Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Big TV Debacle

OMG. I never thought buying a new TV would be such an ordeal. It's almost comical how many iterations this ordeal went through.

I've been drooling over a Sony Bravia flat panel LCD TV at the NEX for a while, and we planned to buy one sometime soon with taxes and stuff done. So I already had a well-defined target (model, size, and price).

Then, as I wrote about yesterday, we went in search of a new entertainment center yesterday to go with the anticipated TV purchase. While looking at the TV stands and entertainment centers at Best Buy, my jaw dropped when I saw a Sony Bravia with screen size 6 inches bigger than the TV I wanted to buy at the NEX, but for the same price as the TV at the NEX. Aaaaaand, to sweeten the deal, they were offering 2 years of interest-free financing!!! SOLD!!! ...Well, not so fast.
Tangent: A warning to anyone not experienced in "interest-free" financing schemes. These can be very good deals IF you pay off the entire balance in the time period offered as "interest free." Normally what these companies do is your account will continue to compound interest, and IF you pay off the purchase before the time limit is up, then they'll waive the interest. If you DON'T, then WHAM! You just got socked with ALL the interest, and chances are, their interest rate is astronomically high. They CAN be very good deals IF you make darn sure to pay it off in the alloted time.

In terms of the "time value of money" and compounding interest, using one of these interest-free financing schemes makes good financial sense even if you HAVE the cash on hand and could pay for the item all up front. Let's say you wanted to buy something for $1,200, and you happen to have $1,200 burning a hole in your pocket, and the store is offering interest-free financing for one year. Take the interest-free financing and put the $1,200 in an interest-bearing account. Set up an automatic payment from your account to the the credit company for $100 per month to pay off the purchase in the alloted 12 months. Meanwhile, your cash is growing in value by gathering interest in the bank. At a fairly low interest rate, you could earn on the order of $34 in interest by my quick calculations in this scenario.

End of Tangent. Resuming Original Story...
Well, I thought that the TV at Best Buy must be too good to be true and thought I should go home to check it out on the internet, verify I wasn't misremembering the price on the TV at the NEX, check the user reviews on the internet, etc. Turns out, this model of TV was THE TOP rated LCD for it's size range on, and the price was a GREAT deal. One quick background piece of data you might need to appreciate this ordeal: I have impeccable credit and have never been denied credit on anything before.

Purchase Attempt Round 1: I tried filling out the Best Buy credit application on their website last night. After filling in and submitting the application form online, the website said it needed to confirm my identity by asking me some questions. Okay, shoot.

First it gave a list of several different addresses and asked which one was a previous address where I had lived. One of them was our address back when we were in Monterey. No sweat, easy answer.

Next, it asked me in what town Muriel __________ [my last name] lived in and listed a bunch of city names in Virginia. Um.... I don't know ANYBODY by the name of Muriel, so why on EARTH would I know what city she lives in??? One of the answer options was, "I don't know anyone named Muriel _______." So I clicked on that option, then they said I had to call them at their toll free number to resolve my identity.

Of course, their business hours are in Central Time, and they were long closed by then.

Round 2: Today, I figured I could bypass silly nonsensical questions about Muriel, Arial, the Little Murmaid, and anybody else I don't know by just GOING to Best Buy and SHOWING them multiple forms of identification with photos to prove who I was. Nope, they denied my credit application in the store. I suspect it was due to the fact that I have an open and unresolved credit application via the website, but all the rude lady behind the counter would say was that I would receive something in the mail in 7 to 10 days explaining why I had been denied credit. Thbbbbbbt. :-P

Round 3: I went back home, got the phone, and called the toll free number to "resolve my identity" with Best Buy over the phone. The guy on the phone pulls up my application and tells me he will have to ask me a series of questions to verify my identity. I said, okay, shoot.

First, he asks me what county one of my previous street addresses was in. The street address he gave me was my MIL's condo on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH, where our mail was sent for a brief period of time in between duty stations during a PCS move several years ago. I don't have the FOGGIEST idea what COUNTY my MIL's lake condo is in. So I tell the guy to hang on while I look it up (he just told me the street number and name, not the city or state, so it's not like I could just google the city and state if I didn't already know where the place was). LW picked up my cell phone and called my MIL and asked her what county the lake house is in and we got the answer right.

