  21. azntg says:

    @grayskies: Too bad you don’t work at the Circuit City there. Maybe you could’ve diffused the situation there.

    You’d think that somebody working at that Circuit City location can calmly point that out, make sure the customer understands that point and then a quick “Have a good day” afterwards.

    Instead, they try to force the poor man into signing two slips without understanding what or why he has to sign and then get the police called when he refuses after not receiving a satisfactory explanation.

    @EricaKane: Circuit City in the wrong too.

  22. bohemian says:

    This is all so stupid and confusing. Why didn’t the gubmint just hand out the converter boxes or sell them directly at a discount. Instead you need to order the coupon, get the coupon, go to a retailer, find one that has boxes, run the gauntlet of them trying to sell people a new TV and then the confusion over how to finish the transaction.
    I don’t think the govt. is always the most efficient but this plan isn’t working well either.

  23. universaluser says:

    My cousin works at another mass merchandiser and just like CC (and to corroborate grayskies), they process the government voucher as a Visa transaction.

    I wonder what would’ve happened if the customer had a $40 Visa prepaid gift card and wanted to use that on the purchase… I mean, Larry wasn’t going to be “paying” $40 there either!

  24. coren says:

    I’d say Larry needed to pay more attention if this article indicated at all that they tried to explain what was going on. It doesn’t seem they did. I mean, if they said “hey, the thing is, we need a signature on this coupon, see how it’s not any credit card number you hold?” (assuming that to be the case with the 40 dollar receipt) it could diffuse a lot of trouble.

    No, they called the police instead. For what? Larry refusing to buy an item that they can sell to someone else? How dare you leave CC without buying something, Larry, that’s a crime!

  25. Bush2008 says:

    @azntg: @azntg: Yes, but what did the writer leave out? Perhaps they did explain, but it wasn’t to his satisfaction, and he, being an “informed consumer”, stormed out in a rage to post on consumerist!

    No, but seriously. I would not doubt for a minute that the person at CC was an absolute idiot, nor would I doubt that the consumer was an absolute idiot. As someone who works at Circuit City, I’ve seen both a tremendous amount of times. Oh, the many, many stories of stupidity…

  26. I think that the person in the story left out a few points: managers don’t just call the police for no reason as they surely need good working relationships with the local rozzers.

    Also, he left the shop having already paid $21 and with a used (i.e. invalidated) $40 coupon and no converter box. D’oh! She shouldn’t have called the police – she should have called the funny farm!

  27. puyro {who was banned for "junk comments" what? says:

    The government issued card is shown as a Visa card in Circuit City’s POS. The card he was using was a Mastercard. The government card is treated just as a credit card, so a customer has to sign for it separately.

    The refund would be done for the 21 dollars on the Mastercard, and the 40 dollars would be returned to the government. The government cards are one use only, so Larry will not be able to use the card for another purchase, even though he kept it.

  28. maverickuw says:

    -1 for Circuit city not explaining and calling the cops.
    -2 to OP for not reading the damn receipts.

    If CC didn’t go do something stupid like call the cops (especially when he didn’t take any merchandise from the store, the OP would have been completely in the wrong.

  29. Another story about The Paranoid and The Confused.

  30. jpx72x says:

    @humphrmi: Dude, you’re stretching.

  31. mackpayson says:

    @bohemian: Agreed. One line for converter boxes, one line for cheese.

  32. parad0x360 says:

    @BillyShears: The coupon swipes like a credit card and is taken as one by every store not just CC and you have to sign a slip at every store not just CC.

    I dont get why this guy got so pissed off as it is quite obvious what is going on. In the documentation he received with the coupon it tell him he would need to sign a slip.

  33. stardeo says:

    @mackpayson: Mmm…Cheese

  34. Slack says:

    “when all broadcast signals switch from analog to digital.”

    Sorry, but I gotta…

    Most broadcasters are already dishing it out in digital. There is no great switch over. They will cease analog transmissions and carry on with the digital.

