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Recession Pressures: National Retailers Not Honoring Sale or Price Match Policies. What You Can Do To Beat Them. HD GURU Investigative Report

March 16th, 2009 · 65 Comments · DLP, DVR, LCD Flat Panel, Plasma

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These are tough economic times.  Facing lower sales volume and declining revenue, some “big box” electronics retailers are apparently fighting back by not honoring their own pricing policies.

After reading a recent report by laptopmag.com that cited Office Depot stores for ordering its sales clerks to tell customers that “sale” laptop computers were out of stock—unless the customers first agree to purchase software as well as extra cost, extended warranties and in-store set-ups (see link here)—the HD Guru went undercover to investigate sales and price matching policy performance at local Best Buy outlets.

The HD Guru visited three Best Buy stores in the New York market area and asked to purchase a Panasonic HDTV priced in a competing regional multi-store electronics retailer’s advertisement at more than $700 less than Best Buy’s price.

When asked to match the price, salesmen at all three stores said “no,” giving the same excuse: “The advertised Panasonic was on sale for three days and Best Buy’s price match policy exempts limited time sales”.  However, there is no “limited time exemption” in Best Buy’s price match policy. Store personnel simply made up a phony excuse, or were instructed to do so by higher-ups.

Denying a customer a price match price is nothing new. It’s been going on for decades. It even has a name: “murfing”— a code word often used by managers to instruct sales people to disregard the price match policy so the customer either leaves the store or pays the tagged price!  The origin of the word (as legend goes) began with NY City Canal Street consumer electronic stores.

Though the HD Guru didn’t hear the word spoken at any of the Best Buys visited, he was definitely “murfed”. Determined not to be “murfed” at the last Best Buy store after hearing the same denial, the HD Guru claimed that there is no limited time sale exemption in Best Buy’s price match policy and asked for proof.  In accordance with NY State law, Best Buy posts its sales policies both at the customer service area and at the Best Buy website (Link).

The salesman (we’ll refer to him as Chuck) read the Best Buy’s website store policy page and confirmed a limited quantity policy did not exist.  At this point, Chuck and I walked over to the manager to get some guidance.  Shortly thereafter, the manager turned around and requested me to leave so he could speak privately to Chuck.

I moseyed over to the other end of the department figuring Chuck was telling his boss to match the price because I might be trouble, which would have been a very perceptive observation! Chuck returned a couple of minutes later and said the manager had decided he would make an exception to the (non-existent) store policy and match the price.

Asking Chuck to write up the sale and include the Best Buy free delivery as advertised (for any HDTV $999 and up, this HDTV was over $1000),  Chuck replied, “delivery and hook-up would cost $100 additional,” claiming the chain’s price match policy exempts free delivery.  Once again, Chuck falsely cited a non-existent policy!  Murfed again, I made my exit. Later, a call to Best Buy’s corporate customer service representative confirmed free delivery should have been provided in accordance with Best Buy’s policy.

Why is Best Buy doing this?  According to a Best Buy source, its salesmen have been instructed by management to not honor its price match policies in order to increase the store’s profit margin.  Salesmen, (according to the source) are encouraged to provide  bogus policies including:

The sale is for a limited time, i.e. a one-day sale, a five-day sale etc.

The competing store is a single outlet, as opposed to a multi-store chain like Best Buy.

The competing store does not have in-store stock for X  (i.e. TVs over 32”) and that they must be delivered from the warehouse so therefore the price match policy won’t be honored.

Best Buy’s media relations dept. has not responded to a request for comment.

How do you avoid getting “murfed”?  The HD Guru believes if you want to do business with a company that doesn’t want to honor its price match policies, consider these ‘do’s” and “don’t’s”, however if you use these “techniques” you will be stooping to the level of the dishonorable retailers:

Don’t have a competitor’s ad in your hand when entering the store.  Produce it after you establish the store has the item in stock.

Don’t say you have been shopping around and know exactly what you want to purchase (the sales person may get suspicious of a price match and simply tell you the TV is out of stock).  Do give the salesman a general idea of what type of HDTV you desire ( i.e. 46” LCD) and let salesperson suggest the HDTV you want to price match.

Don’t make a scene if you get murfed.  It won’t accomplish anything.  Simply leave and, if you desire, call the store’s corporate customer relations department.  It may contact the store and tell it to honor the price match policy (because you complained).

Do ask the salesman if they offer extended warranties (even if you don’t want one) and inquire as to how many years coverage you can buy, because you want the longest protection you can buy (the salesman’s belief that you will be purchasing an extended warranty will motivate his manager to match the price.)  You may purchase the warranty and cancel it at the checkout or the next day without penalty.

Indicate you will need cables and accessories and tell the salesman you want the best—more motivation for the salesman to get his manager to honor the price match.

Do bring your business to a reputable store that honors its policies.  They are out there.

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65 Comments so far ↓

  • John F Hendry

    Ha! Try owning property controlled by an HOA run by one of Boeing’s senior scientists. If you want to see coruption hang out at the local Court house and pay attention to the attorneys.

