There’s a sucker born every minute

Doug LoehrIs there anyone besides me who is fed up with the ridiculous amount of false advertising, hidden clauses or surprise gimmicks used to lure the consuming suckers of this world like me into today’s market place.

It grates on my nerves when I hear a car commercial on the radio and at the end we have to hear a man’s voice go on for about 10 seconds reading the transaction disclaimer so fast that people (including me) have actually wished they could hit the rewind button on the CD player/radio hoping, just hoping the disclaimer could be heard once again.


The same holds true for the small print disclaimer at the bottom of a sale ad on television? Even recorded with TiVo or a VCR it’s impossible to read because the print is not only tiny, but often at a color that blends in with the background.

To me, that’s a clear cut conspiracy by businesses to purposely defraud consumers, and although legal because the disclaimers actually explain the conditions of said sale, they are still trying to sneak the clause that breaks the camel’s back at an insulting speed past you and me.

My latest complaint is directed at Best Buy. Technically you can’t call this false advertising, but it is downright lowdown, sneaky and un-American. And once you read this you can look it up for yourselves — verbatim — on their Web site.

We all know if we return a purchase from Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, J.C.Penney, Sears etc. with the sales receipt they will give us our money back if we paid cash, or credit our account if purchased with plastic.

But here’s a story of a man who purchased a $500 GPS from Best Buy. The man was aware that Best Buy has a policy that any product must be returned within 14 days for a refund.

So after only four days he returned the GPS in its original box with paper work and cords all wrapped in the plastic just as it was received, including the receipt.

He explained to the refund clerk that the GPS could not locate stores by their names, rendering the unit unfit for his use. But the refund clerk explained there was a 15 percent restocking fee for all returned items, a fine print clause the buyer was unaware of. He was told he would be charged $45 to restock the item, which basically amounted to the clerk walking over to the shelf and setting it down. That means if the same man bought a $2,000 computer or TV and returned it to the store, the restocking fee would be $300!

Now livid, the customer explained to the clerk that if people were aware of this policy they would not buy anything at Best Buy. With that he asked for his refund minus the restocking fee, but was told the corporate policy is that refunds over $200 cannot be made on the spot and the company would send him a check in the mail within seven to 10 days. The refund clerk explained that the return policy was clearly posted on the back of his sales receipt.

The man asked for the manager who told the customer that the policy, regardless of it being posted in “fine print” on the back of the receipt should have been revealed by the salesperson at the time of the sale, but it was overlooked.

Not stopping there, the man called the corporate office and was issued an apology along with an offer to refund the restocking fee with a $45 gift card that could be redeemed at any Best Buy store. The man simply told the customer service representative he would decline the offer because he feared if the item purchased with the gift card was to be returned for any reason he would still be charged 15 percent, or $6.75 to restock the item.

Yet, had the customer purchased the items with a credit card it all would have been a moot point as he could have declined the charge through his credit card company and canceled the transaction!

You can check out Best Buy’s return policy for yourself at www.bestbuy.com or simply make a purchase at one of their stores and read the policy for yourselves.

Either way, it’s just another shoddy way today’s service and sales industries can “stretch the truth” and deceive consumers.

Doug Loehr is a member of the Examiner’s editorial staff. He can be reached at 592-3060, ext. 136 or via e-mail at dloehr@examiner.org.

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