How Best Buy Stole Christmas

This story was originally published on Tech Crunch.

“I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.”

There’s a bit of inherent risk when shopping online. You’re handing over your credit card to a retailer that promises to ship you something in return. Most of the time transactions are completed without issue and orders are fulfilled as promised. Sometimes things go awry, though. And sometimes Best Buy ruins Christmas.

Best Buy started reaching out to customers earlier this week — you know, mere days before Christmas — that the retailer was unable to fulfill orders placed as far back as November. Big Blue was sorry but they were canceling the affected orders. Happy holidays! Signed, your merry friends at Best Buy!

Consumers traded the safety of buying an object from a brick and mortar store for the convenience and often lower prices found online. As Best Buy proves here, buying items online is still a bit risky even in 2011. Consumers just do not know for a 100% fact that they will get their product. Sure, receipts are issued and shipping estimates are given, but there are just too many variables involved for complete trust. Shipping companies can also break the chain, too. You just never know if the FedEx man is going to chuck your LCD monitor over a gate.

Generally though, the bigger the retailer, the more safe the transaction feels. Amazon, Walmart, Newegg and, to a lesser extent now, Best Buy should be considered trusted retailers. These massive companies should be able to fulfill online orders with minimum exceptions. But issues do arise. Customers are sometimes left without their order, feeling used and abused.

Don’t worry about Best Buy, though. The retailer isn’t hurting its bottom line by canceling orders en mass. The Wall Street Journal quotes an analyst stating “It’s a hiccup for the company” and “It probably won’t make a big difference for Best Buy’s holiday sales.” Oh good. Because Best Buy’s earnings were the first things I thought of when this story broke. Screw the customers. They don’t matter anyway.

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Apparently if those with canceled orders whine enough, Best Buy will issue them a gift card for the inconvenience. Of course those that suck it up and move on get nothing.

There’s no way of knowing how many of these canceled orders were to be holiday presents. Reportedly many of the canceled items were sold on Black Friday. But even without Christmas looming, Best Buy held these orders hostage for nearly a month. They violated the trust of their customers. The retailer essentially cast a wide net, collecting just as many orders as they could, likely knowing it would be unable to fulfill them all. It’s greedy, unacceptable and just plain wrong. Merry Christmas.

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