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Racketeering Trial of MS and Best Buy Can Proceed

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the knowing-guys-who-know-guys dept.

The Courts 179

mcgrew (sm62704) writes with news that the Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Microsoft and a unit of Best Buy to dismiss a lawsuit alleging violation of racketeering laws. This means the class-action complaint can go to trial. The case was filed in civil court and the companies, with the US Chamber of Commerce behind them, wanted the Supreme Court to put the brakes on the expanding use of RICO laws in civil filings. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was designed to fight organized crime, but in recent years more than 100 times as many civil as federal RICO cases have been filed.

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something fishy... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20989679)

Being a hard hitting tough investigative reporter is not all it's cracked up to be. Sometimes I uncover a story so vile and revolting that I wish it never crossed my desk. Usually though it's just such stories that need to be aired as a public service.
        One day last summer I was relaxing in my office, flipping thru the mail, enjoying a maduro Arturo Fuentes Chateau Fuentes and my fourth or fifth Old Fitzgerald 100 proof on the rocks, when a timid knock on the office door caught my attention. Thru the peephole I observed an enormously overweight fellow dressed in the fashion of the Hasidim. I welcomed him into my office and bade him to have a seat. To my surprise he accepted my offer of Old Fitzgerald on the rocks and drained the glass promptly. He introduced himself as Slim "Catfish" Jenkins. I challenged him on the veracity of his dress in view of his name and his thirst for whiskey. He assured me the dress was just a disguise. He told me it would soon become clear just why he felt compelled to employ such drastic tactics. He nervously drew attention to his empty glass which I promptly refilled and told him to fill me in.
          He claimed to be a private investigator from Little Rock, Arkansas and to have in his possession a videotape and copies of documents that he said put his life in danger.
        "From whom ?", I inquired.
          "Friends of Bill.", he replied matter of factly.
          My curiosity aroused, I asked him if it were possible to summarize the contents. He promised me I'd never believe what he had to say, but asked me to be patient while he presented his story.
          Slim settled back in his chair and began rambling. It turned out that he had a cousin who worked in the Little Rock funeral home that received Vince Foster's body and that this cousin had seen and heard a few things quite out of the ordinary. Shortly after the owner of the funeral home returned from the airport with the casket
this cousin claimed to overhear the Little Rock end of a phone call from Hillary Clinton herself. He swears he was in the hallway outside the owner's office when he heard the phone ring and that the owner soon blurted out "Why yes Mrs. Clinton, how may I be of service ?" followed by a long silence.
          The next thing this cousin remembers is the owner angrily saying "If this is some kind of sick joke please get off the line now before I report you to the authorities." There was another longish pause followed by "Yes, yes, of course we have a fax machine. The number's in the phone book. " which in turn was followed by the receiver being angrily slammed down. On a hunch this cousin drifted over to the coffee room where the fax machine
resided. He lit a cig and waited.
        In about 3 minutes the machine started to hum. He saw the cover sheet with the Executive Office seal then the owner came into the room. "It's for me, probably some crank. I'll handle it." The cousin left the room. Later that evening, after the owner had left, this cousin let himself into the owner's office and started rooting around for the fax. He found the two page transmission under the calendar pad on the desk. The one page body of the text was a brief paragraph assuring the owner that Hillary Clinton had in fact called and that at 8 A.M. the next morning two Secret Service agents would drop by to communicate special instructions from the First Lady herself.
          Slim paused here for me to refill his glass. I topped mine off, lit another Arturo Fuentes, and told him to continue. He said his cousin got to work early the next morning and personally answered the door at 8:05 A.M. His cousin had enough sense to ask for identification, and showed the two agents into the owner's office. Apparently the discussion was rather heated. He remembers the owner crying out several times "This is preposterous."
          After the agents left he remembers that the owner was visibly flustered and short tempered. The owner issued instructions that no one was to be allowed in the embalming room until further notice.
          Again the cousin stayed late after the owner had left. He let himself into the embalming room and went over to the table where Vince Foster's body resided. Nothing about the sheet-covered corpse suggested the horror that was about to unfold. Upon stripping away the sheet the cousin was stunned to find that Vince Foster had an enormous erection. Closer examination revealed that a plastic prothesis had been inserted into a cut made in the side of the organ. The cousin replaced the sheet and went back to the coffee room to collect his wits. I interrupted Slim here.
          "I suppose you have a copy of the fax transmission ?"
          "Oh yeah", he said, "better than that".
          I tugged at my eyelids wondering how much whiskey I was wasting on this jerk, and motioned him to continue.
          The cousin was hit about midnight with inspiration. Recently, a video recorder had been set up in the viewing room to accommodate customers that wanted a film record of part or all of the ceremony. Acting on a wild guess that something was quite wrong in this affair, the cousin placed a blank tape in the recorder, and set it to start taping at 4 A.M. He came back to work at 9 the next morning and noticed the tape still in the camera. Before leaving for home that day he filched the tape to watch at home.
          "And I suppose you have a copy of this same tape ?", I asked Slim.
          "You betcha", he said, passing me a tape.
          I went over to my VCR and took out the well worn copy of "Facial Cumshots, Vol. 7" and popped in Slim's tape.
        I was totally unprepared for what I saw. At about 4:15 A.M. the owner of the funeral home wheeled in Vince Foster dressed neatly in suit and tie, resting comfortably in his casket. At 5 A.M. sharp Hillary Clinton enters the room with two Secret Service agents. Having read of her secret romance with the recently deceased, I was not surprised that she might want a few moments alone to mourn out of the glare of the national press. She stood silently by the coffin for a few minutes then asked the two Secret Service agents to stand outside. She locked both doors to the room from the inside and returned to the casket. I could not believe my eyes when she unzipped Vince Foster's trousers and removed the (artificially) erect penis. With great care, she hiked her dress and slip up over her ample hips and climbed into the coffin. She was not wearing any panties, which I understand is pretty common in Arkansas. She positioned herself over the member and guided it into herself with surprising agility. She began a slow up and down grind that was truly charming to watch, even under these awfully morbid circumstances. Her breathing grew more rapid and a crimson blush soon colored her cheeks. Beads of sweat were now forming on her brow and her movements became more rapid. At 5:21 A.M. according to the timer on the tape, she screamed at the top of her lungs, "Go limp on me NOW you son of a bitch ! " and then convulsed mightily and fell face down on the poor corpse. She collected her breath, gently kissed Vince Foster's cheek and climbed out of the coffin. After rearranging her skirt she dabbed at her forehead with a handkerchief and quickly brushed her hair back in place. She walked calmly to the door where the two agents were waiting and opened it. One of the agents escorted her out while the second checked the casket. With only a moderate show of disgust, he placed the penis
back in the trousers and left the room.
          Slim guffawed heavily, and roared "Don't that beat all to hell ! ".
          I vomited profusely, one half quart of whiskey and a sushi lunch special decorating my carpet. Is this the truly awful state that our country has sunk to today? Have previous presidential families ever behaved so disgracefully ? Slim "Catfish" Jenkins sure as hell didn't care. We negotiated a price for my use of his material and he left with same. I hope he has enough sense to get rid of the Hasidic disguise before he gets back to Little Rock.
          Meanwhile, our president and First Lady have some serious explaining to do to this reporter AND the American people. All the same, I wouldn't be too surprised if an overweight Hasidim were found floating in an Arkansas lake, along with an empty briefcase.