  35. Concerned_Citizen says:

    Why blame Larry. Circuit City is clearly adding terms to the redemption of the government coupon. This is a very serious issue. Odds are circuit city processes it like a credit card and by default that statement appears on every credit card receipt, but circuit city needs to definitely fix this. It appears they are making the customer guarantee the government’s 40 dollars in case the government fails to pay up. Whether it is enforceable or not is not the issue here. That piece of paper probably can be considered a valid contract. Again, Circuit City has no right to add terms the the redemption of the government coupon.

  36. Larry, let me be the first to say that responsible comma use contributes to the sustainability of our environment.

    Ok, so that was a complete and utter fabrication of the truth. Throw those commas in wherever you deem necessary. Hell, throw two in a row just to feel safe

  37. nequam says:

    Nobody called the police. The manager threatened to call.

  38. mitchelwb says:

    I’m not taking CC side here… When Best Buy didn’t have what I wanted this morning, I went hime instead of going to CC across the street. But… Maybe Kim was calling the police thinking that Larry was up to something sinister. He threw a fit over them wanting him to sign his name on a goverment voucher, then took both receipts, the voucher card and left. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch for Kim to think that he was trying to pass a phony voucher card.

  39. AshBash says:

    Wah wah wah. The customer is not always right.

  40. dweebster says:

    @nequam: Well, “Kim” had better have a damn good reason why she “threatened” to call the police on him. Threatening to make a false (or insane) police report because a customer doesn’t understand CC’s internal policies of processing “coupons” as VISA transactions seems absolutely loooooney.

    What if the last 4 digits of the “coupon” matched a person’s VISA card, and hence were being put under duress to sign for 2 identical numbers? I know that managing a big box tends to attract a lot of stupid assclowns, but “Kim the only Kim in the store” ought to have enough intelligence to calmly explain the differences between the forms to the customer.

    Threatening to call the police because a customer under pressure to pay and get out clearly doesn’t understand CC’s convoluted coupon/VISA system is a fucking lowball slimy crime – in other words something you’d expect from “Best” Buy General Managers. Sorry to see Circuit City slipping into the scumbucket level of “Best” Buy…..

  41. radiochief says:

    @bohemian: Well, you don’t need to use a coupon to buy the converter box.

    These coupons (instant rebates- whatever you’d like to call them) are targeted for the less well-heeled of us in America who can:

    1) Only receive OTA signals for an SDTV, (eg. no access to cable TV) for your television viewing.

    This deal was made so we, the consumers, would not have to shell out another $500 or so for a HDTV which can receive digital signals with an antenna. Nor be beholden to a signal provider, if you don’t want to pay for your TV signal.

  42. newfenoix says:

    Some states have a “public nuisance” statute that can allow a city to shut down a business that calls the police OR has the police called on them a certain number of times in a month. In Arkansas it is 10 times in a 30 day period. The city will go to the courts with all of the police logs and/or reports and the judge will review the situation. If the judge rules that the business is a nuisance, the city permits will be permanently revoked and the business shut down. I saw it happen to a Radio Shack that called the police every time a person just came in and browsed without buying anything and to a Blockbuster Video that charged late fees on EVERY item rented.

    I bring this up because if PA has such a statute, I wonder just how long it would take them to go after CC. Every business has to have local permits to operate and if CC is making an ass of itself by calling the police for things like this then they should be shut down. Btw, I saw a mighty Wal Mart store threatened with shut down because of the receipt checking crap. They had the gall to lock all of the exits except for one and only half of it was open. Many violations, manager and security staff fired. It was very funny.

  43. camman68 says:

    @Slack: All TV is not required to go digital by 2/2009. Only the “Full-Power” stations will be required to switch.

    Network stations are only required to have a digital signal in areas that they transmit at “full power”.

    A lot of these stations have towers in rural areas and they have not spent the money to upgrade in these areas. Additionally, there is no set date that these areas will be going to digital.

