One of the most exciting parts about being a geek is new hardware and new electronics to play with. Whether it be a new Nintendo DS with the built in Wi-Fi that lets me play Mario Kart with seven other people or a new Wii, so I can kill some Nazis in Call of Duty 3, I just cannot satiate my desire for new tech toys. Unfortunately, one of the leading brick and mortar retailers for tech devices is now doing a great disservice to all nerds and geeks with a lust for their sweet, sweet hardware.
Best Buy, or Worst Buy, as many people I know refer to it, likes to advertise major deals and discounted prices on its website. Being the tech addict that I am, when I see something that I want on sale for a ridiculous price on Best Buy’s website, I will usually just go to the store itself to buy the item, because that is the kind of instant gratification person I am. To my horror, and thanks the Hartford Courant, I now know that if I want to get an item at the bargain listed on the web, I will need to bring a printout of the webpage to get the advertised price.
As it turns out, Best Buy’s website is actually a wholly different division within the company than the stores. As such, the website will often list items for much cheaper online than in the store. George Gombossy, of the Hartford Courant, looked up a new laptop on Best Buy’s website, and found a model listed for sale at $729.99. He drove to the nearest store, where he discovered that the exact same model would cost him $879.99 if he bought it in the store. Intrigued, he went to the nearest associate and told him that the website was selling the laptop for $150 cheaper. The employee looked it up on his workstation, and showed George that it really was $879.99. So, George went home to look it up again and, lo and behold, it was still listed at $729.99. George printed out the page, took it to the store, and showed the employee, who agreed to match the price.
Why, and more importantly how, can Best Buy do this? Because Best Buy’s website is a different division within the company, they will often set their own prices different than the brick-and-mortar stores, with some prices being higher and some being lower. When the employees look up the website in the store, they are actually directed to an internal website that will show the same prices as in the store. Unsuspecting consumers who do not shop around will usually just assume that the price has changed and end up buying the product in the store, throwing away the difference.
Fortunately, you can prevent this from happening to you. If you want to get the item yourself from your nearest Best Buy, purchase the item online and select “pick up” instead of “ship.” This will prevent Best Buy from taking advantage of you and ensure that you do indeed get the best deal possible on whatever it is that you want to buy. Or you can just print out the page on the website that shows the price and take it into the store with you. Because of Best Buy’s price-match policy, they have no choice but to match the price that you bring in.
There is a third alternative as well. Do your shopping at online-only retailers. There are many reputable websites, like Newegg.com, that offer much lower prices than Best Buy, CompUSA and Circuit City, have much more relaxed return and exchange policies, and will often have much better prices because they do not have to pay the wages of thousands of employees and support the inventory needed to keep a store as big as Best Buy running. The best part about shopping at many online retailers is that if you find one outside of California, you can avoid paying sales tax on the item, saving you even more money. Moral of the story: If you are going to go to a store like Worst Buy, print out the price online so you don’t get screwed.