When Best Buy Botches a Coupon, Should Consumers Take Advantage?

By , dealnews Media Editor

Maybe you missed it, but this week Best Buy made a huge mistake that wound up costing the retailer a lot of money. On Monday, it released a printable coupon that took $50 off purchases of $100 or more with payment by MasterCard. It's a great discount, but it was particularly notable because the store apparently forgot to double-check the list of exclusions. Normally, these types of discounts exclude Apple products and (especially) gift cards. But not this time.

Eagle-eyed consumers around the country exploited this error by buying $100 Amazon Gift Cards for $50 ... and then returned to the store with a new coupon to do it again and again. Some wound up purchasing thousands of dollars worth of cards for, essentially, 50% off! Best Buy realized its error before the end of the day on Monday, and cancelled the promotion, which had been slated to run all week. But the damage was already done.

What is most interesting about this typographical error, however, is how it has striated the Internet. For every "Aw, man, I can't believe I missed it!" post, there are an equal number of commenters saying "Using this coupon is tantamount to stealing!"

On which side do you fall on this dilemma? Is all fair in love and deals? Or should consumers show restraint? Sound off in the comments below!

Front page photo credit: Amazon

Jeff Somogyi is the dealnews Media Editor. See more of his thoughts on Google+, Twitter, or on his blog.

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DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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As opposed them telling you the item is unavailable but your standing in front of a pallet of the item.
It seems, to me, that the die has been cast to abuse anyone and anything!Retailers have made themselves out to be GOD almighty! doing to us what we better not do unto them. I'm not in favor of that philosophy- however- when they act like Christians , then we can treat them likewise. I personally would like to think I could restrain myself and act as the good Lord would like me to.But-------
I tried to use the coupon at Best Buy today to purchase Apple TV. They would not honor it. I told the manager "no wonder you guys are going to go out of business". Best Buy wasted my time. I did not purchase the item from them - I WILL NOT be shopping at Best Buy any longer. This includes Pacific Sales.
I tried to use it to buy something yesterday that would not have been excluded item and they wouldn't honor it. They claim they had signs up on Monday, but you'd think they'd have kept the signs up until the printed expiration date on the coupon. It definitely has made me rethink making any future purchases from them.
I tried to use the coupon for a printer Monday afternoon before BB modified it in any way. The store manager told me it was a forgery, not issued by BB. They lied to me. I won't be shopping at BB any more.
To each his own....with that said I personally believe there is a fine line between utilizing a great deal and exploiting a situation. Two wrongs do not make a right. If the coupon was used over and over again knowing that the cashiers would not be checking identity....morality may be in question. I know at my local Best Buy there is a coupon for 10% off all open item merchandise. Now that is a decent deal. Especially when it's on a mac product. MBP, normally $1,700, cut down to 1,500 open item and then the 10% off leads to $1,350+tax. Now I would say that is a steal but utilizing a great coupon. But alas everyone has their own cup of tea.
As a gamer, I am accustomed to seeing Terms of Service including phrases like, if you notice an exploit, do not take advantage of it or there may be consequences, and to please report it.

As a savvy shopper, I am accustomed to fine print excluding gift cards. That is standard practice, and the only exception is special promos that apply only to purchasing a discounted gift card, like a token 5% off the fruit or forest company cards.

Combine the two, any reasonable person would know this is an exploit. This is essentially the real world equivalent of an infinite wealth generator exploit in the virtual world.

Who is to say there were no organized scammers taking advantage of this? I'd say at the least, void all those gift cards and let the "customer" do the work of getting their honest money (if any) back. I'd go the extra step and press charges against potential organized scam rings.

Too bad we just can't have nice things and they turned legitimate customers away.
Those who had Christmas orders canceled by Best Buy in 2011 are probably smiling about this error. For folks who believe in karma, their belief was just affirmed.
I have no problem with anyone taking advantage of me of some mistake I made. I would accuse myself for my mistakes and take responsibility for any consequences rather than pointing fingers at others for taking advantage of me. That is the only way I learn. That is the only way anyone will learn.

I would not want someone taking advantage of me of some mistake I made. The one's using the coupons knew what they were doing.....taking advantage of someone's mistake.

