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Best Buy Misleads Customers By Using The Copyright Law To Justify Their Return Policy

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Best Buy Misleads Customers By Using The Copyright Law To Justify Their Return Policy

Old 01-14-04, 10:59 AM
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Best Buy Misleads Customers By Using The Copyright Law To Justify Their Return Policy

Okay, a lot of complaining about retail stores I take with a grain of salt, but I think Best Buy is crossing the line here:

Apparently their customer service people have been trained to tell customers returning DVDs that Best Buy can't exchange an opened title for a different title because of the Federal Copyright Law.

A DVD I bought had scratches on the disc when I opened it. I called Best Buy and the person who answered the phone said they were out of stock of that title, but if I brought it down I could get store credit. When I showed up, customer service refused to exchange the disc for store credit (even though they were out of stock), saying they could only exchange for the same title because the Federal Copyright Law required them to do so.

Now I understand why a retail chain would adopt a policy of title-for-title exchanges on opened product, that's fine. But to try and explain a customer service policy by invoking the copyright law is ridiculous. I worked for 7 years at a company that administered copyrights, and Best Buy's story is hooey. When I asked the manager to provide the title and section of the copyright law spelling out Best Buy's return policy, she was at a loss, and just kept repeating "It's the law."

Since they were out of stock and refused to give me store credit, I had to travel to another location that had the title in stock. While the clerk was processing the exchange, another clerk was on the phone giving a customer the same line about the copyright law. The clerk helping me chimed in with "That's right, it's the law." I told her that Best Buy was misrepresenting the copyright law by telling customers a story that was probably dreamed up by their marketing department.

So, any tips on how to find the district manager for a Best Buy location? I'd like to find someone who can help me, um, understand this policy's basis in copyright law.

Last edited by ehonauer; 01-14-04 at 11:02 AM.
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Old 01-14-04, 11:12 AM
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That's....interesting.
I'm used to retailers having the policy 'no returns on opened DVD, CD, games', but I thought that was due to the relative ease of copying those items.
If they're going to claim it's the law, and rely on that as their reasoning instead of just 'it's our policy', at least someone in the store should have access to the relevant portions of the law for curious consumers.
I know the BB website has an address for the Corporate Office; don't most stores have a 'Your Store Management sign somewhere in the front or in the Customer Service section? Sometimes those include the DM, or it's listed on the receipt; if not, you could always ask the manager for the number, but they may not want to give it to you.
You say you worked in a copyright office and that BB's story is hooey--can you briefly summarize [I know, summarize thousands of pages of legislation : )] the copyright law as you understood it, why you say BB's claim is hooey? I'm not calling you out, I am woefully ignorant of most of the copyright laws other than the parts that get a lot of publicity [Fair Use, satire, etc.]
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Old 01-14-04, 11:56 AM
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I guess you are SOL if you buy something from BB that ha a scratch on it and is also about to go OOP.
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Old 01-14-04, 12:03 PM
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Originally posted by chemosh6969
I guess you are SOL if you buy something from BB that ha a scratch on it and is also about to go OOP.
Except that there's also a federal law [somewhere] that basically says 'A product must work as it is supposed to', ie, perform the function it's sold to do, or you can return it for your money back, even if it said 'No returns.' A DVD that doesn't play, in my mind, doesn't function as it is sold to do.
Of course, this law is old, and has probably been tromped over by other laws.
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Old 01-14-04, 12:11 PM
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Originally posted by dtcarson
You say you worked in a copyright office and that BB's story is hooey--can you briefly summarize [I know, summarize thousands of pages of legislation : )] the copyright law as you understood it, why you say BB's claim is hooey? I'm not calling you out, I am woefully ignorant of most of the copyright laws other than the parts that get a lot of publicity [Fair Use, satire, etc.]
Actually, I worked at a performing rights society that handled copyright administration, not the Copyright Office (full disclosure ), but here's my understanding:

In general, the Federal Copyright Law spells out the rights and protections guaranteed to copyright holders. Once a copyright holder "publishes" a work for distribution (e.g. releases a CD or DVD, a.k.a. a "copy"), no claim can be made on how the new owner transfers ownership of the copy. Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 109 reads in part:

109. Limitations on exclusive rights: Effect of transfer of particular copy or phonorecord
(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106(3), the owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title, or any person authorized by such owner, is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.


