Inspecting Circuit City Liquidation Merchandise Averts Disaster

Reader Eric writes in to let us know that our advice about inspecting Circuit City liquidation merchandise before buying it saved his brother from getting stuck with the wrong item.

So my brother was at Circuit City last night seeing if he could take advantage of their liquidation. He saw a display advertising a Sirius Stiletto 2 Radio with Car Kit for $90 marked down from $300, a seemingly great deal.

He called me while he was at the store and asked me to look up the going rate for the radio on ebay as he planned to purchase it from Circuit City and turn around and sell it for profit on the net. Brand new radios of this model with a car kit are selling for anywhere between $180 and $230 on ebay; a good return on investment if he could pick one up for $90.

While I had him on the phone I mentioned that he should thoroughly check out the radio to look for defects or any other problems before buying since I had read on The Consumerist that people were getting ripped off at Circuit City during the liquidation and all sales are final. He checked it out it looked ok.

It was sorta in the original packaging which was inside one of those hard plastic looked boxes BB and CC use when they don’t want people stealing small expensive items so he couldn’t actually hold the unit before purchasing. He took it up to the register, the checkout girl scanned it, he swiped his credit card, and the girl unlocked the plastic lockbox.

When she did this, my brother wanted to inspect the radio one more time before buying. He picked it up and took the battery out of the back and on the label under the battery he discovered the unit was not a Stiletto 2, but the Stiletto 1. Circuit City was selling a Stiletto 1 as a Stiletto 2, a huge difference in price. So, because he hadn’t yet signed for his credit card he told them they had falsely advertised the product, canceled his purchase, and just walked away.

Remember that all sales are final at liquidations. Inspect your merchandise before you buy it! Or just stay away completely — it’s common for liquidation prices to be higher than prices at regular stores.


Edit Your Comment

  1. jp7570 says:

    Crooked till the end. At least Circuit City is consistent.

  2. David Eckert says:

    I would definitely look for a CC charge on next month’s credit card bill, anyway. I’m pretty sure CC isn’t going to let him “get away” with opening up the package after the card is swiped and then just walk away.

    • Josh Bradfield says:

      @David Eckert:
      Not true.. his account is not touched till he signs that pad. Also CCity would have opened it up for him to look at before he even got that far if he would have just asked.. they won’t open up ‘new’ packages but this was in one of those plastic keeper boxes.

      /I know because I work there.

  3. philmin says:

    You could have some fun if they still put the purchase through on your card. This would be an ultimate easy candidate for a chargeback, plus the liquidator would get in serious trouble for running the card charge without a signature.

    • Corporate_guy says:

      @philmin: No serious trouble. They will just lose out on the money.

    • scoosdad says:

      @philmin: Do you know how many times in a week I use my credit card at a retailer or grocery store or pharmacy and they don’t require a signature? More times than the instances where they do. That’s becoming a very disturbing trend nowadays.

      My supermarket only requires a signature when the purchase exceeds $25 but I haven’t figured out CVS’s threshold yet, but it appears to be much higher than that.

      • Robert Stevens says:


        Visa doesn’t require a signature on charges below $25. Above $25 the merchant is taking on the risk. I find myself annoyed at places that still make me sign for $10 purchases, particularly fast food and such.

  4. Stream Of Consciousness says:

    Awesome!! Glad he called them on it as well. That is shameful!

  5. katiat325 says:

    why do people even bother going? I mean really…why? They sucked then they suck even more now. Buy online, especially if you get free shipping.

    • bravohotel01 says:

      @katiat325: “why do people even bother going?”

      Because like everything else, purchasing is an emotional decision first, rational later (if ever).

      Wave around the word “sale” or “liquidation”—or in this case, both, and you will get lots of highly-motivated buyers who are divorced from reality.

      The only way to win is not to play.

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @katiat325: there’s certain things you can’t get online…
      i got a case (48 rolls) of adhesive “service defective” tape for $5
      tape is tape, always useful for something.

  6. sleze69 says:

    So I guess Circuit City is demonstrating that you can legally claim an item is anything you want, sell it as-is and get away with it because you are liquidating?

