Contrary to the old consumer adage “you get what you pay for,” sometimes you fall victim to a retail rip-off. Either from shyster managers looking to make a quick buck from the stock room or employee negligence that the store refuses to recognize, our purchases are not always as sacred to the retailer as they are to us. Follow us through the strange and twisted world of real life consumer rip-off stories, and use their nightmares to guard your wallet the next time you sense that foul-play might be afoot.

Brick in a Box

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In April of 2009, Best Buy employees were either being ironic or pulling off a cheap scam when they sold a man named Ryan a large brick in place of the Apple MacBook Pro he paid for. Gizmodo reports that the $2,100 laptop was paid for at a Best Buy in Texas, however when Ryan got the box home and eagerly ripped it open, he found nothing more than a crumbly old red brick carefully wrapped in the packaging where the MacBook should have been.

When Ryan went back to Best Buy to exchange the item for a real computer, Best Buy would not refund his money nor give him another machine. Rather, they claimed that since the box was factory sealed, it must have been a screw-up from Apple and that they cannot be held responsible for the odd mistake. One has to wonder how Best Buy could determine the original condition of the box after Ryan had opened it up, but he nevertheless contacted his credit card company for a chargeback after being turned away from the store.

The Vanishing Netbook

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Hoping to capitalize on the big discounts offered on Cyber Monday, a man named Valente reports that he was given a run around by Best Buy that caused him to decide never to shop there again. The Consumerist reports that in December of 2009, Valente purchased a netbook from Best Buy on Cyber Monday and scheduled an in store pick up so he could be sure to have it in time for Christmas. The nearest store that carried the machine was a two hour drive away, but not to be deterred, Valente made the drive to pick up his computer.

Just to be sure, he phoned the store ahead of time and confirmed that his computer was there and ready for him to pick up. However once he got there, a Best Buy representative told him that they were all sold out, and that furthermore he had not actually purchased the item despite having his credit card charged. After speaking to the manager and confirming that he had purchased the machine, he was solemnly told that they were all sold out everywhere in California, and Valente had to make the drive home empty handed.

Drowned iPods

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Earlier this month, a Consumerist reader wrote the website to tell the tale of his three defective Apple iPods, and the faulty handling that was determined to the be cause of the destruction. The man reports purchasing an iPod, and it broke. Apple replaced it with another that broke, and a third that soon went defective. Suspicious of how this “bad luck” could happen three times in a row, the reader eventually turned to the staff at Best Buy who he paid time and time again to install his “Invisible Shield” screen protector.

As it turned out, the negligent staff was soaking his iPods in the solution that comes with the Invisible Shield, causing liquid damage to the device. A call to Apple’s support line confirmed that this was most likely what was going on, and the man decided to complain to Best Buy and try to get his money back for the expensive screen protectors their staff wasted. The Best Buy staff told him that they would make note of it, and offered him a $20.00 gift card for his troubles. “When I mentioned that 20 bucks wouldn’t even cover the price of a single one of those covers,” he recalls, “they bumped it to 25, which I accepted as being better than nothing.”

Rocks in a Box

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Due to a lack of scrutiny on behalf of the Walmart customer service team, a Nintendo DS box full of rocks and newspaper was returned to a Florida store and put back on the floor for sale without a second thought. CrunchGear reports that a mother then purchased the DS as a birthday present for her son, only to rip it open and find rocks inside (imagine explaining that to a young boy who just unwrapped a video game system).

Much like Best Buy and the brick, Walmart told the the woman to take it up with Nintendo. Nintendo in turn told her to take it up with Walmart. After a long tango with both companies, Walmart eventually admitted fault and granted her a full refund plus a $20.00 gift card for the inconvenience.

Broken PS3 and Swapped Serials

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In April of 2008, a Consumerist reader wrote in to tell of a strange story of a broken PS3 and a swapped serial number that made it impossible to return the machine. The reader’s sister bought a used PS3 from Target as a birthday present for her husband, however when they tried to set up the machine, it wouldn’t read games or Blu-Ray disks.

Upon bringing it back to the store with the original receipt, the customer service representative informed her that the device could not be exchanged because the serial number on the machine did not match the one on the box. Someone had apparently swapped a working PS3 for a broken one and returned it to the store, which then sold it to the reader. The manager of the Target refused to process the return, but the reader was not to be denied. She spoke to a manager at another Target location who was able to check the records for the device and determine that her return was legitimate. After a 45 minute drive to the other store, their money was eventually refunded.

Harddrive Swapped For Bathroom Tiles

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Best Buy has a peculiar history for swapping out electronics for construction items – first a brick for a laptop, now bathroom tiles for a harddrive. The Consumerist tells the tells the tale of Sam, a man who ordered a 1 TB harddrive from Best Buy’s website and got a box of flooring material in its place. Sam purchased the drive for an in-store pick up, brought the drive home and opened the box to find that he had been taken for a bait and switch. Sam quickly jumped in his car and drove back to the store to inform them of the mix-up.

He reports that at first, the staff was very willing to help him and quickly exchanged his tiles for the harddrive he paid for. This congeniality didn’t last however. As Sam opened his new box at the counter to inspect its contents, a manager stormed up and ripped it away from him, telling him to “go take it up with the  manufacturer.” Even though he had already completed the exchange and purchased the new drive, the manager said he was “shit out of luck,” and Sam went home without his drive.

Empty Laptop Boxes

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Finally we have a tale of a rip-off from Walmart that turned into one of the biggest crime “fail” moments in retail history. TechDirt reports that in 2008, two men purchased a laptop from Walmart and brought it home to find that they were sold an empty box. Outraged over the apparent fraud, they went back to the store to complain and set things straight.

When they told their story to the manager, he thought the two were trying to scam the store (i.e., – taking the laptop out and returning an empty box for a refund). The store manager proceeded to call the police, but when they showed up the shoppers fled the store. As it turns out, they were sold an empty box from Walmart, but they bought the laptop with stolen credit cards. The two were soon arrested for fraud. Let this serve as a lesson to criminals everywhere – if you’re scamming people, don’t complain about getting ripped off!