Bits & P.C.s: Deceptive practice

This story actually started about a month ago. A national office supply retailer had an ad in the Sunday paper advertising a 25-pack of blank rewritable DVDs for $10 after instant and mail-in rebates. Since these discs usually sell for $2 each, this was a very good deal.

The ad indicated they were on sale through the following Saturday with no indication of “limited to stock on hand,” “no rainchecks” or any of the other disclaimers. I went into the store on Tuesday afternoon and, after looking on the shelf, I couldn’t locate the item.

I was approached by one of the sales associates, who informed me that the item was sold out, that they may get more in at the end of the week, and tha they were not giving out rainchecks.

Under Illinois law (815 ILCS 510/2) (from Ch. 121 1/2, par. 312), it appeared to me they may have been in violation of Section 2, Deceptive trade practices. (a) A person engages in a deceptive trade practice when, in the course of his or her business, vocation, or occupation, the person: (9) advertises goods or services with intent not to sell them as advertised; (10) advertises goods or services with intent not to supply reasonably expectable public demand, unless the advertisement discloses a limitation of quantity.”

I contacted the company by e-mail that evening and enclosed the information shown above. On Thursday morning, I received a phone call from Mike, the local store manager, offering me a raincheck for the item. The following Wednesday, I received a call telling me the raincheck was in. The only problem was they weren’t the correct ones. When they tried to re-order the item, it was discovered that the item was no longer available. Since Mike was not in that day, I came back a couple of days later. He offered to sell me another item for the same price.

The story could end with a happy ending at this point, but it gets better. This past Sunday, the same store was offering a DVD burner for $80 after instant and mail-in rebates. I went into the store Monday afternoon; again, I didn’t find the item on the shelf.

This time, the associate informed me that the brand that was on sale was not available, but they were substituting another item. The best part about this was that they were selling the substituted item for $80 at the register, no waiting for a rebate.

I have to applaud the store and Mike for making things right. I realize it is often difficult to determine how well an ad item will sell, but many stores seem to advertise items that are not available.

It’s time for you to fight back. If the item isn’t available, ask them what they are substituting or when they will have the item. A raincheck is only valid if they are going to get the item back in stock. Ask to speak with the manager, mention the words “bait and switch,” and see what his response is.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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