Best Buy’s Bait and Switch Returns Policy Reveals Yet More Creepy Consumer Monitoring

The Wall Street Journal reports today on Best Buy’s aggressive anti-returns policy. The reason this looks, and is, ugly, is that it appears that the electronics retailer is violating consumer advertising fraud rules. We’ll get into more detail, but at a high level, Best Buy has hired a snoop service, Retail Equation, which apparently also serves other retailers.

Return fraud is a legitimate problem. Customers can and do try to return stolen items, or ones they’ve broken or even merely used. The Journal reports that 11% of items bought at retail are returned, and of that, 11% (no typo) are believed to be fraudulent returns.

However, some online vendors are encouraging customers to view returns as integral to the purchase, and go to great lengths to make returns easy. For instance, many stores that sell shoes will include a UPS return tag. You don’t need to call, you can just give the box to the UPS man if he comes regularly to your building or call to have him pick it up. You will be charged something modest for the return, like $6.95. But it is as close to frictionless as it can be made.

The problem with what Best Buy is doing is that it is advertising a not-very-restrictive returns policy, when in fact if you try returning goods “too often,” even if you are adhering perfectly to Best Buy’s advertised policy. Even though Best Buy is somewhat restrictive, it’s rules are supposedly clear: customers can return products in 15 days if they have a receipt.

But there is the stated policy versus the actual policy. :

Jake Zakhar recently returned three cellphone cases at a Best Buy store in Mission Viejo, Calif., and a salesperson told him he would be banned from making returns and exchanges for a year. The 41-year-old real-estate agent had bought cases in extra colors as gifts for his sons and assumed he could bring back the unused ones within the 15 days stated in the return policy as long as he had a receipt.

The salesperson told him to Retail Equation, based in Irvine, Calif., to request his “return activity report,” a history of his return transactions. The report showed only three items—the cellphone cases—totaling $87.43. He asked the firm to lift the ban, but it declined. When he appealed to Best Buy and tweeted his report, the company referred him back to Retail Equation.

“I’m being made to feel like I committed a crime,” said Mr. Zakhar. “When you say habitual returner, I’m thinking 27 videogames and 14 TVs.”

It is not clear that this policy is even remotely legal in light of Best Buy having a published policy that says nothing about limiting returns and that Best Buy is not claiming that Zakhar engaged in any kind of fraud. In fact, if he wanted to make an issue of it, he could pay on a credit card, return the merchandise, and then dispute the charge if Best Buy tried to refuse his attempt to return undamaged goods. He might need a buddy to film or otherwise provide proof of his effort to return goods.

While other merchants have been tightening their policies (the famously generous LL Bean standard of “lifetime satisfaction” has now been dialed down to a mere “return in a year or less), discriminating by using an unaccountable third party also raises questions of discrimination that ought to raise red flags. It is not hard to imagine that these programs also filter by ZIP code, which is a proxy for general income ranges and also have their ethnic mixes well tracked by companies that specialize in consumer market segmentation. And this is consistent with the fact that the Journal depicts Retail Equation as giving consumers a score. Retail Equation lists some of the that can get you dinged:

Returning an item after a certain period

Returning items that tend to get stolen at the retailer

Returning a high dollar amount

Returning an item just when a store closes

In other words, if you are a perfectly upstanding customer making a return that is kosher (goods in fine shape, valid original receipt), you still get dinged simply because someone who is engaging in fraud could engage in a behavior that has an element in common with what you did (return a costly item, show up near closing time).

And Retail Equation makes clear that having the misfortune to overlap with what they deem to be bad behavior, they deem you to be guilty:

The company said its system is designed to identify 1% of shoppers whose behaviors mimic return fraud or abuse.

This sounds like the statistical version of treating every black person in a hoodie as a thief. Seriously.

Per the Journal, Retail Equation’s other big name customers include Home Depot, J.C. Penney, Sephora and Victoria’s Secret, but they use the service mainly to report actual or strongly suspected fraud cases, not just “We don’t like them even if they are permitted” returns. For instance, the story gives a second example, of a customer who was hassled for returning a mere digital scale and router extender, even though he had proper receipts. Best Buy made all sorts of sanctimonious noises about this being about misconduct, and they’d never never be doing this just to fatten their wallets by discouraging or denying returns, but their actions say otherwise.