Re:something fishy... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20989817)

Sir, your ideas intrigue me, and I have subscribed you to my newsletter. Btw, I also added you to my /. friends list.

-- Jerry Fletcher

Re:something fishy... (1, Interesting)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989991)

Never fails. Anti-Microsoft story... Ridiculous porn troll in first few comments.

Bet the IP address resolves to the Redmond area.

Re:something fishy... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20990141)

will you please just shut the fuck up? that is just the dumbest fucking thign i've ever heard. are you this much of an annoying asshole in real life?
 
no wonder real people hate nerds.

Re:something fishy... (0, Offtopic)

Cryophallion (1129715) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990289)

Awww, did someone not like your story?

First the other conspiracy theorists say that you are crazy (and crazy to them is out of this world...), but now the people on slashdot, who should know good prose (not to mention porn) when they see it (being nerds and all), call out your story for being a waste of time and a possible technique by the company in question to change the topic and make the community instead of you look like fools.

There is a reason we call it anonymous coward.

Thanks for trying to waste our time. Too bad the mods got to you first. So, you failed again. You may now go to bed unsatisfied and unfulfilled.

Re:something fishy... (0, Offtopic)

said213 (72685) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990543)

Have you ever considered posting anonymously, or is this just a temporary account for you?

Re:something fishy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20991375)

Mom?

it's called ... (-1, Redundant)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989687)

... karma

Organized crime? (5, Interesting)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989689)

So how, exactly, is this *not* organized crime?

Re:Organized crime? (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989749)

So how, exactly, is this *not* organized crime?
You beat me to it. I have given it some thought, and the only difference I see is that the IRS directly gets a cut, and I would argue that even with the mob/mafia, the IRS does get a cut of the profits, if only indirectly and in smaller proportions.

Re:Organized crime? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20989757)

Just like the deal of Apple with AT&T is *NOT*.

Re:Organized crime? (5, Informative)

MichaelKaiserProScri (691448) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989843)

The deal between AT&T and Apple sucks, but is legal, because it is disclosed ahead of time. The deal between MS and Best Buy is illegal because it was not disclosed.

Re:Organized crime? (4, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990473)

The deal between MS and Best Buy was not illegal, unless giving the credit card numbers used to purchase computers at Best Buy to MS was part of it (and then only if not getting customer consent was part of the deal too). The suit is over Best Buy supposedly giving a customers credit card number to MS without informing/getting the customers permission. That is what is illegal. The fact of the deal is what makes the crime subject to RICO. I agree with the Chamber of Commerce that RICO has become overly broad in its application, although I'm not sure which side of the line this particular suit is. On the one hand, the RICO laws were clearly not intended to apply to cases like this (I remember the situations that led to the laws being passed, it had to do with efforts by big time drug dealers to turn drug money into legitimate businesses). On the other hand, without the threat of treble damages, the kind of profit that a big company can make off of most people's inertia is too much for most companies to resist.

Re:Organized crime? (1, Insightful)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989881)

So how, exactly, is this *not* organized crime?

The organizations that we consider true organized crime- the Sicilian mafia, the Russian mob, Colombian drug cartels, or the Yakuza, all have one thing in common. That's the use of violence and the threat of violence to coerce people. So you can be organized and be criminal- say, get a bunch of corrupt accountants together and embezzle a bunch of money- but nobody would accuse you of really being "organized crime" until your accountants start beating people over the head with their adding machines. Likewise, unless Microsoft execs starting making death threats, and literal ones, not Ballmer's "fucking kill" tirade, I wouldn't consider them organized crime.

Re:Organized crime? (5, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989985)

So even if we stick solely with your definition, the only difference in their behavior is the use of violence. If you replace the threat of physical violence with a threat of legal and financial ruin, they are virtually identical.

Use violence to coerce people? Organized crime!

Use lawyers to coerce people? Just shrewd business!

I think you watch too many movies, personally. The coercion part is what makes it "organized crime", not the means and methods.
=Smidge=

Re:Organized crime? (2)

ed.mps (1015669) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990051)

Even if you are correct (and personally, I agree with your POV) the laws are made by and/or for businessmen profit in the vast majority of the cases.
So,

Use violence to coerce people? Organized crime!

Use lawyers to coerce people? Just shrewd business!

are, currently, the rules.

Re:Organized crime? (1, Insightful)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990203)

Use lawyers to coerce people? Just shrewd business! I think you watch too many movies, personally. The coercion part is what makes it "organized crime", not the means and methods.

Hm, why isn't agressively suing people organized crime? Gee, I don't know... maybe because it's not, you know, criminal to sue people? One might even go so far as to say that using lawyers is legal. Using the law does not necessarily make something right and moral (for instance, the RIAA), but pretty much by definition if you're working through the legitimate processes of the legal system, it's not organized crime.

Re:Organized crime? (5, Informative)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990509)

Suing absolutely can be illegal (or, if you prefer, legally actionable). It's known as barratry, abuse of process, vexatious litigation, or frivolous litigation.

If you bring a case against someone solely to punish them with legal proceedings, that's often illegal. Even if it's not, it gets lawyers disbarred.

Re:Organized crime? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20991591)

Hmmm... I never realized barratry included "the offense of frequently exciting and stirring up lawsuits and quarrels." I knew this definition for it: "fraud by a master or crew at the expense of the owners of the ship or its cargo."

Come to think of it... isn't the third definition what is going on now with the low UID bids for the anniversary of slashdot?

3. the purchase or sale of ecclesiastical preferments or of offices of state.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/barratry [reference.com]

Re:Organized crime? (1)

hawk (1151) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990731)

>maybe because it's not, you know, criminal to sue people?

