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Racketeering Trial of MS and Best Buy Can Proceed 179

Posted by kdawson
from the knowing-guys-who-know-guys dept.
mcgrew (sm62704) writes with news that the Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Microsoft and a unit of Best Buy to dismiss a lawsuit alleging violation of racketeering laws. This means the class-action complaint can go to trial. The case was filed in civil court and the companies, with the US Chamber of Commerce behind them, wanted the Supreme Court to put the brakes on the expanding use of RICO laws in civil filings. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was designed to fight organized crime, but in recent years more than 100 times as many civil as federal RICO cases have been filed.
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Racketeering Trial of MS and Best Buy Can Proceed

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  • Organized crime? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by myowntrueself (607117) on Monday October 15, 2007 @08:23PM (#20989689)
    So how, exactly, is this *not* organized crime?
    • by pembo13 (770295)

      So how, exactly, is this *not* organized crime?
      You beat me to it. I have given it some thought, and the only difference I see is that the IRS directly gets a cut, and I would argue that even with the mob/mafia, the IRS does get a cut of the profits, if only indirectly and in smaller proportions.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2007 @08:51PM (#20989909)
      A long time ago, prosecutors realized that organized crime tried to use legitimate business faces to sustain and grow itself. When various business interests, controlled by a common hand, unite to box their victim into an alley where they can be persuaded to "donate" their money to a cause also controlled by those same business interests, that's a serious threat to civilization. If each participant could only be prosecuted for disturbing the peace, the mugging would continue unchecked.

      The real shame is that private citizens have to leverage civil courts for relief. If their are 100 times as many civil RICO actions as there are criminal RICO actions, it is most likely because prosecutors are not doing their jobs. A mugging is still a crime. Just because it is performed by people in suits doesn't make it less of a crime. And when the suit in the corporate office is orchestrating the systemic muggings of all their customers... it is a crime. An organized crime.
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday October 15, 2007 @09:01PM (#20989969)
      The IRS gets its cut.
    • by bl8n8r (649187)
      > So how, exactly, is this *not* organized crime?

      In organized crime, the supreme court is paid off before hand.
    • by abb3w (696381)

      So how, exactly, is this *not* organized crime?

      "Hah. Don't kid yourself. It's not that organized."

      (KEN'S EARS [imdb.com])

  • Important to note (Score:5, Informative)

    by ejdmoo (193585) on Monday October 15, 2007 @08:26PM (#20989731)

    Just because the summary was so scarce on details: this has nothing to do with computers, OEMS, Windows, or OS bundling. It's not that same old story again.

    This is about signing people up for MSN without their permission.

    Sounds like stupid college students working at Best Buy getting a monthly prize for signing people up for MSN. Doesn't sound like a giant corporate scam. It also doesn't sound like this involves Microsoft at all. I've read the same story online, but replace Microsoft with Comcast (Cable or HSI) or DirecTV

    From the AP article...

    The dispute began in 2003, when James Odom sued the companies after purchasing a laptop computer at a Best Buy store. Odom alleged that Best Buy included a software CD with his purchase that provided a six-month free trial to MSN.

    Best Buy allegedly signed Odom up an MSN account with the credit card Odom used to pay for the computer. After a six-month free trial ended, Microsoft began charging him for the account, the suit charged.

    ...

    The lawsuit alleges the companies violated RICO by engaging in wire fraud when they electronically transmitted the plaintiffs' financial information. The plaintiffs are claiming damages in the "tens of millions," which if tripled would top $100 million, Girard said.

    Microsoft has denied illegal conduct in response to these allegations and a Best Buy spokeswoman says the company does not comment on pending litigation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by athdemo (1153305)
      Damages in the "tens of millions?" Jesus, I didn't know MSN was that bad.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by anti-human 1 (911677)
        "Pain and Suffering." 'Nuff said.
      • by rbanffy (584143)
        Awarding damages is very useful to make a company to cease to commit certain acts that, while create some hassle for their victims, bring in huge amounts of money from those who decide not to fight them.