Many Journal readers piped up in comments to argue that Best Buy was engaging in consumer fraud. For instance:

Patrick Moran

There are at least two clear aspects to this heretofore undisclosed and material omission about the stores policy on returns. First, it would appear to be a deceptive trade practice. Second, since the third party service keeps return risk information and presumably provides information about customer A’s activity related to return risk, it very possibly could constitute a boycott and thus raises antitrust issues. A possible third aspect realates to privacy acts and ‘credit’ reporting opening up thise state and federal issues as well as the possibility of libel actions in some states. Although the courts have clamped down on class action lawsuits this may be fertile ground for plaintiff lawyers as well.

John Doggett

What Best Buy is doing violates every consumer protection law I know about. And I’ve been a lawyer since 1972.

What they are doing is a version of the old “Bait and Switch” ruse. They lie to you about their return policy to get you to buy things when you are not sure you need them. But then, when you try to return them in accordance with their return policy, they tell you that you will be “banned” for a year or worse.

That is illegal….

The problem I have with Best Buy’s policy is that they create the “illusion” of transparency when they are anything but transparent. What they need to do is let every customer know that they view them as a potential criminal and are tracking their every return. If they are clear and upfront about their policy, what they are doing would be perfectly legal. But to blatantly lie about their return policy is illegal, IMHO.

Ohan Karagozian

Some cooky creep in Cucamonga, California casting bones and figuring out if you are a fraudster based on some algorithm he pulled out of his left nostril doesn’t override the laws of the State in which the retailers are operating. Every single State requires retailers to post their return policy and many retailers also print their return policy on the receipt they provide a customer at time of purchase. Once the purchase is made, by law, the policy is valid as written/stated. This after-the-fact – ooooops, I’ve changed my mind if I like you anymore – tactics by retailers are ILLEGAL. A deal is a deal and if the retailer says that he takes back merchandise and then reneges on the contract then you can file a complaint or you can sue.

Learn to love what Lambert calls “code as law”. It’s not going away any time soon.

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51 comments

  1. divadab

    So don’t shop at Best Buy. There are plenty of other retailers who want to sell you stuff.

    I haven’t been inside a Best Buy in over ten years. The store culture bugs me, and this story just confirms my impression. Any store that treats me like a criminal will never sell a nickel’s worth of their crap to me ever again.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The problem is other stores are using the same service. They say they are using it only for case that look closer to fraud. Retail Equation claims it does not share customer info between merchants. Do you believe that? And even if so, how long do you think this will last?

      1. divadab

        Hmmmm. My argument only makes sense in a competitive market. Where there is an effective monopoly*, there is no choice for the insulted customer but to not buy the trinkets and geegaws at all. But there is really nothing I “need” anywhere at Best Buy – it’s all trinkets and geegaws.

        Which is really where I’m going with this: Don’t buy their shit! If you accept that your role is as a “consumer”, you have relinquished your productive humanity in favor of useless eater-hood.

        *If this service shares customer info between retailers, and is universally used, it is a kind of virtual monopoly. But it’s a long way to go from here to there, no? How many customers can these retailers afford to insult and lose?

        1. ambrit

          The problem here is that retail management has shifted to ‘just in time’ everything. They do not care if you or I do not come back next month to shop. This months’ or quarters’ numbers are the only thing that matters. Long term customer relationships be D—-d. As long as the executive bonuses continue to roll in, insulting and losing customers if just a part of doing business. When the bonuses stop, well, the ‘smart’ executives will have already bought their bolt holes in the Ozarks.

          1. divadab

            Not a winning strategy. If you are right, Best Buy will go the way of Monkey Wards and Newberry’s. And create opportunity for the competition.

    2. False Solace

      Don’t shop there? Where I live BestBuy is pretty much the only electronics retailer. Most of its competitors are gone. Pretty much the only alternative is online, where you’re buying goods sight unseen and risk ending up with counterfeit or open box/damaged items.