*shudder*

If it becomes so, you'll see me next to the "Why lie? I need a beer." guy [1] with a "Will sue for food" sign.

hawk, esq.

[1] He's been there about 20 years now. I understand that there's a bmw around the corner that he uses to drive home.

Re:Organized crime? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990251)

Ok, what threat of legal or financial ruin did this guy suffer? I don't see anything that was threatening by either company. If true, its truly sleazy, but threatening? No.

Re:Organized crime? (3, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990345)

Ok, what threat of legal or financial ruin did this guy suffer? I don't see anything that was threatening by either company. If true, its truly sleazy, but threatening? No.


RICO covers a whole slate of acts, not just coercion. Among them is (tada!) wire fraud, which, if true, Microsoft and Best Buy did participate in, since this guy never authorized MSN to charge his card.

OTOH, if you really want to look at it from a coercion angle, do you know what happens if you fail to pay a credit card charge, authorized or not? They report it to the credit card companies. The more they report it to the credit card companies, the more 'black' marks on your credit. Yes, they can report it over and over, too. Ever try to buy a house, or a car with a bad credit rating and no co-signer? It's damn near fscking impossible in this country, let me tell you.

Re:Organized crime? (1)

dannannan (470647) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990733)

Hey, remember the antitrust case? A federal Judge concluded [news.com] that Microsoft committed "violence" against the marketplace. :-P

D

Re:Organized crime? (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990753)

The RICO act is found under Title 18, which is where the government normally puts Federal criminal law. It's pretty fair to argue in general that anything in Title 18 is supposed to be focused on criminal acts, not applied broadly to a mixture of criminal and civil cases.
      Congress included mail and wire fraud as applicable crimes in RICO's definition. They didn't include what's frequently called law fraud, which is probably how we should best classify the acts in this case. Wire and Mail fraud have been interpreted very broadly in a number of previous cases, both RICO and non, and so they will probably stretch to fit again, but it may not be a natural fit. It's somewhat like the charge of Kidnapping. Kidnapping has been used when a victim was moved just a short distance, say from one building to another on the same block, but that's not how the law was originally envisioned and it sometimes appears to be selectively applied when the prosecutor wants to add charges, or the base crime appears loathsome and abominable to the public.
      Because of this, a number of recent RICO cases have set new limits for when RICO can apply to what start out as normal civil cases - of interest are:

        * Evans v. City of Chicago, 434 F.3d 916 (7th Cir. 2006)
          This cases set some standards for how serious an injury to business or property needed to be before the damages should be called irrecoverable, as that word applied to RICO.

        * Odom v. Microsoft Corp., 486 F.3d 541 ( 9th Cir. 2007)
          This case concerned the distinctions between enterprise activities and racketeering activities, and obviously is particularly applicable to another Microsoft case. Microsoft may invoke some of these distinctions as a means of claiming their intent was to comply all along with existing law.

        * United States v. Daidone, 471 F.3d 371 (2d Cir. 2006)
        This case offers a number of relatedness tests that have become more commonly used in subsequent cases.

Re:Organized crime? (1)

zcat_NZ (267672) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990701)

Funny, I thought the Mafia often used threats of financial damage, perhaps as often as threats of violence.

"Nice restaurant, be a shame if it burned down.."

And the russian mafia have been associated with various scams involving botnets and DDOS attacks against popular gambling websites.

It's not always the kneecaps.

Re:Organized crime? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20991517)

Likewise, unless Microsoft execs starting making death threats, and literal ones, not Ballmer's "fucking kill" tirade, I wouldn't consider them organized crime.
Until you can walk in a store in the United States (unlike free countries) and buy a computer without an O/S or with Linux on it, I would consider it the next best thing to organized crime.

In the Free World (which does not include the United States, but does include the Philippines) you *can* walk into a random store and buy a computer with Microsoft.

MS Violence threats = (1)

J_Omega (709711) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991535)

Chairs, man! Chairs!

Re:Organized crime? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20989909)

A long time ago, prosecutors realized that organized crime tried to use legitimate business faces to sustain and grow itself. When various business interests, controlled by a common hand, unite to box their victim into an alley where they can be persuaded to "donate" their money to a cause also controlled by those same business interests, that's a serious threat to civilization. If each participant could only be prosecuted for disturbing the peace, the mugging would continue unchecked.

The real shame is that private citizens have to leverage civil courts for relief. If their are 100 times as many civil RICO actions as there are criminal RICO actions, it is most likely because prosecutors are not doing their jobs. A mugging is still a crime. Just because it is performed by people in suits doesn't make it less of a crime. And when the suit in the corporate office is orchestrating the systemic muggings of all their customers... it is a crime. An organized crime.

Re:Organized crime? (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989969)

The IRS gets its cut.

Re:Organized crime? (1)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990265)

> So how, exactly, is this *not* organized crime?

In organized crime, the supreme court is paid off before hand.

Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Justice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20989697)

A quick Google search shows leniency [google.com] often affects the final outcome.

Re:Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Justice (-1, Troll)

huckamania (533052) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989775)

This is a civil case and the US DoJ is not an involved party.

This is just lawyers making money off of idiots who will end up getting a voucher. Probably for 6 months of free MSN.

I remember that Best Buy used to give gift certificates for signing up for MSN. I wonder if these same idiots also got the 'free money' from Best Buy.

Hooray for the United States of Lawyers and all the idiots it contains.

MOD PARENT TROLL (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20989975)

PLEASE MOD PARENT TROLL

Important to note (4, Informative)

ejdmoo (193585) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989731)

Just because the summary was so scarce on details: this has nothing to do with computers, OEMS, Windows, or OS bundling. It's not that same old story again.

This is about signing people up for MSN without their permission.

Sounds like stupid college students working at Best Buy getting a monthly prize for signing people up for MSN. Doesn't sound like a giant corporate scam. It also doesn't sound like this involves Microsoft at all. I've read the same story online, but replace Microsoft with Comcast (Cable or HSI) or DirecTV

From the AP article...

The dispute began in 2003, when James Odom sued the companies after purchasing a laptop computer at a Best Buy store. Odom alleged that Best Buy included a software CD with his purchase that provided a six-month free trial to MSN.

Best Buy allegedly signed Odom up an MSN account with the credit card Odom used to pay for the computer. After a six-month free trial ended, Microsoft began charging him for the account, the suit charged.

...

