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Buy.com Misleading Customers...legal action possible?

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Buy.com Misleading Customers...legal action possible?

Old 08-21-00, 05:29 PM
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Hi all,

Though I post infrequently, I hope that some of you might lend an ear to these thoughts.

As most of us, I have taken particular interest in following the threads regarding Buy.com and their delays in shipping titles. I too have taken advantage of many of the recent buy.com coupons, but prior even to those, I had placed several orders with buy.com simply based on their pricing, and the fact that reel.com and their wonderful price matching were no more. This past week (8/15, big day number one this month for many of us) marked the first real problems with pre-orders and buy.com. I have recieved several of the titles, oddly enough some of the more popular, but many of the pre-orders are still listed as being ON ORDER. When I spoke with a CSR I was told that i simply wasn't in the "first batch" of those recieving the titles, and that the limited availability was "probably" determined by the studio distributing a limited amount to any given e-tailer. He said that it could be as long as 6 weeks before buy.com was able to ship those titles to outstanding orders. This sent me into uncontrollable laughter and I thanked him for the helpful information.

The titles in question were, for the most part, ordered AT LEAST one month, sometimes two, prior the the projected release date of the DVD. My real question in all of this is...

Is there any sort of legal action that we as buy.com customers can pursue against the company that has LIED do us? I remember hearing on the radio about a month ago that there was a decision in a court case to make internet retailers pay for misinforming customers about delays in Christmas deliveries. Apparently, this past holiday season much the same thing was happening that buy.com is doing to us right now. We are being mislead and buy.com is misrepresenting itself as being able to meet the demands of DVD customers when in fact they are knowingly not ordering enough product. If they have preorders from a month or more prior to the release of a product, then they KNOW how much product they are going to need in order to meet demand. When any one of us can go to express.com, or any other online e-tailer for that matter, or even walk into a local B&M store and pick up a copy of a title that buy.com claims to not be able to get a hold of, something is rotten in California and Indiana.

Is there anything we can do other than discuss our displeasure? I am convinced that we are being lied to. They cannot be allowed to advertise the availability of a title on a certain date, procuring our trust and our investment in their company, and then delay that product for ridiculous lengths of time. That is not only bad business practice but it has got to be illegal...hasn't it? The law has determined that e-tailers this holiday season were remiss in informing their customers truthfully about the availability of product and it made them pay for it. Is this not a similar situation?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I, for one, and pretty upset about this, and since i'm learning to stop wasting my time getting upset at ignorant and innocent CSRs , I'm looking for other means of expressing that this sort of thing is unacceptable.
Old 08-21-00, 07:25 PM
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I dont know about legal action but it stinks.... none of my anime pre-orders have EVER come on its date. It doesnt matter how much before the date do you pre-order. I get the same exact response from the csr's... that the item went out of stock and to the pre-orders before me. I find it hard to believe that i order something a month in advance and they cant calculate how much they need to fullfill...

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Old 08-22-00, 02:34 AM
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I've had the same luck from buy.con. The bad thing is when I call in to ask about my DVD problem and I can hear the wheel of misfortune spinning in the background as the CSR waits to see which excuse he will give me. The wheel stops spinning with one final click and I hear a different story than the last time I called.
Old 08-22-00, 03:47 AM
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I don't know about legal action, but you may try the FTC, as well as emailing some of the buy.com top management. I have decided personally that I'm no longer shopping at buy.con. They do have low prices on DVDs, and a bunch of coupons, but the aggravation is not worth it. Last month I ordered hardware listed as "ships in 24-48 hours". When I looked up my order, it said "back ordered". I talked to the CS supervisor whose answers
consisted of "I don't know", "I won't do that", "I won't let you do that", "Our policy is not to allow that" ... you get the idea. This guy was outright hostile and plainly said he doesn't care about the company's reputation, would not care if I ever shopped at buy.con anymore and basically told me to get lost. What an attitude from a customer service supervisor. He refused to give me his name or the names and contact info for his supervisors. I'm in the process of finding their names and addresses on my own. I see buy.con going the way of ValueAmerice with rude and incompetent customer service, bad management and clueless staff. Their stock is certainly headed that way.

[This message has been edited by gmand (edited August 21, 2000).]
Old 08-22-00, 04:04 AM
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The devil is always in the details. Although I have been very happy with Buy.com since the transition, I know that everyone is not so lucky. Therefore, look to the substance of the contract created when an order is placed and accepted by Buy.com. I don't know what is expressed or implied by Buy.com upon their acceptance of an order, but it seems to me that one would have to prove a breach of contract. In case of the guarranteed Christmas shipment cases, I believe those etailers made some claim as to when delivery would be made, then did nothing to inform customers of delays or offer them alternative options when it was known shipments would not be timely. The FTC established that this brought economic/emotional harm to customers.

How you can make the jump from Buy.com's late deliveries to the FTC case strains credibility. Not only do you have to prove some kind of breach of contract, you must show you were harmed in some way. Furthermore, it is useless for the individual to pursue this, so it would have to be a class action suit or the FTC would have to get upset. Legal action is too hard to fathom unless there were enough people available for class action.

