Sounds farfetched? Well, apparently not so farfetched that Connecticut State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal isn't looking into it.
If the story turns out to be true, what disturbs me isn't so much the fact that Best Buy may be trying to rook its customers -- I've always assumed that most major retail chains will occasionally try to pull a fast one, if they can get away with it -- but the blatant wrongness of it. A more accepted approach would have been simply to say (not without a grain of truth) that Web-based sales were only available on the Web because they cost the company less to sell and ship. Or there is that old, tried-and-true strategy of specifying that the sale price is only available on the second Tuesday of the month between the hours of 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. for people who buy at least $500 of other merchandise. Either method wouldn't have raised an eyebrow.
But to create a fake Web site and use it to prevent in-store customers from paying prices they found on the company's real site is just tacky. It's like an episode out of the TV show Hustle -- except that the con artists on Hustle have more class.
Perhaps it will turn out that this whole story is a misunderstanding, or the doing of a few Connecticut store managers who, in their eagerness to rise in their profession, played a bit of now-you-see-it-now-you-don't with the company's Web site. Or perhaps this will become a major scandal that will throw Best Buy into the PR doghouse. Either way, the story does serve to remind us that, online and off, consumers have to keep their eyes open -- and not be shy about challenging retailers when something seems to be wrong.