    These areas will have the same ANALOG signal that is being transmitted today.

    The FCC and cable companies seem to be advertising that ALL stations will be converted to digital in 2009. This is very misleading.


  44. camman68 says:

    @nequam: If your gonna get picky about it….How do you know that “nobody called the police”?

  45. swissdietcoke says:

    DEAR LORD!!!!

    ZOMG. I almost had to sign my name twice for two credit cards. It isn’t Circuit City’s fault that the federal government set up these cards through VISA. So, everybody, FREAK OUT.

    But seriously. Am I missing something? Are you too dumb to know that signing a credit slip is MEANINGLESS now anyways? I work at a major retailer (college job, thank you), and I have seen people that freak out about this sort of thing. They don’t listen to reason….

    How does anyone know that the police were called?? I talk on my phone all the time. I’m not always talking to the cops.

    Unclench people. Seriously.

  46. coren says:

    @AshBash: No, they aren’t. But that has nothing to do with this post.

    @swissdietcoke: Do you chase people into the parking lot and write down their license plates while they leave your store, after you make a call while on the job?

  47. Wolzard says:

    Long time reader of Consumerist, this is the first post that has driven me to actually say something however.

    OP is clearly an idiot. The CC may or may not have properly explained how the slips worked. Sounds to me reading this post it didn’t matter what the store said, because his ability to read the “The cardholder agrees…” apparently trumped his ability to read the rest of the receipt, and more than likely by that point he wasn’t even listening to the manager or associate at that point.

    Oh and GJ OP, your converter box coupon is now a brick.

  48. backbroken says:

    “Semi-sentient customer meets employee/manager with god complex. Hi-jinx ensue.”

    There. I just summed up 95% of the stories posted in the last month.

  49. leftystrat says:

    WTF is the gov’t doing in the electronics business anyway?


  50. Lambasted says:

    This is a case of idiotic government bureaucratic procedures colliding with typical Circuit City personnel incapable of communicating information in an intelligible manner.

    I recently received my coupons and was going to soon purchase my box from CC. Had I not read this article, I would have been suspiciously confused too! If I was presented with the $40 credit card receipt to sign, I would think that I am signing to be held financially liable in the event CC couldn’t get the $40 from the government. Especially when the liability wording on the $40 receipt is exactly the same as the wording on my $20 credit card receipt with which I am agreeing to pay.

    I thought the government’s coupons were to be used as just that, a COUPON, not legal tender. Based on the typical consumer’s understanding of how a coupon is used, I can see why this is confusing. Especially when we don’t have to sign for a coupon in the grocery store. It’s a misnomer for the government to call it a coupon if it really is a credit card.

  51. cybrbkr says:

    They tried this dual deal on me, I passed and decided not to buy, asked them to cancel the transaction. The next day went to BestBuy only to find Circuit City had claimed the $40 from the Gov card. Went I went back to the Circuit City, the “manager” said if I didn’t calm down he’d call the cops, then asked me to leave the store. I said no, go ahead and make the call. I wasn’t yelling or raving but I was upset. I’ll never do business at a CC again. This has to be a corporate initiative of some sort because two other folks I know in this town were treated the same way. Call the bluff on the police call and they seem to lose steam and have to go into the office to make phone calls. The “manager” came back out and said he’d honor the gov card, “even though it was already marked as charged and he didn’t have to.” Like I would spend money there after that. I have just sent the info about this to [] Not sure if they’ll do anything but this is a bit past ridiculous.

  52. ogman says:

    Ah yes, the morons at my local Circuit City showing once again why Best Buy was able to move in up the road and kick their ass! No one in that store knows how to wipe their ass, let alone how to conduct a simple business transaction.

  53. ogman says:

    @leftystrat: Read the news once in a while and you would know. Work at Circuit City, do ya?

  54. figpetus says:

    happened to me as well, but i was smart enough to ask what was going on and didn’t make an ass out of myself.