  7. tc4b says:

    Could they legally hide the item behind a curtain until it’s paid for? $5.00 Honda Civic! Oops, it was only Heath bar. Well, ‘As is,’ ya know, and it IS a Heath bar.

  8. Outrun1986 says:

    This is why you should only buy products that you know about at these sales. If he had no knowledge of the radio before hand it was probably not a good idea to consider it.

    I would treat it as shopping at a yard sale, the seller WILL tell you that the item is worth x on ebay, because they want you to buy it, because they know its NOT worth x on ebay, and they know that you as an ebay seller will believe anything that you hear when you hear ebay mentioned. In this manner ebay sellers are actually being targeted because the seller of the item knows that ebay sellers will buy it because they think they can make money off it. I’ve seen it a hundred times.

    There is the smart ebay seller that actually goes for products which they have knowledge about and knows what they are buying and actually knows the relative price at which something will sell for on ebay. You may not be able to catch every opportunity for a good deal this way, but the good deals you catch you will be able to profit from instead of wasting your time.

    Then there is the ebay seller that will believe everything they hear in relation to a value’s item on ebay and buy things that they have no clue about because its a “good deal” and because there is such a hefty price difference between the original price and the sale price that it must sell for more than what I paid for it on ebay.

    The liquidator knows what the item sells for on ebay, and you can bet they are not going to price it below that price, or they are going to price it just below ebay price so that when an ebay seller comes in, they scoop up the item thinking they can make mega profits on it when in reality they have wasted their time both shopping for the item and listing it and not to mention the fees.

    Yes what the liquidator did here was shady, but had the buyer known the product he would have immediately been able to tell that it was a Stiletto 1 instead of Stiletto 2.

  9. TimeToChange2000 says:

    I’m confused. I should congratulate this electronics scalper on not getting ripped off, while tolerating the fact that he’s only buying it to make a profit off some one on EvilBay?

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      @TimeToChange2000: So buying something for a low price, then selling it to someone else at a price they agree to pay is a bad thing to do? Quick, alert every business that buys wholesale!

  10. [DFX] Deimos says:

    Actually the sale *wouldnt* be final if they had fradulently sold me an item. Either they would take it back the nice way, I would do a chargeback and throw it through their window, or they would get sued in small claims court and lose.

    Just because they say it is final doesn’t mean it is.

  11. JustinD2515 says:

    I haven’t gone to CC once since the liquidation started. When I do drive by I just wait to see if their sign is off of the building yet. When it is I will smile and forget about them forever.

  12. TemporaryError says:

    It looks like someone else got taken this way…So it apparently wasn’t an isolated incident.
    From commenter Izzo on Gizmodo:
    “They got me … I saw a package marked Sirius SL2 for $137. It was one of the working display units. I quickly googled from my phone for an average price and found it was a good deal . . . Purchased and went on what I thought was my merry way. Got home and checked and it was the older SL100 mislabeled. :(

    Although I did get a good deal on some slatwall shelves and hooks.”

  13. TemporaryError says:

    I’ve read so many things about how bad the deals are/were at CC, and I did see that most of the prices did suck…(They had display laptops with internet that I checked prices on) but the one big thing that they did have good prices on were game consoles. I picked up a new sealed xbox pro for $240. I guess it’s because they can’t jack up the prices of consoles. IIRC, PSP’s were also selling at a good price. I’ve heard that at the stores that didn’t quickly sell out of the xbox’s at 20% off eventually were selling the pros for $179…

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @TemporaryError: Yeah, I think most people would notice if consoles were marked up, because they have a MSRP that generally does not vary between store, unlike a lot of other products. Its easier to jack up the price of a hard drive than it is to jack up the price of a console. So you definitely have a point here, and the consoles do sound like they were a good deal. Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft all cover their consoles too with a manufacturers warranty so if something was wrong right out of the box or something was missing you could likely get it replaced from the manufacturer for free. Especially if it happened right after you bought the item.

