ah, the things you learn after the fact.
on wednesday, november 23, 2011, i visited the san francisco best buy store (store 187). i needed an audio cable. i found the cable i was interested in and brought it to the cash register. i asked the checkout girl — her name tag said safari — what was the return policy. she wasn’t sure. she asked someone else and then told me that it was considered a pro audio product, which had a 14-day return policy. i asked about a restocking fee and she said there was none. she fed a length of receipt paper through the printer, pointed at it, and said that the return policy was on the back. then she rang up my purchase and i paid for it. the receipt is time-stamped 4:08 pm. $27.10.
eight days later — thursday, december 1, 2011 — i went back to the store and attempted to return the audio cable. the very snotty young girl at the ‘customer service’ desk told me that she needed my id. i asked her what information she needed. she said she needed to enter it into ‘the system.’ i said i understood that, and i again asked her what information she needed, and how it was protected. she said that she would just scan my id. i told her i would not allow her to do that. she said she could type it in. i again asked her what information she needed. she said she needed my name and driver license number. i said ‘no’ and asked her to call a manager. she huffed-and-harrumphed and then used her walkie-talkie to call the manager-on-duty (mod) about ‘a customer with an issue’.
the mod came to the ‘customer service’ desk. his name was mohamed bukhari. i explained that i was not going to give him my id number to be stored in best buy’s ‘system’. he said he needed it. i asked where in the return policy did it state that i was required to allow best buy to store my personal information for a return. he was unable to point that out. i repeated that i would not allow him to store my personal information and he said that he would not accept the returned product. i took his picture as proof that i was at the store at the date and time i’m writing about. (yeah, i know, timestamps can be forged. i’m confident that best buy’s ubiquitous security cameras will corroborate my claim of visiting the store within the 14-day return period.)
mohamed bukhari didn’t like that i took his picture and he said i couldn’t do that.
but i did, though.
so those are the specific details; now it’s time for the editorial …
how fucked up is all of that? best buy’s return policy on the back of the receipt (to which check-out girl safari pointed) includes, and i quote,
To help facilitate the return, bring the original receipt as well as photo identification for all exchanges, returns, price matches, and warranty repair services. We reserve the right to deny any return.
(you gotta wonder just what customer-service-oriented checkout girl safari should know vs. what she really does know about her employer’s policies. she initially had to ask someone else for assistance (no worry there, in and of itself), but she told me my purchase was a pro audio purchase and then told me there was no restocking fee even though the back of the receipt clearly states that there is a restocking fee for pro audio purchases. so either this is not a pro audio purchase, or there is a restocking fee. which is it safari?)
what’s that you say, reader? “what a ‘tard!,” indeed i am. after my failed return attempt i had a closer look at things. and right there on the front of the receipt it says
The information from your ID will be stored in a secure, encrypted database of customer return activity that Best Buy and its affiliates use to track returns by our customers.
again, that was on the front of the receipt. you know, on the part that’s printed after you’ve given best buy your money.
then i looked online at best buy’s refund and exchange policy. it includes this
The original receipt, gift receipt or packing slip is required for all returns and exchanges. If returning or exchanging an item in a Best Buy store, a valid photo ID is also required.
When you return or exchange an item in store, we require a valid photo ID. Some of the information from your ID may be stored in a secure database used to track returns and exchanges. [...]
and the refund and exchange faq reveals these tidbits:
Why does Best Buy require an ID for returns and exchanges?
To help keep prices low for all our customers, Best Buy tracks exchanges and returns on an individual level. Information is electronically secured for the purposes of returns management, in accordance with state and federal laws regarding consumer privacy.
Will my exchange or return request ever be denied?
While rarely exercised, Best Buy does reserve the right to deny any exchange or return request.
thus far there’s nothing anywhere that says best buy absolutely needs to store my driver license number, it just says that “Some of the information … may be stored.” my guess is that best buy thinks that “may be stored“, “on an individual level” and “information is electronically secured” covers their asses when they insist on everything but your first born. think again, best buy.
nowhere does it say the customer is required to allow best buy to store their personally identifiable information in best buy’s ‘system’. mod mohamed bukhari could not or would not show me where that is documented. all he could say was that “it’s required”. so that was that and mod mohamed bukhari exercised best buy’s prerogative to deny my return. now i’m going to exercise my rights: a letter to ceo brian j. dunn giving best buy a generous 14 business days from their receipt of my letter to arrange it such that i can return the product without needing to allow best buy to store my driver license number or other personally identifying information in their ‘system’. i have no problem giving best buy my name and i have no problem allowing them to store my name in their ‘system’, but it will be a very cold day in hell before i allow best buy to store my driver license number (or any other personally identifiable information) in their ‘system’. best buy already has my credit card number in their system, how about using that piece of data to help keep prices low for all their customers? if best buy still chooses to deny my refund request because i won’t allow them to store my personally identifiable information in their ‘system’ then i will file a suit in small claims court. it’s that simple.
i’ve jumped through all the hoops i’m going to jump through for you, best buy. i was within the 14 day return period and i brought the original receipt and my photo id, as required, but i will not allow you to store my personal information in your ‘system’.
i’ve always wanted to be a rarity. having had my refund request denied, i finally get my wish.
best buy: you seem to have implemented a policy that is important to you:
- why is it that you employ check out clerks (to wit, safari) who are not familiar with the policy, let alone familiar enough with it to tell customers the very important fact that for a return or exchange they will need to surrender their personal information for storage into a best buy ‘system’?