The only problem with that is Best Buy DID INTEND for this coupon to be used as written.... THEY JUST FORGOT TO MENTION ALL THE EXCLUSIONS.... Therefore anyone trying to use it after Monday EVEN IF THEY FOLLOWED THE RULES were turned away.... A couple of comments below stated items that would not have been excluded, but were??? As another commenter posted " In this age of super technology", it should have been ammended both online and clearly in all stores. I have worked for larger companies than BestBuy prior to 2007 (when technology was just moving, blackberry, cell, fax) and when a major problem like that occured. ALL branches and employees would be notified and the problem corrected in a manner that would be acceptable to both the customer and company...
As one who has been beat up over the fine print on coupons and other special offers - I tend to side with those who used the coupon. They followed the rules.
It would be a whole different game had the coupon said it was invalid on gift cards, but a particular store (or even the whole chain) had a mis-programming in their system that allowed people to use it that way anyway - and word spread, and people took advantage - they still used it in violation of the clear rules.
Yes, a large number of those using this coupon took advantage in ways that were exploitative. But then again, this can be a two-way street - as Best Buy is not always the most "above board" in its own dealings.
But it comes back to this - consumers used the coupon as labeled. They didn't "skirt the system", they didn't break the rules.
Best Buy had you signed up for a service that you didn't want or mean to sign up for and charged you for that service. To me, it's a mistake on the Best Buy's end rather on the customer end.
You paid for the mistake made by Best Buy and thought they were not legally obligated to refund your money. It doesn't make sense to me at all, DryWallet. But it believes that it makes sense to Best Buy.
I used it on a tech item a couple other things, didn't want to push my luck with gift cards. Still a very, very good deal.
To all saying Best Buy will not care if a mistake was made on the customer end, that has not been my experience. The only time I had a billing problem (they had me signed up for a service that I did not want or mean to sign up for), they ended the service and retroactively refunded all money I had paid for it, even though they were not legally obligated to do so.

@NOLESFAN - yes I do live in a smaller town in Utah, but going from having Circuit City, Future Shop, Ultimate Electronics, and Best Buy as some major players, down to only having Best Buy as a nearby option, I don't want to see them go. Competition is good for everyone!
If we as consumer make a mistake, Best Buy will tell us straight out that it's our fault and it is written. If Best Buy made a mistake, then it is just poetic justice when consumer use that to their advantage.
Best Buy is a Techie store, they're selling PC, Mac, Laptop but somehow they don't know or don't have anyone whom can write a program to block "Excluded items", this is 2013, bar code revolution had change so many times and Best Buy is going down because they don't know how to use it.
I would not want someone taking advantage of me of some mistake I made. The one's using the coupons knew what they were doing.....taking advantage of someone's mistake.
Elvis Is Alive
I despise Best Buy. From the cancelling of my online Black Friday orders, to advertising items they have literally one of in stock, to not price matching their own website, to this promotion that I was denied participation, I won't shop there anymore. Showrooming only for me. Hope they go bankrupt. WORST BUY
The fines by "big business" for late payments are not exploitations. They are simply an execution of a part of an agreement (contract) agreed upon by BOTH parties. If a late payment is made truly in error, most "big businesses" will allow for a "forgiveness" and ignore the penalty when asked. Best Buy did create this coupon and it did have potential downside for the business, a matter that Best Buy should take up with the author of the coupon, but Best Buy tried to correct the error once it was discovered. Remember, the individual store has the option to deny any coupon from any manufacturer. It is their right. Yes it could have been handled better. If the rules of the coupon were followed when someone used the coupon, it shouldn't be considered wrong. I lost an hour driving to a Best Buy and looking for produccts I ended up not purchasing too. I'm not frustrated that Best Buy wouldn't honor the coupon. I'm frustrated that Best Buy didn't tell me that before I left the house.
A coupon is a coupon and it is the right of the store to accept or deny the use of any coupon the same as it is the right of the store to sell or not to sell any item from their store. It does seem funny that the coupon they were denying was a coupon put out by themselves. Still, a mistake was made and Best Buy tried to stop the mistake. Unfortunately, the correction could have been handled better on the individual store side. The Best Buys I visited that day were ill prepared and unaware of the coupon itself (at least this is what the managers told us). I own a business myself, and I would not sell a product at a loss, but I would do my best to be curteous and inform my customers of the mistake. Come on--do you honestly believe that Best Buy sells Amazon Gift cards at 50% markup?!? And for anyone assuming online purchases avoid taxation should look into their state tax laws. It's normally classified as a use tax, and it is your resposibility to pay up when tax season comes.
@SingingDeb comment & Iward comment.... That is what this coupon was meant for!!! Best Buy could have easily accepted that. They could have easily ammended the coupon online as well as many signs in the retail store. It is not like they don't have electornic equipment and printers ... LOL