  55. @bohemian:

    Why didn’t the gubmint just hand out the converter boxes or sell them directly at a discount

    Worst.Idea.Ever. I don’t think I have to say why.

  56. henrygates says:

    Somehow I think after paying taxes, having the government process that money, convert it into a coupon program, issue it as a credit card, pay VISA for the privilege of doing so, and then redeeming it at a retailer, we could have all just bought are own freaking converters full price and saved a ton of money – as a nation.

  57. TPK says:

    @Concerned_Citizen: You had the same thoughts that I had after reading the article. Like the “just show your receipt” folks, it’s people who blindly sign papers with no attention to what is written on them that give retailers the upper hand over consumers.

    Why should I even be asked to guarantee that the US Government is going to make good on their payment obligation? Apparently (just from reading other posts here) the law requires that they take the coupon, I have absolutely no interest in sticking my “financial neck” on the line to back up Uncle Sam. If acceptance of these coupons is indeed a legal requirement, the OP should be the one on the phone to the Feds, not the “i wanna be” store manager.


  58. TPK says:

    PS… I can see where the government may want a signature as some sort of an audit trail, but clearly the wording of the printout was way out of line if that is the case.


  59. Illiterati says:

    @henrygates: Amen, brother. TV isn’t a necessity, like food or housing. When my computer’s OS becomes outdated and no longer runs the latest software, should the government send me a coupon when Ocelot comes out (or whatever cat Apple hasn’t used by then)? It would make more sense at least, because I can’t do my job without my computer. But TV? Seriously, it pisses me off that our money is being used this way and makes me angrier every quarter when I send off my estimated taxes. I should write on the check: Here’s a few grand, go buy yourself a bunch of crappy converters for your ancient televisions. ARGH!

  60. ginnylavender says:

    If the coupon is “refunded to the government,” Larry can’t use it again, even though he didn’t buy the converter box. Larry needs to get the coupon refunded to him, not “the government.” (These coupons are so VERY stupid).

  61. bramble says:

    Hey, names Ted I’m a supervisor at Circuit City. The cards the government issue are backed by Visa, essentially the same thing as those credit card gift cards…so in this case the manager was right. If the customer doesn’t agree to the terms of the coupon “card” they cannot use it and should not sign. However once the sale has been tendered it cannot be canceled. It can be returned but cannot be deleted. In this case, sorry consumer you should read the print before you buy it

  62. eelmonger says:

    While calling the police may be extreme (and we don’t even know that’s what she was doing. Thanks misleading Consumierst headlines!), it’s not that out of the question. Larry acted very suspicious in Lisa’s eyes and she probably thought he was pulling some kind of scam. Grabbing the credit slips seems like something someone would do when they were cornered and wanted to get rid of evidence, even though the transaction is already in the computer if you were panicked you might not think of that. It’s possible that Lisa was calling other stores to warn them of a possible scammer, as I had to do every so often in my retail days. Circuit City probably could have explained the slips better, but a little patience on the customer’s part probably would have made this situation go a lot smoother.

  63. Wolzard says:

    Also, I have to add here: Where the heck are some of you getting the “If the government doesn’t pay the money, I have to by signing this.”

    Where in: “”The cardholder agrees to the credit card amount shown hereon and agrees to perform the obligations set forth in the cardholder agreement with the issuer.”” is that mentioned?

    You are agreeing that:
    A.) The amount of the transaction IS correct (in that you will not be disputing the fact you were charged X dollars for X item or service)
    B.) You will follow whatever obligations you (the cardholder) had agreed with your issuing bank. Meaning that if you attempt to dispute a charge by saying, for example, that you never actually authorized a purchase, this form refutes that, by saying that your signature means you agree to whatever payment method and method of collection is laid out by your issuing bank.
    C.) Where is CC, or any retailer for that matter, mentioned in this? Where in your right minds are you getting “If the Government doesn’t pay up, Circuit City will come after me” from? The wording of that is pretty clear-cut, and relatively standard throughout retailers.
    D.) Repeated, the signature is ensuring you will meet the terms set by YOUR BANK as part of your CARDHOLDER AGREEMENT.

