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An Oldie But a Goodie!

One of my televisions crapped out the other day. My diagnosis is that the power supply gave out, because it no longer powers up.  (Damn, I’m clever!)

Being the relatively “disposable” items that these products have become (that is to say, they are very affordable and sometimes more cost effective to simply replace than the hassle and real costs involved of having them repaired) I decided a new unit was in order. Off to BestBuy!

Knowing exactly what I was shopping for (I used to be in the television production industry on the equipment end of things), I went in, spotted the exact set I wanted, and went to the register to complete the purchase.

The sales rep checked her computer, and informed me that an “open box” of another relatively similar make and model was available. We went over to the open box unit, and yes, the box was indeed open. She said “this TV has never been used, just the seal on the box was broken.”  This unit was about 15% less expensive than its sealed-box equivalent, so I told them to ring me up!

I got the TV home, opened the box, removed the set and immediately I knew I was in trouble. The unit was not new, it had been previously unwrapped. Parts of the manual were missing, the cleaning cloth was no where to be found, but worst, the screws for the base of the unit were absent. There was no way to put the TV on its stand. The cables actually stunk of cigar smoke – this set was TOTALLY used!

So I pack everything back up, load it back in the car, and back to the store I go. I head right for the customer service desk to explain all the problems. They apologized and say to me they will take the unit back, and they are happy to sell me a brand new sealed unit, but sorry, it has to be at the new unit price.


What we have here is a variation of the old Bait n’ Switch! The Bait n’ Switch is a tactic in which a seller advertises a product with the intention of persuading customers to purchase a more expensive product. When a seller uses this tactic, they frequently tell the customer that the original product is sold out or no longer available (even if the product is indeed still available), and push hard for the customer to purchase the costlier product. We have talked about this on the SGU before, when retailers online tried to pull this hucklebuck on Steve with camera equipment.

My situation was not exactly the same as the classic version of this scam, but rather a variation on the tactic. However, I was not sure this was an intentional deceit. Its quite possible this was an oversight and a quality control issue (there is no way that unit should have been returned to the sales floor.) Regardless of intent, I had to set the record straight, if nothing else, to receive the customer service that I and any other consumer deserves.

After explaining all of this to the three representatives at the customer service desk, I was able to convince them of what was actually going on. They all seemed enlightened by my take on the matter, as if they had genuinely not realized the potential (albeit probably unintentional) “scam” that had unfolded.  

They wheeled a brand new unit up to the desk and right out into the trunk of my car – honoring the “open box” price. Yet another example of practical, every-day application of skepticism, not only ultimately working in my favor, but there are now three more people in the world who understand the subtle tactic of the Bait n’ Switch.  

Perhaps one day they will find themselves being better consumers, having benefited by this little sprinkle of skepticism.

3 comments to An Oldie But a Goodie!

  • Evan, admit it, you kept the screws and the cloth and returned the TV to get a new set for the same open-box price. You did the old reverse bait-n-switch. 😉

    Seriously though this is almost the exact same situation that happened to be on christmas eve. I bought my dad a new 51″ TV as a gift. It was sealed-box. Or, it looked like it was until we opened it late christmas eve to find that all the packaging was ripped open inside, the batteries were in the remote and the screws were at the bottom of the box, out of the bag. They were kind of hard to find down there. So I’m upset but we plug the TV in and all it gave us was this electronic buzzing sound with no picture. Imagine my disappointment. My dad REALLY needed a new TV and he was so happy to get it but the damn thing didn’t work. But BB’s return desk was closed until Dec 28, so I went to another store on boxing day and got the same TV (sealed box and working) for $120 less. I returned the defective TV to BB that Friday and had words with the manager.

    Another example was when I went to buy my home theatre receiver. I picked one I thought I wanted and had the guy demo the floor model for me. Dude goes to the back and comes back with the item ready to buy. Except I hadn’t decided to buy it yet. I told him and he explained that this was the last one they had in stock so he took it aside for me just in case. Back then I was married so I told the guy I needed a minute alone to discuss it with the wife. We went on a little walkthrough the store as we discussed. I happened to look up in their high shelves and noticed 5 more of that same receiver just sitting there. Last on in stock my ass. We ended up buying the thing but I got the manager to ring me up so the guy didn’t get comission on the purchase. Argh BB frustrates me.

    Wow, that was long. I guess I had to vent somewhere. Thanks Ev for the venue. haha

  • And you still overpayed! Best Buy has the second worse prices in town, after Sears. Next time find the set you want and buy it from an online realtor–usually the free shipping and no sales tax makes it worth it.

  • ziggy

    I think you’re a little quick to imply a scam here. Since we’re sharing anecdotes, I’ve purchased many open box items at BB with no problem. i think you just ran into an issue with whoever inspects the returns making a mistake.

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