A True Story:
Last Friday, I went down to the San Diego's Clairmont Mesa CompUSA store to pick up a couple of WebSurfers Pro's. Before leaving, I printed out a copy of the ad from their website, apparently just minutes before it disappeared.
I went to the checkout and they rang them up at $199/ea. I pulled out the ad and they called over the manager who insisted I sign the contract, which I refused. I then entered into a calm, non-threatening conversation about bait-and-switch advertising tactics and asked why CompUSA wasn't honoring their ad. When he suggested I was taking advantage of their error, I reminded him that they frequently have "loss-leader" promotions with products that cost next-to-nothing, why would I suspect that this product would be any different? I asked him to escalate the issue to his supervisors and he promised he would. I took his card, gave him my name and number and left.
The next morning I got a call back. Yes, I could have my two WS Pro's and considering the sixty mile drive to the CompUSA store, they would ship them to me for free, I only needed to pay the original $100+tax and I was under no obligation to sign any contract or subscribe to any service... They arrived today, sans contracts. While I didn't like the hassle, I can't fault their customer service or the final result, especially when compared to the Circuit City fiasco. Way to go, CompUSA!
I am sure that little dramas like mine have been played out at CompUSA's all over, they are bad for customer relations and tie up a ton of staff time... no one is happy about it. You have to wonder how much longer big companies like CompUSA will accept the hassle of products that require lengthy contracts with such low-margin goods. Unless they are getting large kick-backs (like cellphone sales), you have to expect that they will have major reservations in the future about any companies like NP or WS that require presigned contractual committments from CompUSA customers.