      I don’t think your personal dislike of BestBuy is all that relevant here. Many other stores now have similar bait and switch returns policies, so thinking you’re immune is fallacious. It’s entirely reasonable to expect a store to obey the agreement they state at time of purchase. Telling people to just get over it is a recipe for learned helplessness and consumer abuse.

      That said, I do think a consumer boycott is a great first step. Once people know they probably can’t return an item they have major motivation not to make a purchase at Best Buy or any other retailer that uses this service.

    3. vivo

      This is tantamount to saying: ‘ignore that they are violating your rights. There are other stores that will respect your rights’. It’s not really how that works.

      1. patrick

        If you pay in cash, maintain the receipt and comply with the printed policy, to the system, the transaction will appear “anonymous”, there is no data from the transaction that can allow it to be “tied” to an individual and can’t be used to count returns tagged against a customer ID.

        1. circe801

          many, if not most retailers require a signature and photo ID to return items purchased with cash. just sayin’…

    1. Clive

      Loathed though I am to say it, because it isn’t right and not something we should encourage, but being a cash payer and either not giving a name or giving a made up name and address will likely immediately get you put to the top tier of the naughty list. And in the same “code as law” vein, trapping people who are triggering the tripwires is the modus operandi of how these kinds of systems exercise their power.

      So not only are you not solving the problem, you’re stepping into the jaws of it. You can absolutely count on it being a fact that the store will have CCTV. It’s not then a big leap to add in facial recognition to your behaviour of being a cash payer who gives a bogus ID or no ID at all. The store has broad latitude to ban you and pass your face pattern to other participants in their “anti fraud” scheme. Yes, you could invoke your constitutional protections I suppose, but I can’t help adding “good luck with all that” at the prospect of that getting you very far.

      1. GarlicBro

        Regarding the proposition that retailers like Best Buy are using facial recognition technology on their surveillance s to generate customer IDs which are paired with the tracked behavior/transactions of even customers who do not identify themselves (pay with cash); And those profiles are then used for this sort of “anti-fraud” scheme:

        I could imagine you are right about this, and it is easier to imagine that this is something we get to look forward to. But I doubt they are on this level. I don’t doubt that it is possible given technology that already exists; I expect such technology and similar methods are already in use in some settings like casinos and perhaps also Amazon’s fancy new fully automated supermarkets. I just doubt that this makes sense for common retailers like Best Buy.

        For it to be even superficially economical it would have to be saving the retailers more money on denied returns than it would be costing them to pay for the facial scans on all those shoppers many cameras that can take photos of sufficient quality images for the scans, and likely some other expenses that don’t spring to mind. Since returns are prevalent and costly, perhaps but it really depends on how much they would be paying for all those facial scans and such.

        And if you are right about this, and right that merely buying with cash and no name provided, and later returning the item is an immediate trigger for their “fraud detection” systems to deny the refund and perhaps even ban you from the store, this obviously lends itself to many false-positives and is going to cost them a lot of future business. Even without banning customers you are alienating them and pushing them away to other competitors, and it would surely generate bad publicity as well when people take to social media and word of mouth to complain about the mistreatment by Best Buy when they were falsely flagged for fraud and denied a valid return that fits within the stated policy. (However, I am aware that this customer based perspective is long term thinking which may not necessarily apply, specifically in cases where corporate executives are more concerned with their own quarterly or annual bonuses over the long term success of the company).

        Wouldn’t they be better served by merely setting their return policy be such that returns are only permitted on purchases made via credit/debit card or on cash purchases when a valid identification was provided at purchase?
        (I don’t know what Best Buy’s actual return policy looks like beyond what is stated in the OP.)

    2. fajensen

      Alway Use a credit card. If the business give you any lip later dispute the charges.

      Once a business racks up enough CC-disputes, they lose their access to accept credit cards payments and get blackballed by the large CC-providers. That’s another algorithm.

