Best Buy, Wal-Mart sales force uninformed on analog to digital TV switch

Many know that the date set by the FCC for the transition from analog broadcasts to all digital broadcasts is February 19, 2009. Over the next year there will be a mass of commercials and news reports talking about the transition.

People who don’t use cable/satellite and have older TVs lacking digital tuners will simply get a blank screen when the switch occurs. The Boston Herald reports that MassPIRG, a consumer protection group, went on a mystery shopping excursion to some of the top electronics retailers including Best Buy, Circuit City, RadioShack, Target and Wal-Mart during October and November of 2007.

According to the group, sales clerks at the stores they visited routinely gave inaccurate information about digital TV converter boxes and the coupon program sponsored by the U.S. government to offset the cost of the converters for consumers.

The mystery shoppers reported that some clerks tried to up sale them on converter boxes with more features and a higher price and that some clerks even said they would need to buy new digital TVs to continue watching after the transition.

MassPIRG sent secret shoppers to 132 stores in ten states and found that overall 42% of clerks didn’t know the transition date and that 81% of clerks gave out bad information on the transition. The report also says 78% of clerks gave inaccurate information about the government converter coupon program.

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