It 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:
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.