D800 for $2,200?! A Tale of False Advertising – Why I Will Never Purchase From Staples Again

Insights & Thoughts December 7th 2012 4:05 PM 61 Comments

UPDATE: Many people are of the belief that we were unhappy because an incorrect or misprinted coupon wasn’t honored. This isn’t true. Read the entire article and you will see why we are unhappy. We are unhappy because of how the situation was dealt with, and how it seemed that the coupon wasn’t honored simply because we didn’t purchase the extended warranties as explained in the section “The D800 Deal Was No Longer Valid!?” below.

Overview

This is an opinion piece on a recent experience with Staples in regards to not honoring a coupon they themselves published. This isn’t the first time we have experienced a company not taking accountability for incorrect advertising. But, the overall inconsistency and approach to handling the situation is why we want to make our opinions public on such poor business practices.

staples-splash

How it All Started

Just yesterday (December 6th, 2012), Joe happened to stumble upon a coupon from Staples from mu-43.com, a Micro 4/3 forums. This coupon is directly from Staples website as shown by the following link :

Staples Coupon Link

Just in case they decide to remove the coupon link for some reason, here is a screenshot of the actual coupon. Note that it was not altered in any way, shape or form.

original-staples-coupon-30-off

This coupon essentially states that you can get 30% off all clearance and regularly priced cameras. It includes display models, but excludes Vivitar brand cameras. The coupon must be redeemed in-store. However, it makes no mention that you may not purchase an online item in-store. Lastly, only one item may be discounted and the coupon must be surrendered.

So we thought, let’s head over there and buy some Nikon D800 in-store from the Staples online website. Sounds great right? They even have a specific kiosk for purchasing online items in-store. So it shouldn’t be a problem.

The D800 Deal Was Valid!

Just to make sure we don’t go waste our time, I said to our staff Joe and Tim, “why don’t we have one of you go there first, try it and make sure it works.” Who knows, maybe they will say that the coupon was a misprint or something. Joe and Tim went to the store, selected the item from staples.com, and then gave the Staples employee the coupon. The employee called the store General Manager whom we will here on refer to as “Bill”. Bill came and reviewed the coupon. Everything looked correct, Bill put in the discount and our staff left with our $2,200 Nikon D800. Don’t believe me? Check out the image below from Joe’s Samsung S3 showing the price at the register.

d800-discount-screenshot

So, Joe and Tim confirmed that the deal was good, and it was indeed a good deal! At this point, Justin, Chris, Tony and myself took off to each go buy a D800. Great deal like this, we figured it was time to stock up for our studio. We knew that they would only allow one coupon redemption per person as they told them. So, we planned to take 4 coupons and get 4 more for each of our lead shooters.

The D800 Deal Was No Longer Valid!?

Upon arriving, we each added a D800 to our online shopping cart and the same store manager Bill came over to help. Bill was polite, but seemed to be making up rules as he went along. At first, we choose the D800 kit online. He said the coupon couldn’t be used on the kit since it already showed that there was a “savings” on purchasing the kit and coupons couldn’t “double dip.” Again, nothing on the coupon mentioned that, and it seemed that Bill was making things up as he went along. No problem though, I didn’t argue, I just selected the D800 Body only ($2,999) which didn’t show any “savings”. He then stated that the coupon would be valid when applied to that item.

At this point, Bill vigorously insisted that we add the extra store purchased “warranty” to the orders. We told Bill that we haven’t had a good experience with store bought warranties, and that we also have insurance which covers everything anyway. Bill was cordial, but continued to aggressively press his point even to the point of saying word for word, “guys I am saving you $5,000 and you can’t give me any back? Help me help you.”

We explained to Bill our experience with store-bought warranties. How they often don’t cover what the sales people think they do, push back warranty service to the manufacturer, and so on. We know this because we are dealing with a B&H extended warranty on our Vivitar flashes. It has been an absolute nightmare. It doesn’t make sense to pay extra and deal with these warranty companies when it is covered already under our insurance.

Right after we said no for the final time and had our cards out ready to pay, Bill was clearly unhappy and said “hold on a minute, let me go and make a phone call to corporate just to make sure everything is good.” Bill leaves for approximately 15 minutes, comes back and then tells us that the coupon is only valid for in-store cameras. He would not honor the coupon.

