Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Best Buy

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty

In case attempting to buy a graphics card at or near retail prices hasn’t been demoralizing enough, Best Buy is here to kick us while we’re down. The retailer is exploiting the ongoing supply shortage and our resulting desperation to force customers into paying another $200 for a shot at buying a graphics card.

We learned of Best Buy’s antics this week when the retailer made in-high-demand RTX 3000 GPUs available at MSRP…to those subscribed to its “Totaltech” program, a “perk” that costs $199 a year to join. If you didn’t pay up in advance, your admittedly slim odds of nabbing one of these components shrunk to zero.

Taking advantage of customers for something they have no control over is, well, an abhorrent business practice, made worse when some of the people who signed up never got a chance to purchase. Customers voiced their displeasure on Twitter, revealing how the Totaltech program didn’t guarantee them a GPU because Best Buy supposedly delayed their membership activation or sold out of cards (they were gone within four hours) before they made it to the front of the line.

If folks who missed out didn’t already regret their subscription purchase, Best Buy decided to sell the full range of RTX 30 graphics cards today to non-Totaltech customers. The odds of scoring one were much lower, but those who did just saved themselves 200 bucks. Perhaps the biggest atrocity is that Best Buy told its subscription members that it had sold out of GPUs, then decided a day later to make them available to non-members. Oh right, and some of those GPUs, like Nvidia’s Founders Edition cards, are exclusive to Best Buy, so it’s not like you can backlist the retailer and try again elsewhere.

Twitter user @CameronRitz, who tracks the stock of popular products, asked whether those who paid for Totaltech felt cheated. Here is one particularly telling response: “I’ve had total tech for other reasons but if I bought it for yesterday’s drop I’d be pissed. I didn’t stand a chance at getting one, that drop was terrible. Endless verify account loop. Worthless.”

To make matters worse, what might have been an effort to stave off scalpers seems to have only helped them. One scalper claims the paywall assisted them in buying 28 graphics cards, one of each available model: “I bought almost $20,000 in GPUs today,” a user named Bipper claimed in a Discord chat room, PCMag reports.

“I think the fact that it was Totaltech did more to help than anything else. It really limits the number of people that can go after the cards,” Bipper wrote.

Best Buy didn’t respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment when asked if it plans to continue restricting certain products to Totaltech members.

Best Buy’s Totaltech membership comes with “24/7 Geek Squad support,” two-day shipping, and two years of product protection. If there is any reason to sign up for it (assuming you don’t need those other benefits), it’s that paying $200 plus the MSRP of a graphics card could cost less than buying from said scalpers, even if it feels just as grimy.

This isn’t the first time Best Buy has toyed with its customers; it did the same with PS5 and Xbox Series X stock drops, restricting the latest consoles to those who pay up. I’m afraid there are no signs of things getting any better so long as the supply chain is still a mess, so keep joining restock chat rooms, subscribe to supply trackers, and pray for a bit of luck.

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