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 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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