Now I was quite unhappy, it felt like Bill went and checked with corporate simply because we didn’t purchase the additional warranties. At this point, for legal purposes I informed Bill that I write for an online magazine/blog, and our conversation would be going into an article on my experience.

I told Bill, “The coupon makes no mention of any restriction on purchasing an online or an in-store item. It simply says that the coupon must be redeemed in the store.” I also said to Bill that “if the coupon was in err, I would have expected that Tim wouldn’t have been able to purchase the D800 in the first place.” Bill remained cordial, he didn’t raise his voice or get upset, and said “Yeah, I talked to corporate, I am making the call on this.” Bill said, “I want your business, but I want it the right way.”

Now I was upset. “The right way?” I questioned Bill. I went on, “We are not breaking any laws here Bill. Your company posted a coupon online. You then honored it once, and now you are ‘making the call’ that you won’t be honoring it again. I understand that mistakes happen. Maybe the advertisement itself wasn’t written to include all of the correct requirements to the promotion. But, you aren’t even saying it was a mistake. Besides, if it was a mistake, how is that our fault or responsibility? How are we to know whether it was a mistake or not? What makes it wrong to try and come use a coupon your company released? Perhaps when Black Friday rolls around, I should question whether or not I really get $500 off a TV? I would have expected that Staples would honor the deal for those that are already there to redeem the coupon. Shouldn’t your company take responsibility for your own advertising, even if it is incorrect? At least plainly state that it was a misprint.”

While Bill remained polite, he simply reiterated, “I can’t honor the coupon, I am making the call.” He didn’t confirm nor deny the coupons validity or whether it was a misprint. Had he simply apologized and told me it was a misprint, it would have all ended there. Instead, after we rejected the extended warranties we were told we couldn’t get the deal because he was “making the call.”

As nobody was present, it would be impossible to prove whether or not Bill was actually on the phone with corporate, and whether they said to not honor the coupon. One thing is nearly 100% certain though, Bill would have made all the sales without question had we simply added the additional extended warranties. Bill was ready to ring us through the register and only stopped when we finally were certain we wouldn’t be purchasing the extended warranties.

Accountability in Business Practices

Now let me tell you all we (Justin, Chris and I) run 3 businesses, Lin and Jirsa Photography, SLR Lounge, and UNDFIND. I fully understand that mistakes are made in regards to advertising. We have made plenty ourselves. However, we have always sided with the customer in every instance. In some circumstances, this meant giving away free or discounted products/services. But, the key point is that we always honored the advertised deal to clients/customers that had already seen it, despite it being correct or incorrect. If we had a problem with the advertisement, then once we were made aware we simply corrected the problem and moved on.

What does it say about a company who puts out a coupon, brings people into the store, chooses to not honor the coupon and to not admit it was a misprint? Shouldn’t companies take responsibility for their own false advertising? What do you all think? How about choosing not to honor a coupon because we didn’t purchase an extended warranty?

I am a reasonable person, I don’t expect a company to honor a coupon mistake that would put them out of business (though this most likely was not a mistake of that magnitude). If it was a mistake, they would have caught it within 10-20 coupon uses. But, at least have the good sense to admit that it was a mistake or a misprint and apologize. Instead of an explanation, all we got was “I am making the call on this.”

Conclusion and the Correct Coupon

In conclusion, all the stores were closed by the time we got out last night. This morning we tried one more Staples store to see if we could get the deal. We were told that an internal memo was already passed around to all the General Managers stating that the deal was printed incorrectly. Since then, the coupon has already been corrected online which is now as shown below:

corrected-coupon

Before I end, let me add that not getting the camera really wasn’t a big deal. I was upset by how the company was handling the situation. How it seemed that the only reason we didn’t get the deal was due to not purchasing the extended warranties (whether that was the case or not would be impossible to prove). How there was a complete lack of accountability for their own mistake. How there was no apology nor was their any admittance that the coupon was a mistake to begin with. Instead, it was simply “I am making the call, I can’t honor it.”

We aren’t looking for anyone’s sympathy (because seriously, we obviously don’t NEED 5 Nikon D800, we all just wanted the nice upgrade, haha!). But, our business isn’t going to suffer because we don’t have this camera upgrade. This article is simply an opinion piece and we want to hear your thoughts and opinions on these types of business practices. However, it does go without saying that due to their lack of accountability and understanding, as a company we will never patronize Staples again. Oh well huh?

