Best Buy Fixed Price Matching – The Scam Uncovered

Building a TV Wall

Building a TV Wall

As you may have seen in one of my other posts, I’ve got a good sized TV wall going on at work, Nine 32 inch Vizio TV’s sit on my wall. Good? Yes…but we can make it better! On the other side of the office sits Nick. His wall has no TVs. I hope you see the problem here… I need nine more TVs!

Vizio fails miserably

Vizio! Make up your mind! E320-A1 and E320-A0

Nothing is as simple as it should be. The first time around we ordered the TVs online from BJ’s. They had the best price at the time and were offering free shipping. No brainer, get the good tvs at the best possible price. Check! That is until we found that one of the TVs was broken. Uncheck! The obvious solution would be to go to BJ’s and exchange it. So we did. Eight TVs already on the wall and the mount already to go on the ninth tv, it SHOULD be a quick fix. Hint, I wouldn’t be writing about this if it was simple. Of course, the TV’s don’t match. Two different TVs?!? They have the EXACT same model number. Although, this one wasn’t from the internet,  something was up! So we take it back to the store and order another one from their website. At this point we are screwed if we can’t find the same TV. Same model number again (yes, we did check it on the TV itself) but this time it matched. Close call…

Broken Vizio TV

It happens to the best of us. Broken TV :-(

TV-Wall minus a TV

Almost there!

Okay, so that was TV wall number one. TV wall two is still being built. Sadly this time was no different. So I’m in Best Buy (I know, not a good way to start) and was buying a laptop for my boss. Knowing that I wanted to do another wall, I wander over to the TVs. I notice that they’ve got the same Vizio model I purchased last time (E320-A0 for those playing the home game) and it’s a bit high on the price. I got them to price match BJ’s (they were going to charge me shipping this time) and it’s a done deal! Nine TVs and I’m on my way…nope! They only have 5 in stock but I can pick up the other 4 at another store nearby. Well crap. I’m thinking to myself, it’s Best Buy, the stores are only a few miles apart. I’ll roll the dice. Both are coming from a physical store and likely the same warehouse. I drop the 5 off then head to pick up the others.  I grab the TVs and head back to the office. I get there and find out that they gave me 4 E320-A1s. Crap. How is this possible?

Best Buy Logo

Best Buy… or is it?

Let me welcome you into the scam that is price matching. In order to price match an item, it has to be the EXACT same item and EXACT same model number, nothing new here. To prevent customers from price matching, Best Buy stocks two variations of the 32 inch TV and stores them under the EXACT SAME SKU. Seriously, I challenge them to explain this. This prevents half of the customers from being able to price match the item. Why have two very different TVs in stock under the same SKU? The variations are minor but enough of a difference where I’d personally be mad. Literally .1 inch differences, slightly different packaging, different power consumption, different response times, different internal board, different viewing angles, different certifications, etc… What TV are the specs on the in-store label selling? Which TV do you get? That being said, when the warehouse checked to see if the other Best Buy had the tv in stock, of course it showed that they did. They had 16 of them in stock. However, they were the other TV. 99% of the time, the customer will never notice. They just won’t be able to price match. Seriously, how often are customers buying 9 TVs and would care if they match? Think about it. If I was working for a hotel and bought 100 TVs and given 50 of each. The hotel would probably never notice and never care. It’d be one TV per room so even if they did notice, they still wouldn’t care as long as they worked. As long as each store only gets one version at a time, the stores won’t notice. Heck, even the Best Buy employees didn’t know about the different models.

Command Central

We’ve got screens for days at command central

So how do you get something like this fixed? Best Buy sure had a difficult time. They could look up in their system the inventory of literally every location. However, it meant nothing. They had no clue which of the two TVs were in the locations. All they had was a misleading SKU. Thankfully, the issue wasn’t on my end. So they called up the stores and had people manually verify which TVs they had. It only took us another week to get the TVs.

Honestly, I doubt this is due to price match fixing. From a manufacturing standpoint they’d lose more money going this route. I just want an answer. Thanks Best Buy! Or should I thank Vizio?

About Chad Burton

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Hello, My name is Chad, most internet people know me by OutKastz. I play the internet often, it's one of my favorite games and I play to win. Sometimes I even beat my high score. I enjoy hardware hacking and tinkering on the computer. I'm also pretty big into home automation and more recently Corvettes. Shocker. I have a loving wife, Kelly, and my son, Little Butt, I mean Charlie.

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  • Carl Vehse

    This kind of thing is done in all business. Check cereal boxes at different competing grocery stores. For an apparently same box size, different stores have different printed (and presumably actual) net weights that differ by an ounce or less. And just try to find the exact same car at two different dealerships. One local dealer proclaims, “If I can’t give you a better deal for the same car I’ll just give it to you.” Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  • jesse demers

    all tvs come in several versions. i fix them all day. the first run may be called 01 and be from april to june, the second may be 02 and be from july to oct etc. to order parts, i need to have the version number, or you can use the serial number to find out what part fits. the factories change the models over the course of months to save money, make improvements or just run out of supplies to make a second run. its not just tvs, even cars and other things change thruout the manufacturing run. did the prices change? i didn’t understand that part.

    • gregge

      One thing car companies do is put lots of leftover discontinued versions of parts into vehicles sold for rental fleets, especially near the end of a model year. I have a 2004 Dodge Dakota with the 4.7L V8. Midway through 2003 some changes were made to the engine block but my 2004 has an early 2003 engine block. It also does not have antilock brakes (which made the new front bearing hubs much cheaper yay!). It was originally a Hertz rental. Hertz don’t care their trucks got ‘old’ engine parts. They got a deal by buying a lot of them. I’ve run into things like this on cars many times, running into things that aren’t supposed to exist. My 1997 Taurus has the DOHC V6 and is supposed to have an 8,000 RPM tachometer. It has the 7,000 RPM tach that supposedly only went with the pushrod V6, but it does have the correct 120 MPH speedometer. I’d bet it was originally a rental or other fleet vehicle and the purchaser saved a few $ per car on the lower RPM tach.

  • gregge

    Wal-Mart does a similar thing, especially with computers. They have the manufacturers put together a system with a feature set available nowhere but Wal-Mart, thus they never have to price match on a computer.

    They’ve also done that with metal detectors and several other electronic items. Most manufacturers who play along with that game put a WM in the model number, usually at the end.

    • bobdvb

      I’ve worked for an electronics manufacturer and it is quite common to offer a unique variant to a retailer if they commit to the volume. I’ve never seen SKU splitting as a tactic especially as they are fulfilling orders, but I would suggest that this is more a stock control issue, or perhaps a generation issue. This kind of suffix has been used to indicate a similar specification model but where the panel itself came from a different source, as you say most customers don’t care if they have two different production runs.

  • Austin

    As a former Circuit City employee, a PC tech specifically, I can attest to this kind of thing as well. People would bring in ads from Best Buy or CompUSA, or Frys, and ask if we had that model for the same price. Almost always, we would have that EXACT computer spec wise, as well as cosmetically identical, but it had a single digit at the end of the model number that signified what retailer it came from, and thus prevented us from price matching. I suppose it kept the other retailers from having to do the same. Conspiricy much?

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