        If I do something questionable that will reduce my profits in US$ 100, it's one thing, if I do something questionable that will turn my profits into a US$ 100 million loss, I probably won't even try.
    • by DustyShadow (691635) on Monday October 15, 2007 @08:39PM (#20989827) Homepage
      "Sounds like stupid college students working at Best Buy getting a monthly prize for signing people up for MSN. Doesn't sound like a giant corporate scam. It also doesn't sound like this involves Microsoft at all. I've read the same story online, but replace Microsoft with Comcast (Cable or HSI) or DirecTV"

      I haven't bought much from Best Buy lately but a few years back my roomates and I pitched in for a DirectTV setup and the Best Buy rep was hounding us to sign up for what I believe was AOL. I can't remember exactly what the service was but my point is that he was pushing it really hard to the point that the corporation was most likely hounding him to do it. Even if they aren't pushing it too hard, if they have a bonus system in place and their employees do it, they are still liable for anything their employees do. It doesn't really matter if it's coming the top or not.
    • Good point. Microsoft is certainly NOT involved or responsible. Best Buy probably did not DIRECT it's employees to do this. The employees are probably most responsible, but Best Buy bears some responsibility for failing to control it's employees.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Good point. Microsoft is certainly NOT involved or responsible. Best Buy probably did not DIRECT it's employees to do this. The employees are probably most responsible, but Best Buy bears some responsibility for failing to control it's employees.

        If it's common enough for a class-action suit, I'd tend to suspect that they're at the very least strongly encouraging (entirely informally, of course) their employees to do this. I mean, scamming people, at your personal risk but for no benefit to yourself, can't be *that* attractive a form of entertainment for the store employees.

        • by CrayDrygu (56003)

          If it's common enough for a class-action suit, I'd tend to suspect that they're at the very least strongly encouraging (entirely informally, of course) their employees to do this.

          Only in a roundabout way. What these managers did, encouraging (or demanding) the employees to sign up customers without their consent, is and was very much against the written policies of Best Buy. (I worked there from 2000-2005.)

          However, there's a combination of factors that ends up rewarding the managers for breaking the rule. First off, part of their bonus is determined based on the number of signups. Second, their own job performance is based on the ranking of their store against other Best Buy

    • Re:Important to note (Score:5, Informative)

      by ejdmoo (193585) on Monday October 15, 2007 @08:52PM (#20989913)

      Replying to my own post, check this post [consumerist.com] from the Consumerist [consumerist.com] out...

      I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but it did happen for the longest time. Ever get signed for something at Best Buy, but you swear that you never signed up for anything. Here is the trick that is used, and that I was taught from a Best Buy manager. When a customer would refuse either AOL, MSN, NetZero, magazine offers, or whatever other D-SUB we had, we'd sign you up anyway. You know those Best Buy gift cards that are all over the store? Well those are just American Express cards, with a Best Buy face. So, we'd go through the motions of selecting your address but when it asked for your credit card, we'd swipe through a gift card. Since it was an American Express card in reality, the system took it and you were signed up. The customer had to deal with the late fees because they couldn't charge the credit card the provided. Not our problem.

      • You know those Best Buy gift cards that are all over the store? Well those are just American Express cards, with a Best Buy face. So, we'd go through the motions of selecting your address but when it asked for your credit card, we'd swipe through a gift card. Since it was an American Express card in reality, the system took it and you were signed up. The customer had to deal with the late fees because they couldn't charge the credit card the provided. Not our problem.

        I thought gift cards generally were completely useless unless activated, to make stealing them pointless? Is this a recent thing, or are the Best Buy cards not like this, or something?

        • Re:Important to note (Score:5, Informative)

          by vux984 (928602) on Monday October 15, 2007 @09:30PM (#20990155)
          I thought gift cards generally were completely useless unless activated, to make stealing them pointless? Is this a recent thing, or are the Best Buy cards not like this, or something?

          Yes, they were completely useless, insofar as that nothing can be charged against them. But they still have a number, and a functioning mag-strip. And if the system just requires a mag strip swipe with a valid number. (and by valid, we only mean "properly formatted"), then its good to go.

          Nothing is actually ever attempted to be "charged" or "authorized" against the card number until the 6 month trial is up, at which point it doesn't work, of course, because the card is useless.

      • you are almost ashamed to admit it?! You stole people's money. You violated the *law*. You purchased a gift card (at least as far as the credit issuer is concerned, it technically costs nothing, I'll admit) and then charged something to it. That is a fraudulent charge, and is equalivent to identity theft, although you'd never be prosecuted for that specifically.. more like credit card fraud.