Amazon Image Nikon D800 is available at Amazon.com
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Pye

About

Pye (AKA Post Production Pye) is a founder and the Managing Editor for SLR Lounge. Pye is also a Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography, an Orange County based wedding, engagement and portrait photography studio. Connect with him on Google Plus

61 Comments

  1. Me

    Y didn’t u just go to another staples store?

    • Pye
      Pye

      We did the next day (as they close at 7pm), an internal memo was passed around stating that the deal was invalid at that point, it was a misprint. 

    • Mike Swiech

      Now only wished this would be honored in Canada.  I would be all over that as that is what I am currently saving for along with a 70-200.  :S Gotta love a practice that business don’t live by.  

  2. papierbackwriter

    You need to chill is what you need to do. Jesus. 

    • Adammccoyphotography

       why does he just need to chill?  he has a completely valid point.  they did nothing wrong, and  a large corporation once again has side stepped their responsibility.  the manager spoke to corporate and then said he made the call.  by implication that means they did not tell him to do this, so not only did they escape accountability but also seems they dumped the responsibility on the acting manager.  overall i will never go to staples not even for one…staple. 

    • papierbackwriter

      The sooner people realise that corporations will screw you over, whenever and wherever possible, without warning, the better. Personally, I would have taken my business elsewhere and let my money do the talking.

    • Adammccoyphotography

       i think we all realize this.  but we successful people have optimism, we have the drive to make things better.  i still expect more from people and their corporations because it is the humane thing to do.  as relentless and they are so am i. 

    • iclick

      Let your money do the talking?? He was trying to save money homie, not let it speak for him. 

      I agree completely with Pye. 

      papierbackwriter, just because you have a biased opinion about corporations as a whole does not mean they are ALL corrupt and thieves.  That was simply bad business and not at all how that manager should have handled it.

    • Stephan de Laat

      No, no….Pye doesn’t have a valid point….it was a “misprint” 

    • Adammccoyphotography

       again, it is about how the company handled the situation which instills his point in validity. 

  3. Ken Yee

    lol…did the first guy actually get the D800?

    You should have just bought the warranty…couldn’t have been that much compared to the crazy discount you guys would have gotten :-P

    • Pye
      Pye

      Haha, we thought the exact same thing. Maybe we were too greedy? =) Yeah, seems like Tim’s order is in, but who knows if it will arrive or if it will get cancelled. We will keep you posted ;) 

  4. deltadave44

    i thought i was the only one that got the “biz” from that store…bought an HP laptop and got duped into the 2yr extended warranty (only after the sales rep specifically assured me that it covered the battery)…well, after 14 months, the battery crapped out and guess what they told me when i brought that piece of junk back in…i’ve never been back to buy so much as a pencil from those charlatans…

    • Pye
      Pye

      Unfortunately, store bought warranties are almost always the same. Never worth purchasing. The people in the store will swear up and down they know how they work, they never do. When you call, that is almost always the case. “the warranty doesn’t cover accidents, it doesn’t cover batteries, it doesn’t cover normal wear and tear, etc.” Staples is terrible in selling these plans and stating incorrect terms to the warranty. 

  5. Lee Morris

    I’m going to go to Staples right now and try this. 

    • Pye
      Pye

      lol, do you really need another D800 Lee? =) 

    • Lee Morris

      Hell ya! The guy told me I could have gotten 30% off if the D800 was in stock so I said that I wanted the D3100 because it was the most expensive camera they had in stock and he said that one didn’t count because it was “on sale” but not “on clearance” or full price. He then handed me a coupon for 20% off 1 single item and said he could order me a D800 for 20% off which is still a very good deal but their price was $3200 when everyone else has it for $3000. He wouldn’t price match and use the coupon so I left. 

    • Pye
      Pye

      Dude, this totally just proves it. They totally make up crap all day long. It’s absolutely crazy. 

    • Michael Yuen

      Making “crap up all day long” is my experience with Staples, Office Depot as well. It gets frustrating at times.