The simplest thing to do is to make complaints everywhere, from Bizrate, to consumer columns in your newspaper, to complaints to your state's Attorney General's office (consumer affairs), to the BBB. Let Buy.com know that you are doing it, too. Scan your newspaper comments into their email. Flood your local media with your public outrage, and make sure they know about it.

Write a letter to the CEO and start with the old standard, "I am shocked and appalled, etc."

Let me tell you, this stuff works at least half of the time. I have had a lot of successful experience at intimidating evil health insurance companies, Kodak Photo-finishing, and now I'm on to Sony for making a lemon Hi8 camcorder. Lawyers aren't always necessary.

So, go do your homework!


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Old 08-22-00, 04:37 AM
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Thanks for your thoughts Hal2000.

Yeah, I figured it would be a stretch trying to pursue any sort of legal action. I certainly never thought of pursuing anything as an individual, that was part of my reason for posting, to sort-of gauge interest from disgruntled customers. I don't know how much of a stretch it is drawed comparisons to the recent FTC decision. One could argue that buy.com is winning the commerce of consumers by offering their products on specific dates. Any pre-ordered title is said to be available on a certain date. I haven't checked the terms of sale, etc. but at the very least there is an implicit guarantee from buy.com regarding when a title will be shipped. If I were to go to my local MediaPlay/Suncoast/whathaveyou and reserve a title that is to be released on a certain day, they couldn't get away with sending me away empty handed with some lame excuse on the day of release. Many internet companies certainly take advantage of the annonymity that e-commerce offers. They will never have to look a customer in the face and so they have no accountability.

Your other advice I think is very useful, thanks for offering it. I believe I WILL go do my homework , and I think it would be a valuable resource for many DVDTalk users to have the information available here in the forum about where and who to write to.

Hurm...I guess it all comes from liking honey so much. I'm such a sucker for a bargain.
Old 08-22-00, 05:16 AM
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If you can prove damages, you don't need the FTC, as I understand it. I see contacting the
FTC and the state consumer affairs division with complaints of false advertising, bait and switch, and similar tactics. When buy.con says something is in stock and will ship it in 24 hours, and you decide to buy from them because Amazon's site says "ships in 1-2 weeks" for the same item, they have committed typical false advertising by claiming that they have some item in stock, inducing you to order it and only after that saying "sorry, this is back ordered, we'll ship it in 6-8 weeks". Once when I asked the CS supervisor why don't they have a real-time inventory as many other sites, she told me "because we choose not to". The same with with the late deliveries: often you make the choice to buy or not from them based on their claims that they'll ship it by a given date. This falls squarely within the jurisdiction of FTC, local consumer affairs and similar organizations. How does that differ from a store splashing a huge ad for a ridiculously cheap item when in fact they have one or two in stock, if any.
Old 08-22-00, 01:11 PM
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This was brought up a few times in some past Buy threads.... If i remeber correctly, in NY they have violated some laws when your order is later than 30 days beyond when it was expected....ie if it "shipps in 24 - 48 hours and its a month late, raise hell!! Even though im not in NY i used this to et my ID4 hurried through! As far as getting back, write, not email them complaints, getthe names and numbers of the CSRs you spoke with and let the upper management (beyond CSR manager) know how you feel. Go by your local Holywood video, and get the area managers number and talk with him to get the corporate number, then raise hell! (buy is owned by Hollywood, and not likeing the bad press buy is getting at all!)

Old 08-22-00, 02:26 PM
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That is very interesting to know Aaron, thank you. I had no idea that Hollywood Video had become a part of buy.com. My local HV still has reel.com plastered all over it, so of course no one would necessarily make the connection between HV and buy.com.

Another great suggestion. Now does anyone know if state law is even applicable to internet companies located in other states?

Here are some tidbits from the HV web site...these are definitely principals that buy.com is not living up to. If it's true that HV management is getting upset about buy.com's performance, then it sounds like a good idea to air our complaints to them.

From HV.com:

OUR BELIEFS-

Customers are the reason we are here

OUR VALUES-

Have a Sense of Urgency
Demonstrate Accountability
Be Proactive
Have a Passion for Success
Use Common Sense

I believe that each and every one of the above stated values is demonstrably absent from the actions of buy.com and it's staff. I'll see if I can get the number Aaron mentioned so that we all can refer to it here.

Let's keep this ball rolling.
Old 08-22-00, 03:08 PM
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I do not believe Buy.com and Hollywood Video are associated. Reel.com is still owned and operated by Hollywood Video
Old 08-22-00, 03:40 PM
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I don't know that buy.com and Hollywood Video are financially related, (this seemed to be suggested by an earlier post.) But what we DO know is that HV and Reel.com are the same company, and they have a relationship with buy.com in that reel.com directs all of it's business to buy.com now.

