A BestBuy Carol on Christmas Eve

Sunday night I decided to buy a new camcorder, so I walked to BestBuy to get one. I think I am one of their better clients, because since they opened a couple of months ago I bought almost all my electronics and household appliances there. The service is quite good, and they have an extended warranty program. The biggest problem is that most of their products seem to be always out of stock – even when there is no sign saying the product is not available anymore. Twice it happened to me that the product was not only out of stock, but would also not be restocked again (with a fax machine and a microwave). Why put them on display then? I feel that although it is the best shop to buy electronics in China, it is still badly managed. The camcorder experience was another good example.

At first I wanted to buy a Sony DCR-SR62E, a small-sized camcorder with a 30 GB harddisk. However, this model was out of stock. But, the sales man told me, they have a DCR-SR82E (same model with 60 GB HD) that was taken out of the box already, and that I could get with a RMB 500 discount. That made the price still about RMB 700 higher than the other model, so I decided not to do it. He asked for my best price and we finally decided on a discount of RMB 700 plus an extra 1 GB memory stick. Not a bad deal I thought. I checked the camera and the box, and all seemed to be OK, so I bought the camera.

A few hours later at home I opened the box and started to recharge the camera. Strange enough the battery was fully loaded after 30 minutes already, but the manual said it would take several hours. I became a bit suspicious and checked the harddisk. To my big surprise there were 86 films already on there, taken among others in several Chinese cities and in Germany, all filmed over the past 10 weeks. Ergo, this was not a camera out of the box, but a second-hand (probably revised) camera! I was quite upset with BestBuy, but because it was 11 PM the store was closed already.

Tonight, on Christmas Eve, I went back to the store with the camera. I found the sales man, and he acted surprised. He said only films taken inside the store can be on there. I showed him the films, and asked him to call the manager. The manager showed up a few minutes later, a young lady who did not speak any English and who brought her own English translator (assuming that foreigners do not speak any Chinese). I explained the problem, and she said she was very sorry and would check how this could have happened. She also asked me how they could solve it for me. I told them I would still like to buy this model, but not the second hand one, so she offered me a new camera without extra payment (“It is Christmas Eve and we want you to be happy”). That was fine with me, and things were settled. Well, almost, because the camera was out of stock again (does BestBuy have any stock at all?). But I could take my current camera back home, and they would call me when the new camera would arrive. OK, fine with me.

For some reason we then had to wait for a while, and started chatting with the translator. She mentioned that there was also another out-of-the-box model that I could take home if I preferred, but that the sales man told her that “it had been used even longer”. Excuse me? That means they have been lying to me the whole time. I did not say that to her, after all she is only a translator, but it gave me a very bad feeling about BestBuy. Do they sell refurbished models to unsuspecting customers as models which boxes have ‘only’ been opened already? It certainly seems so. They probably forgot to format the hard disk, and that gave their trick away. The fact that they did not write down the series number (so they can check what happened to the camera before) seems to confirm this as well, because there is nothing to investigate. I go to BestBuy precisely to avoid this kind of tricks, but it seems they are doing the same thing. Let’s hope I will at least get a real new camcorder.

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  1. Hi, Marc:

    Merry Christmas & Happy New year!!!

    Wish you and your wife have a wonderful 2008!

    Wish your new baby healthy, pretty and lucky!

    Wish your Tudou much more successful!

    Keep on blogging. Always enjoy reading your mind, which actually is a beautiful mind

    12/24/ (US )

  2. Hahah, am surprised they don’t charge you more as it shows the camera actually works.

    The not in stock to sell more expensive models is a an old trick i have seen many times though. Even realtors use a similar trick here in HK.

    Selling second hand things…. interesting practice. How about this theory that employees use it for whatever purpose and then hand it back to their shop?

  3. A few years ago I bought an “out-of-box” iPod Shuffle from a Best Buy in Wisconsin. When I got it home I found that it would only sync with my computer about half the time. Peering around the iPod’s digital innards I discovered that it had previously gone by another name, “Dad’s iPod.”

    Rather than wasting time with Best Buy I called Apple and had it replaced under its warranty.

  4. @Kevin S.: So it not just happens in China, quite amazing that they can get away with this.