    I don’t see where people are getting their crazy, conspiracy theory ridden ideas like the OP had.

  64. Wolzard says:

    Added note, forgot to mention- The “issuing bank” in this case is whatever the government is choosing to use to back this operation.

    If some of you are seriously paranoid enough to think the government is going to turn around and screw the consumer over on something like this, I have a great fallout shelter, tons of canned food and automatic weapons to survive the upcoming apocalypse you are probably fearing.

  65. alseeger says:

    paris trying to get ahead… she would never be in circuit city.

  66. Kounji says:

    we’re not getting the whole story I think

  67. okconsumer says:

    Most cc stores have an older pos system which can’t distinguish the difference between debit/credit or in this case the $40 voucher for a converter box. This is why they need a signature. As an employee for the retailer I hate having to ask for 3 autographs for one transaction.. considering we sell dozens of converter boxes a day. CC suffers from offering lower wages which bring less reliable, less knowledgeable sales associates. A lot of the issues are peoples work ethic. And considering the amount of people who come in and waste my time picking my brain so they can purchase the tv on amazon for a hundred dollars less or wanting to nickel and dime us all day.. I know I have been less than patient or friendly with the customer who is looking to spend there hard earned dollars in my store. Its bad on both sides.

  68. Silversmok3 says:

    Allow me to add how another retailer redeems these rebate coupons to clarify:

    Radioshack ,for example, does not treat the DTV cards like Visa cards. They are entered into the POS as a coupon gift card, a la in store Gift Card.
    A buyer doesn’t sign anything when the box is paid for in cash.

    This is an example of CC either :
    A)Playing fast and loose with the DTV acceptance criteria
    B) Really awful POS software that tells the computer a DTV coupon is a credit card transaction.
    I vote B.

    As far as the OP is concerned, I don’t think asking why a DTV coupon is run as a credit card is an illegal or hostile quesion. Something is missing from the record here….

  69. ihateauditions says:

    This was a training issue.

    The cashier didn’t really know how to handle the coupon, and clearly had no idea how to explain it to a customer (and how to point out the differing account numbers, to show what one was debiting what.)

    Beyond the training issue, there was an all too common desire to resort to threats of police to coerce a desired reaction out of somebody, instead of dealing with them rationally.

    As a retailer, you should be able to explain exactly what it is you’re asking a person to sign, and if there’s a probable source of confusion, you should be able to point to evidence (such as the differing account numbers) that demonstrates that your recently proffered explanation is in fact correct.

    Circuit City failed to train the cashiers to train the customers.

    @nequam: you may have made the stupidest distinction in history. threatening to call the police over somebody not buying something is just as idiotic as *actually* calling them.

  70. 108Reliant says:

    I’m not surprised to see this kind of unintelligent thinking at Circuit City. Every time I go in there, all I see are young people who don’t have a clue on the merchandise they sell, let alone any courtesy toward the customer. Many of there stores have shut down recently, and I suspect that we won’t see them around much longer.

  71. dottat1 says:

    I live in york..

    I can tell you that i’ve already called corporate offices on the idiot managers in this location.

    I won’t go back to this CC again due to the idiots managing it.

    I actually opened a case back around christmas time because I ordered a camera and it wasn’t ready in 24 minutes. The operations manager (a TRUE dickhead) made up his own version and denied me the $24 giftcard.

    Hope it was all worth it CC!

  72. Charred says:

    @humphrmi: Heh. I caught the joke, even if nobody else did.

  73. Pro-Pain says:

    All caught in a mosh…

  74. mike says:

    The guys should just buy a HDTV. ;-)

  75. Lambasted says:

    @Wolzard: Where are we getting it from? We are getting it from the credit card receipt Circuit City shoves at customers to sign in order to complete the transaction. Thank you for your explanation but we understand what is going on NOW. We are speaking from the perspective of an unsuspecting customer who doesn’t have the benefit of reading all the fine print as to what obligations they are agreeing to.