Section 106(3) states that the copyright holder has the exclusive right "to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending."

What this says, in effect, is that once a copyright holder transfers ownership of a copy to someone else, that person has the right to transfer possession with impunity. This doesn't mean the new owners can tamper with or change the contents of the work, just that they can sell, trade, barter, or exchange the copy as they see fit. There are limitations to this, but they are enforced by trade agreements and business practices, not the Federal Copyright Law.

If you're curious you can read more at http://www.copyright.gov/.

Last edited by ehonauer; 01-14-04 at 12:14 PM.
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Old 01-14-04, 12:22 PM
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That's weird. I've done exchanges like this (where they had no more copies) at Circuit City and Tower. Was refunded or given store credit with no problem.

I'm sick of Best Buy.
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Old 01-14-04, 12:39 PM
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Originally posted by ehonauer
Actually, I worked at a performing rights society that handled copyright administration, not the Copyright Office (full disclosure ), but here's my understanding:


*informative stuff snipped*


If you're curious you can read more at http://www.copyright.gov/.
So basically, at least that portion of it, affects 'resale' if you will. The creator owns the 'work' itself, but once that work is a legitimate copy, whoever owns that copy can do whatever they want with it. Buy, sell, trade, resell, take back, etc. So once BB gets it from the copyright owner [or their proxy, the publisher, whatever], they can do whatever they want with it. Once I get it, I can do whatever I want with it--the copy, not the work on it. Including 'disposing' of it be 'selling' it to Best Buy via a return. If they would accept it, which they don't, because of store policy, not because of law [at least this part of the law.]

Very informative, thanks. I'll probably go browse that site later on. I'll just have to be careful where I buy my phonorecords ; )
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Old 01-14-04, 01:47 PM
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I'm not going to get into the legal aspect, mostly because a poster already did a good job, but the bottom line is that it's relatively the same as a children's game of "telephone".

What started out as "our policy is not to give refunds or credit for opened media" turned into "it's the law". Why? Because they found it was easier to say that than to say it's "policy". They feel a customer can argue policy but will relent if it's "the law".

It's pathetic on their part, to be sure. Your situation is unfortunate, you should have been able to make an exchange (although they didn't have one).
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Old 01-14-04, 02:48 PM
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Originally posted by wfujosh
What started out as "our policy is not to give refunds or credit for opened media" turned into "it's the law". Why? Because they found it was easier to say that than to say it's "policy". They feel a customer can argue policy but will relent if it's "the law".
Well put. Beyond being deceitful, it's bullying.
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Old 01-14-04, 04:50 PM
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Any lawyer here wanna challenge their 'it's the law' claim?
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Old 01-14-04, 07:04 PM
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I've had them try the "It's against copyright law" thing on me. I like to hit them with another law: the implied warranty of merchantability. When I buy a DVD and open the case to find the DVD is cracked (as actually happened to me), they are giving me a replacement or they are giving me my money back. Period.
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Old 01-16-04, 10:16 AM
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Originally posted by JasonFliegel
I've had them try the "It's against copyright law" thing on me. I like to hit them with another law: the implied warranty of merchantability. When I buy a DVD and open the case to find the DVD is cracked (as actually happened to me), they are giving me a replacement or they are giving me my money back. Period.
I'm impressed that you thought of that one.

Two problems (and they are major ones):

1) Your state must have enacted UCC Art. 2

2) Federal law superceeds state law where it specifically pre-empts it (such as the copyright act).