    3. nowhere

      1. Paying cash still generates a receipt, which you need to make a return within the policy, which they can still blatantly disregard per the post. Problem not solved.
      2. Indeed. Still doesn’t mean this practice is any less legal or lessen the likelihood that allowing this practice (leaving it unchallenged in court) will encourage other companies to follow suit.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        You have vastly better rights to return using a credit card. Period. You can get the credit card co to credit your account if you dispute the charge for the merchant failing to honor a permitted return.

    4. Synoia

      Don’t buy what you do not need.

      Understand the difference between want and need.

      Returns used to be minimal.

      1. False Solace

        What about “don’t advertise a returns policy you won’t actually follow”? I’d prefer to see that advice followed instead of browbeating people who merely relied on what the retailer told them.

    5. Jean

      Mike, We did that. Took back the Epson Workforce printer we bought there because every time you replaced one ink cartridge it would freeze up and demand you replace the others that still had plenty of ink. Reminds me of the dirty joke about the camel in the middle of the desert…

      Although we paid cash for the trash printer, they would not refund our cash, they only provide a plastic card with the amount we paid on it that only works at Best Buy.
      Used it to buy a better printer.
      Remember, they price match there so if you have a printed page showing a lower price from say Amazon, they will match it.

      After all this, we read the article about how Best Buy repair snoops routinely search your computer for anything “illegal” and then call the cops to get a reward.
      http://cfdtrade.info/2017/01/gauis-publius-best-buy-national-repair-techs-routinely-search-customer-devices-act-paid-informers-fbi.html

      BBB is not the initials of the Better Business Bureau, it’s “Boycott Best Buy.”

      Remember what George Bush Junior said:
      “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists…”

      Rephrased “You are either a decent local honorable business or you are our enemy–as American citizens we have the right and obligation to screw, cheat and use you in any way we see fit.”

    6. jrs

      be very very careful about what you buy is probably the best advice, still we all make purchasing mistakes sometimes.

    7. False Solace

      Um, this doesn’t work. If you don’t present a credit card they require an ID such as driver’s license. WalMart limits you to three returns a year by this method. For all I know BestBuy and other retailers do too.

    8. Louis

      This likely won’t work because a lot of places require you to present a valid ID to do a return, especially a no-receipt return, and your returns are affixed to your ID number, thus they can track how many returns you made.

  2. pebird

    I chalk this up to Artificial Stupidity Systems (the acroynym speaks for itself), that multiply idiocy by deliberately creating false positives to justify “ROI”, compounded by outsourcing customer complaints to a party no one has heard of.

    Best Buy just rebranded themselves as a oxymoron.

    1. Carolinian

      Don’t forget recent stories about the Geek Squad working for the FBI. In the past Best Buy has also been involved in controversy regarding its inspect on exit policy. If I recall these correctly the gist is that the stores have the right to ask to inspect your bags on exit but not to demand unless a store employee has actually witnessed shoplifting. And even then they may have to call the cops. Legally once you purchase something it belongs to you and searches require a warrant. A shopper with legal knowledge refused to comply and won her case after the store blocked her from leaving.

      1. nowhere

        When I was a yellow shirt, we always asked permission to check a receipt, and our primary motivation was actually to catch errors in large ticket purchases that the hapless sales clerks botched.

        1. Carolinian

          As I said this was awhile back but in that case they were demanding, not asking permission and if memory serves the woman sued for false imprisonment and won. In short another instance of Best Buy taking a generous view of their corporate prerogatives.

          Walmart used to always have checkers, then didn’t, now have them again but they aren’t very zealous. They are mostly there to sticker items that are being returned.

          And without a doubt return abuse is a problem. I’ve been at Walmart and seen someone return a vacuum that was obviously well used–covered in dirt and no box–and still get a refund no questions asked. On the other hand the money back guarantee undoubtedly encourages impulse buying and stores see it as a cost of doing business.

      2. albert

        When the FBI offers payment for finding lawbreakers, techs are going to find them. What protection does a customer have if a geek plants evidence? I see expensive lawyers and forensic experts.
        . .. . .. — ….

    1. Tim d

      My friends who own local stores have to compete with Amazon and pay local sales tax which amazon does not. Thus amounts to a 5% cost disadvantage and means our community loses revenue with every Amazon sale.

