I'd been down this path with Office Max before where they advertise an item that is deeply discounted and has additional rebates that bring the final cost of the item down to a too-good-to-be-true price. On Sunday, 1/11/04,Office Max advertised a MagicSpin DVD 8x +/-RW +/-R burner priced at $180 with a $50 in store rebate and a $50 mail-in rebate. In addition to this I had a $30 off coupon good on a purchase of $150 or more.
I went to my local Office Max on Wednesday, 1/14/04, and could not find the item on display. I checked with one of the store clerks who said they were sold out. I was going to ask for a rain-check, but having asked the question before, I knew the answer was going to be that the store policy is that they do not issue them. That answer had never sat right with me, after having been trained in "consumer education" during my high school years. I figured that their pack of attorneys had played some loophole, small-print-detail, shell game and that's the way it is.
This time I offered to pay in advance for the item "on backorder" and they could call me when it arrived. The clerk told me she would check with the manager. Of course she returned to tell me they were unable to do this. I asked if they could check stock at their other locations. They did and told me that every other location IN THE COUNTRY was sold out and would not be getting the item in again EVER. At this point I remember that the reason I had spoke to the clerk in the first place was not just because the item was not in stock on the shelf, but because that there was not even a spot on the shelf for the item.
Knowing I was not going to get anywhere by following their suggestions, I decided to forge ahead just to see how deep the sh*t would get. They told me to contact their phone order center so that is what I did next. The story was for the most part well scripted and read the same. The most noticable diference was the response that I received after getting through to a customer service manager and pointing out that most honest retailers would substitute a similar item or make some other attempt to "make good" on the advertised offer. I was told that because the sales are coordinated and the sales flyers are printed as much as 6 months in advance there is no way they can guarantee that ANY item will actually be in stock and available by the time that the sale runs.
Wow! I'm no media mogul, but I know that technology and communications are all about efficiency. Can you imagine the size of the warehouse that they would need to do that for every major market they are present in. I also pointed out that nowhere in the ad did they state "inventory is limited" or "while supplies last". They didn't even say "We reserve the right to revoke this offer before it even begins". But that is pretty much, from my perspective, what they have in mind and it is completely apparent that they are bringing these "one time leaders" into the store deceptively and at the consumer's expense.