        --Sam
        • by ejdmoo (193585)
          Slashdot convention is when you say "you" you're addressing the parent who you replied to.

          That having been said, I didn't write that, I quoted it. So, uh, go complain to the anonymous guy from Consumerist.
      • Excuse me, but isn't that fraud?
    • by bennini (800479) on Monday October 15, 2007 @09:29PM (#20990143) Homepage

      Sounds like stupid college students working at Best Buy getting a monthly prize for signing people up for MSN. Doesn't sound like a giant corporate scam.

      As a previous employee at Circuit City, I can attest that this sort of thing is generally encouraged by store managers. Most of the time employees of these sorts of stores (Best Buy and CC) no longer make commision on sales of extended warranties and the ilk (they did in the past) but they are still strongly pushed to get people to sign up for these crappy deals. Now, you may never be directly told "get X people to sign up each month or you will be fired", but you will definitely notice when your hours get cut or your manager starts breathing down your neck each time you're talking to a customer.

      I disagree with your comment about this not being a "giant corporate scam". The top execs at companies like CC and BestBuy are the ones that design, implement and sign the contracts that enable these worthless "offers." They do so strictly because of money and they in turn push their demands down onto regional managers which then breath down the store manager's throats. Its one big chain reaction of pressure to sell what isn't needed and in the end the customer suffers. The employees that push this crap don't give a shit if the person actually needs it or not.

      I remember some of my buddies laughing about how they tricked old grandmas into buying all sorts of useless, overpriced peripherals for digital cameras. Their managers loved it cuz it helped them reach their sales target (and in turn get bigger bonuses).
       
      Its a huge scam. The companies involved know it, the employees of the companies know it...and finally, now, the customers are starting to know it as well.

      ps. i simply installed stereos in peoples cars so i never had to deal with managers' bullshit, thank god..but it was quite sad watching it go down.
    • The problem, which will come out soon, is that the laptop (and certain select other machines) were discounted if, and only if, you signed up for MSN for an X month term.

      Same deal when you buy/bought certain Cisnet (and other) machines. In those cases, the machines were *usually* (but not always) labelled "AOL PCs" and the tiny print on the box, and/or on the ad circular stated you'd be signed up for AOL for a year, and that if you cancelled that contract, you'd be charged the discount given on the hardwar

      • This is not the rebate for a 3 year deal thing. It is scanning a free MSN disk that you may not even need or use but after the free trial even if you never use it you start to get billed for it.
        • We'll see when all is said and done. There were quite a lot of plans... with and without rebate. Some with free months, some without. And systems that came with an auto-activate-just-provide-your-credit-card-number-free-(trial)-MSN-dont-forget-to-cancel.

          Really, do you think all these people had MSN accounts that (will be shown to have been used and) they didnt provide any of the info necessary?

          Employees at most retailers are warned that for them to fraudulently sign someone up for MSN, AOL, etc is a cri

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Just because the summary was so scarce on details: this has nothing to do with computers, OEMS, Windows, or OS bundling. It's not that same old story again.

      This is about signing people up for MSN without their permission.

      Sounds like stupid college students working at Best Buy getting a monthly prize for signing people up for MSN. Doesn't sound like a giant corporate scam. It also doesn't sound like this involves Microsoft at all. I've read the same story online, but replace Microsoft with Comcast (Cable or

  • by Cryophallion (1129715) on Monday October 15, 2007 @08:30PM (#20989761)
    The companies systematically and intentionally look for any advantage, and push the grey area as far as it can go, even into the dark side. Some of this may be "rogue" employees, but their are so many tiers of approval in major companies I find those theories suspect.

    I tend to think that if the law fits...

    On another note, I'm sure the RIAA was watching this one closely, as they are not looking forward to the RICO suit that was filed against them. Let's hope this is just another decision closer to the destruction of their methods.
  • And this doesnt describe Microsoft, and most of the large corporations of today?
    • by Colin Smith (2679)
      Well, the key feature of crime being legality...

      Compare with banks and counterfeiters. People think banks are banks because they take deposits, where in fact they're banks because they create money[1], just like a counterfeiter, the only difference really is the legality.