Next, he asked which of the following phone numbers was one of my previous phone numbers. He listed like 7 phone numbers, and NONE of them were EVER my phone number. He listed a bunch that were the correct area code and first three digits, but the last four were never right. I told him none of them were right, so he moved on to the next question.

Next, he asked which of the following people I had an association with, and listed half a dozen names of people I've NEVER heard of before. Where do they come up with this crap? I mean, it's been a while since I looked at my credit report, but I don't remember my credit report ever listing any sort of "associates." I told him I'd never heard of any of those people in all my life, so he moved on to the next question. (Note to self: Next time, just apply in the store and show them your ID).

Next, he asked another phone number list question, and this time one of our previous phone numbers was on the list.

Finally, he said, congratulations, I had passed the test and was granted an account with them. Hooray. I go to order the TV from the website... and it says "In Store Only." I checked with the store, and the TV is out of stock. Thbbbbt :-P!

Round 4: So I said to myself, "Self, just use the NEX's price-matching policy." I bet the NEX had the TV I wanted in stock, and I was sure if I showed them the ad from Best Buy that they would sell it to me for that price. I wouldn't get the interest-free financing, but I also wouldn't pay sales tax. I called the NEX to make sure they had the TV in stock. The salesman told me yes, they had them in stock, but in order to invoke the price-matching policy, they had to be able to call a local store and verify that they had the TV IN STOCK. What a load of horse crap! I'm sorry, but that "certain restrictions apply" cliche in the fine print doesn't cut it for something as big as that. That's just a darn rude business practice. I wrote an email to the NEX and told them they should print that in their price matching policy.

Round 5: LW suggested I check and see if they had them in stock at Circuit City. I had previously checked Circuit City, and they were charging $300 more than Best Buy, but that was still significantly less than what the NEX was selling it for, so if I could just get the price matched with Circuit City that would still be a better deal than buying it for the listed price at the NEX. So I called Circuit City. Low and behold, NOT ONLY do they have the TV IN STOCK, but they are having a SALE and lowered their price to MATCH BEST BUY's price. Aaaaaand, they were offering THREE YEAR interest-free financing. SOLD!!! ...Well, not so fast.

So I hop in the car and take off for Circuit City. I told the salesman what I was there to buy, and he sorta gasped and said he wasn't sure if they had any left. I told him I had just called and that the lady had told me on the phone that they had one in stock. He checked the computer and sure enough, they still had one. I filled out the credit application... and got DENIED. I suspect this was due to recent credit history of just recently opening an account at Best Buy, but the guy told me the same standard blurb about, "I don't know the reason why you were denied, but you will receive something in the mail in 7 to 10 days explaining why your credit was denied." Thbbbbbt! :-P

Round 6: So I hopped in the car again and took off for the NEX. The NEX salesman was shocked that Circuit City both had the TV in stock and were offering it for a price like 25% less than what the NEX was selling it for. SOLD!!! ...Well, not so fast.

I drove over to the large item pickup by the NEX furniture store, and... the TV was too big to fit in the car.

Round 7: Quickly called a friend and went to borrow his truck. Got the truck, went back to the NEX large item pickup and FINALLY got the TV.


Now we just gotta find a TV stand or entertainment center to put it on...

P.S. Oh, and if any Best Buy or Circuit City CEO's read this: You each lost out on a BIG purchase today. Too bad for you. Maybe you should reevaluate your credit procedures. I find it a little ironic that the bank that Circuit City offers financing through is Chase, and they turned me down, yet when I purchased the TV at the NEX, I used my Chase credit card that has a credit limit several times more than the amount of my purchase. Although the experience was a little frustrating for me, I got what I wanted for the price I wanted, and Best Buy and Circuit City each lost a sale.


Corey said...

Such fun! We bought our tv through Best Buy and I don't think Vince had all of those problems but probably b/c he was in store, talking to a person and didn't have an application already in process. What you described is standard price matching policy. That is usually how it's done - the item has to be in stock. This is the same online too. If you buy a pair of shoes at Zappos and want to price match at or Piperlime or any of the other site, they have to have your size and color - not just the shoe for a lower price.

I'm glad that you finally got the tv though... Good luck on the entertainment center hunt.

Sagey said...

Anyone want to buy a really nice entertainment center that our current tv is is sitting in? ;-)