The lawsuit alleges the companies violated RICO by engaging in wire fraud when they electronically transmitted the plaintiffs' financial information. The plaintiffs are claiming damages in the "tens of millions," which if tripled would top $100 million, Girard said.

Microsoft has denied illegal conduct in response to these allegations and a Best Buy spokeswoman says the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Re:Important to note (2, Funny)

athdemo (1153305) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989771)

Damages in the "tens of millions?" Jesus, I didn't know MSN was that bad.

Re:Important to note (3, Funny)

anti-human 1 (911677) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989799)

"Pain and Suffering." 'Nuff said.

Re:Important to note (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990583)

Awarding damages is very useful to make a company to cease to commit certain acts that, while create some hassle for their victims, bring in huge amounts of money from those who decide not to fight them.

If I do something questionable that will reduce my profits in US$ 100, it's one thing, if I do something questionable that will turn my profits into a US$ 100 million loss, I probably won't even try.

Re:Important to note (3, Insightful)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989827)

"Sounds like stupid college students working at Best Buy getting a monthly prize for signing people up for MSN. Doesn't sound like a giant corporate scam. It also doesn't sound like this involves Microsoft at all. I've read the same story online, but replace Microsoft with Comcast (Cable or HSI) or DirecTV"

I haven't bought much from Best Buy lately but a few years back my roomates and I pitched in for a DirectTV setup and the Best Buy rep was hounding us to sign up for what I believe was AOL. I can't remember exactly what the service was but my point is that he was pushing it really hard to the point that the corporation was most likely hounding him to do it. Even if they aren't pushing it too hard, if they have a bonus system in place and their employees do it, they are still liable for anything their employees do. It doesn't really matter if it's coming the top or not.

Re:Important to note (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20990259)

Usually iPods ;) Thats what we got, when I worked for Best Buy, with their Best Buy Reward zone Credit card (the actual Credit card not the free reward zone that they track your information with.)

Re:Important to note (1)

MichaelKaiserProScri (691448) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989855)

Good point. Microsoft is certainly NOT involved or responsible. Best Buy probably did not DIRECT it's employees to do this. The employees are probably most responsible, but Best Buy bears some responsibility for failing to control it's employees.

Re:Important to note (2, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989995)

Good point. Microsoft is certainly NOT involved or responsible. Best Buy probably did not DIRECT it's employees to do this. The employees are probably most responsible, but Best Buy bears some responsibility for failing to control it's employees.

If it's common enough for a class-action suit, I'd tend to suspect that they're at the very least strongly encouraging (entirely informally, of course) their employees to do this. I mean, scamming people, at your personal risk but for no benefit to yourself, can't be *that* attractive a form of entertainment for the store employees.

Re:Important to note (5, Informative)

ejdmoo (193585) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989913)

Replying to my own post, check this post [consumerist.com] from the Consumerist [consumerist.com] out...

I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but it did happen for the longest time. Ever get signed for something at Best Buy, but you swear that you never signed up for anything. Here is the trick that is used, and that I was taught from a Best Buy manager. When a customer would refuse either AOL, MSN, NetZero, magazine offers, or whatever other D-SUB we had, we'd sign you up anyway. You know those Best Buy gift cards that are all over the store? Well those are just American Express cards, with a Best Buy face. So, we'd go through the motions of selecting your address but when it asked for your credit card, we'd swipe through a gift card. Since it was an American Express card in reality, the system took it and you were signed up. The customer had to deal with the late fees because they couldn't charge the credit card the provided. Not our problem.

Re:Important to note (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990085)

You know those Best Buy gift cards that are all over the store? Well those are just American Express cards, with a Best Buy face. So, we'd go through the motions of selecting your address but when it asked for your credit card, we'd swipe through a gift card. Since it was an American Express card in reality, the system took it and you were signed up. The customer had to deal with the late fees because they couldn't charge the credit card the provided. Not our problem.

I thought gift cards generally were completely useless unless activated, to make stealing them pointless? Is this a recent thing, or are the Best Buy cards not like this, or something?

Re:Important to note (5, Informative)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990155)

I thought gift cards generally were completely useless unless activated, to make stealing them pointless? Is this a recent thing, or are the Best Buy cards not like this, or something?

Yes, they were completely useless, insofar as that nothing can be charged against them. But they still have a number, and a functioning mag-strip. And if the system just requires a mag strip swipe with a valid number. (and by valid, we only mean "properly formatted"), then its good to go.

Nothing is actually ever attempted to be "charged" or "authorized" against the card number until the 6 month trial is up, at which point it doesn't work, of course, because the card is useless.

Re:Important to note (1)

Vegeta99 (219501) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990947)

Except, of course, if the gift card got sold, right?

Using a gift card in that manner breaks the law (1)

osssmkatz (734824) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991629)

you are almost ashamed to admit it?! You stole people's money. You violated the *law*. You purchased a gift card (at least as far as the credit issuer is concerned, it technically costs nothing, I'll admit) and then charged something to it. That is a fraudulent charge, and is equalivent to identity theft, although you'd never be prosecuted for that specifically.. more like credit card fraud.

--Sam

i call bullshit on you (5, Interesting)

bennini (800479) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990143)

Sounds like stupid college students working at Best Buy getting a monthly prize for signing people up for MSN. Doesn't sound like a giant corporate scam.

As a previous employee at Circuit City, I can attest that this sort of thing is generally encouraged by store managers. Most of the time employees of these sorts of stores (Best Buy and CC) no longer make commision on sales of extended warranties and the ilk (they did in the past) but they are still strongly pushed to get people to sign up for these crappy deals. Now, you may never be directly told "get X people to sign up each month or you will be fired", but you will definitely notice when your hours get cut or your manager starts breathing down your neck each time you're talking to a customer.

I disagree with your comment about this not being a "giant corporate scam". The top execs at companies like CC and BestBuy are the ones that design, implement and sign the contracts that enable these worthless "offers." They do so strictly because of money and they in turn push their demands down onto regional managers which then breath down the store manager's throats. Its one big chain reaction of pressure to sell what isn't needed and in the end the customer suffers. The employees that push this crap don't give a shit if the person actually needs it or not.

I remember some of my buddies laughing about how they tricked old grandmas into buying all sorts of useless, overpriced peripherals for digital cameras. Their managers loved it cuz it helped them reach their sales target (and in turn get bigger bonuses).
 
Its a huge scam. The companies involved know it, the employees of the companies know it...and finally, now, the customers are starting to know it as well.

ps. i simply installed stereos in peoples cars so i never had to deal with managers' bullshit, thank god..but it was quite sad watching it go down.

