Best Buy/MSN Scam

I never thought MS or Best Buy could stoop so low.


“He has not been unable to get a full refund from either company…”

Man, I don’t hate not getting the runaround.

If he had used his credit card instead of debit, he would have had some back when fighting something like this. If it worked out the way the article states, I hope he makes 'em pay.

If what is alleged is found to be true, this is the kind of thing that calls for punitive damages. It’s not enough to give the guy his money back. Both Best Buy and Microsoft need to be discouraged from this kind of behavior by getting hit in the wallet.

“The ability of companies to charge people and actually take money from them without their knowledge is an interesting development and one that we are seeing more often, particularly through debit cards,” San Francisco attorney Eric Gibbs, who also represents Kim, said.

An interesting development! Let me go look that phrase up in the dictionary and see if it says “1: a complete fucking outrage 2: what’s next, Microsoft issuing credit cards to people without telling them and then charging those cards for blowjobs from Best Buy?”

And to think I almost didn’t hate the entire rest of the world today…

[size=2]Of course, if the charges turn out to be bogus I once again love Microsoft with every ounce of my being and will pray for the day when Steve Ballmer adopts me and let’s me live in his big house. The end.[/size]

I suspect that we’ll see MS distance itself from this and lay it in Best Buy’s lap. They can easily claim that Best Buy was susposed to be signing up people above the table and that MS is not responsible for Best Buy’s actions.

From the sound of the article I read this morning, Best Buy was in danger of losing MSN contracts due to poor sales of the service. Makes you wonder if cashiers weren’t asked to start this type of thing in the hopes to boost MSN signups with the hope that the few people who noticed ended up being placated with an “oops, we’re sorry”. Thank god someone decided to make this a public class action lawsuit and that the media is running with it. This could have ended up being swept under the rug with no repercussions for Best Buy.

The only thing that’s making MS look bad is their refusal to refund the fraudulently acquired subscription fees. They can see that he never signed onto the service, so it should have been a simple matter to say “oh man, maybe he’s telling the truth here” and refunded his money. Instead they’re keeping his $22 and are going to end up paying a heck of a lot more in court fees.

It doesn’t make any sense for Microsoft to encourage this sort of theft. People are going to notice and get pissed, causing really bad national publicity, like this guy.

I am sure this is some Best Buy junior check-out fuck-up - maybe Best Buy offered a prize to the checker who signed up the most MSN customers. Those kids don’t give a crap about the consequences, they’re all gonna be in college in a few months anyway.

This is a typical Californian bullshit lawsuit. Signing a customer up for MSN is a ten step process that requires a lot of input from the customer, one part being the customer’s drivers license. MSN won’t even issue an account without that, as a fraud counter-messure. This could simply be an isolated incident.

Ethics are always an issue at retail, and probably because of this the system itself is set up to protect consumers.

Lets assume the cashier already fucks up by not telling the customer what the disk he is scanning is for. This is implied in the article.

After scanning the disk and totalling the order, the cashier inputs name, address, phone number. This doesn’t give anything away since some retailers (not Best Buy) do this with every purchase.

THEN the cashier has to enter drivers license information. No retailer I have ever seen requires a drivers license for a purchase (barring check and unsigned credit card purchases) so the plaintiff has to think something is going on. But he doesn’t figure it out, hands over his drivers license, and then takes it back after it is inputted.

The customer verifies name, address, and phone number on a touchpad. This gives him no extra clues since he may consider this standard for purchases (although again it is not).

Now the cashier has to enter a screen name. The article doesn’t say what happened at this point, but lets be generous to the plaintiff and assume the cashier makes up a screen name (obviously the proper thing to do is to ask the customer what screen name he wants).

NEXT the customer has to authorize the screen name by selecting Correct on the touchpad, immediately below the spelling of the screen name. Why the plaintiff selected Correct below some word he has never seen before is beyond my ability to know.

Next the customer has to swipe a credit or debit card, used for authorization and to set the billing identity. Lets assume the customer thinks he is swiping the card for the purchase and not for MSN.

NEXT the customer has to sign the touchpad, verifying the 30 day free MSN trial account and signing a written contract. Lets assume that the customer thinks he is signing for the purchase.

Ok, NOW the customer still has to pay for the purchase, meaning he has to swipe the credit or debit card AGAIN. Now, as a bit of a heads up to consumers, if you have to swipe your card on two seperate occasions in a transaction (in any other circumstances than that the card failed to “take” on a swipe) something is going on that you’d better be figuring out ASAP. Lets assume our plaintiff just left his cave in the San Bernardino mountains and thinks this is normal. He also has to sign for the purchase (which is his second signature, which for normal people sets off alarms) in the case of credit or punch numbers for debit, either way it alerts him (or should alert him) that something is up.