But, still, I like the way you think
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Old 01-16-04, 01:00 PM
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saying they could only exchange for the same title because the Federal Copyright Law required them to do so.
Best Buy isn't the only store that does this. I overheard the same line in Wal- Mart a few days ago.
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Old 01-17-04, 02:02 PM
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Just call the 1-800 number to speak to a higher up. I agree that it is not right that they are quoting law, when it is not. However, they clearly have policy on what you can return and what not to return. I question why they would not offer you a credit since they did not have the item in stock. I'd make that point clear in your phone call, along w/ the fact that you had to drive to another store.
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Old 01-18-04, 02:50 AM
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Sooo many bad experiences with CSR's. buying from their B&M stores is a painful experience. I'm sick of best buy too.
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Old 01-18-04, 11:30 AM
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I worked at Gamestop this past Xmas and we also could not take anything back like that....new company policy due to Fed Copyright laws. If its opened, all you can get is the same item, or trade-in credit. Perhaps for once Best Buy isn't too stupid.
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Old 01-18-04, 05:16 PM
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Originally posted by discostu1337
I worked at Gamestop this past Xmas and we also could not take anything back like that....new company policy due to Fed Copyright laws. If its opened, all you can get is the same item, or trade-in credit. Perhaps for once Best Buy isn't too stupid.
Well, I must be from Missouri, because until somebody shows me the section and chapter of Title 17 that requires retail stores to perform title-for-title exchanges, I'm still skeptical...
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Old 01-19-04, 10:11 AM
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Re: Best Buy Misleads Customers By Using The Copyright Law To Justify Their Return Policy

Originally posted by ehonauer
So, any tips on how to find the district manager for a Best Buy location? I'd like to find someone who can help me, um, understand this policy's basis in copyright law.
I believe, legally, if you ask the store manager at BB (or any store) for his/her superior's name/address/phone #/etc he/she HAS to give it to you, whether he/she wants to or not. I could be wrong, but I THINK there is a law about that.
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Old 01-19-04, 03:30 PM
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Originally posted by wfujosh
What started out as "our policy is not to give refunds or credit for opened media" turned into "it's the law". Why? Because they found it was easier to say that than to say it's "policy". They feel a customer can argue policy but will relent if it's "the law".
It's not just Best Buy that make's false claims about store policies, claiming it to be some "law".
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Old 01-22-04, 11:44 AM
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Re: Re: Re: Best Buy Misleads Customers By Using The Copyright Law To Justify Their Return Policy

Originally posted by Rockmjd23
i work at a retail store and if some bothersome idiot asks me my name or the store managers name, address, phone # etc. i just make up some off the wall name and give them phony #. Works every time
You, sir, are a credit to your industry.
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Old 01-22-04, 01:53 PM
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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Best Buy Misleads Customers By Using The Copyright Law To Justify Their Return P

Originally posted by Rockmjd23
if you cant have fun at your job, then why have it
You're not supposed to have fun at the customer's expense.
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Old 01-23-04, 03:27 AM
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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Best Buy Misleads Customers By Using The Copyright Law To Justify Their

Originally posted by Rockmjd23
i dont have fun at a customers expense. once a customer crosses a line of stupidity they no longer can be considered customers but cockroaches.
You should put that on your resume.
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Old 01-23-04, 09:23 AM
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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Best Buy Misleads Customers By Using The Copyright Law To Justify Th

Originally posted by tanman

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by Rockmjd23
i dont have fun at a customers expense. once a customer crosses a line of stupidity they no longer can be considered customers but cockroaches.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

You should put that on your resume.
And then apply for a position where you have no contact with the public....
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Old 01-23-04, 06:17 PM
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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Best Buy Misleads Customers By Using The Copyright Law To Justify Their

Originally posted by Rockmjd23
i dont have fun at a customers expense. once a customer crosses a line of stupidity they no longer can be considered customers but cockroaches.
If I treated customers like cockroaches at my job, i'd be fired. After the customer leaves, that's when you treat them like cockroaches.
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Old 01-23-04, 11:16 PM
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Originally posted by scott27
After the customer leaves, that's when you treat them like cockroaches.


What they dont hear can't hurt them.
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