Re:i call bullshit on you (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990451)

"Ya want frieez wizzaaat?" Same principle.

Abu ghraib (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990783)

Sounds kind of like the Abu ghraib scandal. Managers (ranking officers) dropped gazillion hints that they wanted to "up the pressure", but never made any formal statement or paper trail. It's all wink-wink. In the end, it was tough to bust the managers, and only peons got jail time. Sure, the staff was stupid, but managers should be held to a higher standard. They're supposed to know better than newbies.
     

Re:i call bullshit on you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20991285)

Now, you may never be directly told "get X people to sign up each month or you will be fired", but you will definitely notice when your hours get cut or your manager starts breathing down your neck each time you're talking to a customer.

As a former Best Buy employee, I could not have said it better myself. Working at that place made you go home feeling dirty... But at least I saved 30% on my Bose sound system!

Re:Important to note (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990277)

The problem, which will come out soon, is that the laptop (and certain select other machines) were discounted if, and only if, you signed up for MSN for an X month term.

Same deal when you buy/bought certain Cisnet (and other) machines. In those cases, the machines were *usually* (but not always) labelled "AOL PCs" and the tiny print on the box, and/or on the ad circular stated you'd be signed up for AOL for a year, and that if you cancelled that contract, you'd be charged the discount given on the hardware.

As much as I hate MS, I doubt this is their fault - or even Best Buy's. The stuff is always clearly stated on the ads and signage (even if the person chooses not to read it, or the salesperson chooses not to read it to the customer for them).

I dont feel like digging, but here's a link to an older "rebate" for MSN signup with purchase of a system.

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2000/01-07msnrebateqa.mspx [microsoft.com]

Note this part...

Consumers can normally sign up for the rebate program at participating retailers including Best Buy, Office Max, Office Depot, Staples, etc. For example, consumers who sign up for a 36-month contract with MSN Internet Access may receive a $400 rebate to apply toward the purchase of a personal computer system or other merchandise depending on the retailer and location.

Many places did the rebate instant at time of purchase, while activating the account. Some (CompUSA for instance) issued a rebate form.

Similar programs to that rebate program have been in affect for quite some time. MS - and every major retailer I have worked for or visited - has been very careful to ensure they use the provided signs and wording in their ads and promo stuff. Yeah, it's small print... but just like the small print in the warranty that says "spill damage is not covered" it does not matter whether you read it or not, and it isnt the responsibility of the salesperson to read the whole thing to you. The vendor's responsibility ends with having the correct signage up, and the correct wording (in this case, provided by MS and their legal team, perhaps in conjunction with Best Buy's) on the big price card and in the flyer.

Score a win for Best Buy and MS.

This is not the rebate for a 3 year deal thing. (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990805)

This is not the rebate for a 3 year deal thing. It is scanning a free MSN disk that you may not even need or use but after the free trial even if you never use it you start to get billed for it.

Re:Important to note (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990711)

Sounds like stupid college students working at Best Buy getting a monthly prize for signing people up for MSN.

Good, those who lost a job from AOL [slashdot.org] now have a place to use the same "sales" skills.
       

Re:Important to note (1)

phildawg (1104325) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991515)

I've said it before, I'll say it again. I was instructed by management and actively participating in this many times per day. We were instructed to use confusion tactics and even click through options on the touchpad and also we were instructed to act as if something messed up and they needed to slide their credit card twice. Once was for the MSN activation, a few minutes later, oops looks like it didn't work, you need to slide your CC again to finish up this payment.

Why did they do this? First it was one of the major things tracked by the company on a PC sold vs MSN accounts setup. The company earned 25 dollars on the bottom line for every sign up and this of course was pure profit. If a store was not at least at a 50% attachment, with goals of 75-90%, our supervisors would be fired, and management could even be replaced. We had to get the sign ups per corporate, however, we were supposed to get the 75% goal the legit way. I'm sorry, but exactly how is that possible? Our strategy did not come from store managers, but was actually district wide, and believe to be regional and company wide. How were stores hitting 90-95% attachment ratios? The only people who couldn't be tricked were those not paying with a credit card, so you couldn't get 100%.

Oh and MS was COMPLETELY against this behavior and caught on to it. What they began doing is offering full refunds to customers who had never actually logged in and used the surface. They also modified the Terms with Best Buy and we would no longer earn our cut if the customers never signed up. Our solution? Simple, a single terminal window with a manual connection, and at the end of the night spending approximately 20 minutes to log on every single MSN activation that had been done that day.

Best Buy can burn in hell. I cannot believe I let my ethics be compromised by this sorry piece of crap company, but I needed my paycheck and I was a Yes Man. If you weren't a Yes Man at Best Buy, you were a Fired Man. To many, that's a pretty scary thing when you are self supporting yourself through college. It's easy to have Ethics when Mommy and Daddy will pay for your school, pay your bills, and take care of you. Not everybody is so lucky and not everybody wants to quit their job and look for another. Most saw it as an ends to a means and we would only have to do it for a couple of years until we could get real jobs.

Definately organized, definately crime (4, Insightful)

Cryophallion (1129715) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989761)

The companies systematically and intentionally look for any advantage, and push the grey area as far as it can go, even into the dark side. Some of this may be "rogue" employees, but their are so many tiers of approval in major companies I find those theories suspect.

I tend to think that if the law fits...

On another note, I'm sure the RIAA was watching this one closely, as they are not looking forward to the RICO suit that was filed against them. Let's hope this is just another decision closer to the destruction of their methods.

Re:Definately organized, definately crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20990125)

and definitely not "definately"

organized crime (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989811)

And this doesnt describe Microsoft, and most of the large corporations of today?

Re:organized crime (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989919)

Well, the key feature of crime being legality...

Compare with banks and counterfeiters. People think banks are banks because they take deposits, where in fact they're banks because they create money[1], just like a counterfeiter, the only difference really is the legality.

[1] This is why PayPal is not a bank.

Re:organized crime (3, Informative)

the_greywolf (311406) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990013)

Correction: Banks hold money, which is printed and distributed by the Federal Reserve. Paypal is a financial institution, not a bank, because they do not handle money in the same sense.

Re:organized crime (1)

MeNeXT (200840) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990395)

If banks just hold money then why are they allowed to lend it out, in some cases up to 9 times?

It's not that his argument was incorrect, it was just over simplified.

