False Advertising
Posted: 2006-03-09. Categories: CompUSA, Retail Stores

CompUSA Consumer Issues

In this section we discuss advertising laws and how they help to protect consumers as well as a lesson in how to purchase a good hard drive.

My story is a little different. I work for CompUSA in Michigan. This week we had a 12-hour sale with extended hours on Sunday. The most popular item in the ad was a 250 gig hard drive that was advertised at $79.00 regularly priced at $159.99 (a savings of $80.00 instantly.) This is a very good buy.

What really upset me about this is that this sale was supposed to end at 8:00 pm. Before the sale had even started they pulled all the drives off the shelf and put them in the back, telling all the sales people that customers would have to ask for the item and be taken into the tech department so that we could sell them a replacement plan with the item.

All day the management would come up and want to know why replacement plans weren’t being sold with the drives. At 5:00 pm 3-hours before the sale was over they moved the remaining drives to a locked room and told us to tell customers who asked that they were out of stock and so was every other store in the region.

I complained about this, stating that I had intended to buy one of the drives myself and was told I would not be allowed to purchase one.

The next day I was told by another employee that they did the same thing with a $99.00 computer. I was really bothered by this and if I didn’t need a job so badly I would have quit that day. I felt really bad turning people away when we had at least 20 of those drives left.

No Name,
In Utica, Michigan

1 Comment to "False Advertising"

  1. Retail Bandit says:

    Dear No Name,

    Before I get into the legality of CompUSA’s actions, I would like to help make you feel a little better about the situation. You should know that my husband is a computer technician. He currently runs his own business but in a previous life he worked for the US Navy in the IT division, Gateway Computers, Staples and as a technical school lead instructor. I would like to share with you his experience with drives of this type.

    Working on thousands of computers over the years, he has noticed that hard drives with odd numbered platters, such as the 250 gig drive they were selling, fail far more often than those with even numbered platters, such as: a 40, 80 or 160 gig drive. The people who purchased those drives and did not purchase the replacement plan are going to be unhappy campers because the chances are very high that the majority of them won’t last more than six months.

    Shawn had this to say on the topic:

    Inside your harddrive is a number of actual disks that spin rapidly with various thingies – kinda like a record player needle – that reads and writes the information. The number of disks you have inside (platters) makes a huge difference in the amount of space available and the quality (and reliability) of the drive.

    The most reliable drives have an even number of platters. You can determine (as a general rule) how many platters a drive has based on the amount of space available. If it’s a 20, 40, 80, 160 or 320 gb drive then it has an even number of platters. That’s a good thing. If it is a 30, 60, 90, 120, 180 or 240 gb drive, it probably has an odd number of platters.

    I *suspect* that the magnetic and weighted positions of the platters in such close proximity to each other have a disbalancing effect on the middle platter when there are odd numbers of platters, causing the drive to be less stable, gradually, and effectively causing the drive to commit sepuku. “Even” plattered drives are far more reliable and thus just don’t suffer from the same scale of failures.

    In my years of doing this I have seen hundreds of drives fail. Maybe thousands. Of those I can count on two hands the total number of drives that were 20s, 40s, and 80s – but I couldn’t hope to count the number of 30s or 60s, and they’ve been available for a much shorter time period overall.

    So when you buy your next drive (or the next computer you are looking for to buy), ensure that the drive is a 40, 80, 160 or 320gb drive.

    I hope this makes you feel a little better about not being allowed to purchase one at that price. There is a reason the stores sell these drives so cheaply.

    As for the legality. Check the advertisement CompUSA put out about the drives, does it say how many are available at that price? Michigan law is very explicit about truth in advertising.

    Section 445.355 states:

    A person shall not knowingly advertise the availability of a consumer item for sale at retail at a sale or special price or as being reduced in price by an amount or proportion unless the advertisement includes the dates that item is available, or the quantity available at the advertised price together with information that the item is available at that price only as long as the advertised quantity lasts. A limitation on the quantity available of a consumer item per customer shall be clearly disclosed in an advertisement of the consumer item.

    Please follow the link above for more details on the responsibilites a company has to its consumers. If you find that CompUSA has violated Michigan law you can contact the Michigan Attorney General’s office with an official complaint. In the short term it could cost you your job, but you could be entitled to back pay if they fire you for being a whistleblower.

    I believe that unless a limited quantity was specified in the ad or other language the store would be forced to issue rainchecks to those who weren’t able to purchase the item at the advertised price. I don’t have enough information to make that determination.

    Thank you for sharing your story.