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Best Buy Apologizes for Xbox 360 Launch

Filed under: Xbox 360
Posted by Jeremy on December 8, 2005 11:20 AM
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As I wrote on Thanksgiving Day, the Best Buy where we purchased our Xbox 360 is under investigation by Oregon Attorney General, Hardy Myers, for consumer fraud due to the fact that they would only sell Xbox 360s in bundles. Two days ago, Brian Dunn, President of retail in North America for Best Buy issued an apology to consumers who were forced to purchase the bundle (click "continue reading" to read the letter and the rest of my tale). Too little, too late, Mr. Dunn.

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Let me recount my experience for you. It was 4:30 am on a chilly and windy morning. Allison and I split up with a list of store opening times. I planted myself as about the 35th person in line outside the Clackamas, OR, Best Buy at 5:00 am (and was lucky enough to be standing next to a nice dude named, Mark). By 5:30 am, a copied and stapled flyer was being passed back in the line telling those waiting in line that the only way they could purchase an Xbox 360 was to do so as a bundle. The cheapest bundle was $650. The most expensive, $950. All of the advertised bundles required you to purchase at least three games and various unnecessary peripherals, prompting many a cell call to a wife, child, or spouse, asking them what games to purchase and whether or not they could afford $650.

The flyer's front read, "Correction," and went on to say that the ad in the previous Sunday's paper which listed the two versions of the Xbox as stand alone systems was incorrect. The obvious conclusion was you could only purchase them as the bundle.

After another half an hour or so, another flyer made its way back in line. This time, the price of one of the bundles was changed from $709 to $750, apparently a correction to the correction.

As 9:00 am approached, employees started to enter the store and soon enough, the magic tickets were handed out guaranteeing those who received one an Xbox 360.

Along with the ticket came a more official looking flyer which had a whole new set of bundles from which to choose: three versions of the core system and three versions of the premium system, now requiring you to purchase two games (instead of the three previously mentioned). There were even check boxes for you to fill in so that you could simply hand your flyer to the Best Buy employee and he would get the appropriate bundle for you.

Nowhere on any of this printed material did it say, "suggested." The flyers, the employees, and the rumor mill that was now the line, all pointed to the fact that if you wanted an Xbox 360, you had to buy it as a bundle.

Finally, I was let in and by this time they only had the core system remaining. I chose the cheapest bundle, for $400, which included the core system and two games. Of course, I chose to buy the hard drive as well, bringing my total to $500.

Being very tired and excited I didn't even notice the price I was charged at the register: $550. I got home, met up with Allison and looked over my receipt. Sure enough, I was double charged for PGR3. Upon further reviewing my receipt, I noticed that each item was rung in as a separate SKU. I was expecting a one-SKU bundle price. That meant Best Buy lied to each of us in line.

I called and then returned to Best Buy to show them my receipt and the fact that I had been double charged for a game. They issued a refund only after having to call back to "video games" to get approval (by this point, they probably knew they were in trouble).

The irony to this story is that without the consumer fraud, I may not have received an Xbox 360. You see, once people in line started hearing that the cheapest bundle they could get was $650, some began to leave. As the hours passed, more people joined the line to meet up with friends who were holding their spot. I started as the 35th person in line and ended up as the 50th. Best Buy had 52 consoles. Had it not been for people leaving the line in front of me, I would not have made the cut.

What is sad about this story is that people were forced to leave the line. Some were kids who had saved up exactly $350 (there is no sales tax in Oregon) with intentions to get the system and one game. Others were disappointed parents who couldn't justify not only standing in the freezing cold for 4 hours (much less overnight), but dropping $650 on something they had budgeted at $500 max (premium system, two games, for example).

Well, watching the news that night, Allison and I heard a report about the fraud at Best Buy and that Oregon's Attorney General, Hardy Myers, was looking into the matter. He requested that anybody who was at Best Buy that moring file a complaint with his office.

I sent in my complaint yesterday with full documentation and a long explanation of what occurred. Hopefully, Mr. Myers will take care of Best Buy as it is out of my hands now.

As for Best Buy's apology, well, they can take it and shove it you know where. It's not only the customers that they need to be apologizing to, it's the kids and parents who were forced out of the line after waiting for hours.

There's a reason I have been boycotting Best Buy for years, (mainly their high-pressure sales and warranty and their restocking fee), and now I have one more.


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LETTER FROM BEST BUY
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

TO: Open Letter to Customers

FROM: Brian Dunn, President ? Retail, North America

RE: Launch of Xbox 360

CC: Best Buy Store, District and Territory Employees; All Officers and Directors

DATE: December 6, 2005

I?m writing to apologize.

While all of us at Best Buy were thrilled to be part of the recent launch of Microsoft?s Xbox 360 video game system ? one of the most anticipated events in the history of electronic gaming ? the launch did not go as we had hoped. We sold out of Xbox 360s nationwide in less than two hours, and most of our stores did an outstanding job of serving our gaming customers. I?d like to thank the majority of our employees, who provided a terrific experience for customers at the launch date. However, our promotional activities in certain cases failed to follow company guidelines. As a result, some of our valued gaming customers had an experience in our stores that was inconsistent with what you?ve come to expect from us, as a leader in the consumer electronics industry.

Specifically, customers in some Best Buy stores were told that they were required to buy additional Xbox accessories or services if they wanted one of the sought-after Xbox 360 consoles, even though we advertised the Xbox 360 console alone. I want to be very clear that Best Buy does not condone pressuring customers to purchase items they may not want or that may not fit their lifestyle. In fact, these behaviors are in direct conflict with our desire to serve customers? needs better than anyone else, and our values of honesty and integrity.

We are currently investigating all leads about promotional practices that may have violated the company?s guidelines, and we will take disciplinary actions as appropriate. We also have reminded all of our stores about our policies with respect to launches of hot products. Meanwhile, on behalf of Best Buy, I?d like to offer a sincere apology to any customers who felt pressured to buy items they did not want.

Customers who are unhappy with Xbox 360-related purchases made in November 2005 may return unwanted items for a full refund at any Best Buy store. In addition, if your Xbox 360 purchasing experience did not meet your expectations for any reason, please email us at [email address will be inserted when the letter is posted to the website]. (Employees with information pertinent to our investigation are encouraged to call our Ethics Hot Line instead.)

Last, I would like to invite you back to our stores, particularly later this month, when Best Buy will receive more shipments of Xbox 360s. While supplies continue to be very limited, we are truly excited about this new gaming platform, and we?d like to deliver the best of that experience to you. We promise an in-store experience that is focused on your needs and the needs of everyone on your holiday gift list.

Brian Dunn






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