I’m written about my terrible Best Buy customer service experience before, and that was just the beginning of their current problems. Now, Best Buy (BBY) has clearly explained that one of the biggest weaknesses with their business model is so-called “showrooming”, where customers simply come to their stores to look at the products, and then buy them online.
The problem doesn’t lie within Best Buy, but rather that the competition online is fierce, and many retailers are consistently trying to win market share by under-pricing the competition. However, companies like Best Buy can compete because the quantities they buy will usually get them the best price in the marketplace. However…Best Buy is their own worst enemy, as I highlight below.
My Showrooming Experience
I’ve been looking to buy a television for about 3 months. I’d gone to every store imaginable: Best Buy, Costco, Sears, and looked online. When buying a TV, you have to see the television in person, and in a bunch of different lighting conditions. I’m buying a TV for the picture quality, and some of the features, but not much else. Best Buy has a great showroom for looking at TVs, and Sears was helpful because it’s so dark (sorry if that’s not supposed to be the case). Costco always had the best prices of any big box store for the television I was looking at.
I knew that prices would be going down as we approached Black Friday, so I continued to watch the prices. I finally found what I thought was the best deal about 2 weeks before Thanksgiving, and it turned out to be at Best Buy. I wanted to get the 55″ Samsung Edge-Lit LED TV, and it was selling for $1,999, but it included a sound bar worth $300. I was still concerned that the price could go lower as we got closer to Thanksgiving, but the representative in the store showed me Best Buy’s Price Match Guarantee.
Best Buy will match the price if you find a lower price on an identical available product at a local retail competitor’s store, a local Best Buy retail store or BestBuy.com. Simply let us know when you are making your purchase or during the return and exchange period.
I felt pretty good about that, especially since we had 30 days to get the price match (the same as the return policy), which is the same as the return policy. So, even worst case scenario, I could just return the TV.
The Reality of the Price Match Guarantee
Well, this Black Friday weekend, I found a lower price online at Amazon.com. It was a lot lower – $1,599. And there were some “less reputable” websites out there that were advertising my same television for as low as $1,549.
So, I went back down to the store I bought it at to get my price match. Well, guess what – Best Buy pointed to the fine print on their price match guarantee and told me they would not honor the price.
The Guarantee does not apply to: Our competitors’ website prices, offers that include financing, bundling of items, free items, pricing errors, mail-in offers, competitors’ service prices, items that are advertised as limited-quantity, out of stock, open-box, clearance, refurbished/used items, Deal of the Day items, BestBuy.com Midnight Sale and special hour sale events, BestBuy.com Clearance & More and Marketplace items, and items for sale Thanksgiving Day through the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Well, that just sucks…good thing I knew that this may be coming and checked the return policy as well.
Why Best Buy Made Me Go Online
Well, Best Buy still offers a 30 day return policy on my item, so the next day I lugged the TV (unopened) and the sound bar right back to Best Buy and returned it. I had already bought the TV from Amazon that night, and got the sound bar, and still paid $400 less that I would have paid at Best Buy.
The sad part is Best Buy was selling the same TV in store without the sound bar for $1,599 as well this weekend. They just wouldn’t match the price. It makes no business sense because they had me as a loyal customer – they could have continued to keep me as a customer by honoring the price, but instead they wanted to focus on the fine print on their Price Match Guarantee and not honor the prices.
I do wonder if I went in today if they would honor the adjustment, but they probably would have said no, it’s Cyber Monday.
Regardless, Best Buy essentially forced me to showroom and then buy the TV for lower online. Isn’t this what they are the most afraid of?
Do you think Best Buy will last another year? Have you ever showroomed?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.