    • Patrick Hall

      Ha I feel your pain Pye.  I know how corrupt it can be.  When I was at Schitz Camera we had managers ringing up Extended Service Policies for customers who bought $500 worth or prints every week.  I guarantee the issue was you were going to push their service policies sales rate number into the ground because of $1000s of dollars of unaccounted camera sales.  I would have bought the policies and returned them at another store where another manager wouldn’t have cared about the store’s performance (it goes against the original store’s numbers more than likely).  

    • Pye
      Pye

      At least he gave you a “consolation coupon” though ;) 

    • Joe Gunawan

      Hey Lee, but he quoted you the $3200 WITH a lens. The Staples price for body only is still $2999, so with the 20% coupon, you can still get it for $2399. Better head back, lol!

    • Lee Morris

      Oh crap you’re right! I’ll probably go back and buy it tomorrow. 

    • Lee Morris

      Here is 20% off if anyone wants it http://reg.e.staples.com/c/s/tagfrm/hBQwaIGB7SHGCB8vmLDCWXqvzhu/coupon.html?n=8446&COUPON_1=24892

    • Patrick Hall

      Well I can say it worked for me too!  I think we will be swimming in D800s now….but at the price of a D600 why not?

    • Lee Morris

      I went back and the next manager gave me 30% off even though I told him the whole story and said I came back for 20% off. God bless staples!

    • Daniel Lee

      after reading this. I just went into staples. I pickup the D800 with one lens package for $3199. And the manager still honor the discount even tho it already expired. I am in NYC. Total after discount came out to be $2438.00 tax included.

  6. Jere

    Staples does not have a very good history in honoring their word. I had purchased a laptop and on their recommendation they extended warranty. When it came time to need the use of the extended warranty they refused. After about a month of arguing they finally returned the money for the warranty but never dealt with the defective laptop.

  7. Kasia Gilbert

    huh. your coupon link still shows the original coupon.

  8. Someone

    The top of the coupon says “in store only”, I would assume that meant the coupon was only valid for in store items only. Seems as though the manager screwed up the first time by allowing the the customer to use the coupon on  an online kiosk purchase. I would be happy with the one camera you got out of them for 30% off.

  9. deltadave44

    they also have a 20% off any item in-store…i read through the exclusions and there isn’t any mention of a camera(s)…

  10. patrick

    Two Things,  Once Nikon gets a hold of this info, I wonder they would pull their Products or stop selling their cameras to staples.  The discount is in violation of Nikon’s MVP pricing.

    2nd, Staples took a huge loss on that camera.  No company is in business to lose money.  If I remember correctly the dealer cost on that camera is around $2600-$2700.  A $500 lose is a big deal on one product.
    You should of gotten all 3, but be happy you got one at the savings you had.  As a business owner, I wouldn’t want to find out I was $1500 in the whole.

    • Adammccoyphotography

      you are correct.  the dealer cost is 2699.00 and the msrp and mvp pricing are both 2999.00. 

  11. Steve M

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Pye.  It was pretty weird that the manager was insisting on the extended warranties – something should have nothing to do with whether or not the coupon was honored.  If that had been my experience, I wouldn’t be shopping their again either.

  12. James Sanny

    So you didn’t need the cameras. You aren’t even upset that you didn’t get the cameras. Get over it? They made a mistake – and you tried to take advantage of that, not because you needed or really wanted something, but because it worked for someone else.

    • Pye
      Pye

      James, we did want the cameras obviously, we run a photography studio and magazine. I am just saying that we aren’t dying for D800s. It would be awesome to have them. I just mean that it is tough to say that you absolutely NEED something like a D800. We are all part of the same studio, we all wanted to get the upgrade. Not just doing it because it worked for someone else. 

    • Adammccoyphotography

       i think by posted this article he is over it.  he has a responsibility being in his role with slrlounge, and i know taking responsibility is obviously a lost art.  now some of you are condemning him for just following an ad??  why?  staples over prices the d800 anyway and they do VIOLATE their mvp pricing terms with Nikon.  so as for staples, this may be a bigger mistake than they thought.  he is informing consumers, as he should.  you get over it.