  14. Outrun1986 says:

    I also think at this stage the store would have been picked clean of anything that would be worth a dime on ebay. Anyone who is an ebay seller, people who are buying merchandise to resell at their own stores and fleamarket resellers have most likely already cleaned up on the good pickings for now. As I said before the liquidators are also out to target Ebay sellers, they know they will be dealing with resellers, and they know exactly how to deal with resellers to squeeze the most profit out of you. You also have to consider the flood of merchandise that will inevitably be up on ebay within a few weeks time from this sale, making the ebay prices go down. Also its March, not exactly top electronics buying season. If you save your items till Xmas a new model will be out by then and prices will have gone way down.

    Now what I am curious of in this case is there a difference in the looks of the Stiletto 1 and 2, does one look significantly different than the other or is it like the Ipod Touch Gen 1 and Gen 2, where Gen 2 is superior however by looking at the device you can barely tell the difference.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand the whole “all sales are final” policy if what they sold you wasn’t what they said it is. I’m pretty sure if I sold you a Ford Mustang, but then gave you a Yugo instead, my “all sales are final” policy wouldn’t keep me from going to jail for fraud.

  16. SexCpotatoes says:

    Has anybody else noticed that now that Circuit City is almost done liquidating, Best Buy doesn’t feel obliged to have ANY deals on media?

    Like, last weeks ad had NO deals at all on DVD-Rs!

    I’m getting kind of low and need to stock up.

    • RonnieDobbs4President says:

      @SexCpotatoes: I’m in the same boat as you with the DVDR deals at Best Buy. I stocked up the last time the 50-pack Memorex were on sale only to find out my burner will only go 2.4X recording on them. There goes 25 minutes of my life per disc… *sigh*

  17. iboost79 says:

    Circuit City blows. But I did rape them on OEM Apple iPod accessories. I got the Apple iPod Radio Remote for $20 and Griffin A/V Composite cables for $20 (both normally retail for $50 each). It was also conveniently hidden underneath a stack of non-ipod related marchandise. I’m assuming an employee was hiding it to buy later.

    I’m hoping Best Buy will go under next.

  18. albear says:

    Dude, you should have left this sentence out of your story.

    “he planned to purchase it from Circuit City and turn around and sell it for profit on the net.”

    I was feeling good your brother didn’t get ripped off, but reading that made me do a 180 degree turn.

  19. Anonymous says:

    What’s wrong with buying something new that’s on sale and then turning around and selling it on ebay? Is that so unscrupulous? I realize ebay is full of people wanting to rip off others but there are people out there who can make money on ebay without having to rip people off. There are honest sellers out there.

  20. rydel says:

    Actually, the Circuit City I worked at (using the new “rPos” system) charged the card before it was signed for. I’m not sure about the old POS systems though.

    /I worked there too

    • Ezra Ekman says:

      @David Eckert: @rydel: Actually, it’s not charged in either case. It’s “authorized”, which means a quick check is done to make sure that the card is valid, and a temporary hold (usually 1-3 days, depending on the card’s issuing bank and/or the merchant, but sometimes up to 14 days) is placed on the available funds (if it’s a debit card) or available credit (if it’s a credit card). That authorization drops off after a predetermined period of time (again, usually 1-3 days), or if the transaction “posts” (see below), whichever comes first.

      Later that day (usually at the close of business, which is why some 24-hour stores sometimes shut down their registers for about 15 minutes at midnight), all of the day’s transactions are processed, and non-canceled charges are “posted” to the merchant’s bank, who in turn forwards those charges on to the customer’s card’s issuing bank. This entire process is generally pretty quick (less than a week), but the issuing bank sometimes doesn’t get the posted transaction for as many as 30 days. Usually, though, it comes through within a few days.

      Why does any of this matter? Well, two reasons:

      First, this is often how people accidentally overdraw their bank accounts, or push their credit card over the limit, even when they opt-out of their banks “courtesy” overdraft policies. These people assume that if they don’t have enough funds, the charge won’t go through. In reality however, they might go to store A with $100 in their account, charge $50 (which authorizes and holds that $50 for a few days), forget about it, go to store B four days later and charge $75. The second charge goes through because the first charge authorized, then dropped off, but the posted transaction still hasn’t shown up with their bank. A week later, both of the posted transactions have come through, and their account is overdrawn.

