Best Buy can't seem to catch a break these days: as the big box chain struggles to revive tanking retail performance, it's been hit with a $27 million judgement for stealing trade secrets from TechForward, a San Francisco-based startup. At issue is Best Buy's Buy Back program, which saw the company — for a premium — offer shoppers the chance to trade in a previously-purchased gadget for a percentage of its original value. TechForward maintains that it devised the program and in 2009 worked with Best Buy to implement Buy Back across its stores.
But Best Buy eventually put an end to the collaboration and decided to pursue its own version of the plan. The scheme was backed with heavy advertising but rarely proved beneficial to customers. Trading in a device within six months of purchase netted participants only half of what they'd originally paid, for instance. And now it's resulted in a significant financial hit for a business fighting to stay afloat. This holiday season, Best Buy has taken the drastic step of price matching Amazon and other internet retailers to keep consumers in its stores.