      1. HotFlash

        Yes, I consider higher prices to ‘buy local’ a form of tax, and I *gladly* pay it to support my neighbours in their jobs and businesses. It’s the kind of world I want. Not many areas where I can have such a direct effect with my paltry dollars.

        1. Jean

          HotFlash, Stretch your paltry dollars by not paying with a credit card which will cost your “local friends” 2 to 6% that the CC company keeps for itself.
          Friends use cash with friends.

          1. JBird

            It is good to advocate paying cash and shopping local; we’re all assuming that there are small businesses nearby to shop at. In many areas, it’s the local Borg Store or nothing.

            In order to shop local, we have to reinvent the wheel, and create local stores again. How does one recreate an entire shopping ecosystem like that?

    2. PKMKII

      We had bought a TV through Best Buy online. First warning sign, TV gets left on our doorstep, delivered in the display box that clearly said “Not for shipping purposes.” Box looks a bit dinged. Open it up, pretty clear that the packaging material is not in “shipped from factory” state. Some scratches on the back of the TV. Plug it in, doesn’t work. Big solid color bar on one side, liquid crystals most likely damaged. So we take the thing, via car service, to the nearest physical location. Took 2 hours for them to inspect it and accept for return. They ask if we want a refund or exchange, and we’re like, we’ll gladly do an exchange, if it can be shipped to the store and we pick it up from the store (item wasn’t in stock at the store). Nope, says they’ll only do an exchange if it gets shipped to us.

      Took the refund, went to a small, local electronics chain, paid slightly more than the Best Buy price for the same model and brought it home the same day. The extra cost was worth the lesser hassle.

      1. Westcoastdeplorable

        I tried to buy a 42″ projection TV from Best Buy about 15 years ago. Salesperson said “I won’t sell you a TV unless you buy the extended warranty”. I said okay and that was the last time I visited a Best Buy. Ordered the TV online, paid about $100 less (including shipping), and the TV is still working like a champ; no “extended warranty”.

  3. Norb

    Retail fraud is a problem that needs to be addressed, but I take this situation as another case of projection. As more businesses turn to the model of milking every last dime out of their customers, in any way possible, fraud becomes the norm not the exception. Before long, honesty is driven out of the marketplace, and both owners and customers spend more time trying to game whatever system is put in place than concentrating on delivering quality products and services. This seems to represent the evolution of the retail delivery landscape.

    Shopping malls and big box stores replaced myriad small businesses on the promise of delivering items at lower cost and convenience. One stop shopping and benefit of scale. Now, the internet provides consumers the opportunity to comparative shop in their own home, without the need to browse large warehouses of goods. And in most locations, have the items delivered to the home, also at low cost.

    As Amazon takes more market share from brick and mortar retailers due to lower consumer costs and ease of delivery, retail landscape will change dramatically- and maybe that won’t be a bad thing. In the modern world, it seems consumers need a space to see and test products. Then, order the product and have it delivered to your residence. Just as retail booksellers were devastated by lower cost online sales, other retailers are facing the same pressures. A openly stated, no return policy would kill a brick and mortar retailer. But if consumers have no loyalty to the retailer, and in many respects why should they, there is no way to prevent the stores ultimate demise other than lowering costs, and that mostly means controlling workers wages- as in lowering them.

    Another model is Costco. The bundled services model. They sell food, liquor, essential appliances, eyeglasses, prescription drugs, and personal hygiene products. If done successfully, and satisfies customer needs, this model will cut into other myriad businesses. All the major retailers must evolve into this model in order to survive and they are. Customers are loyal to bundles of services. Best Buy was an electronics store that tried to diversify into home appliances. They will probably go the way of Blockbuster.

    In the larger sense this is business evolution. How to deliver goods and services. To be successful in the long term, there needs to be trust, loyalty, and honesty. Baring that, you just have businesses exploiting short term disruption, but those opportunities are drying up. Small businesses gave way to the big box stores and national chains. Main street to the shopping mall. Now the shopping mall is giving away to Amazon.

