Do retailers break the law? Of course. Retailers are run by people same as any other business, but some seem to be more flagrant in their disregard of the rules which govern society than others. A recent lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation against the FBI may place Best Buy in the Best Criminal category…or at a minimum, some of its employees.
Opinion by C J Oakes
Those who know me know that I am no fan of Best Buy. At one time, I sang their praises and spent tons of money with them, but after a couple of shady happenings with the retailer, I stopped going there altogether.
Best Buy Strike One
The first time was when I bought a $20 Steam Card. I went home and set up my Steam account only to find that I could not get the card to accept in the system. I contacted the store and was told they had nothing to do with the card. I wrote to Steam and was shocked at the response. Steam told me that the card was no longer valid and that they had informed Best Buy on several occasions to stop selling the card. I went to the store and spoke with the manager on duty only to be told that yes, it was true but they had nothing to do with the card–and yes, there were more of the same still for sale on the rack. When I confronted the manager about this fact, he only shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s up to corporate.”
I did manage to get in touch with someone at Steam and they took care of the problem, setting up my account and issuing credit. Good for them. Bad for Best Buy.
Best Buy Strike Two
A few months later, I bought a new laptop. Well, not exactly new. It was one of the sell-out models that are used in the store. Price was great, so I bought it. I used it for a week and it stopped letting me have access to the Internet. I could not figure out the problem, but as I had not downloaded anything and had the latest virus software installed, I figured I would bring it to the Geek Squad.
They would not see me. This was a day after the store started making customers make appointments. There was no notification of this, it just happened. I complained to the manager and to her credit, she took it to the Squad which had no appointments at the moment. When she returned, she informed me that the computer had a virus and showed me the application. She said it would cost me $200 to remove and clean it.
I then pointed out that the application was on the laptop when I bought it. She said it did not matter. It was out of her hands. If I wanted the virus removed, the cost was $200.
I left and had a friend check it out. No virus, but it was malware. And it did predate my purchase. He cleaned my laptop in a matter of seconds. I never returned to Best Buy.
Best Buy Strike Three
The reason the Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued the FBI and Justice Department is to obtain records of alleged Best Buy Geek Squad members being used to spy on customers. In other words, employees are checking computers for alleged illegal activities without a warrant and reporting back to the FBI — a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Whether this is true or not remains to be seen. The lawsuit is part of a Freedom of Information request, which means that at this point, the only evidence is sealed within FBI records.
Do I believe it to be true?
Maybe. Given what I have seen of the Justice Department and Best Buy in the last few years it would not surprise me if the company was involved. Given what Best Buy pays their employees, it makes perfect sense if some are looking for extra pay along the way.
Remember too, it was the Justice Department that sold confiscated weapons to drug lords in Mexico then lost track of them a few years back.
Also Best Buy…well…they really don’t strike me as an honorable company, so it seems possible. In any case, time will tell if Best Buy is one of the Best Criminal Retailers today.
Personally, I don’t care. Aside from having nothing to hide, I don’t give them my money anymore anyway.
Oh and FYI, I use Google AdSense for advertising so if you see an ad for Best Buy, it is NOT an endorsement, but rather a reflection of your own buying habits, which you have every right to exercise. I will neither endorse nor block the company because whether they are acting in a criminal way or not is a matter for the legal system — I am simply asking questions based on my experience. The company is innocent until proven guilty, same as anyone else. Take that for what it’s worth.