Ok, so the purchase is done. The receipt prints and on that receipt shows the MSN disk along with the screen name for the account and a randomly generated password. But lets assume despite the strange nature of the transaction our recent cave-dweller casually deposits the receipt in the nearest trash receptacle.

The first billing takes place 30 days after signup. There sits his MSN disk which contains the MSN CD along with the MSN customer service phone number. Maybe he poked the CD with his finger like cats do a ball of yarn. He thought it was a plaything perhaps. Who knows… we’d have to call in a psychologist specializing in cave-dwellers and my Jornada is a bit lacking in that regard. But lets assume he doesn’t treat the CD meaningfully… just a free extra those feisty cashiers like to give away.

So a couple months go by and this cave-dweller pokes a piece of mail. Gaining extra curiosity (cats, you know) he opens it and low and behold it is his credit/debit card statement, which shows a 21.95 charge for something called MSN.

“MSN! What in this thing called civilization is that??” speaks Sabretooth.

Now Sabretooth thinks a bit at that CD he poked and recalls it said “MSN” on it. He fishes it out of the trash and notices it opens. “Wow”, he thinks. So he opens it, finds the MSN phone number, calls them, and is unhappy to find he has signed a contract and is obligated to pay the monthly fee.

“That’s it! Where’s my lawyer? Its a scam I tell you, a scam!”

So to sum up…

Lack of communication from the cashier (to what degree is unknown from the article)

Large stupidity and ignorance from the customer

Scam? Not at all. At last count I do believe 1.5 Million MSN accounts were gained through Best Buy signups.

“They were all scams I tell you, scams!”

Shut up, Sabretooth.

As anti-bunny said, this is bullshit - there is a huge process to signing up the customer when doing this, including the creation of a email address etc. - it’s not just “scanning a cd and then getting it associated to your debit card”

I didn’t read the full story for details, but the EUL also has a certain amount of time for the customer to contest the charges after it appears on their CC - if that time period has passed they are SOL.

Hmm. I use my BofA debit card frequently, and the one time I’ve had to get improper charges removed has been painless - a quick phone call and it was off, with their investigator checking out the transaction after the money was back in my account. Very friendly and consumer-safe.

The CNN article is rather short on details. If the customer is signed up as stated by a few of the posters here, this certainly sounds like a lot of BS. Is it possible that what is being disputed is the purchase of the CD? A lot of ISPs sell subscription CDs that include the first month of service in their price.

Microsoft is just trying to get some of its money back from when California consumers screwed it.

If the customer signed up for a rebate he would have create the Email address at the store - if they didn’t do that, the only way to sign up for the account is to put the cd in your computer, go online, create an email address and give MSN your CC#.

There’s no Hidden “We’re gonna screw the stupid consumer!” sign up process - scanning the CD as the check out line is only for inventory control AFAIK, as they’re ususally listed at $0.01.

Either way, you can’t have an account in the MSN system without an Email address. it’s just not possible - and to have an email address you have to have some kind of interaction with either the software or an employee of best buy.

Wow, I didn’t realize you had to go through all that to sign up for an MSN account.

Reading the article, they make it sound like the cashier just scanned the disk, through it in the bag, and then had the guy swipe his card to pay for the entire purchase.

If the process Brian described is correct, then the guy had to know he was signing up for something. He may not have gotten the entire “this is a 30 day free trial followed by a $22 a month charge” speech, but that is hardly the basis for a lawsuit, imho.

The irony in this regarding Best Buy and retailers in general is that there ARE lawsuits waiting to happen. Retail is highly competitive right now, and that reason combined with others (like high employee turnover meaning a lot of “rookies” on the job) means that what is sold is not always what is bought.

Circuit City’s service plan on laptops does not cover the battery, for example, despite (some) employees there explicitly stating that it does.

Best Buy’s PDA service plan does not cover cracked screens, again despite some employee sales pitches to the contrary.

Now, how about someone have a secret microphone on him, and go through enough of these sales. He’ll accumulate enough inaccuracy that he can then EASILY organize a lawsuit. A lawsuit which would result in better employee training and a greater focus on business ethics.

{Sees lawyers scurring around excitedly}

There are about a million gray areas, but if you want to explore these then just consider “this is what you need” when talking about high end Monster speaker cable where its REALLY only what you need if you have loads of cash and like that extra bit of picture or sound quality.

But going back to the MSN thing…

I’d like to see these ISP retailers (Best Buy, Circuit City, Gateway, etc) be required to have the customer sign a written (not electronic) contract and then be given a copy of that contract, preferably on 8.5" by 11" paper. If I had my way, Sabretooth’s lawsuit would result in that and that only.

Part of the confusion is over the conversion to electronic contracts… to some people signing a pad is not a serious event, but a big page with lots of letters gets their attention. Especially cavedwellers.