      [1] This is why PayPal is not a bank.
      • Re:organized crime (Score:4, Informative)

        by the_greywolf (311406) on Monday October 15, 2007 @09:13PM (#20990013) Homepage

        Correction: Banks hold money, which is printed and distributed by the Federal Reserve. Paypal is a financial institution, not a bank, because they do not handle money in the same sense.

        • by MeNeXT (200840)
          If banks just hold money then why are they allowed to lend it out, in some cases up to 9 times?

          It's not that his argument was incorrect, it was just over simplified.
          • by c_forq (924234)
            Whoa, what banks are allowed to loan up to 9 times? Last time I looked at the Federal Reserve System, the bank could only take out insurance up to twice what the bank hand, and that amount is a loan that the bank has to pay interest on to the Federal Reserve (albeit a very low interest rate, last I looked I think it was 4 points below prime). After that it is not insured, and very few (if any) banks deal with uninsured loans.
        • Correction: Banks hold money, which is printed and distributed by the Federal Reserve.

          No, banks create money, in the form of debt. Here's how:

          Back in the day, banks did just hold money, as you said. They could loan out money and collect interest on it, but they could only do that for money already in the vault. Then, the rules changed. Now banks can actually give out loans for money they do not have, but still require payment. This creates entirely new money.

          Of course, that's a vastly simplified explanat

        • by Colin Smith (2679)

          Banks hold money, which is printed and distributed by the Federal Reserve. Paypal is a financial institution, not a bank, because they do not handle money in the same sense.

          No, it's primary the creation of money which differentiates a bank from other financial institutions.

          Banks do hold money, however that isn't what differentiates them from Paypal. Paypal's money happens to be electronic. Most of the bank's money is also electronic, only about 5% is paper and metal.

          The difference is that banks are permitted to give loans of money, and in doing so they create money from nothing.

      • by c_forq (924234)
        Banks do not create money. They make money by charging higher interest on loans (including credit cards and mortgages) than they give for money deposited with them. They try to give competitive deposits because the more money they have deposited the more money they can give out in (insured) loans, and in turn collect even more interest.
        • by Colin Smith (2679)

          Banks do not create money. They make money by charging higher interest on loans
          Banks do create money when they give loans. It's called Fractional Reserve Banking.

           
  • by Shag (3737) on Monday October 15, 2007 @08:39PM (#20989829) Homepage
    The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was designed to fight organized crime, but in recent years more than 100 times as many civil as federal RICO cases have been filed.

    Well, if the feds can't be bothered to prosecute most things that they should... that's how the numbers end up, right?
    • Oh, if only I had mod points.
    • by ari_j (90255)
      I'm just concerned that the dichotomy is now civil vs. federal. Here, I thought that (a) federal courts also heard civil cases and (b) it was civil vs. criminal. Did something change today?
  • by speaker of the truth (1112181) on Monday October 15, 2007 @08:46PM (#20989873)
    Isn't creating a law with the purpose of using it for one thing (going after commercial pirates) and then using it for something else (going after people who pirate for no money and instead personal uses) something we hate here at slashdot? And yet we have another clear example of it and hail it as if it were the best thing to ever happen, simply by misappropriating the term "organized crime." Isn't that something else we complain about as well (after pirates don't steal, they simply infringe).

    I guess the end truly does justify the means. At least here at /.
    • by shaitand (626655) on Monday October 15, 2007 @09:00PM (#20989967) Journal
      'Isn't creating a law with the purpose of using it for one thing (going after commercial pirates) and then using it for something else (going after people who pirate for no money and instead personal uses) something we hate here at slashdot?'

      First of all this has nothing to do with piracy. Second, the law was designed to go after those who use an organizational structure to pursue crime. It might have been the mob who was in the sights of the government when passing these laws but there are more so called 'legitimate' corporate conspiracies than 'illegitimate' and the 'legitimate' crime syndicates need to be brought to justice just as the organized crime of old.

      Although the whole piracy reference was a nice plea to emotion I think you'll find that Slashdotters don't feel those laws are being used inappropriately but instead feel that laws which create a class of users that could be called pirates are bad regardless of how they are applied. Copyright and Patent laws have outlived their usefulness, anything that supports that archaic and obsolete system or its enforcement is bad.

      • Copyright and Patent laws have outlived their usefulness, anything that supports that archaic and obsolete system or its enforcement is bad.