    You might also ask yourself where all the defective TVs returned to Bestbuy and other outlets end up and why so many bad TVs showing up at the end of the sales year. The 4 I returned, one with major issues in 3D shuting down was resold. From what I’ve read it seems the manufactures don’t want them coming back to them.

    TVs are getting a little like used cars where the salesmen will say what the company orders them to say. We watch hero movies….but when it comes to reality people are weak. Without law to control people all you have is a free-4-all that used to be hidden from view. Now its in 3D for real. It’s not the salesman’s fault, it’s the system and that means it’s all our fault for letting it happen.

  • ThePROFESS10NAL

    I just want to point out that BB can sell at or below cost and still make money. What people fail to realize is that BB gets a volume rebate from the manufacturers they carry to sell their product in a BB store. This is quite common in all volume retail. Sell 45 billion (2008) in and get a modest 3 percent (likely more around 5) back at the end of the year from the manufacturer, thats 135 million just for offering it. So BB has discretion of how much they want to sell the product for. They try to sell it for as much as possible and at the end of the year they’ll get a kick back from the manufacturer for selling a certain volume. So don’t EVER think that cost is “true” cost and believe that if you make BB honor their price match below cost, that you’ll actually hurt them. BB has an awesome market share and if a manufacturer wants BB to sell their product, BB demands they get a rebate at the end of the fiscal year. Bottom line. So I don’t feel sorry for them. They do the same sh!t to the manufacturers! God forbid they get a taste of their own medicine!

  • BB loses another customer

    I went to BB to purchase a 360 elite for $299.99. I had an ad from Microcenter which offered a $50 gift card on top of a 360 elite purchase. It seemed like a straightforward price match.

    When I went to price match the customer service for a price match, they first lied to me about not being allowed to price match gift cards. I had a copy of their polices which states they will do so.

    After waiting around for 20 minutes they notified me that they could not meet the price match as the price match cost would cause them to lose money.

    After some forward and back negotiating they offered me a $285 price cut. I found that unacceptable and decided not to pursue it any further.

  • tony stark

    GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG
    RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
    EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
    EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
    DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD
    YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY
    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    and you’re cheap. Real nice way to get a business to want your business.

  • Is This Guy Serious

    HD GURU, you can’t be serious you call yourself knowledgeable??? you probably sit at home getting paid by walmart and office depot and others to bad mouth competitors. Why do you get a real job instead of acting like a know it all. I shop at best buy all the time and I always get price matches. Try doing actual research instead of making up fairy tales.

  • ?

    I have succesfully priced match items at stores and have unsuccessfully tried to price match items at stores. I take it with a grain of salt if the retailer won’t price match I goto the store that has the ad in the first place.

    Just like a retailer tries to make as much $$$ as they can a consumer has the right to save as much $$$ as we can.

    I’m Canadian so I have the Bestbuy and Futureshop sceneros. Same company as BB owns FS. Anyways I wanted a game that was listed in FS as 39.99 but at BB it was 59.99. All I did was bring the game upto the cashier and without proof told her FS price to my amazement I got the price match without any confirmation and walked out with the game even cheaper than FS as BB pm’d 110%.

    There is a success story.

    Also you can price match online prices in some instances but the price match will include any shipping charges so say an item is

    99.99 online w/ 7.99 shipping

    now say said item in store is

    102.99

    the price match will not go through for 99.99 because w/ shipping the total is 106.99 and the instore price is 102.99 already beating the price.

    Say insted of the instore price being 102.99 its 119.99 then the price match for 106.99 would be met.

    You win some you lose some but arguing about a PM only wastes everyones time

  • Dave

    Best Buy serves a useful purpose… It allows us to see an HDTV in person before we buy it somewhere else at a cheaper price!

  • Eric

    First off, I do work for Best Buy so anyone can feel free to disregard my point of view on their belief that I’m out to screw people.

    In response to service plans being a huge rip… I work in the Geek Squad and have for years. There is a very different experience customers have with and without the extended plans. My store sells maybe 10-15 notebooks a day. We get about 5-7 broken notebooks a day that are no longer covered under the manufacturers warranty, about half of which do have a plan. Of course, some of them need multiple repairs over their life and most people never have an issue. So when you look at the general case, yes, we do make money on the service plans. However that doesn’t mean it’s still not a value to the customer. That would be the same thing as saying “hey, don’t get duped into buying car insurance or homeowner’s insurance. Those companies exist solely to make money!” Well, no crap. All companies exist to make money. That doesn’t mean they purposefully provide a bad experience. Insurance is about making a small amount of money and providing peace of mind and affordable payments for the ‘what it’.

