A Texas man who thought he got a bargain when he bought a camera from retailer CompUSA only to find out that he'd purchased an empty box, finally got his money's worth thanks to a Web campaign that convinced the company that doing the right thing was best for its image.
Terry Heaton visited a nearby CompUSA store March 22 and found out upon arrival that the store was having a closing liquidation sale.
“I went to the store to buy a new laptop,” he told FOXNews.com. “I didn’t know they were closing that particular store.”
While his initial mission was to buy a new laptop, by the end of his trip, he had an almost $3,500 tab that included a supposed new camera for his stepdaughter. But when she eventually opened the gift from him, there was no camera to be found.
“It was purchased as a gift for my step-daughter, whom I would see in May, so I put the box away in my home office,” Heaton wrote in a letter to CompUSA President and CEO Roman Ross. “When the day came, I handed it to her, as she beamed with joy. That didn’t last long, because the box contained only the peripherals and not the camera.”
Because the store where he had made his purchase was then closed, he visited the next closest store in Frisco to get help with the empty box he had purchased. It was there that a salesman refused to help him, telling him that the empty box was his own problem and that a liquidator had sold him the camera, not CompUSA. Heaton tried to explain he had bought it at a CompUSA store, and a person wearing a CompUSA uniform had sold it to him.
“As far as a consumer, I bought it from CompUSA,” he told FOXNews.com. “He said ‘You will have to talk to our lawyers.’”
This prompted Heaton to write a letter on May 11 to CompUSA President and CEO Roman Ross. Ross never responded to the letter. Instead, Heaton got a reply from Escalations Supervisor of CompUSA Executive Care Kevin Hain on May 30 stating that the ‘return policy for all merchandise, as printed on your receipt and posted throughout the store, clearly stated ALL SALES FINAL…if the camera you purchased was a clearance item, you should have inspected its content prior to purchase.’
"Those guidelines are in place because there’s unscrupulous types of people out there that take advantage," CompUSA spokeswoman Jessica Nunez told FOXNews.com. "What they’re doing is following company guidelines. They should have contacted him…and researched further."
The day before writing the letter, Heaton had also sent an e-mail to CompUSA with the subject line "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi," Nunez said. Due to the unusual subject line of the e-mail, it showed up as SPAM and was initially ignored by the company. She also said Heaton did not use the standard means of contacting the company regarding the problem.
"The proper channels for most consumers is to contact customer care," she said.
Heaton then decided to let his situation be known in a post on his blog titled “‘All Sales Final’ is not a license for theft.”
The entry was posted June 2 on “Terry Heaton’s PoMo Blog” and has since made its way across the Internet, apparently prompting CompUSA to re-evaluate how the situation was handled. On June 4, Heaton received a phone call from a customer representative for CompUSA apologizing for the situation. On June 5, the same person called to inform him that the company would be giving him a $300 gift certificate to the store.
"The company does regret what happened to Mr. Heaton," Nunez said. "We compensated him in full."
Heaton said all he had to do was post to his blog and Internet feedback put pressure on the company to respond in a different manner.
“I just made the post,” he said. “It’s just evidence of the power of the World Wide Web.”
Even though the company has now refunded Heaton for the camera, he still has purchasing advice for consumers.
“Definitely buyer beware,” he said. “You buy at a liquidation sale, you really are vulnerable to that.”