    I am no idiot. I went to law school and studied even harder to pass the bar exam. So when a store asks me to sign a document just to use a COUPON in which “I agree to perform all the obligations set forth in the cardholders agreement with the issuer,” you can be sure I will put the pen down and ask some questions. Because from my perspective, the act of purchasing an approved converter box has fulfilled all the obligations that should be required of me. Of course there are terms and conditions regarding use of the coupon and box, but those are not obligations, those are terms and conditions. Thus, my first question will be, “What further obligations am I agreeing to perform?”

    If Circuit City is incapable of explaining to their customers what they are asking them to sign, a prudent customer would cancel the transaction instead of blindly proceeding forward. However, this all could be avoided if Circuit City’s corporate fools had the sense that Radio Shack has and treated the coupon like the coupon it is instead of the credit card it is not. Or they could spend a little time educating their employees. But silly me for thinking such ridiculous notions.

  76. S-the-K says:

    And Circuit City wonders why they are losing money hand over fist? Misleading receipts, employees who are not the sharpest knives in the drawer (don’t have to pay them as much as intelligent employees), and dumbass managers driving customers away.

    I have no need for the coupons so I can’t speak from experience how the government coupons are handled or even what they look like.

  77. Asvetic says:

    @donTHEd: York is a pit. It’s not a huge city, but it gets a good bit of customer’s from MD, which is only a few minutes away.

  78. ravensfire says:

    The only fault I see here is CC’s over reaction to Larry’s leaving the store sans merchandise.

    I don’t recall there being coupons (in general, like coupons to clip from the newspaper)for use at CC, it seems like they just have sales. Of course I only shop there rarely so I’m certainly no expert. But I bring this up because there could be a certain way that things have to go into the pos system at CC, making it difficult to treat the government coupons as coupons instead of charge cards. The government coupon sounds most like a gift card to me, but of course the system probably won’t accept anything other than a CC issued gift card as a gift card (I am talking specific entries into they system here so this excludes amex gift cards etc). So, another option CC would have would be to just ring-up the remaining cost of the converter box after applying the coupon, but at the volume of converter boxes sold, book keeping would probably be severely effected. Therefore, CC decided to treat the card like a charge card because its the simplest option that agrees with their system. Makes sense to me. I also don’t see what the problem is with being charged exactly forty dollars on a card worth $40 might be. If one is making purchases using multiple payment methods, one should check amounts against account numbers anyway.

  79. synergy says:

    @bohemian: The government isn’t handing out the converters because the government is pro-business and would hate to take profits out of the industry, e.g. $21.19 or more per customer. Not to mention that they’d argue that they’re not a business or it’s none of their business etc. :-p

  80. EricaKane says:

    @Lambasted: Actually the government makes you sign something saying you used your coupon. Circuit City was just following the law. You agreed to sign your name when you tried to redeem that coupon.

  81. fostina1 says:

    meh. i dont see any problem. the government is the obvious cardholder of the $40 card, and he is should have just signed it being the governments representitive for the transaction.

  82. glitterati says:

    @EricaKane: Commenter in the wrong

  83. TheUncleBob says:

    You know, I’d like to point out that it’s very possible the CC employees *did* try to explain to this customer what was going on and he simply did not understand/would not listen.

    I’m not sure we’re hearing both sides to this story.

  84. Mike_ says:

    If he didn’t understand or would not listen, Circuit City should have simply voided the transaction and let that be the end of it. Whatever the circumstances, if a customer refuses to complete a transaction (that’s all he did), the proper response is not to call the police or tail him into the parking lot with a pad of paper and a pen.

    Circuit City failed to adequately communicate the terms of the agreement he was being asked to sign. The customer was within his right to abandon the transaction and leave the store. If he took the device with him without satisfying the requirements of his chosen payment method, this would be an entirely different conversation.

