Customer Makes 2-Hour Best Buy Trek For Vanishing Netbook

Valente’s plan was simple enough: Purchase a netbook from Best Buy during Cyber Monday sale. Order it from Best Buy’s web site for in-store pickup so he could be sure to have it in hand. Bring netbook home and hide it from his son until Christmas. Unfortunately, he tells Consumerist, the transaction didn’t work out according to his plan, he drove to another Best Buy two hours away that claimed to have a netbook on hold for him. A netbook that did not, as it turned out, exist.

I’ve been looking for an affordable netbook to give my son for Christmas, and, after a considerable amount of searching I decided on a Compaq mini netbook from Best Buy because their cyber Monday deals were too good to pass up. After checking availability, I found out that the particular netbook that I wanted was completely sold out in San Diego County, and that the nearest store that had it in stock was a two hour drive from where I live. I decided to purchase the netbook and chose the in store pick up option in order to guarantee that I’d get my computer. I made my purchase at 11:15 am, my card was charged, and I was sent a confirmation email shortly thereafter.

To be sure that I wasn’t about to make the two hour drive to Best Buy for nothing, I called the store at about 4:00 pm to be sure that my netbook was indeed reserved and waiting for me. I was told by a friendly sales rep that “yes, if your card was charged you bought the computer, it’s yours and its here waiting for you.” Reassured, I made the long trip through rush hour traffic thinking it would be worth the drive. When I arrived to pick up my netbook (with receipt and confirmation emails in hand) I was informed that my netbook was out of stock and there was nothing they could do for me. When I pointed out the fact that I had already purchased my computer and was only picking it up the sales rep told me that I was mistaken, I had not purchased a computer, I had only initiated an inventory search for the item. She then stated that Best Buy policy was to list an item as in stock when in reality it was not. Knowing full well that this was not the case I asked to speak to the store manager.

I proceeded to explain the situation to him (including my phone call to the store and the trip from San Diego). He went to the back to check inventory and I over heard him ask my sales rep “what about that one?” to which she responded, “we pulled that one and have it on hold for someone else.” The manager then told me to wait to the side and they spent over an hour in the back of the store. When he returned he informed me that although I had in fact purchased the computer in question, his store was out of stock and he would check inventory at other locations.

As I had already spent over an hour waiting, I agreed to the search and a sales rep returned about fifteen minutes later to tell me that the computer was completely sold out in California. She did, however, have an “open box” at a store in West Hollywood. She then explained that the computer had been purchased, used, and returned, but had had a full diagnostic panel run by the geek squad and was “good as new.” I seriously considered taking the opened box computer until she informed me that not only would I pay full price for the item, but I’d have to hand over an additional $69.99 for the diagnostic test on the used computer.

After another hour of discussing and reasoning I finally asked the manager if he could help us both out by making an executive decision and price match a comparable netbook. His reply was that he did not have the authority to do so because he was not the general manager. Understanding that he was limited in what he could do I asked to speak with the general manager and was told that he was out on a personal matter and was not to be disturbed.

Having spent over two hours in store and having been informed that they would do nothing further to help me I left the store empty handed. I was given a copy of the manager’s business card and was told he’d be available the following day.

I called the store the next morning and asked to speak with the general manager. The representative that answered took my name and asked me to hold. When he returned to the call he informed me that the general manager was not available. Assuming that he still dealing with his personal issue I asked when he would be available and was told that he was in fact at the store but would not be dealing with customers until at least Thursday because he was attending to matters of greater importance.

After contacting the customer care team I was informed that all they were obligated to do in this situation was refund my card. I could not believe his response. I have purchased many appliances and electronics well into the thousands with Best Buy in San Diego county. This experience has completely changed my views of Best Buy and I do not anticipate ever returning there for any future business. I will never recommend Best Buy to my friends or family.

Well, which is it? Does ordering something online from Best Buy and having your credit card charged start an inventory search, or is it a purchase?

It would be a good idea for Valente to file a report with California’s attorney general about that $70 fee for the Geek Squad-checked netbook, and perhaps also for this bait and switch situation.