Is Best Buy Misleading Customers Over HDTV Calibration?

Retailer is comparing SD content to HD content to show calibration, shopper claims.

Image via The Consumerist

There’s an interesting story today over at The Consumerist, where a reader claims that Best Buy is misleading customers into purchasing its calibration services.

The reader, whose letter is printed below, claims that his local Best Buy is comparing a “calibrated” HDTV with a “non-calibrated” HDTV—but is showing high-definition content on the former and standard-def content on the other.

Check out the letter.

Dear Consumerist,

While helping my father look for an HDTV at the newest Best Buy in Charlotte, NC this Sunday, I came across their demo display of their color calibration service. On the left side of the demo, they had a HDTV tuned to ESPN, and on the right, there was the exact same model of TV presumably tuned to the same station, but with a far superior picture. The difference between the two was remarkable; the left one was grainy and blurry while the right one looked sharp and detailed. Thinking that something was not right, I took a further look at the demo and realized that the inferior tv on the left was turned to plain old ESPN, and the superior tv on the right was tuned to ESPN HD. What’s even worse is they had a box for their Black Tie TV Protection Plan strategically placed so that when looking at the display from most angles, it covered up the ESPN logo on the left tv as to disguise the fact that it was not an HD channel.

Having figured out the nature of their scam, I went to talk to one of the employees. I showed him the TVs, and he didn’t have much to say besides that the color calibration service would decrease power consumption on my TV by 30%, which if I am not mistaken, a flat out lie.

Another employee overheard our conversation, and would at first, not admit that one tv had an HD signal and that the other one did not. He insisted that the difference was strictly because of their color calibration. Not wanting to let him get away with his BS, I told him that his claim was impossible, and finally got him to admit not only that I was right, but also that the tv with the standard signal was set to stretch the picture out (presumably to make the picture even worse). He then say that it would probably help to set the TVs to the same channel, but he “didn’t know where the remote was.”

By that point I was tired of the crap flowing out of his mouth, so I proceeded to shop around. Ten minutes later when I was ready to leave, I passed by the demo again only to find that the employee had done nothing, and that it was just as misleading as it was before.

This is just a cheap tactic to get people to buy into their crappy calibration service, which I could probably do myself with a half hour of playing with the settings on my TV. While I noticed the scam, I highly doubt that my 70+ year old father would.

Attached is a picture I quickly snapped with my iPhone. It’s not the best, but you can still see that the right one is set on ESPN HD while the left one is just regular ESPN. I guess this is just another example of Best Buys classy business practices.


We can’t verify Robert’s claim, but the picture certainly seems to show stretched SD content on the left TV and high-def content on the right.

What do you think? Is this misleading or simply miscommunication?

  Article Topics

News · Big-Box Retailers · All Topics
CE Pro Magazine

Not a Magazine Subscriber?
Subscribe Today...It's FREE!!