- why is it that you have management employees (to wit, mohamed bukhari) who are so ill-educated on the policy that they cannot even point out where the very important policy is documented?
- why didn’t you ask for my id when i made my purchase? how is it that you knew i was me when i made my purchase but don’t know that i’m me when i want to return it? i’m using the same credit card for both the return and the purchase; how about using that piece of data to help keep prices low for all your customers?
- please quantify how much you have saved your customers by tracking exchanges and returns on an “individual level“. surely your accountants have this information readily available.
- more than 10% of identity theft is a result of “insider” or “friendly” breaches. considering that, perhaps all best buy customers should be asking your employees for their personally identifiable information.
how does a company that earns 700 to 800 million dollars a year in NET profit justify such crappy policies and tolerate such crappy employee behavior?
have a google for “best buy return policy” and you can find lots o’ displeasure. apparently the policy, ill-documented as it is, began in february of 2011. some really good info on that can be found at consumerist.com. your personally identifiable information is stored in a proprietary 3rd-party ‘system’ (TRE) which is NOT under best buy’s control, but hey … trust us. (like we trusted sony, epsilon, hb gary, and on and on and on? oh, and that epsilon data breach? THAT’S ON YOU, TOO, BEST BUY. so you’ve already demonstrated you cannot be trusted with my personal data.)
remember, the personally identifiable information that best buy collects is stored in a proprietary 3rd-party database.
remember, the personally identifiable information that best buy collects is stored in a proprietary 3rd-party database that best buy and its affiliates have access to. are you at all curious who its affiliates are?
remember, the personally identifiable information that best buy collects is stored in a proprietary 3rd-party database that best buy and its affiliates have access to, but that is not under best buy’s control.
i readily admit that prior to my purchase i did not completely familiarize myself with the best buy return policy as it is documented on the back of the receipt paper, as it is documented in the best buy return & exchange policy, as it is documented in the best buy return & exchange faqs, and as it is documented on the front of the receipt paper. (indeed, how could i familiarize myself with the policy as it is documented on the front of the receipt paper when i didn’t even receive that document until after i had provided payment to best buy?) i did ask two best buy employees about it, though, but apparently they cannot be trusted to disseminate accurate and complete information.
what I have learned from this situation is to never believe anything a best buy employee tells me. that’s the only way to be certain about anything. best buy employees spew inaccuracies, inconsistencies and outright lies, and omit important information. so get it in writing. all of it. it’s just like when best buy employees tell potential customers about the extended warranties on products … they flat out lie. but it’s the written agreement that ultimately counts, right? so who cares … certainly not best buy.
in addition to this post, i’ll also be sending out a letter today to best buy ceo brian j. dunn.
and, finally, how do we prevent this from happening in the future? for me it’s easy. best buy has my personal commitment that i will never ever purchase anything again from best buy co., inc. or any of the multitude of its derivative companies. i will, however, follow the lead of several other folks and continue to use best buy as a showroom: i’ll shop at best buy, and buy elsewhere. with any luck best buy will soon join comp usa, circuit city, and their ilk in the “crappy companies that have had to cease operations because they’re incompetent and treat their customers like dirt” category.
on the plus side, at least in court you’ll be certain that i’m me.
we’re best buy … where customer service is dead, because caring costs extra℠
(as an aside, since i started keeping records on march 9, 2002, i’ve spent more than $3,000 with best buy and had a total of five returns.)
UPDATE 1: 14-DEC-2011: mailed a letter today to brian dunn (best buy ceo), brett boxwell (general manager of best buy store #187), and brent scardino (best buy district manager). i also looked on amazon for the cable i purchased at best buy. i paid $24.99 (before tax) at best buy. amazon has the identical cable for $4.16 (click for larger image):
UPDATE 2: 20-JAN-2012: received a response yesterday from best buy corporate. basically crap, with a credit. now i have a free cable, and i guess if they don’t want it back then i’ll give it to a friend. the redacted letter is below (click for larger image):
UPDATE 3: 03-MAR-2012: received the following email message yesterday from best buy store #187 mod and return denier mohamed bukhari (spelling and grammar errors intact):
X-Yahoo-SMTP: beM45wyswBDXhxpKrWmf7fbyw9nK.QhnMI0Q31rnhjKTzESh Received: from [10.78.116.182] ([redacted]@188.8.131.52 with xymcookie) by smtp121-mob.biz.mail.ac4.yahoo.com with SMTP; 02 Mar 2012 17:55:09 -0800 PST Subject: Remove post From: Mohammed Bukhari <[redacted]@sbcglobal.net> Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2012 17:55:03 -0800 X-Mailer: iPhone Mail (9A405) Please remove my picture from you website. I provide the link below. It was done on private property with out my consent and the facts are not accurate he is lair and his given you bad information. http://caringcostsextra.org/2011/12/14/fuck-you-best-buy Sent from my iPhone
sorry, mohammed, no can do. (so i’m “lair”, big deal. i’ve been called worse.) i reserve the right to publish accurate and truthful information, however. but feel free to leave a comment detailing what you believe to be inaccurate.
although i do stand corrected on the spelling of your first name. when i called the store to find out your name they spelled it with one “m”. so i’ll spell it correctly going forward. (perhaps that was the inaccurate information to which you refer?)