So, the theory goes...we inform the upper management of HV, who we know were not pleased with the performance of their e-commerce aquisition (reel.com), that their new affiliate buy.com is performing no better and is a detrimental relationship. This won't make the problem of buy.com go away since they owe no fealty to HV, but losing that relationship would certainly hurt. Currently, when an HV customer visits reel.com and decides to place an order for an upcoming release, the order goes to buy.com and that poor soul will be given the same run-around as the rest of us. Now for anyone who is new to e-commerce, this would prove very discouraging and will turn them away from future visits to reel.com and perhaps even HV. It is this notion that must be sold to HV management.

What do you think?
Old 08-22-00, 05:03 PM
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I'd love to give buy.com a kick in the pants for everything dishonest they have done to date. Problem is: 1) legal action against them is infeasible for reasons I have stated before; and 2) given that they seem to be the last low-priced online DVD seller with coupons, do you really want to do something that will eat into their profit margin and force them to raise prices? I don't.
Old 08-22-00, 10:27 PM
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Thanks for your input Hoc. To address your second point.

We ARE paying higher prices than we think right now. I don't know about you, but given the recent trouble I have had with buy.com, my plan is to ride out the orders that I have already placed and then discontinue using buy.com as my primary source for DVDs. If dvdexpress.com is charging 17.99 for a title delivered on or before the date of release, and buy.com is charging 16.99 for that same title but with a delay in delivery of 3 weeks, where are you paying more?

It's been said before, but I believe the end of our DVD salad days is nearing. We've seen some amazing stuff during these first few years of DVD e-tailer battles, and I think that we as comsumers have demonstrated overwhelmingly that we are a very fickle bunch. The deals aren't the same, they are getting few and far between, which is why I think that buy.com has met with such great success in offering coupons...people love 'em, but they are nowhere near as good as they used to be. It's an interesting debate I have with myself all the time...am I really saving that much getting 30 off 150? Especially taking into consideration that I won't get my orders in a timely manner? If dvdexpress.com offered coupons like that it would be like XMas in July, but buy.com is demonstrating and has demonstrated that they can't hack it and have no interest in providing even marginal customer service.

I, for one, grow weary of this battle. I've fought it with cduniverse and reel.com and bigstar.com and others, and it's always been because I saved a few bucks over another, more reliable e-tailer. The prices at buy.com can be beat. DVDempire has started to offer some great prices on pre-orders and I have never had any trouble with them. DVDexpress has always delivered excellent product and customer service at very reasonable prices. I haven't used Amazon's service much, but I hear very good things about it. I have been spoiled by my experience of rarely buying a DVD at more than 50% of it's MSRP, and while I wish that sort of thing could continue, I don't think that the industry can allow it. Let's take our business elsewhere. Yes, legal action is unfeasable, but we CAN take our business elsewhere. If buy.com's video division tanks it can only be a good thing for us in the long run. Let's support those companies that have consistently offered quality and service to us in spite of the fact that we are so very unfaithful to those who treat us best. Turn away from that foul strumpet buy.com and return to your more faithful mistress while you still can. Boy, do I feel ashamed.

No, but seriously, we don't have to do business with bad companies. I know I need to slow down anyway, this fall is killing me.

[This message has been edited by FearMe (edited August 22, 2000).]
Old 08-23-00, 12:48 AM
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Excuse me, I'm back. Just to emphasize once again, companies hate public embarrassment. Remember the guy who bought a crappy car, painted a lemon on it, then parked it legally in front of the dealership? It worked for him.

The simplest thing to do is to write the CEO (I'm shocked and appalled...) and threaten to submit a complaint to the consumer affairs division of your state attorney general's office. It's usually more effective than the FTC since it is more, ahem, "local." With the FTC, you have to take a number, and they usually wait until they have accumulated a large amount of numbers. You might also try the consumer affairs division in California, where Buy is headquartered.

I love to fight these fights; I've often considered leaving accounting and banking just to complain for consumers...for a fee, of course.

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Old 08-23-00, 06:34 PM
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I believe at one time or another everyone that buys many DVDs online has problems with all e-stores. Obviously some more than others. If buy.com or any other e-store is pissing you off don't buy from them go elsewhere. We would all like to shop at a place that has everything in stock at the cheapest price but that's not reality! Don't hate the player, hate the game!
Old 08-24-00, 05:15 AM
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I would love for Buy.com to go out of business. I will never shop there again. Express.com and 800.com have NEVER screwed me over an order. Sure, you some of you poor people may have to spend over 1 DOLLAR on a dvd at these stores, but 99% of the time, you'll get your order within a few days. I still do most of my shopping at B&M stores. Yeah, I'll pay a little more and have to actually drive over there, but at least I get to take home what I paid for that day and enjoy my movie.

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Old 08-26-00, 08:24 AM
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the only person you'll make happy w/ legal action is some lawyer. that's the problem nowadays - whenever anything doesn't go someone's way they think of legal action!

when i had a problem w/ buy.com, i called them & politely insisted on talking to a manager. i (politely again) pointed out how they had inconvenienced me, and got an apology & a $20 coupon for my efforts.

your milage my vary - but any legal action is going to cost you more in time & $$$ than you will ever get back, imho.

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