  85. waldo617211 says:

    This is just another case of impatience. CC will die a natural death as do all companies that operate like this. It’s just that it is taking so long, given the multitude of complaints about them & not just on this site. The only scary thought is that the ex-employees who will lose their jobs could end up working in another retail scenario where we will have to deal with them.They should be labelled as ” does not get along well with others ” & ” not to be used in a retail enviroment “.

  86. TheUncleBob says:

    @Mike_: The problem is, from my understanding, at this point, the transaction could not be “voided”, the items would have to be “refunded”.

    I work in retail (at a different retailer) and know how these “coupons” work. If the transaction had been refunded, the $40 from the “coupon” does not go back on the coupon and, instead, is “refunded” directly back to the US Government.

    I don’t know the case here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the customer wanted to void the transaction, was told they could only refund it, the customer was okay with that, but when they explained that the $40 would be refunded to the government (and not put back on the “coupon”), the customer then got a little irate.

    Again, I’d like to hear the employee’s side to this story before passing judgment. Unfortunately, we probably never will.

  87. ndjustin says:

    I question if the police were actually called here. I worked across the street from this CC, and the police station is about twenty seconds away. They have a very good response time, and in all retail cases they always asked, “is the subject cooperating?” In a case of someone driving off, they’d be there in a minute or two at most.

    The traffic situation is pretty bad there, so if they actually called the police, they probably would have pulled him over.

    More likely, “Kim” was calling someone higher up in the food chain and just getting his plate number incase one of her supervisors were dumb enough to think they should call the police.

  88. @Mudpuddle: I think the problem is he, like so many other people on here who’s hobby, as a consumer, is to make beautiful snow capped mountains out of already avoidable molehills, by being unreasonable. He grabbed his stuff and took off. It doesn’t seem like anyone needed to explain what was going on as he just stood there when it happened. Two transactions, different cards, yadda yadda yadda.

    Kim may have thought he was trying to pull something screwy so she made sure she could provide information about him if needed.

    @TheUncleBob: The complete absence of the other side of the story is the biggest problem with 90% of the customer stories that are posted. The other 10 percent end up with audio or a copy of email correspondence.

  89. props_nyc says:

    what most amazes me about this story is that somebody that actually needs one of these convertor boxes has a computer with a working internet connection.

  90. sean77 says:

    I think people are getting caught up by the word “coupon”. It’s not a coupon, it’s a $40 visa gift card. It looks just like a credit card.

    Why was this guy surprised to sign twice when he handed the cashier two credit cards?

  91. tcp100 says:

    @Illiterati: Way to live up to your name. Please look up the information on this program. The DTV conversion coupons are being subsidized by the electronics industry.

    The government (we, the taxpayers) are MAKING money on this transition, not losing it. It is making the US -BILLIONS-.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this stupid “wasting our tax dollars on TV” ignorant comment on the DTV conversion. Our “tax dollars” are not going to the DTV conversion.

  92. HeartBurnKid says:

    @sean77: Because nobody has explained that the “coupon” card is treated as a Visa card? Seriously, I put in for a couple of cards just in case, and there is precisely zero explanation of the redemption mechanism. Add to that the fact that the Circuit City guys seemed more determined to force him to sign the receipts rather than just explain to him why he should, and you’ve got a misunderstanding that just goes way out of control.

    The real question is, why did Circuit City attempt to get the police involved? Larry here didn’t remove any merchandise, so they can’t say he stole from them. All he did was refuse a transaction.

  93. RandomHookup says:

    Is it a coupon or a gift card? I used one of mine and I can’t remember how it was treated. It does make a difference — in Mass., for example, sales tax is computed after all coupons are deducted.

  94. Rev.Keith says:

    I bought two of these converter boxes from Radio Shack and didn’t have to sign anything. The way that their system rang the item up, the government card was treated like a $40 coupon and deducted from the total sale price (with tax).