Re:organized crime (1)

c_forq (924234) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991297)

Whoa, what banks are allowed to loan up to 9 times? Last time I looked at the Federal Reserve System, the bank could only take out insurance up to twice what the bank hand, and that amount is a loan that the bank has to pay interest on to the Federal Reserve (albeit a very low interest rate, last I looked I think it was 4 points below prime). After that it is not insured, and very few (if any) banks deal with uninsured loans.

Re:organized crime (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990895)

Correction: Banks hold money, which is printed and distributed by the Federal Reserve.

No, banks create money, in the form of debt. Here's how:

Back in the day, banks did just hold money, as you said. They could loan out money and collect interest on it, but they could only do that for money already in the vault. Then, the rules changed. Now banks can actually give out loans for money they do not have, but still require payment. This creates entirely new money.

Of course, that's a vastly simplified explanation, and I've failed to mention the implications of it... so watch this video [google.com] instead. It's rather amazing, and sure opened my eyes!

Re:organized crime (1)

c_forq (924234) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990267)

Banks do not create money. They make money by charging higher interest on loans (including credit cards and mortgages) than they give for money deposited with them. They try to give competitive deposits because the more money they have deposited the more money they can give out in (insured) loans, and in turn collect even more interest.

Boo Hoo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20989815)

>Most corporations "cannot risk the possibility of an award of treble damages" or the "reputational injury" of being sued under a law "associated with racketeers and mobsters," they added.

They should have thought of that BEFORE they embarked on their little cooperative enterprise...

Feds can't be bothered to prosecute... (4, Insightful)

Shag (3737) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989829)

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was designed to fight organized crime, but in recent years more than 100 times as many civil as federal RICO cases have been filed.

Well, if the feds can't be bothered to prosecute most things that they should... that's how the numbers end up, right?

Re:Feds can't be bothered to prosecute... (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990033)

Oh, if only I had mod points.

Re:Feds can't be bothered to prosecute... (1)

ari_j (90255) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990771)

I'm just concerned that the dichotomy is now civil vs. federal. Here, I thought that (a) federal courts also heard civil cases and (b) it was civil vs. criminal. Did something change today?

Hang the sons of bitches! People power! (0, Troll)

jihadist (1088389) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989863)

+5, insightful

Isn't this what we always complain about? (4, Interesting)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989873)

Isn't creating a law with the purpose of using it for one thing (going after commercial pirates) and then using it for something else (going after people who pirate for no money and instead personal uses) something we hate here at slashdot? And yet we have another clear example of it and hail it as if it were the best thing to ever happen, simply by misappropriating the term "organized crime." Isn't that something else we complain about as well (after pirates don't steal, they simply infringe).

I guess the end truly does justify the means. At least here at /.

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (3, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989967)

'Isn't creating a law with the purpose of using it for one thing (going after commercial pirates) and then using it for something else (going after people who pirate for no money and instead personal uses) something we hate here at slashdot?'

First of all this has nothing to do with piracy. Second, the law was designed to go after those who use an organizational structure to pursue crime. It might have been the mob who was in the sights of the government when passing these laws but there are more so called 'legitimate' corporate conspiracies than 'illegitimate' and the 'legitimate' crime syndicates need to be brought to justice just as the organized crime of old.

Although the whole piracy reference was a nice plea to emotion I think you'll find that Slashdotters don't feel those laws are being used inappropriately but instead feel that laws which create a class of users that could be called pirates are bad regardless of how they are applied. Copyright and Patent laws have outlived their usefulness, anything that supports that archaic and obsolete system or its enforcement is bad.

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990501)

Copyright and Patent laws have outlived their usefulness, anything that supports that archaic and obsolete system or its enforcement is bad.

Or it could just be that we're becoming increasingly larger freeloaders and have a harder time understanding the concept that we don't need everything now. Hell, just look at the numbers of people in credit card debt. Compare that to a generation or two ago, and you're seeing a dramatic difference in consumer habits. Personally, I think that copyright laws are not outdated. If a team I'm on creates an icon like Mickey Mouse, I wouldn't want others to use said icon without my consent. If they did, they could destroy the value of the icon. If you think that a copyright holder is acting too much in their self-interest in terms of profits, then just boycott them. Remember, just because something's out there doesn't mean you have to have it.

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (1)

jthill (303417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991001)

Ok, let's talk about Mickey Mouse.

Nobody who thought up Mickey Mouse is still working.

The people who currently own the copyright had absolutely nothing to do with his creation.

The people who currently own the copyright paid for twenty-eight years of copyright.

What they say they own now, they did not create, did not subsidize, did not pay for.

But they want to raise their kids on it.

I think it's dangerous for their defenders to use words like "freeloader". It might get people thinking.

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (1)

dryeo (100693) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991479)

If a team I'm on creates an icon like Mickey Mouse, I wouldn't want others to use said icon without my consent. If they did, they could destroy the value of the icon.
That is what trademark law is for. Notice that trademarks do not expire. (Though you do have to defend them or you lose them)

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (2, Interesting)

shaitand (626655) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991537)

'If a team I'm on creates an icon like Mickey Mouse, I wouldn't want others to use said icon without my consent.'

Of course you wouldn't. There are lots of things I wouldn't want or would want, unfortunately, not every call is mine to make.

'If they did, they could destroy the value of the icon.'

The icon has innate value, we are discussing the artificial value that is given in the form of copyright.

'If you think that a copyright holder is acting too much in their self-interest in terms of profits, then just boycott them.'

Or I could recognize that there is no particular reason to grant them a copyright in the first place.

'Remember, just because something's out there doesn't mean you have to have it.'

Remember just because you had an idea doesn't mean you own it or have the right to prevent anyone else from having it.

You do not have a RIGHT to your ideas or to prevent others from benefiting from them. Ideas are not property, copying is the building block that defines life and occurs at every level of life and nature. In a world without copying you couldn't produce new skin cells, a baby couldn't inherit its mother's eyes, and only one family would live in houses. Ideas are also not unique, in fact all ideas are the inevitable result of given input. No matter who you assassinated a printing press type device would be have been created, operating systems would have been developed, a pointing and selection device, languages developed, etc. There is nothing natural about copyright, copyright and patent is not needed for development to occur and the world won't grind to a halt without them. It is natural and good for me to look around me, see what is good and try to duplicate that good in my own life, it doesn't stop being natural and right when technology allows me to duplicate those good things perfectly and effortlessly.