        Or it could just be that we're becoming increasingly larger freeloaders and have a harder time understanding the concept that we don't need everything now. Hell, just look at the numbers of people in credit card debt. Compare that to a generation or two ago, and you're seeing a dramatic difference in consumer habits. Personally, I think that copyright laws are not outdated. If a team I'm on creates an icon like Mickey Mouse, I wouldn't want others to use said icon without my consent. If they did, the

        • by jthill (303417)

          Ok, let's talk about Mickey Mouse.

          Nobody who thought up Mickey Mouse is still working.

          The people who currently own the copyright had absolutely nothing to do with his creation.

          The people who currently own the copyright paid for twenty-eight years of copyright.

          What they say they own now, they did not create, did not subsidize, did not pay for.

          But they want to raise their kids on it.

          I think it's dangerous for their defenders to use words like "freeloader". It might get people thinking.

        • by dryeo (100693)

          If a team I'm on creates an icon like Mickey Mouse, I wouldn't want others to use said icon without my consent. If they did, they could destroy the value of the icon.
          That is what trademark law is for. Notice that trademarks do not expire. (Though you do have to defend them or you lose them)
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by shaitand (626655)
          'If a team I'm on creates an icon like Mickey Mouse, I wouldn't want others to use said icon without my consent.'

          Of course you wouldn't. There are lots of things I wouldn't want or would want, unfortunately, not every call is mine to make.

          'If they did, they could destroy the value of the icon.'

          The icon has innate value, we are discussing the artificial value that is given in the form of copyright.

          'If you think that a copyright holder is acting too much in their self-interest in terms of profits, then just b
    • by PPH (736903) on Monday October 15, 2007 @09:01PM (#20989973)
      RICO was created to go after organizations who engage in patterns of racketeering. The problem with our legal system is that we must enforce laws equally. I think the actual phrase is 'equal protection under the law'.

      The problem is that we can't differentiate between the activities of some corporations and the classic Mafia. Unlike the example you posited, basing enforcement on the profit motive, often mainstream corporations derive much more profit from their activities than the Mob ever did. So that's not an effective test.

      The problem with defining 'organized crime' is that there is no way to define it to fit our stereotype of a bunch of thugs of a certain ethnic persuasion and have it pass the smell test constitutionally.

      • by conteXXt (249905) on Monday October 15, 2007 @10:06PM (#20990437)
        Which, on the surface sounds like a "Beautiful Thing".

        If you can't tell the difference between "a bunch of nicely dressed gentlemen of a certain ethnic persuasion"
        doing X

        and

        legal, licensed, nicely dressed (albeit with bad brutally bad haircuts) officers of a public company
        doing X

        I think that finally affirmative action is working :-)

        It really shouldn't matter how bad your haircut is. A crook is a crook!
        • by mo^ (150717)
          All them people doing X sounds like a very beautiful thing if somewhat 90's.
      • IANAL, but IIRC, RICO was actually created to make it easier to convict 'known' criminals without having a lot of hard evidence of them being directly involved in a crime. Sometimes, the 'good guys' use this for good reasons. But other times, they abuse the power. As it turns out, the government doesn't appreciate anyone except themselves abusing power, so they are obviously upset about it (as are their largest campaign contributors).

        Seems that the law of unintended consequences has consequences. I thin
        • by fluffy99 (870997)
          Close. It was intended to nail known criminals for which they could only prove a repeated pattern of committing smaller crimes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bonker (243350)
      What you may be missing is that despite the fact that Microsoft's actions are part of a business plan, they're still organized and criminal. The term has not been misappropriated at all.

      Just because the RICO statutes were conceived with the idea of fighting mafia families does not mean they don't apply to all organized criminals.
    • Not really (Score:3, Interesting)

      This is a case of the current administation NOT wanting the law to be applied to their cronies.

      When a law is introduced it should be applied equally to everyone. If you introduce a speeding law then police cars too can be ticketed for speeding (although the police do have the right to speed without lights or sirens but only when necesarry for their work) and if the state then refuses to prosecute police officers who speed, they are wrong.