    This disruption opens up the opportunity to form a new retail space centered on the power of scale, but retaining the benefit of small businesses. Namely mainstream. Trust and loyalty will be the next deciding factor on what form that structure will take. Bundled services with scattered collections of highly specialized craft businesses seem like a good model.

    1. Harrold

      I think Amazon has a limited life span.

      Why buy thru a middle man in the US when all the products come from China?

      Will Amazon takes a cue from automobile dealerships and gets states to pass laws outlawing purchases directly from manufactures?

  4. Tim D

    I got creeped out by Best Buy and hadn’t been in one for years until I needed to replace my 15 year old TV last fall. I’ve gotta say that they do seem to have improved quite a bit with prices that match Amazon in addition to a large selection of products you can see before you buy.
    I’ve bought a few things since including a clothes dryer and an SD card for a phone. I didn’t thunk the dryer was drying completely and I called the store. They apologized and delivered a new dryer the next day no questions asked. The SD card as the wrong size and they gave me a refund on that even though I had thrown away the packaging.
    I understand this is anecdotal and others may have different experiences, but it did seem to me that overall the company was trying to be much more consumer friendly and that it might have been an indication that competition from Amazon might be forcing other retailers to compete by actually trying to provide both better services and prices.

  5. Kevin

    Some idiot Best Buy exec was tasked with decreasing return fraud. So he got swindled (a fat bonus) into signing a contract with Retail Equation. “We’ll offload our responsibility for handling serial returners! and decrease return fraud!”

    These idiots at Retail Equation have some half-baked algo that doesn’t work but does collect a nice data stream of caught and banned retail fraudsters. Retail Equation is happy cause they’re getting paid and have another huge retailer on the books, Best Buy execs are happy because “this data sure looks impressive!” And both are happy because they can just turf upset customers who were incorrectly identified back and forth to each other endlessly. No one is responsible! Yay.

    1. BD

      Kevin: I think you have the spirit spot on. One gets the feeling Best Buy let a few people go and used the savings to bring in the firm that other competing brands are using.
      Best Buy built a big office park in Mpls. just as they started losing market share to e-tailers. They are carrying debt, not because they were bought by some venture capital and made to eat the debt used to buy them, but because they got caught with unproductive debt coupled with the pain of having over-invested into diminishing market share.
      I grew up a couple blocks from the Best Buy that blew down in a tornado. The tornado sale and insurance money-the old-fashioned venture capital..

  6. PKMKII

    It is not clear that this policy is even remotely legal in light of Best Buy having a published policy that says nothing about limiting returns

    It is illegal in NYC. Per the :

    Stores can set their own refund policy, but they must post one near the register where you can easily read it. The posted sign must explain all conditions or limitations on getting a refund or exchange, such as whether the store charges restocking fees, requires a receipt, has time limits on returns, or gives refunds in cash, credit, or store credit only.

    Emphasis mine. I suspect that as is so often the case, they’re only too aware of this and are factoring in the fines they’d get from the various consumer agencies in response to complaints as a cost of doing business, rather than as a real threat. Wet noodles for the corporations, security state for the rest of us.

  7. Jeff N

    I wonder how much theft (made worse by reducing staff, and/or underpaying staff so they don’t confront thieves) has increased, and rather than increasing staff or paying managers better, they go for the cheep outsourced algorithm…

    1. Louis

      I wonder how much theft (made worse by reducing staff, and/or underpaying staff so they don’t confront thieves) has increased, and rather than increasing staff or paying managers better, they go for the cheep outsourced algorithm…

      Understaffing is real and it’s shameful what a lot of people at the store level are paid. Many managers, especially those who aren’t store managers, are not doing that much better than the employees they supervise–they’re paid a couple of dollars an hour more but they’re still struggling to make ends meet.

      Most major companies specifically train their employees not to confront suspected shoplifters or even accuse anyone of shoplifting. The reason is that wrongfully accusing someone of shoplifting is going to result in a lost customer and a PR (and possibly even) legal nightmare for the company involved.