      Second (and this is more specific to this post), there is NOTHING in the rules for credit card processing that says the merchant must have your signature to charge your card. They don’t need your name, address or phone number, either. They don’t even need the expiration date, in some cases. All they need is a credit card number. The reason they collect other pieces of information is that it just makes fraud more difficult to commit. How do you think you can purchase things over the internet or on the phone? The one thing that prevents this in retail is that larger chains usually have software to prevent transactions from being processed and completed if they don’t have a signature. But if the software doesn’t cancel the transaction, and if the cashier doesn’t void it, you’re going to have a posted transaction shortly.

      In rare cases, there are times that the posted transaction doesn’t match up to the authorized transaction, and the funds are deducted from your account twice, until the temporary authorization drops off. That’s not as common as the above items, though. If your bank ever holds you liable for overdrafts and/or over limit fees due to a duplicate temporary authorization, dispute it and tell them it was either bank error or merchant error, depending on the origin of the duplicate hold. It’s not your fault; it’s either the bank’s or the merchant’s fault.

      So, yeah: I’d agree with David Eckert that the OP’s brother had better keep an eye on his statement this month, and make sure they didn’t process the transaction anyway… ESPECIALLY after all we’ve seen of this liquidation company’s “ethics” thus far. If it shows up, just file a chargeback with the bank/credit card company. Don’t call it fraud or unauthorized use, or your bank will cancel your card and issue a new one. Just tell them it was a case of a canceled transaction that wasn’t, with no merchandise given. Ask the bank for proof of your signature, which the merchant won’t be able to provide, and the charge will be charged back to the merchant.

      And… as if the previous posts on this issue weren’t clear enough, STAY AWAY FROM THE CIRCUIT CITY LIQUIDATION. I mean, seriously; has anyone heard of someone having a *positive* experience there?

  21. cametall says:

    Aren’t you running into a contract issue if the other party (Circuit City’s liquidator) purposely sells you the incorrect product in incorrect packaging?

  22. ZukeZuke says:

    There are still Circuit City’s open?!?!

    The one in our town finally closed up shop 2 weeks ago. Sad. Especially now that they’re saying Best Buy is contemplating bankruptcy… WTF!

  23. VulcHeph says:

    As a soon ex-Circuit City worker, I’m sick of these “LOL TEST BEFORE YOU BUY” stories.

    1) There are signs everywhere stating “Please, do not open the merchandise”. It’s not your product yet, so from my understanding, is that you have no right in opening the product.

    2) You can open the product AFTER you purchase, test it out, and if you don’t like it BEFORE you leave the store, you CAN RETURN IT. There is a designated “station” for this, and signs are there explaining that you can do this.

    3) If you didn’t know this you were too clueless to ask, OR your store’s liquidator is really clueless.

  24. steveliv says:

    of course for the most part the prices are not really great, but i did manage to get a great deal on a Sony 7.1 Surround Receiver with Dolby True-HD and DTS-HD (STR-DG820). It was 298.99 at Circuit City, and at Best Buy it was 399.99 and at Amazon it was $389.99. So while everything isn’t such a great deal, it doesn’t mean there isn’t at least one to be had :)

  25. Lynne Black says:

    It is entirely possible that this was not a ‘scam’ by CC, but one perpetrated by a customer. It’s more common than you might realize that a customer has an old model and wants a new one, they buy the new one- simply put the one they want to return in the packaging and take it back to the store. It happens all the time, unless a box is clearly factory sealed you should always open it and check to see what you are really buying

  26. Anonymous says:

    I bought Microsoft Equipt on the last day that my local Circuit City store was open (The Liquidation sale). About a week later, while trying to install it, I found that the Equipt software and service was discontinued by Microsoft. Since Circuit City was the ONLY (exclusive) retail location that sold the Equipt service, I wonder why they allowed it to be sold when it was being discontinued. I’m out my cash, and Bill Gates is retired to his fortress of solitude, feasting on whatever he wants. It seems that the company he formerly controlled does whatever it wants, with no fear of ramifications. My e-mail is Does anyone know what can be done to stop this kind of thing from happening?