    So, sure, don’t spend the extra money on the service plan for your tv. That’s your choice. In the event that you get a power surge or the circuit board fails, or whatever else may happen just remember you chose to force yourself to buy a new tv. Sure, it won’t happen every time. It won’t even happen most of the time. That’s why the plan isn’t the same cost as the tv. Also, yes there is some pressure put on sales people to OFFER service plans and services. However, they are not on commission and their job and hours are not dependent on selling those (which is why Best Buy got where it did). We are going to coach the employees on selling them though because that is one of the few places where we can marginally increase profits (or get out from a loss on ad-item notebooks). Also despite what all of these websites say, many of those options ARE good for many of our customers.

    That’s what irks me most about these dredge articles and the people who post on them is that it’s a bunch of tech geeks out to demonize the industry. Well, like it or not you aren’t our most numerous or our best customers. Of course we will take care of you the best we can, but the customers we get most often are the same customers who find value in our services. That’s the customers we cater too, those that expect extra service. Just remember, if you don’t find value in something it doesn’t mean that it’s worthless.

    Last note about the actual pricing of inventory. If you spend a dollar in a retail establishment, that place has to turn around and buy that item, pay the credit card fee, pay the cashier, pay the sales person who helped you find your item, pay the inventory person who stocked and priced it, pay the truck driver who delivered it, pay for the truck itself, pay for the distribution center, pay rent, utilities, supplies, cleaning crew, property tax, etc. In the end a retail store is doing well if they have two pennies to rub together. Three is doing extremely well. Then of course, we turn around and pay tax. Having ‘$300′ profit on a TV, is most certainly NOT $300 all said and done.

    Thanks,
    -Eric

  • Gary

    I was “murfed” by BB recently when I attempted to get them to match an offer from Sears on a 40″ 650 series Samsung TV. I ended up going to Ultimate Electronics a few weeks later and bought a 46″ Z-series after they matched BB’s price on the set. BB may shirk their responsibility to honor their promises, but there are others that stand behind what they say, and those companies get my business…

  • Matt

    First off in regards to the Price Match Policy every electronics retailer negotiates pricing on a weekly basis with the manufactuers to produce the “best value” pricing for the customers. The problem is the retailer gets a vendor kickback at the end of the month or year based on these sale prices. For Best Buy to price match a $700 discount taken on a TV is not in the best interest of the company simply because I’m sure that takes the price down below cost, therefore, the company looses assets because they don’t get the kickback in the end. Look at it this way, cut out your annoying adverts on the site and pay for the hosting and all costs associated, you’d be losing your tail because it’s not sensible. You’re encouraging people to lower their values because of a poor experience you had at a few bestbuy stores in New York of all places.

  • Chance Stevens

    All I have to say… is wow.

    Oddly enough, I think that the demise of Circuit City has put Best Buy is a position where it’s only competing with itself and it doesn’t really know how to do that very well.

    I’ve bought 4 HDTVs from Best Buy in the last 3 months (I’m a TV Geek) and the service was good. Then again, I only came in to buy what I needed and get out.

    The last time I went in was over the weekend to pickup a 42V4100 for $799. The sales guy told me at first that it “wasn’t in stock.” What he didn’t realize is that I had already spoken to someone who told me to ask else first who told me that they were. I think these employees just don’t care. They don’t care enough to give good service, they don’t care enough to follow the rules, they don’t care to treat people correctly. Of course, I’m not talking about all of them, but with such a high turnover rate — I’m speak about a lot of them.

  • Mark

    If BestBuy won’t pricematch his $700 difference, why didn’t he just go to the other store and buy it instead of making a big deal about it? Sounds like someone was trying to pull a scam here!

  • Bill from Boston

    HD Guru, I disagree with your position some of these techniques bring the consumer to a lower level.Why would you want to ‘show your cards’ be walking into a Best Buy or other store waving a competitor’s flyer? Consider it an ‘ace in the hole’, so to speak. Asking about extended warranties and such is not the same as saying I want it. The customer’s job is to spend as little money as possible. The saleman’s job is to get as much of the customer’s money as possible. You’re bound to get dirty when you jump into the ‘trenches’.
    Hey, Best Buy started this merry-go-round when they started price matching. All’s fair, etc., etc.

  • Tom

    I’ve worked as a cashier for Best Buy and as Computer Sales for Staples. Never have I been instructed to lie about quantity to a customer. I agree however, there is a high amount of pressure from my managers to sell plans. At Best Buy as a cashier, my managers would be on everybody case all day to see how many service plans were sold, or how many rewards signups we had, or how many magazine subscriptions we’d sold. They routinely do performance checks where a manager would grade your sales performance. At Staples on the sales floor, their is equal if not greater pressure to sell. I am supposed to attach Norton 360, MS Office, an Extended warranty, and an EasyTech Service(Staples version of Geek Squad). I would receive so much pressure from every manager in the store to attach all those and would be lectured to the point of harassment from some people. It makes for a very stressful job environment. So next time you are in a retail store, just keep in mind the pressure some of these associates are under.

  • Blake W.

    “dishonest at best and criminal at worst” hmmmmmm….seems like i’ve heard that somewhere…does the Daily Show ring a bell???

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