Monday, June 27, 2005

The Scammers At Best Buy

All I can say to Best Buy is: Nice try. I went into Best Buy on Saturday and bought 2 cheap CDs. I had my son in my arm, and he had fallen asleep. The cashier turned to me and said that I had won an 8-week subscription to one of two magazines, Sports Illustrated or (I think) Good Housekeeping. I’m not a reader of either one, but she said there was no obligation and no charge. I told her fine, just give me the Sports Illustrated. I figured I’d look at them if I thought they were interested, then tell SI that I wasn’t interested in a subscription when I got the inevitable question of whether or not I’d want to subscribe at the end of the 8 weeks. I knew it was a sales ploy, I just didn’t care at the time.

I didn’t realize how far they’d go. I looked at my receipt today. To my surprise, I found a section telling me that I’d purchased a Sport’s Illustrated Plan #2. I’m going to annoy you all and tell you what the fine print says:

HARDWARE

You purchased the following:

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED BROCHURE OF

ORDNBR xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

SERVICE AND SERVICE OPTIONS

You want the following service plans :

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED PLAN 2 – xxxxxxxx

Yes! Sign me up for Sports Illustrated’s 8 issue trial offer with automatic renewal. I authorize Best Buy to give my credit or debit card to SI and SI to charge my card for the initial and six month renewal terms.

NO RISK: If within 8 issues you do not want the magazine, simply call Sports Illustrated at 1-800-284-8800 or go online to: www.sicustomerservice.com and you will NOT be charged.

AUTOMATIC RENEWAL: For your convenience, after the initial 24-issue subscription term, should you decide to continue with the magazine do nothing. SI will automatically continue your subscription unless you tell us to stop. You authorize SI to charge your credit/debit card fro the initial subscription term and every six months after that at the guaranteed low price in effect.

This is a little bit different than “winning” a free 8-week subscription. Normally I’m pretty careful about things like this, but this went further than I ever dreamed one of these would go. Not only had I authorized them to charge me for the subscription after the 8 weeks, but on an ongoing basis! And on top of that, I did it without even knowing the price! I was a bit annoyed. So I called the Best Buy store and asked for the manager. I waited on hold for about 5 minutes, then the line disconnected. The same thing happened on my second call. So I went to the FTC’s website and filed a complaint.

I called again and did not mention what I was calling about when I asked to speak to the manager. Strangely, I got right through this time. After listening to me explain why I was calling she said that to get the offer (now it was an offer, and not a prize) I had to bring a brochure to the register and sign it. I told her I had not signed anything, and asked why I would sign up for a recurring charge of an unknown amount to my credit card. She had no answer except to say she could take care of it and cancel the whole thing. I told her cancel it, but I’m also going to give Sports Illustrated a call and let them know that I am not authorizing them to charge me.

Another interesting thing, I googled for Best Buy complaints, and found that there is a possible class action lawsuit being put together for this very issue against Best Buy. Imagine my surprise.