Overview and Timeline

I have filed a lawsuit against Best Buy and launched this blog in an effort to bring attention to the reprehensible state of consumer property and privacy protection practices at America's largest consumer electronics retailer, with the hope that it might motivate Best Buy to effect changes and spare future consumers the experience I have been subjected to -- or worse. The short story is that Best Buy and its representatives: 1) allowed my computer to be stolen from the Best Buy store in Tenleytown, Washington, DC, 2) fabricated records and tried to cover up the theft, 3) lied to me for weeks about the repair status of the stolen computer, 4) responded to repeated requests for a theft investigation and compensation with indifference and insults, and 5) demonstrated a company-wide disregard for legal obligations to immediately disclose the theft and notify me of potential exposure to identity theft over the course of the ordeal. Relevant documents and details follow the below timeline.

May 19, 2007: Shortly after I left a 1-year-old laptop with a malfunctioning on-off switch at Best Buy's Tenleytown DC store for repair under a service contract, the computer was stolen -- either by an employee or by someone who managed to abscond unchecked with the laptop from a "secure" area of the store.

June 2007: Efforts to track the computer were met with Geeksquad confirmation that the laptop was "not in the system".

July 2007: July 1, Best Buy's Tenleytown DC store informed me that the computer was "not in the system," provided a new reference number, and instructed me to contact Geeksquad again. July 4, a store employee created a false computer record, and the appearance that the laptop had been processed for repair on that day.

July 9 - August 9, 2007: In response to follow-up inquiries, Geeksquad and Best Buy "Customer Service" employees repeatedly lied about the repair status and location of the phantom computer. After disclosure that there was "no record that the computer ever shipped from the store," the laptop was finally confirmed "missing" on August 9.

August 9 - October 2007: Repeated requests for an investigation and fair compensation (<$5000) were ignored, then addressed with insults and lowball compensation offers. More importantly, Best Buy consistently failed to fulfill legal obligations to immediately advise of potential exposure to identity theft throughout the process.

November 2007: November 16, I filed a major lawsuit, seeking both fair compensation for replacement of the computer, its content, and expenses related to identity theft protection and the lawsuit, and the adoption of adequate measures to ensure customer privacy protection is given the priority it deserves in the future.

December 2007: December 19, I received a copy of a Best Buy lawyer's Motion to Quash Service and Dismiss Complaint. December 20, I sent a response, which was ignored. Independently, Best Buy's corporate counsel sent an offer for $2500 in compensation, with non-disclosure and non-liability provisions and no offer to address the systemic failure in Best Buy's practices, i.e., the main motivation for my lawsuit.

January 2008: January 3, I sent a response to Best Buy Associate Corporate Counsel's settlement "offer." January 4, I filed Opposition to Best Buy Lawyer's Motion to Quash Service and Dismiss Complaint with DC Court. At a pre-trial status hearing on January 25, the Court recommended trying informal negotiations to settle the matter. I advised Best Buy's lawyer that I would drop the suit if Best Buy would provide compensation for my expenses and time and address the shortcomings in its property and privacy protection practices. Best Buy refused. Apparently, Best Buy would rather pay its lawyers to fight me than address the issues raised in my claim.

*Funds received to date total $1110.35, which were unilaterally transferred into my credit card account by Best Buy in late October 2007 -- without my knowledge or consent. The amount does not even cover the full cost of replacing the laptop itself, let alone a fraction of the value of the music, pictures, software, and other contents that were on the stolen computer, legal and court expenses, the cost of identity theft protection services that I am forced to bear for years to come, or compensation for the estimated 200 hours I have spent since May 2007 dealing with Best Buy and its agents, the replacement of my computer and its contents, and pursuing the lawsuit because of Best Buy's indifference towards my initial requests. Best Buy also sent a $500 gift card to me in mid-October 2007 (with no explanation and despite repeated communications that I had no interest in a gift card that would force me to patronize their stores). I subsequently advised them that I would donate it to a non-profit organization unless they requested its return, and did so in December, after not receiving a response.

1/3/08 Response to Associate Corporate Counsel Ryan Eddy's "Offer" Letter

January 3, 2008

Mr. Ryan Eddy
Associate Corporate Counsel
Best Buy Enterprise Services
7601 Pennsylvania Avenue S.
Richfield, MN 55423

(sent via fax # 952-430-7212 and email at: ryan.eddy@bestbuy.com)

Dear Mr. Eddy,

I am writing in response to your letter dated December 20 regarding the lawsuit I filed against Best Buy, which I received after returning from holiday travel.

While I appreciate the gesture to resolve this matter, I must decline your offer because it both fails to cover more than a fraction of the value of the computer and its contents, ID theft protection services, legal and court fees, and other expenses, and, more importantly, because it fails to address the bigger issue and main motivation for the lawsuit -- the gross inadequacy of Best Buy's property and privacy protection practices and what a failure to address these issues immediately might mean for future customers.

I will agree with you on one point: $54 million dollars is not a reasonable amount to request for a stolen computer and related expenses. However, I want to make clear that this lawsuit is not simply about compensation for the expenses and time I have had to expend as a result of Best Buy's negligence and irresponsible practices. It is about motivating Best Buy to do what it should have felt compelled to do on its own, i.e., address the blatant, company-wide breakdown of privacy protection policies that I experienced, so that future customers do not have to endure what I have – or worse.

