Update: March 19, 2009, 1:00 PDT: Best Buy's replies to our follow-up questions have been added since this article was originally published.
Responding to a March 17 Crave article, which pointed to an article on HDGuru.com describing how Best Buy employees refused to honor the store's own price matching policy, the electronics retailer has supplied a written statement.
According to the statement, "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." The statement encourages dissatisfied shoppers to contact customer service.
We asked the Best Buy representative who sent us the statement whether the policy had a price limit, and he said that it did not.
Since March 17, we have received further information from readers regarding this issue. For example, a February article at StoreFrontTalkBack.com describes a class-action lawsuit filed in 2008 where former Best Buy employees alleged the company's management actively discouraged honoring the policy. According to the deposition of one former employee:
"Best Buy had a corporate undisclosed policy of discouraging and denying customers the benefits of its price match guarantee. Management mandated that all price match requests that resulted in a product being sold at less than 5 percent above cost would be denied. Best Buy provided a financial incentive for denying proper price match requests."
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York by Thomas Jermyn (Docket No. 08 CV 00214, if you're curious), is still ongoing. We asked Best Buy to comment, but it said it could not address pending litigation.
Another article titled Best Buy Price Match: An Insider's View describes additional problems suffered by customers who've attempted to take advantage of the price match policy.
Our original article also elicited numerous reader comments. While a few of the comments report good experiences with BB's price match policy, many describe problems with management or salespeople refusing to match prices. We asked Best Buy to address the issues raised by readers in our comments section, and its reply was: "We appreciate that customers feel comfortable sharing their experiences and opinions. It's a great way for us to gather feedback on how they feel, and to use that feedback to improve how we administer our policies."
Of course, with thousands of stores nationwide it's possible many of Best Buy's price matching inconsistencies are caused by overzealous or incompetent managers, rather than by secret corporate policy.
Asked to respond to a report in the original HDGuru story, which cited an unnamed Best Buy source who alleged "salesmen were told by management to not honor price match policies in order to increase store's profit margin," the Best Buy representative replied "Best Buy stores are consistently told to follow our price matching policy."
According to the former employee's deposition in the lawsuit, however, "I learned these and other techniques at Best Buy's district facility in White Plains, New York, and Best Buy's training store in Westchester, New York."
Here's the verbatim text of Best Buy's original statement.
"We apologize for the confusion over this price matching incident, and appreciate that there's room for misinterpretation 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: http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?id=cat12098&entryURLType=&catego ryId=cat10011&type=page&entryURLID=&contentId=1118843518460
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."