      The RICO act is meant to be used against the organisation of crime (

  • The 9th Circuit's decision would "convert a statute designed to eradicate organized crime into a tool to induce settlements from legitimate businesses," the companies said. Most corporations "cannot risk the possibility of an award of treble damages" or the "reputational injury" of being sued under a law "associated with racketeers and mobsters," they added.

    Then don't conspire with other companies to screw your customers. The deal was a "conspiracy" to cross-promote each other's brands. It probably incl
  • by Token_Internet_Girl (1131287) on Monday October 15, 2007 @09:20PM (#20990069)

    Sounds like stupid college students working at Best Buy getting a monthly prize for signing people up for MSN. Doesn't sound like a giant corporate scam.

    Excuse me, but Bullshit. I worked for Best Buy's "Geek Squad" several years ago, they have corporate people directly create the incentive programs so that stupid college students will sign up customers no matter what it takes, for the sole purpose of driving sales. It's a disheartening trend I've seen in several companies I've worked for, including AOL. They know it goes on, they constantly hound their employees to "sell every customer or its your job," and it's finally coming around to bite them in the ass. Huzzah's are in order!

    • You've worked for Best Buy and AOL? Brother, I feel your pain. Next you'll be telling us that you also worked as a telemarketer?

      It's time for you to consider a professional upgrade.

      Seriously.

      It's time to invest in yourself - develop some actual, salable skills! Whether it's flying an airplane, programming a computer, admin for a Unix box, or drilling holes in teeth and filling them back up - salable skills are the difference between jobs that suxorz (like what you've been trolling) and jobs that pay well an
    • Sales is really a soul sucking job. I knew from an early age that I didn't want to be in sales. It seems like the best salesmen, or at least the ones who earn the highest commisions or advance into management most quickly, are invariably the ones who are most dishonest, cheat the most people, and are generally sociopathic in their dealings with underlings.

      For example, one of my previous coworkers, who was the best salesmen I have ever known, had sidelines in loan sharking (thousand(s) of percent yearly i
      • I do sales - however, I have my own company. And we sell because we listen to the customer, and given them what they need. Not more, not less.

        Having said that, the very reason I started on my own was precisely because I was working for a big bucks consultancy and I was forced to choose between committing outright fraud by charging a customer for days I didn't work on their project or taking a hit on the hours I clocked and thus on my salary and job prospects. Such fraud is extremely common and is encoura
    • Hand in your slashdot UID RIGHT NOW traitor! Geez gods, talk about covorting with the enemy. What next, you run Vista and like it? You hunt penguins?

  • No comment? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ealar dlanvuli (523604) <froggie6@mchsi.com> on Monday October 15, 2007 @09:33PM (#20990167) Homepage
    "Microsoft does not comment about pending litigation?"

    This means Balmer's linux patent threats contain no litigation that is pending?
  • by Tablizer (95088)
    The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was designed to fight organized crime, but in recent years more than 100 times as many civil as federal RICO cases have been filed.

    This is why the Patriot Act and other 9/11-influenced laws make me nervous. Unchecked, the government has historically ended up abusing such powers.
           
    • Slippery slope? We're way past that point, my friend. The Patriot Act, the RICO Act, and others like it qualify more as a "steep incline facing a bottomless pit."
  • Successful RICO claims provide for triple damage awards in civil cases. (emph. added)

    I don't care what firm is bringing this case to trial, if there's a law that involves automatic triple damages, then they're going to try the case under that law, especially if it's a crap shoot to begin with.

    Basically, this is taking automatic 3:1 odds on a longshot, just by choosing the right kind of tort. That's why they're suing under RICO.

    Follow the money. If they can shoehorn in RICO, they will. They'd be, under conventional legal ethical standards, foolish and derelict not to.

    --
    Toro

  • by Trerro (711448) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @12:12AM (#20991259)
    I made the mistake of working for a Best Buy right after college. I can't comment specifically on the MSN thing, as I didn't see THAT particular scam, but from what I DID see, it would not surprise me in the slightest if employees were trained to at best, be extremely misleading, and at worst, outright lie and cheat the customer out of money.