      Likewise, even if an employee’s suspicions are correct, you don’t know how the shoplifter is going to react–some shoplifters carry weapons on them and won’t hesitate to use them to facilitate an escape. Most major retailers have to come to the conclusion that the costs–be it bad PR, the costs of a lawsuit,medical or workman’s comp costs, or other negative impacts–of having an employee get hurt or killed attempting to confront a shoplifter is far greater than the value of inventory. In other words, it’s simply not worth it. Attempting to apprehend shoplifters is usually left to to law enforcement or perhaps an LP (loss prevention) person who really knows what they are doing.

  8. Big River Bandido

    For instance, many stores that sell shoes will include a UPS return tag. You don’t need to call, you can just give the box to the UPS man if he comes regularly to your building or call to have him pick it up. You will be charged something modest for the return, like $6.95. But it is as close to frictionless as it can be made.

    My own recent experience actually undermines this statement. I purchased two pairs of shoes from Ken Cole.com in early January. The shoes arrived quickly, but their sizes run a bit on the small side and I needed to return them for shoes a half-size larger. So, I repacked them in the box, slapped the UPS label on it and dropped it off at a local pickup point the next day. Delivery to the warehouse was a quick 2 days; following the “How to Exchange” directions on my original invoice, I called Ken Cole’s 800 number.

    Now the problems started. Contrary to this notion of “exchange”, I was told that my purchase credit would not allow me to simply order replacement pairs in the correct size. I had to place a new order. This was annoying, since the shoes are expensive and I didn’t have all that cash lying around, but I was willing to wait until the charge was reversed on my credit card and then fill a new order. How long would the reversal of the charge take? I asked. I was told “7 to 10 business days”.

    Ten *calendar days* later, there was still no refund on my credit card, so I called again. “That charge is still being processed, it should take no longer than 7 to 10 business days”. Another 10 *calendar days* later, I called again and was told “that credit is being authorized manually” and to give it “another 2-3 days”. Four more *calendar days* later and still no reversal, so I called again, asked to speak to a supervisor, and demanded an immediate refund; the “supervisor” claimed she had obtained approval and that the refund should post “today or tomorrow”.

    Needless to say, that didn’t happen. Two days later I called my credit card company and disputed the charge. I had my money back within 48 hours.

  9. travis bickle

    Seems to me BB may have a monopoly on Brick & Mortar consumer electronics, at least outside major metro markets. At this point they feel the need to exploit their position to offset the pricing advantage of Amazon etal. It’s short sighted and lazy, but understandable.

    In fact, this story is of a tactic which is cleary part of a conscious strategy. I say this because of a Xmas purchase made with a credit card, where they insisted on giving me a gift card in return, which taken with the OP story shows a pattern of behaviour.

    They made me choose between keeping something I didn’t want and disputing the transaction through amex or accepting their gift card. Obviously this scenario had all been gamed out. At least to a point. I was leaving the country shortly and couldnt afford the aggravation of pursuing things.

    So, I took their card and bought an iTunes gift card down to the penny. I will never buy from them again, but will shop there before ordering online. The value they added used to make me a customer: no longer.

  10. Juan Don Juan

    Well, its been at least 10 years since I last set foot in a Best Buy. I had purchased an antivirus disc but had inadvertently purchased a 32 bit rather than 64. The package was unopened, in its original shrink wrap, and in the same condition as the others on display. Return Policy: No, NO, and NO!. At which point I took the item home, called Card company to dispute the charge and was refunded. 6 months or so later I actually got a card from BB apologizing for any inconvenience. Too little, too late. A former supervisor said something to me 30 years ago, “50 ‘Nice Jobs’ don’t weigh nearly as much as one ‘Oh S**t” Wisdom for the ages right there.

  11. cripes

    Returns are up because crap Chinese made planned obsolescent junk is everywhere and quality control is non-existent. Christmas is return season, not just because style. Buying multiple times to get one working item is unavoidable, even brands that once were reliable are now crapified. it’s about volume.

    1. JBird

      So they are selling us Chinese (and in fairness other countries’ junk) made crap that we cannot return?

      There are still some American clothing companies. They are more expensive but sound better so maybe I will try that next.

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