It is not selfish to see good things and want them if I can have them without taking from others (as opposed to stealing which deprives others of their things). It is selfish to try to control others by preventing access to ideas that benefit us all.

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20991705)

Truly spoken like someone who hasn't had a single original or creative idea in his life.

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (3, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#20989973)

RICO was created to go after organizations who engage in patterns of racketeering. The problem with our legal system is that we must enforce laws equally. I think the actual phrase is 'equal protection under the law'.

The problem is that we can't differentiate between the activities of some corporations and the classic Mafia. Unlike the example you posited, basing enforcement on the profit motive, often mainstream corporations derive much more profit from their activities than the Mob ever did. So that's not an effective test.

The problem with defining 'organized crime' is that there is no way to define it to fit our stereotype of a bunch of thugs of a certain ethnic persuasion and have it pass the smell test constitutionally.

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (4, Insightful)

conteXXt (249905) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990437)

Which, on the surface sounds like a "Beautiful Thing".

If you can't tell the difference between "a bunch of nicely dressed gentlemen of a certain ethnic persuasion"
doing X

and

legal, licensed, nicely dressed (albeit with bad brutally bad haircuts) officers of a public company
doing X

I think that finally affirmative action is working :-)

It really shouldn't matter how bad your haircut is. A crook is a crook!

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990853)

The problem with defining 'organized crime' is that there is no way to define it to fit our stereotype of a bunch of thugs of a certain ethnic persuasion and have it pass the smell test constitutionally.

As somebody pointed out, the threat or implication of violence is what usually makes the difference. Tricking somebody into buying something they don't want is a much smaller level than leaving dead horse parts in front of a mom-pop store that doesn't pay "protection fees".

Why is a class-action lawsuit not sufficient to go after excess sales pressure?
     

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991013)

And as many others have said, why does it have to be the threat of physical violence? Isn't threatening financial ruin just as bad? Guido might break your knee caps if you don't pay The Don tomorrow, but Corporation X can screw with your credit report and other financials as well as sue you into oblivion if you don't pay up. Financial "violence" is just as damaging as physical violence, especially when some people won't hire you if you have a bad credit history.

Congress wrote the law with organized crime in mind. If businesses are running afoul of RICO statutes, then they are most likely acting like organized criminals -- at least close enough to acting like them that the language describes their activities closely.

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (1)

Ignis Flatus (689403) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991163)

IANAL, but IIRC, RICO was actually created to make it easier to convict 'known' criminals without having a lot of hard evidence of them being directly involved in a crime. Sometimes, the 'good guys' use this for good reasons. But other times, they abuse the power. As it turns out, the government doesn't appreciate anyone except themselves abusing power, so they are obviously upset about it (as are their largest campaign contributors).

Seems that the law of unintended consequences has consequences. I think it's pretty funny, myself. If you're going to send a man to prison, do it the right way, show what he actually did. Don't be lazy.

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (1)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991473)

Close. It was intended to nail known criminals for which they could only prove a repeated pattern of committing smaller crimes.

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20990011)

Not quite. We hate using laws to prosecute things that aren't crimes. (i.e. copyright infringement not-for-profit is not a *crime* it is a civil matter). We also urge people to consider what a law *could* be used for instead of what people *say* it will be used for. You seem to have combined the two, missing an exception.

Re:Isn't this what we always complain about? (2, Insightful)

Bonker (243350) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990045)

What you may be missing is that despite the fact that Microsoft's actions are part of a business plan, they're still organized and criminal. The term has not been misappropriated at all.

Just because the RICO statutes were conceived with the idea of fighting mafia families does not mean they don't apply to all organized criminals.

wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20989885)

Isn't this around the same time period that Best Buy was pushing emachines and offering them for pretty cheap if you signed up for MSN? I wonder how many people just didn't actually read the contract, didn't care, et cetera. I'm sure more than a few really just didn't understand, but I'd be willing to bet more of them were just cheap (and then lazy and didn't cancel their trial period).

Sounds Reasonable to Me (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990023)

The 9th Circuit's decision would "convert a statute designed to eradicate organized crime into a tool to induce settlements from legitimate businesses," the companies said. Most corporations "cannot risk the possibility of an award of treble damages" or the "reputational injury" of being sued under a law "associated with racketeers and mobsters," they added.

Then don't conspire with other companies to screw your customers. The deal was a "conspiracy" to cross-promote each other's brands. It probably included financial incentives to Best Buy stores or employees that signed up MSN users, and so the users were set up for payment without their consent. I would guess that Microsoft didn't suggest or condone such tactics, but they were the ones paying the people that did it.

And what is the difference with Vista then ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20990049)

Seems like collusion to me. Almost can't by a computer without Vista installed. Your paying for it just to find out how much of a pain in the ass it is going to be to uninstall it and install something else. Ya sure you may be able to get you money back but why do you have to go threw these hoops in the first place?

I'll sell you a hamburger and secret french fries (4, Informative)

Token_Internet_Girl (1131287) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990069)

Sounds like stupid college students working at Best Buy getting a monthly prize for signing people up for MSN. Doesn't sound like a giant corporate scam.

Excuse me, but Bullshit. I worked for Best Buy's "Geek Squad" several years ago, they have corporate people directly create the incentive programs so that stupid college students will sign up customers no matter what it takes, for the sole purpose of driving sales. It's a disheartening trend I've seen in several companies I've worked for, including AOL. They know it goes on, they constantly hound their employees to "sell every customer or its your job," and it's finally coming around to bite them in the ass. Huzzah's are in order!

Re:I'll sell you a hamburger and secret french fri (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990321)

I worked for a company which had a contract to perform warranty service for Best Buy laptops. Much of the work was bullshit: OS reinstalls, missing drivers, virii/spyware. I'd say 30-40% of the freshmeat was there because of software problems which could have(should have?) been fixed by the geek squad. Many of the techs didn't have A+ certificates to wave around, but we got the job done. I'm not slamming the Geek Squad so much as I am slamming the BB management for being so naive and inefficient. Though I shouldn't complain because it was because of the BB contract that I was able to pay the billz.

Racketeer or not? (0, Offtopic)

buss_error (142273) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990091)

mcgrew (sm62704) writes with news that the Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Microsoft and a unit of Best Buy to dismiss a lawsuit alleging violation of racketeering laws. This means the class-action complaint can go to trial. The case was filed in civil court and the companies, with the US Chamber of Commerce behind them, wanted the Supreme Court to put the brakes on the expanding use of RICO laws in civil filings. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was designed to fight organized crime, but in recent years more than 100 times as many civil as federal RICO cases have been filed.