As for one of the last big box electronics store, I don't know where you live but there are plenty in Florida that ALL beat Best Buy regularly and employ many people still... Brandsmart, Tigerdirect, HHGreggg just to name a few. The bottom line is they are over-priced and i can't remeber the last item i bought there.... Maybe if I would have gotten 50 of 100... LOL
You better believe that somebody at BB lost their job over this. It's not coming out of the CEO's paycheck that's for sure.
If a regular customer makes a mistake, a late payment for instance, big businesses are entitled to exploit that mistake by charging a ridiculous fine (credit card companies generate a major portion of their income from such charges). Few people consider this exploitation stealing. Customers lost billions of dollars to big organizations every year due to such exploitation. Nobody cares. However, when some customers legally held BBY responsible for their mistake, they were immediately questioned of their ethics. This world is rigged by big business like BBY.
Wrong question asked. It's never "When big business make a mistake, is it OK for customers to exploit it to their advantage". The question should be "When big business make a mistake, is it OK for big business not to take responsibility for its mistake".
Mistake, mischmake... if they post it and I see it, I'll use it. Too bad I missed this one :-(
First of all, anyone that thinks this is in any way dealnews' fault is an idiot. Best Buy listed the coupon to run all week and they should have honored it. Best Buy has been charging more for everything for years. Online shopping is almost always cheaper. There is no tax on purchases and there customer support is always 100% better then Best Buy. If they would have continued to honor it then they could have at least got some customers back into the stores. Yes, they would have lost some money but really we are talking pocket change to these corporations.
Even faceless corporations don't have endless pockets... Best Buy doesn't even have deep pockets. Selfish CEO aside, they employ a lot of people and are one of the last big-box electronics stores alive. People should use common sense. A coupon like this would never be intended for multiple uses per person, whether they forgot to print it or not. Having said that I have to believe that most people used the coupon in the spirit of the coupon and did not attempt to stick it to the big bad company.
I would object to people taking advantage of a mistake like this if it involved a small business selling goods or services produced domestically. But a corporation selling goods produced under slave-like conditions in cheap overseas labor markets while paying their CEO more than $10 million a year? Too bad.
I have an example that is worth repeating to show how a reputable company responds to their mistakes. A day after Black Friday 2010 I bought a Logitech Harmony 1100 remote from Fry’s.com (a $400 remote for $50 after discounts and rebates). The next day I received an email from them saying that after running out of stock they discovered orders were accepted in error due to a website problem and they could not fulfill the order. One week later I received another long email from Fry’s.com that said they were working with their vendor and might still be able to honor the original Black Friday deal if I was willing to wait several months to receive the remote. I was willing to wait and they came through. I receive the remote several months late at the original advertised price and the original rebate was honored. I will always consider Fry’s.com first when making online electronic purchases. I will never again consider Best Buy.
My wife and I spent an hour in their store looking for items we needed that could maximize the benefit they were offering. We weren’t thinking as devious as some so Amazon gift cards were not on our list but we were trying to get a close as we could to $100 for each of us (I had printed 2 coupons). After some good help from the employees on different products and lots of looking we thought we had a perfect purchase, $110 of products for me and $103 for my wife. When we got to the register we were told the coupon was no longer being honored. There was no explanation except that Corporate told them to stop accepting the coupon. We left our items behind and walked out of the store for the last time. And you, Deal News, should think twice before ever posting another ‘deal’ from Best Buy again. How should Best Buy have responded to their mistake? See my next post for an answer.
Caveat Emptor, "Let the buyer beware" only in reverse. One of the pillars and pitfalls of capitalism. You screw up and the vultures and hyenas will eat well tonight. Too bad I didn't get in on it because I would have been one of those tapping the well dry.
Standard markup on most products there is 50% or more excluding a few regulated products (ipad. ps3, etc) And i am sure they get at least 25% on those. Did they really take a loss??? Cmon, On the regular Best Buy is more expensive than many other electronic retailers as is... For them to take a one day small loss (thousands LOL) is like taking a drop of water out of the ocean and saying we could be losing our ocean's water supply. It is not the buyers job to police a coupon! only to take advantage of it AS IT IS PRINTED... Great job for those of you who got in on it!!!
Is 50% off at BestBuy actually a good deal?
I wish they had just amended the coupon, posting signs stating "not to be used for gift cards. " I was in line on Wednesday to purchase a printer, and found out about the coupon cancellation then, via posted signs at the cashiers. We passed on the printer and will look elsewhere. More frustrating: I was in the store on Monday but wanted to do a little more research before my purchase. Darn! I called Customer service to see if there was something they could offer; nothing. Leaves me disappointed in Best Buy.
Kinda makes up for the screwing they gave the public two years ago on Black Friday. KARMA BABY!
Joe H