Do a search for "I hate Best Buy" and you'll find a growing list of disgruntled customer blog posts and discussion threads. Needless to say, the electronics retailer is no stranger to business practice controversies. The latest tale of woe, however, opens up a whole new can of worms for the company, thrusting it into the arena of data loss.Back in 2006, D.C. resident Raelyn Campbell bought a laptop from her local Best Buy. She was "encouraged" (read: coerced) into buying the store's extra warranty coverage covering repairs. The following year when her machine's power switch busted, she brought it back to the store's Geek Squad service department and was told the repair could take two to six weeks (editor's note: Seriously? For a broken power switch?). Over three months and countless calls later trying to find out the status of her notebook, the truth came out -- the computer had actually gone missing.
The company offered Campbell rather mediocre compensation -- well below the value of the laptop, the $300 she had spent for the extended warranty, and the costly software she had installed. To top everything off, besides all her personal documents, Campbell had copies of her taxes on her computer. By failing to inform her immediately of the missing machine, Best Buy violated Washington, D.C., security breach notifications laws.
In response, Campbell has filed a whopping $54 million dollar lawsuit against the company. Now before you choke on your slice of Domino's Pizza (inside joke), Campbell says she isn't crazy, nor is she acting frivolously -- she's fully aware that she won't see anywhere near that chunk o' change. She chose the exorbitant number because she believed it would help Best Buy take her more seriously. I'm sure the media exposure hasn't hurt her at all, either.
No doubt this lawsuit will quickly disappear when the company makes Campbell an offer she cannot refuse. At the very least, Best Buy should provide Campbell free credit monitoring for an indefinite period and cover any charges she might incur as a result of identity theft. Of course the company could -- and on some level should -- face some penalty for failing to inform her of the loss, thereby breaking the notification law.
As I said earlier, the company already has seen its share of poor business practice scandals. The chain has been accused of price manipulation, pressuring customers to buy the company's extended warranties, and even selling boxes where products have been replaced with junk (in one case, a jar of pasta sauce!). With enough people talking (or blogging, for that matter), Best Buy should be taking very stringent steps to ensure these kind of stories become a thing of the past. Otherwise, customers might become a thing of the past as well (myself -- a fairly regular shopper there -- included).