    One common package deal we were supposed to try to push was the 'advanced security setup' or something like that, I can't remember the exact name. The service in theory sounded fine - you sold the customer an AV program and a spyware blocker, explained the point of each, set it up, ran the install, updated definitions, ran windows update for all current security patches, etc - all the standard security precautions. The customer of course would be billed the price of the 2 programs, plus a fee for the service of I think 20 or 30 bucks. Ignoring the fact that Avast (free) is just as effective as Norton, it didn't sound like a terribly unreasonable deal. The user bought software he was probably going to need anyway, and paid a small fee to make sure that the basic security precautions were taken.

    There was one slight problem. Best buy is not exactly a place where you build your own custom box. Anything you get from there is going to be a pre-built machine, almost always including some pre-installed software. In nearly every case, that included a copy of an AV program, usually with a 30 or 90 day trial, with a $10-15 subscription fee needed after that - not the 50 bucks you'd pay for a new copy (which of course, also had the fee, just after a year.)

    Here's where the scam comes in. The job of the salesman is to inform the user that while yes, your machine will come with AV protection, it'll only last 1 or 3 months, and after that, you won't be covered any more, so you really ought to buy our full protection plan, where you'll have everything done for you.

    In case you didn't fill in the blank on that, the job was to convince the customer to pay you to uninstall their already active AV program and replace it with another, charging them for both comparable software (in some cases, THE EXACT SAME PROGRAM) that they already had, and a service that had already been done!

    As for the 'there's no commission' argument, that's BS as well. The employee doesn't get commission, but his SUPERVISOR does. So they have you use the fact that YOU aren't on commission (which IS true) as part of your sales pitch.

    Also, BB has a very interesting way of making sure all staff participate in these scams. You're on quota. They'll never call it a quota of course - it's a sales goal, a revenue objective, a team target - whatever, they'll call it anything but a quota. When you don't meet the quota, you aren't fired. In fact, there's no penalty at all, other than the expression of disappointment, and strong encouragement to do better as a team. Unfortunately, it seems there's just not enough in the budget this week to cover your department, and everyone's hours need to be cut back. Oh, and if your hours are cut to oh, say... 4 or 8 per week and you can't possibly pay rent, well, if it's a such a problem, you're an at will employee, and hey, nothing is stopping you from quitting. Oh, and if you're thinking of getting a second job, well, you you signed a thing when you were hired that said your available hours would not change in your first X months (3 or 6, I forget), so if you choose to violate that, while, you'll have to fired for that of course.

    Funny thing, I don't think they've ever fired someone for not selling enough, they can proudly announce that - and happily do as they sell you stuff, and it's even true!... sort of. As for that absurdly high turnover rate, well, hey, it's retail, and not everyone can stay with it.

    I didn't last long there before I quit in disgust at the total disregard for ethics they have.

    Is convincing someone to buy software they already own racketeering? Maybe.
    Is it outright FRAUD? Yes.
  • by aegl (1041528) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:55AM (#20991813)
    I bought a 19" LCD monitor from Best Buy while they were running this scam and they signed me up for msn.com just the way the article says. No disclosure to me beyond telling me that there was a free 6 month subscription CD in the box. I recycled the CD as I had no interest in the MSN subscription. Six months later the first monthly charge appeared on my credit card bill.

    I called MSN and asked what was going on. They said that I'd signed up at Best Buy. I said "oh no I didn't". After a couple of iterations of this the guy on the phone agreed to cancel the subscription and refund my money.

    Assuming the lawyers take $30M of the $100M judgement, and assuming that there were 100,000 customers (complete random guess ... the article only says "thousands of customers"), then my share ought to be $700. That would actually be quite cool. But I bet that I'll just end up with a $10 coupon good for discounts on Microsoft Vista :-(

  • One of the fundamental problems with the American justice system is the extreme weighting in favor of the econmomicly advantaged party. This allows parties such as Microsoft, Best Buy and innumerable others to intentionally break the law, knowing that the price to pursue a legal remedy not to mention the time required will bankrupt any ordinary citizen. The system really needs to be revised to compensate such litigants for not only damages and court costs but also lost wages, travel expenses, attorney's fee
  • The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was designed to fight organized crime, but in recent years more than 100 times as many civil as federal RICO cases have been filed.

    This makes no sense. Civil RICO cases filed are federal cases. Is this supposed to mean:
    1) That there are 100x as many civil as criminal RICO cases filed, or
    2) That there are 100x as many RICO cases filed by private plaintiffs as there are filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

    And does it matter, in either case? RICO laws

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