Were it simply a matter of a stolen computer, I would have spared myself the expense, hassle, and time of a civil suit, settled for a $5000 small claims judgment, and sucked up the remaining losses. However, given the seriousness of the issues involved and Best Buy's responses to the initial theft and my subsequent follow-up efforts, I cannot with a good conscience drop this suit until Best Buy demonstrates that it takes customers' privacy protection seriously.

The terms of your offer deny Best Buy's liability in this matter. However, I will remind you that had Best Buy's employee followed proper procedure and met Best Buy's obligations under DC law when processing the computer for repair in May, I would know who is responsible for the theft of my computer. Instead, I have received no explanation and no indication to date that anyone has taken responsibility for this criminal act.

I will remind you that had Best Buy's employees acted responsibly after my July 1st follow-up visit to your Tenleytown store, the theft of the computer could have been discovered in a timely manner. Instead, someone at that store inexplicably elected to fabricate a false record.

I will remind you that Best Buy's employees were legally obligated to disclose the theft of the computer to me and notify me of potential exposure to identity theft immediately. Instead, week after week they erroneously asserted that repairs were being done, parts ordered, etc. – on several occasions after initially stating that they could not find the computer in the system.

I will remind you that had Best Buy Tenleytown responded to my August 24 request to Michael French for $2110.35 in compensation, the matter would have been resolved at that point. Instead, your colleagues ( i.e., those directly responsible for the theft of my computer) chose to ignore my request and I was forced to endure the pain, inconvenience, and expense of hauling around an oversized laptop that I had to borrow for a business trip and other work obligations while suffering from a separated shoulder.

I will remind you that had Best Buy responded to my October 7 verbal request to Delante Lewis for $2500 in compensation, the matter would have been resolved then. Instead, this request was ignored, as was my written request for compensation to Robert Delissio. Mr. Delissio's only response to date is insulting emails to friends of mine erroneously characterizing me as an unsatisfiable customer who made unrealistic compensation requests and asserting that I got the experience that I deserved.

Consequently, I was forced to seek legal advice, file charges with the police, and a claim with the Attorney General's Office to enlist help in resolving this issue. As a result, I was advised that I could seek the full compensation allowed in small claims court if I wanted to settle the matter quickly. I communicated to the AGO that I would accept $5000 in compensation to avoid the hassle, time, and expense of filing a suit. Instead of accepting this, Best Buy unilaterally transferred the $1110.35 into my credit card account and sent a $500 gift card. I will accept the $1110.35 to offset expenses, but, as stated in my letter to Mr. Feivor, I donated the gift card to a non-profit organization when Best Buy did not request its return by December 1 st.

I was also advised at that time that I should take steps immediately to safeguard myself against identity theft, and learned that Best Buy had been grossly negligent and in violation of DC laws by not informing me of the computer's theft and consequent risk of identity theft as soon as it became aware of the problem. Had Best Buy acted responsibly back in July, this would not have been an issue. Instead, it left me exposed for months, has offered no compensation for identity theft protection costs, and now has the gall to suggest (in condition 3 of your offer) a course of action that would effectively leave me exposed to identity theft unless I want to continue to absorb the cost of proactive protection services.

Yes, we agree that $54 million is an unreasonable sum of money under normal circumstances. However, I am hopeful that the Court will agree with me on the need to proactively address the shortcomings in Best Buy's practices, lest other consumers fall victim. I am also willing to wager $2500 that the Court will agree that I am not being unreasonable in expecting full compensation for the time, stress, inconvenience, pain, and expense that Best Buy has subjected me to for the past 6-plus months. I think it is unreasonable of you to suggest otherwise.

While you may disagree, I believe I am a reasonable person. I don't believe I am alone this assessment either. I just firmly believe in speaking out and taking action when I believe failure to do so might subject others to unnecessary grief.

I am perfectly willing to entertain a reasonable offer from Best Buy, so that I can put this behind me with the feeling that I might have made a difference for future customers. At a minimum, however, I would expect this to include:

1) Best Buy's best explanation as to how my computer could have been stolen from a secure area of its Tenleytown store, who is responsible, and how Best Buy has/will pursue responsibility for that criminal act and the attempts by that store to cover up the theft in July and August. In particular, I have a hard time understanding how Best Buy would allow Robert Delissio to continue in a managerial position in that store, given the demonstrated lack of adequate training and supervision of the employees in his store, his reprehensible response to my requests for an investigation and compensation, and the questionable circumstances surrounding his departure from his previous place of employment.
2) A full explanation of what steps will be taken at the company level to adequately educate all Best Buy employees (particularly those in frontline customer service positions) on the need to prioritize customers' privacy protection if a customers' personal information is potentially compromised, and how Best Buy will address the shortcomings that were brought to light by my experiences to minimize the risk of a repeat of my experience by future customers.
3) Full compensation ($25,000, per my letter to Mr. Feivor) for my direct expenses and time related to restoring my property and resolving this issue.
4) Treble and other damages in the amount of $75,000, for the completely unnecessary 6- month ordeal Best Buy has put me through.

I will be meeting with a lawyer on January 9 to discuss hiring him to file proper responses to Mr. Mervis' motions. (The response I sent to Mr. Mervis, which I filed with the court as a stopgap measure after receiving his motions the day before I left for holiday travels, was apparently insufficient.)

If you would like to discuss, I would appreciate it if you could respond before COB on the 9th, so that I can avoid this expense if at all possible. I think you should have no trouble reaching me if you make an honest effort to contact me at the numbers and addresses you have. I did receive your call in November, and returned it with a message to your voicemail box, but believe that was the end of your attempts to contact me.


Raelyn Campbell