This past weekend, I went to Best Buy to pick up a copy of TurboTax. I was enticed by an offer in Best Buy’s latest flier that promised a free music CD with a $25 purchase of tax software. I knew that Intuit had sent me a copy of TurboTax at the end of last year, but I couldn’t remember where I put it. When I saw the offer for a free music CD, it seemed like a no-brainer … buy my fave tax software and get some free tunes.

So off to the store I went …

I picked up my copy of TurboTax and wandered around the store looking at all the cool new stuff. I eventually found my way to the music department, found something worth adding to my music collection, and headed for the registers.

At the register, I handed the CD and copy of Turbo Tax to the cashier. He rang them up and gave me my total. It was roughly fifteen bucks more than I had expected.

Lo and behold, Best Buy’s system failed to deduct the price of the music CD. I squawked, of course.

“Hey, what about the free music CD with a $25 tax software purchase?” I asked.

The cashier looked at me like I was from another planet. (His look was so convincing, it left me to believe that either he was trained to look that way or I really did appear to be from another planet.)

I scrambled to unfold the page from the flier that I had stuffed in my pocket.

“Here it is,” I pointed to the offer. “Right here.”

The cashier looked at the flier incredulously. He pulled his own flier from underneath the counter. After flipping through a few pages, the cashier found the offer and placed a call to the office.

An efficient young woman promptly burst from the office and made her way to the register. She punched in some codes and quickly disappeared, with nary an apology for the inconvenience. I got my free music CD with the only cost being five wasted minutes.

The free CD offer was clearly a loss leader. Best Buy expected that a substantial portion of its customers would buy more than just tax software. They wanted to bring feet into the store. If I had rolled up to the register with arms full of goodies, it’s highly likely that I would have never noticed the cost of the not-quite-so-free CD.

I had to laugh when I read the current articles about the company’s Q4 profit surge.

Does Best Buy profit from an inattentive customer? You betcha.

I wouldn’t call this a case of bait and switch … more a caveat emptor case of “make sure you double-check that tally before you hand over your dough” …


[tags]TurboTax, tax software[/tags]