  13. Trevor Howard

    Not surprised about the Warranty thing, Around the holidays the managers especially are under huge pressure from corporate to move those extended warranties as they make the company more money, its happened to me before at one large big box retailer where a manager outright said he refused to sell me an HDTV if i did not purchase the extended warranty for $400 (After he talked me up into a more expensive model and broke my budget already.. note I am also talking a $1300 TV here and a $400 warranty is absolutely rediculous) This was on top of waiting over 2 hours to get anyone to help me (Because I was 16 at the time and they had like zero interest in helping a “kid” in the store)

  14. Adam

    I’m right around the corner from you, maybe I should let Bill know how disappointed we are that they’re being shady. Remind him the competition is just down the street

  15. Michael Yuen

    As far as I remember, especially with car ads, even if they make a mistake, they have to honor it — otherwise, it would be considered bait and switch. For that reason, they actually have to list the advertised car’s VIN as proof that it was indeed for sale. This prevents dealers from claiming, “Oh, it’s already been sold” when you come in, when in fact it never was.

    Curiously, I have always wondered how grocery stores and — well — Staples, could get away with not honoring mistakes. I haven’t dove deep enough into the legal areas in regards to false advertising yet to add additional comments into that. My deal with larger stores and huge discounts has always been: if they honor it, great, I scored a good deal. If not, well, it was too good to be true. Life’s better that way without unnecessary stress. Fight back when you are truly screwed unjustly.

    In regards to honoring mistakes — assuming you make a HUGE mistake that could potentially cost you millions due to each sale resulting in a NEGATIVE margin, would you still do it? Good customer service would honor the ones who came in before the correction has been made — but where or when do you draw that line?

    Turning it the other way around, assuming UNDEFIND had a coupon for 50% off a “camera accessory”, and you also happen to be selling $2,500 lenses (could be considered a camera accessory, right?), would you still honor it? Perhaps for one or two customers and take the hit for your own mistake — that’s what I would do and have done in the past — but if you were bigger, and suddenly TENS OF or HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of customers try to take advantage of it… A coupon meant for a $100 accessory suddenly has become a big liability of, say, $1050 lost for each lens sold.

    The law was likely meant to protect the consumer from being cheated by sellers, but when an honest mistake is made, the hard part will be in proving that the mistake was “deliberate.” With that said, a company like Staples shouldn’t be making mistakes like these. They have had enough coupon experience to know the standard exclusions to add. They should have given you something in return as an apology. Maybe a $50 gift card. I’ve written to Corporate on a few occasions to complain about poor customer service or other unjust treatment, and added in my letter my desired outcome. Has worked 95% of times.

    I realize I’m not giving any answers. Yes, I think that Staples should be punished. They have the experience. But do you also punish for honest mistakes? Where is that line drawn?

    In the future, split up the group and go to different Staples :) When a large group like that shows up, it’ll usually tip off an employee’s Spidey sense ;)

    • Pye
      Pye

      Yeah, it really goes to how it was dealt with. I thought that it was a “great deal” and that maybe there was a chance it would be a misprint. So, rather than our entire studio going there to upgrade our cameras, we just sent one of us. At that point, had they said, “sorry guys, this was a misprint, our bad.” Then I honestly wouldn’t have batted an eye. They made a mistake, so what? But, instead, what happened was the first purchase was no problem. Then, right after we turned down the extended warranties, the manager went in the back to “make a call” then came out saying “he was making the call.” He didn’t admit the coupon was incorrect, he didn’t say it was a misprint, he simply said “he was making the call.” This is what flipped my switch. 

      Honestly, I don’t expect any company to go out of business because of a misprinted ad. But, I do expect them to own up to it. As a consumer, how are we supposed to know a deal is too good to be true? I saw hundreds of “too good to be trues” over Black Friday. Yet, they were all true! Their behavior and response is what is disheartening to say the least. 

    • Michael Yuen

      Ah, the refusal to buy the warranty was what flipped the switch. Yes, it would have me too. I wonder if you could buy the warranty and then come back to refund it — and keep the camera ;)

      At least the studio got 2 cameras (the scout and the kit-person one), right?

      I think that refusing to sell based on not buying the warranty actually is illegal. You cannot bundle two products as a condition for sale.

      Perhaps call up NBC and bring national attention to this problem? 

    • Pye
      Pye

      Naw, we only got the 1 camera (saying that they don’t cancel the order). 

    • Pye
      Pye

      I am over the whole thing now. I don’t think the manager was a bad guy, he remained polite through it all. I would hate to call NBC and make speculation that it wasn’t sold because of the warranty (though it seemed to be that way). I just felt like it was a bad enough experience that I was responsible to at least share it with you all. 