    On the Radio Shack receipt for the converter box, it specifically states, “the coupon is not a debit or credit card…” so as not to confuse the consumer. Since our smalltown store didn’t have any boxes in stock, they shipped them to me free of charge via FedEx. Perchance this is just one more thing that Circuit City has flummoxed up (and Radio Shack got right)?

  95. leftystrat says:

    @ogman: are you this pleasant and intelligent all the time? It’s called a rhetorical question. This is your opportunity to learn something… look it up.

  96. sean77 says:

    @HeartBurnKid: A coupon is a piece of paper you cut out of the newspaper. This thing looks just like a credit card. It’s plastic, it has a mag strip.

    If you’ve ever used a visa gift card, it works the same way.. you have to sign your receipt.

  97. cprincipe says:

    I usually don’t come down on the side of the big boxes, but sounds like Larry was being an idiot and probably started acting like an idiot in the store before cursing someone out and storming out of the store. Too bad Larry didn’t take an extra 30 seconds to read his receipt and instead rushed home and spent 15 minutes scanning his receipt and emailing Consumerist.

  98. outsdr says:

    I don’t understand why there was a refund needed at all… OP states he took the unsigned clips with him when he left. Why then was the charge still processed through the system to his card?

  99. Difdi says:


    The “manager” came back out and said he’d honor the gov card, “even though it was already marked as charged and he didn’t have to.”

    Hmm, I wonder, if they charged your card and refused to “honor” it, ie, to give you merchandise in exchange for it, wouldn’t that be theft? Or, since it’s federal money involved, would that involve a call to the local FBI office rather than the local police?

  100. So they’re required to accept it? Fry’s in Renton (the same one who was charging people to get to the front of the line on Black Friday) has flyers all over the TV section claiming they won’t accept them.

  101. Kerkira says:

    The pivotal question here is what documentation the government sends along with the $40 ‘coupon’. If there’s a slip enclosed detailing the Visa Giftcard Cardholder’s Agreement (or they manage to reference it on the back of the card), then the OP could be expected to comprehend that he was a cardholder (of the giftcard) and would be agreeing to certain obligations in return for redeeming it. Absent such explicit notification, it’s perfectly reasonable that he would object to entering into an agreement that he doesn’t know the details of. The retailer should also explain to the purchaser before the transaction that it’s not a coupon, but a Visa giftcard and will be processed as such.

  102. HeartBurnKid says:

    @sean77: You might have a point if the Visa logo appeared anywhere on the card.

  103. frogman31680 says:

    I agree that the guy should not have to sign an agreement stating that he would pay the $40.

    I work at the local radio shack and you do not have to sign for the dtv card. Only your credit card. The dtv card rings up just as it should…. A coupon.

  104. bufftbone says:

    I usually side with the consumer on this issue but this is a fine case of a stupid consumer. This story doesn’t even belong being posted. It still doesn’t make up for why the cops were called but Larry was a dumb ass here.

  105. rikkus256 says:

    This is exactly why circuit city lost 164.8 million in first quarter of 2008 []

  106. rikkus256 says:

    @bufftbone: If the slip clearly says you “agree” to pay the $40, then guess what, circuity city can legally bill your credit card for that amount if they want. Who’s the stupid consumer here.

  107. mr mike says:

    If larry had looked at the account numbers, one is his CC and the other is basically a gift card. I see his point, but he should have just signed the damn thing.

  108. gpatrick says:

    outsdr, The charges were already deducted. However, the OP will not be able to use his coupon anywhere else.

    Tyler Menezes, I talked to a local store here. To carry the DTV converter they must accept the government coupon or they can not carry the converter. This store decided not to do that because they would have to agree to a government contract. So if Fry’s is selling a converter but not talking the coupons that is a violation. According to the Merchant I talked too.

  109. Bs Baldwin says:

    Wow, double fail. Larry does know that this is what prints out for everything that involves a card? If you know that you aren’t agreeing to anything, just sign it anyway; is that concept so hard to understand. Don’t know why the manager got his plate number, maybe to call another store to warn them?