The Wrong Signals: A Hidden Camera Investigation - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

6/9/08

The Wrong Signals: A Hidden Camera Investigation

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The way you watch TV will change next February. People who watch TV through an antenna won't get a picture and they'll need to buy a digital television converter box. You won't have to spend lots of money, but are retailers telling you that? NewsChannel 11 went undercover to find out.

"We weren't sure if she needed to get a new TV," a NewsChannel 11 staff member posed as a secret shopper is finding out just how truthful stores are with consumers.  "My grandma has an older model TV and I heard something is going on in February," our secret shopper said.

We hit all the popular electronic stores, Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, Target, Radio Shack and Radio Lab.

Let's start with Best Buy. The salesperson here was helpful to our secret shopper when she told him she had an old TV set. "Yeah, you need a converter box," he said. He even explained what it does. "It just plugs in and makes your TV work. Your antenna plugs into this, this plugs into the TV and it will make the old TV work," he said.

We asked the same question at Circuit City. "So, I don't need to buy a new TV?" our secret shopper asked. "You don't have to buy a new TV," he answered.  The salesperson there was very honest, "and with the coupon we're thinking these are about $20," he said. 

The coupon he's referring to is a $40 cash card from the government. You can apply for it and use to toward the purchase of an eligible converter box, so you won't be out so much money.

"Do you know if she already ordered a coupon?" Wal-Mart is also telling customers about the coupon.  When our secret shopper asked questions about her old TV, the Wal-Mart saleswoman gave her options.  "She could either buy a new TV, get cable or buy the converter box," she said.

These options are true, but our secret shopper quickly learned, "So the cheaper way to go is to get the converter box," she said.

That's what the Target salesperson told our secret shopper.  "Is that what she needs?" she asked.  "Yeah, she needs a converter box," said the Target salesperson.

We also checked out Radio Shack. "She'll need to get one of these," said the man, referring to a converter box.  Radio Lab, "on an older TV, she's gonna need a converter box for it," told her the same story.

Both were helpful and truthful with our secret shopper.

Some stores are having a problem keeping converter boxes on the shelves, especially Wal-Mart and Target.  Wal-Mart reps told me they are working with their suppliers right now to replenish their stock. Target reps say they're doing everything they can to keep the boxes on the shelves.

The Big Switch
Be an informed consumer! Learn more about the digital conversion happening in February of 2009.

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