Best Buy kiosks not connected to Internet

Busch said that in response to the Connecticut attorney general's investigation, Best Buy placed a notice on its in-store site making clear that prices might not reflect what was available on the company's Internet website.

She added that store employees are trained to ensure that customers receive the prices they saw online.

To see for myself, I stopped by a Best Buy on L.A.'s Westside. I had no trouble finding one of the kiosks.

To access the in-store site, I had to click on a link marked "Bestbuy.com," which would seem to indicate pretty plainly that I was going to the company's website.

The in-store site was virtually indistinguishable from the actual website. Across the top were the same tabs linking to various product categories. There was also the same banner offering details for holiday deliveries.

The only significant difference was an inch-wide yellow strip sandwiched between the tabs and delivery notice that said, "This kiosk displays in-store prices -- which may differ from national Internet prices. Promotions can differ between stores and Internet. See your sales associate if you have questions."

The yellow strip disappears from view as soon as you scroll up the page.

Do most people understand that "national Internet prices" actually means prices available on Best Buy's own website? Do they understand that "Internet" promotions actually refer to sales on the real Bestbuy.com?

I put those questions to a Best Buy salesman.

"Every day we get at least one person asking why he can't find a price he saw online," the salesman replied.

I said I was looking for a DVD player I'd seen online that was selling for $71.99. I said it wasn't on the kiosk site.

"Here," the salesman said, "let me show you a secret."

He switched to a different screen, typed in his employee I.D. number, and the real Bestbuy.com came up. "Try now," the salesman said.

I asked why the real website wasn't available to everyone.

He shrugged. "I wish I knew."

Maybe that's something California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown should also be wondering.

Consumer Confidential runs Wednesdays and Sundays. Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.

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