Monday, June 1, 2009

Deceptive Pricing At CompUSA

On Friday my housemate and I went down to what used to be the Tiger Direct retail store in Raleigh. It turns out that Tiger Direct bought out what was left of CompUSA and has renamed their stores. I guess the CompUSA name is better known as a brick and mortar retail computer store.

The main reasons for the visit were for my housemate to upgrade the RAM in her Dell laptop from 1GB to 2GB and for me to buy an SD card to use in my Sylvania netbook. Some of you may have already noticed that I am now writing regularly for DistroWatch Weekly which means I am trying out different Linux distributions on a regular basis. It might be nice (not to mention less risky and somewhat easier) to install to the SD card rather than my hard drive when first checking things out. Anyway, Tiger Direct has always had very good prices on such things.

The good news is that my housemate did find the memory she wanted for the very nice price of $14. She also pointed me to an 8GB SD card priced at $9.99. Just what the doctor ordered! I also picked up a spindle of LightScribe CDrs which were way less expensive than anywhere else. I went to the register where the SD card rang up for $29.99. It turns out that the $9.99 price is after a rebate.

Here's the issue: the only way you'd know there was a rebate was to read some microscopic print on the price tag. I mean really, really tiny print. This is in the "bring your magnifying glass" category of tiny. I kid you not. There are price tags all over the store that have rebates. Most have the words "Final Price" in big, bold, red letters so that you know there is a rebate involved. This one didn't. It also wasn't the only tag like this.

My housemate immediately called this "deceptive pricing". I have to agree. So do some of our state legislators. A few years back some tried to pass a bill to ban this sort of pricing. I guess it never passed because the practice continues.

Look, I would have had no complaint if the price tag made it clear that a rebate was involved. As it is I decided I didn't want to lay out over $30 with tax and wait months for a check in the mail. Since a 4GB SD card is really all I need I decided to choose one of those instead. In that case the price on the tag was all I paid.

Will I still go to CompUSA? Yes, so long as they have really good prices. I'm not organizing a boycott or anything. However, I did voice my displeasure in the store. Maybe if enough of us complain they can be convinced that they'd do better to make it clear what you pay up front and what will be returned in the form of a rebate.

15 comments:

c8h10n4o22004 said...

CompUSA sucks, so does BestBUY. Learn to use NewEgg.

Caitlyn said...

I disagree completely. Tiger (now CompUSA) often has better prices than NewEgg. I looked at NewEgg when I bought my netbook. They were NOT price competitive. I bought from Amazon.com.

On small items like this the shipping charges make ordering online significantly more expensive. It just doesn't pay. I also want to see brick and mortar stores survive so I will continue to support them.

The idea here is to get CompUSA to change their pricing practices, not to boycott them or put them out of business.

gus3 said...

A scan of the tag would be nice.

Caitlyn said...

Yes, that would be nice but I don't see how it's going to happen. The SD cards hang on pegs on a display. I'd have to steal the tag which I won't do. I might get away with a photo but I'm a fair ways outside of Raleigh and I don't know when I'll have time to get down there again.

Sorry, in this case you probably are going to have to take my word for it.

Tom said...

I usually use TigerDirect/CompUSA too. But what the big print giveth, the fine print taketh away...

jbeez said...

Some low paid isle stocker forgot to upgrade a few price tags with the big red letter stickers and you're talking about legislation against deceptive pricing?

BTW, they wouldn't hire me years ago because I didn't have an A+ cert, I went on to run an isp, road/field tech, network admin, and currently work as a unix systems admin for a registrar/registry company(running ur intartubz names) and I'm glad they snobbed me out of a job on such a silly technicality(to me) when I was maybe overqualified to be troubleshooting PC issues like that.

As a general rule, I don't make any purchases from compusa, tiger direct, and I try to avoid bestbuy as best I can.... sometimes its annoyingly unavoidable.

NEWEGG FTW

Ken said...

The new CompUsa actually has some reasons to go there. It's full of refurbs and close outs you aren't finding elsewhere. The only reason I bother going into a store is for stuff like that.

However, if you have little knowledge it can be a pain since the help is pretty low rent.

Rafael said...

CompUSA grins ear to ear. fine print worked very well for the bottom line. CompUSA hears you, but KA-Ching sounds are more deafening, and more pleasant to listen to.

Caitlyn said...

Sorry, there are no stickers on ANY of their price tags. They are all printed. This kind of deceptive pricing was done deliberately. It isn't about a low paid stocker. This is clearly a management pricing strategy.

Oh, and yes, I am talking about legislation which unfortunately failed to prevent retailers from trying to deceive the public.

Kerry said...

I used Tiger Direct online a few times until they gave me a run around with a rebate. I bought a printer I didn't want to get a camera I did want which was cheaper as a bundle with the rebates. after about 8 months of trying to deal with it I mailed a complaint to my state. I got the check about 2 weeks later. Complaining to the company (whichever company) is useless. Complaining to the authorities will generally get the company's attention

jbob said...

So, it sounds like you experienced something and then went on to assume intent. Not a very wise practice. In most cases the truth is a lot simplier (and less interesting) than the conspiracy theories we come up with. However, that would not have made for a catchy blog title or have gotten all of the comments, now would it?

Did you speak to the store manager to get an explanation or make any attempt to try and verify your suspicions before making the accusation?

Caitlyn said...

@ibob: If I "assumed intent" then so did the state legislature when they looked into the very same issue at the very same chain of stores and others like it. It seems to me I'm in good company. This issue has been in the press in North Carolina on and off for years. The intent has been well established.

I did express my concern and displeasure at the store. It was shrugged off.

Sorry, I didn't come up with a conspiracy theory. Since you decided to level accusations at me how about I ask you a similar question: Did you research the history of this issue before coming to my blog to question my character and intentions? Why did you assume the worst of me?

Giese1955 said...

If the retail store is like the Naperville IL store I commend you for even going. They sell the the most complex electronics in the world and have the most primitive store in the world. My last venture featured 2 people directing customers to 2 cashiers with 20 people in line waiting. Then I faced a guy at the door checking receipts and bags. There was one person at the place your order desk and 20 people in line. You have to go to one of three computers and find your p/n and write it on a scribble pad and hand it to the guys who is busy explaining what an OS is to a customer. I use them online all the time and get stuff in less than 48 hours regularly. Here's an idea for those that are close, order online and pickup your order! Duh? Terrible retail operation. Great mail order. NEVER buy something with a rebate. There is something close for nearly the same price. Train them.

Caitlyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel said...

I've been out of the US for some time now, but for small stuff like flash memory and CD-Rs Wal-Mart usually had good prices.

Small tip: If you're going to install an OS onto the SD card then you should still go for 8GB+, particularly Class 6 SDHC. Even if you don't need the space, their higher speed can make a big difference.