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Best Buy holding out on Wii customers

Ryan Block, @ryan

What would you say if you found out your local Best Buy had stock of Wiis sitting in its back room, but those units weren't going to make it out onto the shelves when you dropped by to pick one up? Unfortunately that's the case for Toronto area gamers, as Best Buy is allegedly sitting on their stock of Wiis for the sake of fulfilling their "commitment to [their] customers" which they made in the form of circulars. Loathe to run out of stock before this Friday's round of Toronto Best Buy ads, some stores actually pre-emptively struck against their own buyers by not only hoarding said consoles, but actually went so far as to pull for-sale units right off the shelves. Since one is likely to take a side (and we do know a lot of Best Buy employees read Engadget), we hereby present a brief point / counterpoint by Evan Blass and myself.

Point: Why is it that a customer that walks in today -- first, and before Black Friday customers -- should be lied to by retailers about the stock they're carrying? Why should that customer not be sold the product they drove all the way out to get just because Best Buy might run out before their local circular hits? It's not like the five Wiis they have in back are really going to last very long tomorrow anyway, nor does or should an advertisement guarantee stock. What's more, it's not even Best Buy's fault Nintendo can't produce enough to keep up with demand. Withholding sales is probably well within Best Buy's rights and all, but it's an awful way to treat your customers, and smacks of the "bundling" fiasco they had last year during the Xbox 360 shortages. My vote: spend your money elsewhere until Best Buy cleans up their act and treats buyers right. -Ryan

Counterpoint: While it might be frustrating for consumers to roll into a store stocked with Wii's and leave empty-handed, it's only fair to look at the situation from Best Buy's point of view as well: if they've already published ads claiming that the Wii is in stock, stores that don't have these items could be held liable for the old bait-and-switch -- especially if they're unable to offer valid rainchecks (another bad idea, considering the demand). Could Best Buy have anticipated this situation and planned accordingly? Absolutely. But once those circulars hit the papers, the retailer has an obligation to keep at least a token amount of stock on hand; plus, if you owned a store, would you really risk getting hit with a fine in order to placate a few customers and make a negligible profit on a couple of consoles? -Evan

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