Bonuses Paid To Managers That Violate “Price Match” Policy, Former Employees Allege.

US District Court Rules Class Action Against Best Buy To Proceed


(3/21/09)  The US District Court, Southern District granted a motion on 3/19/09 for Class Action Certification to allow Plaintiff Thomas Jermyn and any similarly situated NY State residents to sue Best Buy for violating its “Price Match” policy.

According to the ruling, the plaintiff alleges, “Best Buy uses false and deceptive trade practices in advertising and applying the company’s well-known “price match guarantee” policy.  Best Buy tells the consuming public it will match a competitor’s lower price on any item purchased in the store.”  Plaintiff alleges that Best Buy uses its “price match guarantee policy as a ploy, to lure unsuspecting consumers into its stores and to induce them to purchase its merchandise, while allegedly having an undisclosed “Anti-Price Matching Policy,” pursuant to which employees aggressively deny customers’ legitimate price match requests.”

Among the major revelations listed from evidence within the decision based on internal BB documents, depositions of current BB employees and declarations by two former BB employees are the following allegations:

·    Best Buy had an undisclosed Anti-Price Matching Policy

·    Corporate headquarters disseminated the anti-price matching policy to regional managers, store managers, assistant managers, and necessary store personnel

·    Best Buy taught its employees how to deny price match requests in its training facilities in New York

·    Best Buy provided financial bonuses based, in part, on denying proper price match requests

·    Best Buy denied more than 100 proper price match requests per store per week.

The court decision lists parts of an internal Best Buy document dated 10/19/2006, written by Phil Britton, a member of Best Buy’s Competitive Strategies Group. Its entitled “Competition Insider Templates”, here’s an excerpt:

“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!…..”

Contrary to the above quoted document, Best Buy’s posted Price Match policy does not list any price match restrictions based on: competitor’s distance from store (it states “local retailer”), warehouse club-based prices, or whether the competitor’s price is above or below cost.

Best Buy continues to promote its Price Match policy.  Tomorrow’s (March 22, 2009) Best Buy weekly circular, page 3 states “We’ll meet or beat their lowest price.  If you see a lower advertised price, we’ll match it on the spot.”

Last week the HD Guru wrote about the Best Buy’s refusal to provide a policy compliant price match at three of its stores.  Best Buy’s corporate office responded via email with the following statement.

“We apologize for the confusion over this price matching incident, and appreciate that there’s room for mis-interpretation of what we’ll match and when.  The price match in question was over $700 difference from our pricing at the store; while our pricing may vary from our competition, such huge fluctuations in price are rare and
rightfully set off red flags to our employees.

Our full price match policy for in store can be found here (Link).

We encourage customers to become familiar with our price-matching policy and use it to their advantage, especially in these tough economic times.  The key elements of this policy are:

If a customer elects to make a purchase and discovers a lower advertised price offered by a local retail competitor on the same available brand and model, we will fulfill a price match request once proof of price is verified via the competitor’s ad.  The Price Guarantee does not apply to limited-quantity items.

If customers believe they’ve met the applicable criteria and are unable to price match at their local Best Buy store, we urge them to contact our Customer Care Center at 888-Best Buy (888-237-8289) for further assistance.”

The HD Guru contacted Michael Braunstein, the attorney representing the plaintiff in the class action lawsuit.  Mr. Braunstein invites readers who believe they have been “murfed” (refused the price match in compliance with BBs written policy) or have inquiries regarding the class action, to contact him by email or phone.  The class action lawsuit applies to NY State residents only.  However, Mr. Braunstein stated in the phone interview that he would like to hear from anyone who has been rejected for a price match by Best Buy, regardless of the state in which they reside.  His contact information is
Michael L. Braunstein, Kantowitz, Goldhamer and Graifman, P.C. (845) 356-2570; email [email protected]

A copy of the US District Court ruling can be found here decision-and-order-granting-class-certification.pdf

Have a question for the HD Guru?

Copyright ©2009 HD Guru Inc.  All rights reserved.  HDGURU is a registered trademark.  The content and photos within may not be distributed electronically or copied mechanically without specific written permission.  The content within is based upon information provided to the editor, which is believed to be reliable.  Data within is subject to change.  HD GURU is not responsible for errors or omissions.