Best Buy Really Does Not Want To Let You Buy The Advertised Special

Reader John writes in with a story about “upselling” at Best Buy. He saw a TomTom GPS unit for $99.99 on sale at Best Buy, so he headed over to the store to pick one up. What follows is his account of how much trouble it was to actually buy the item. We think we counted 9 times that John had to tell various and sundry Best Buy employees that, yes, he was sure that he didn’t want to buy a slightly more expensive model of the same device.

Here’s John’s story:

Today (11-23), Best Buy had a Tom Tom One 125 GPS for $99.99 – $80 off the regular price. My daughter has wanted one for Christmas, so I figured now was the time. When I got to the store, I found an associate in the GPS department and said I wanted to purchase the unit advertised. Without asking any questions, he immediately told me it was an entry level model so it probably wasn’t what I wanted. I politely said, no, it was indeed the unit I wanted. He then said, you realize the maps aren’t installed on this and it takes 3+ hours to install them. He continued saying that for “only” $30 more, they had the same unit with the maps already installed.

I again politely said no thank you, this is the one I want. He said three hours is a long time, you know. I said yes it is, and it feels like I might have to stand here three hours at the rate you are trying to sell me something else. May I please buy the GPS advertised?

Sure, he says, but I have to wait for my manager because he has the key. OK. After about 5 minutes the associate says sorry this is taking so long. How about if I show you some of the other GPS units we have. No thank you I tell him. I just want to buy this one. Are you sure? Yes I am. When have these over here… Now I had to gently but firmly tell him this is the one I want and I would be happy to go to a competitor that price matches if they don’t want to sell me what I want to buy. Ok, he says, I’ll go get my manager (oy!).

So the manager arrives and starts all over with, you know this is a very basic model, the install isn’t included and takes three hours, but for only $30 more… No thank you, this is the one I want. Please may I have it? Finally the GPS is removed from the case and given to the associate to walk up to the register (apparently customers aren’t to be trusted with such an elementary device until the transaction is complete). As we walk to the register, no less than two associates we pass say to my associate “hey Joe, did you let him know that is the basic one and the maps take like forever to install? You did? Oh. Did you tell him about the $30 special we have on preloaded maps? Oh. Ok” Talk about blatant upselling!

Finally at the register. Ahhh. Nope, not quite. Now it’s the cashier’s turn. She tells me about the $30 more option for maps. No thank you I again politely say. Then she tells me her sister had this one, but returned it for a more expensive one because all it did was give directions. That’s too bad for your sister I sympathize. When I pull out my Best Buy reward coupons for another $15 off, she says she doesn’t think that I can use them on a sale item. I politely say that I didn’t see that exception. Where is that stated? Well, no where but she is pretty sure I can only use one coupon at a time… Let’s try them both and see what happens, OK? I ask.

Reluctantly I am finally out the door with a $99.99 GPS less $15 in rewards credit, plus tax.

I wonder how many other customers will get upsold?

Now, obviously we are not lawyers, but we would like to direct your attention to the following paragraphs from the FTC’s “Guide Against Bait Advertising.” These paragraphs are from a section that lists some of the many shady things that retailers do when pulling a bait and switch. Disparaging an advertised item is one of them.

No act or practice should be engaged in by an advertiser to discourage the purchase of the advertised merchandise as part of a bait scheme to sell other merchandise. Among acts or practices which will be considered in determining if an advertisement is a bona fide offer are:

b) The disparagement by acts or words of the advertised product or the disparagement of the guarantee, credit terms, availability of service, repairs or parts, or in any other respect, in connection with it,

Gee whiz. Good job sticking to your guns, John.

Guides Against Bait Advertising [FTC]