    • Michael Yuen

      Thanks for sharing.

      What I meant is that this does seem to be a common issue — that managers are inconsistent in their application of policies (or making up of rules) — and that an undercover investigation into retail stores in general may be something good to look into. But it looks like there are two issues here though: accountability for misprints/mistakes and the handling thereof, and the bundling of products or services in order to allow a sale.

  16. Netbug

    I heard a news story today that Staples has been turning customers away (they call it bouncing) when the customer won’t buy the extended warranty on electronics. The pressure to sell warranties comes directly from the corporate offices.

  17. Jared Spickelmier

    Should have asked to speak to corporate yourself or simply called on your phones while in the store.

  18. Johnc

    You were “livid” and “infuriated”? First world problems.

  19. Jknesel

    Staples is strict about their coupons. I can purchase ink that totals $49.99 and they won’t give me the coupon because it says I have to have a minimum purchase of $50. They drive me insane.

  20. Cippi

    “as a company we will never patronize Staples again” yeah right. until you’re in a rush and you’re too lazy to search for an alternative.

  21. YSL

    Well, Staples is losing a significant amount of money selling D800s for 2200 bucks, to be fair to them.  But yeah.  Basically that coupon is a misprint, because there’s no way they’d willingly lose potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars intentionally.  

    Further, Nikon has a minimum advertised price that they require authorized sellers to use.  That’s why new Nikon products either go on “rebate” through Nikon itself (like now there are package rebates, D800 + a lens, etc)  – or nothing at all.  There’s no such thing as a Nikon “sale”.  Even biggies like Adorama and B&H, the best they can do is package some cheap garbage along with Nikon gear, like memory cards and lens cleaners, but never put the actual gear on sale.  

    I feel ya though, so, I will boycott Staples for 6 months for this transgression.  I don’t think it quite deserves a lifetime ban, but they don’t deserve to remain unaffected by this mistake.  Let’s make this mistake of theirs cost them a lot more than the 4-ishk they would’ve lost by honoring your coupons.      

  22. Jonathan Dadekian

    Tried going to the store, got the ring around, told to call 1-800-333-3330, got more ring around and now monday have to call the office of the President to try and apply said coupon @ 1-800-338-0252…I hope this works!

    • Joe Gunawan

      Coupon ends today, though. If you wait until Monday, they’ll say that it’s expired.

  23. Ian Seth

    The deal worked for me! Just purchased a D800 (body only) at my local Staples in South Florida; total came to $2,225.26 with 6% sales tax. The manager “made a call” to corporate, then came back stating that the coupon was valid for in-store purchases only, but honored it anyway in order to keep their paying customer happy;)

  24. Sammy J

    Amazing that so many people missed the whole fact that he only “called corporate” after refusal to purchase the extended warranties. I think the author stated pretty clearly that it wouldn’t have mattered had they just been up front about it in the first place. I agree it was handled in a very poor/shady way. 

  25. YMMV: All Cameras On Sale For 30 Percent Off At Staples! | Fstoppers

    [...] Lee and I both just bought Nikon D800 cameras for $2,200. Yesterday our friend Pye Jirsa published an article on SLR Lounge about how their local Staples did not honor a national coupon for 30% off all cameras purchased in [...]

  26. BlairBunting

    So I didn’t read through the comments or article, but rather printed the coupon and went to Staples. The manager told me he had hesitation in honoring the coupon so I told him I would buy the warranties, and he agreed, so I bought 3.

    B

    • Pye
      Pye

      LOL! Glad everyone learned from our experience. Nice Blair! =) 

  27. Realtv

    You should have bought the body and warranty, then return the warranty the following day. Bill was just trying to boost his % of warranties sold to revenue, which he probably gets bonused on.

  28. Jennifer Bates

    That kind of crap gets under my skin. It’s about accountability and clearly Staples doesn’t get it.

  29. benjamin singleton

    Staples has lost my business because of this incidence I got to the checkout, within their time limits, then got the jerk around. Staples I drop several thousands of dollars every years on technology personally, and then some for organizations I work with. You want my business honor what you published. I even tried to purchase this with the warranty, but the local store wouldn’t honor it.

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