.

If you don't think that Microsoft isn't doing all it can, roping in anyone it can force, jigger, or bribe to join them in their little dance in hell, they should read http://catb.org/~esr/halloween/index.html [catb.org] The Halloween Documents with an open mind.

It's quite evident what MicroSoft wants. What isn't so clear is what the rest of us get out of it.

No comment? (5, Insightful)

ealar dlanvuli (523604) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990167)

"Microsoft does not comment about pending litigation?"

This means Balmer's linux patent threats contain no litigation that is pending?

Slippery Slope laws (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990667)

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was designed to fight organized crime, but in recent years more than 100 times as many civil as federal RICO cases have been filed.

This is why the Patriot Act and other 9/11-influenced laws make me nervous. Unchecked, the government has historically ended up abusing such powers.
       

Re:Slippery Slope laws (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990845)

Slippery slope? We're way past that point, my friend. The Patriot Act, the RICO Act, and others like it qualify more as a "steep incline facing a bottomless pit."

Show me the money! (1)

Torodung (31985) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990851)

Successful RICO claims provide for triple damage awards in civil cases. (emph. added)
I don't care what firm is bringing this case to trial, if there's a law that involves automatic triple damages, then they're going to try the case under that law, especially if it's a crap shoot to begin with.

Basically, this is taking automatic 3:1 odds on a longshot, just by choosing the right kind of tort. That's why they're suing under RICO.

Follow the money. If they can shoehorn in RICO, they will. They'd be, under conventional legal ethical standards, foolish and derelict not to.

--
Toro

Re:Show me the money! (1)

This_Is_My_Happening (1151393) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991227)

I recall reading somewhere that in a civil case the plaintiff can't get triple damages unless the defendant has already been found guilty in a criminal RICO case. IANAL though, and I may not be remembering correctly.

Look in the lawyers' pockets. (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991485)

This is a class action lawsuit, so if they win, the legal team will get millions of actual dollars and the class participants will get coupons for use at Best Buy and MSN.

Perhaps this is what happened (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20990865)

the Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Microsoft and a unit of Best Buy to dismiss a lawsuit alleging violation of racketeering laws.

The Justices reversed their leniency when the defendants tried to hard-sell them MSN.
   

Speaking from employee experience... (4, Informative)

Trerro (711448) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991259)

I made the mistake of working for a Best Buy right after college. I can't comment specifically on the MSN thing, as I didn't see THAT particular scam, but from what I DID see, it would not surprise me in the slightest if employees were trained to at best, be extremely misleading, and at worst, outright lie and cheat the customer out of money.

One common package deal we were supposed to try to push was the 'advanced security setup' or something like that, I can't remember the exact name. The service in theory sounded fine - you sold the customer an AV program and a spyware blocker, explained the point of each, set it up, ran the install, updated definitions, ran windows update for all current security patches, etc - all the standard security precautions. The customer of course would be billed the price of the 2 programs, plus a fee for the service of I think 20 or 30 bucks. Ignoring the fact that Avast (free) is just as effective as Norton, it didn't sound like a terribly unreasonable deal. The user bought software he was probably going to need anyway, and paid a small fee to make sure that the basic security precautions were taken.

There was one slight problem. Best buy is not exactly a place where you build your own custom box. Anything you get from there is going to be a pre-built machine, almost always including some pre-installed software. In nearly every case, that included a copy of an AV program, usually with a 30 or 90 day trial, with a $10-15 subscription fee needed after that - not the 50 bucks you'd pay for a new copy (which of course, also had the fee, just after a year.)

Here's where the scam comes in. The job of the salesman is to inform the user that while yes, your machine will come with AV protection, it'll only last 1 or 3 months, and after that, you won't be covered any more, so you really ought to buy our full protection plan, where you'll have everything done for you.

In case you didn't fill in the blank on that, the job was to convince the customer to pay you to uninstall their already active AV program and replace it with another, charging them for both comparable software (in some cases, THE EXACT SAME PROGRAM) that they already had, and a service that had already been done!

As for the 'there's no commission' argument, that's BS as well. The employee doesn't get commission, but his SUPERVISOR does. So they have you use the fact that YOU aren't on commission (which IS true) as part of your sales pitch.

Also, BB has a very interesting way of making sure all staff participate in these scams. You're on quota. They'll never call it a quota of course - it's a sales goal, a revenue objective, a team target - whatever, they'll call it anything but a quota. When you don't meet the quota, you aren't fired. In fact, there's no penalty at all, other than the expression of disappointment, and strong encouragement to do better as a team. Unfortunately, it seems there's just not enough in the budget this week to cover your department, and everyone's hours need to be cut back. Oh, and if your hours are cut to oh, say... 4 or 8 per week and you can't possibly pay rent, well, if it's a such a problem, you're an at will employee, and hey, nothing is stopping you from quitting. Oh, and if you're thinking of getting a second job, well, you you signed a thing when you were hired that said your available hours would not change in your first X months (3 or 6, I forget), so if you choose to violate that, while, you'll have to fired for that of course.

Funny thing, I don't think they've ever fired someone for not selling enough, they can proudly announce that - and happily do as they sell you stuff, and it's even true!... sort of. As for that absurdly high turnover rate, well, hey, it's retail, and not everyone can stay with it.

I didn't last long there before I quit in disgust at the total disregard for ethics they have.

Is convincing someone to buy software they already own racketeering? Maybe.
Is it outright FRAUD? Yes.

M$ is NOT a monopoly... (1)

TheRealZeus (1172755) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991395)

...according to a country that is NOT run by business and political pay-offs.

They caught ne with this one (4, Interesting)

aegl (1041528) | more than 6 years ago | (#20991813)

I bought a 19" LCD monitor from Best Buy while they were running this scam and they signed me up for msn.com just the way the article says. No disclosure to me beyond telling me that there was a free 6 month subscription CD in the box. I recycled the CD as I had no interest in the MSN subscription. Six months later the first monthly charge appeared on my credit card bill.

I called MSN and asked what was going on. They said that I'd signed up at Best Buy. I said "oh no I didn't". After a couple of iterations of this the guy on the phone agreed to cancel the subscription and refund my money.

Assuming the lawyers take $30M of the $100M judgement, and assuming that there were 100,000 customers (complete random guess ... the article only says "thousands of customers"), then my share ought to be $700. That would actually be quite cool. But I bet that I'll just end up with a $10 coupon good for discounts on Microsoft Vista :-(

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