Best Buy Accused of Secret “No Price Match” Policy

bestbuy-pricematch-iIt looks like Office Depot may not be the only electronics store with shady sales practices. HD Guru has been investigating the refusal of Best Buy to live up to its pricematching policy and today he reports on a pending class action lawsuit which alleges that the big box retailer has a secret policy that rewards employees for rejecting valid pricematch requests. The lawsuit was originally filed by Thomas Jermyn and has now been granted class action status by the United States District Court: Southern District of New York. It claims that Best Buy  engaged and continues to engage in “common law false advertising,” “false and deceptive acts and practices” under New York General Business Law and Minnesota’s Consumer Fraud Act (Best Buy is based in Minnesota) by luring customers into its stores with the false promis of matching competitor’s prices. According to the plaintiff, Best Buy employees were trained in how to plausibly deny customer’s price-matching requests and given bonuses for doing so. An internal memo from employee Phil Britton of Best Buy’s Competitive Strategies Group is cited in court documents and reads:

“Price Matches

It looms on the wall, on a 9 foot sign.  Our Price Match policy.  There it is plain as day in English (Y en espanol para los de usted que puede leerio.)  However, just because it is our policy, do we abide by it?  Does it really help the customer? What is the first thing we do when a customer comes in to our humble box brandishing a competitor’s ad asking for a price match?  We attempt to build a case against the price match.  (Trust me, I’ve done it too).  Let’s walk through the “Refused Price Match Greatest Hits:” Not same model?  Not in stock at the competitor?  Do we have free widget with purchase?  Is it from a warehouse club (they have membership fees, you know)?  Limited Quantities?  That competitor is across town?  We’ve got financing!  Is it an internet price?  It’s below cost!…..” The price-matching allegations don’t surprise us at all. It has always struck us that these price-matching guarantees are so broadly worded that they give the store manager a lot of ways to say “no.”   How much leeway they have to say “no” under the law is a question for a court to decide, but we’ll just say that you should never count on price-matching to work at any store.

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. Roland Says:

    The price match policy issue simply boils down to customer’s freedom of choice.It is also the right of the store to deny such price matching requests if it does bring about a loss to the company. No company is required by law to match a competitor’s pricing if it doesn’t want to. In the same token, the customer has the right to buy at the price and specs stated in any company’s advertisement.

  2. Charlie Says:

    If you make the claim, you should abide by it. The idea that a retailer can say one thing to bring the customer into the store and then change it is nonsense.

  3. re charlie Says:

    A price match means matching an exact item. I can’t find a panasonic at sears and go to bestbuy and ask for bestbuy to price match it with a sony, um No! I don’t get it. It makes perfect sense to me (not a best buy or electronic store employee) to not price match if it’s not the same exact item.

  4. Phil Says:

    Just for fun, why don’t you read the ENTIRETY of that memo?

    Price Matches

    It looms on the wall, on a 9 foot tall sign. Our Price Match policy. There it is, plain as day, in English (Y en español para los de usted que puede leerlo.) However, just because it is our policy, do we abide by it? Does it really help the customer?

    What is the first thing we do when a customer comes in to our humble box brandishing a competitor’s ad asking for a price match? We attempt to build a case against the price match. (Trust me, I’ve done it too). Let’s walk through the “Refused Price Match Greatest Hits:”

    Not the same model? Not in stock at the competitor? Do we have a free widget with purchase? Is it from a warehouse club (they have those membership fees, you know)? Limited Quantities? That competitor is across town! We’ve got financing! Is it an internet price? It’s below cost! What about my NOP?

    Enough. Time to cut it out.

    For whatever reason, the customer is making an attempt to fulfill their needs at a Best Buy store.
    Do we know what the customer needs? Have we politely asked them? Does the customer need the same model? Are they looking only for that model, or are they looking for a capability, an experience?

    (Did you know that there is a whole heaping gob of information on competitor’s ads in ETK, under Ad Source and Promotions? Check it out…)

    Even if we take a bit of a margin haircut on a particular transaction, what is the lifetime value of that customer? If we make the customer jump through big flaming hoops to get a price matched, the chances that they come back are going to be pretty slim.

    The customer is giving us a chance instead of our competitor. We can make it a hassle. You can be put on infinite hold trying to call to see if someone has it in stock. (Trust me, I’ve done that one, too). But, if a customer with a competitor’s ad is in front of us, shouldn’t we try our best to take care of their needs instead of trying to find a reason why not?

    It’s a little different when you have the whole story!

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