posted: Nov. 9, 2011 @ 10:04p
For those who ever tried to use the Best Buy “Price Matching Policy,” here’s an excerpt from a court order in a class action about this policy. In short, if it seemed like the price matching policy just wasn’t working for you, this might explain it:
Two ex-Best Buy employees, Juan Ortiz and Boris Manzheley, have testified about the existence of Best Buy's Anti-Price Matching Policy. Ortiz was a supervisor at three Best Buy locations in Connecticut from September 2002 until March 2005.
Best Buy's Anti-Price Matching Policy
Plaintiff alleges that, contrary to Best Buy's stated and advertised price match guarantee policy, it has an undisclosed corporate Anti-Price Matching Policy of “aggressively discouraging and denying customers' proper price match requests.” (Ortiz Decl. ¶ 6.) Best Buy's corporate headquarters created the Anti-Price Matching Policy and disseminated it to regional managers, store managers, assistant managers and necessary store personnel. (Id.) The company taught its employees how to use the policy-that is, how to prevent and deny price match requests-at its district facility and training store located in New York. (Id. ¶ 7.)
Best Buy's Anti-Price Matching Policy included implementing a “multi-level” structure for price match requests in its stores, in which a customer had to discuss his price match request with “at least three levels of Best Buy representatives to have the request considered.” (Id. ¶ 7.) In every case, the policy mandated that store management *426 deny the request if a price match request caused a product to be sold at less than 5% above cost. (Manzheley Decl. at ¶ 4.) The policy gave each store an allowance for how much money it could pay for price matches. (See Ortiz Decl. ¶ 7.) Once a store exceeded its “allowance,” all price match requests had to be denied. (Id.) In addition, Best Buy gave its general managers, managers, and supervisors (to a lesser extent its associates) financial incentives to deny legitimate price match requests by offering them a weekly bonus based, in part, on the store's success in denying price match requests. (Id. ¶ 9; Manzheley Decl. ¶¶ 5-6.)
The plaintiff argues that the extent and significance of Best Buy's Anti-Price Matching Policy is reflected in defendant's internal documents. For example, on October 19, 2006, Phil Britton, a member of Best Buy's Competitive Strategies Group and long-time employee, wrote in a document entitled “Competition Insider Templates”:
(Braunstein Decl. Ex. 8 at BBJM021690).
Best Buy's explanation for this document-and its blatant attempt to minimize the clear import of Britton's statement-is that, “[Britton] is a long-standing employee with a sense of humor, so whatever he said about ‘greatest hits,’ he's got a sense of humor to make things-one of our-our values is having fun while being the best, and he does embrace that.” (Cox-Feeney Test. at 140:5-9.) The plausibility of this explanation will be for a jury to decide.
Another document, labeled the “Bundle Calculator,” tells an employee how to use a “tool” to help him handle a price match request. The document explains that, “When a Customer Requests We Match a Competitors Price”
- The tool will then need to calculate the expected profit (loss) on the sale so the store employees can decide whether or not to match the price.
- After reviewing the profit, the store could decide to accept, or reject, the competitors [sic] price.
(Braunstein Decl. Ex. 9 at BBJM016444 (emphasis added).) Employees need permission to authorize a price match over a “threshold amount,” which varies by product. (Cox-Feeney Test. at 125:7-17.) If the price match exceeds the predetermined threshold amount, “then something will prompt up on the screen saying that you need a manager's approval.” (Id. at 126:3-5.)