The Angry Shopper

Thwarted Comparison Shopper Sues

Ron Kahlow wanted a new television, and he wanted it at the right price.

So he went to his local Best Buy and began typing its television set prices into the laptop he had strapped to his waist. No problem, right? Comparing prices is a common consumer strategy, and a store named Best Buy would welcome comparisons.

But store employees didn't like what he was doing and asked him to stop, saying he was disturbing other customers. He refused, so they called police, who asked him to leave. When he didn't, the cops arrested him for trespassing.

The next day, Kahlow returned, this time with just a pad of paper and a pen. Employees objected, police were called, and once again Kahlow was charged with trespassing.

A judge found him not guilty in both cases, but Kahlow, who owns a small software company in Reston, Virginia, decided he wanted retribution. So he sued Best Buy for US$350,000, the maximum amount allowed under state law. He wanted money, and he also wanted to make Best Buy look bad, as publicly as possible.

Fearful of losing, the company offered to settle for US$10,000. Kahlow turned them down, and took them to court.

At the trial, Kahlow argued that the store had callously trampled on his rights. Best Buy's lawyers claimed that Kahlow had been disruptive, that he and his computer had blocked the aisle, impeding other customers.

In the end, the jury sided with Best Buy, and Kahlow came away with no money. But he did gain some satisfaction: he sought justice, and perhaps more importantly, he feels that he succeeded in making Best Buy look silly. But was this accomplishment worth the time and effort? Only he knows.


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Written by David Kohn
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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