Best Buy has landed itself in hot water by placing in-stock graphics cards behind a paywall. This has peeved a good few gamers, not only because the Totaltech membership program costs a whopping $200 per year, but also because Best Buy is the quasi-official retailer of Nvidia's RTX 30-series Founders Edition graphics cards in the US.
Best Buy took over selling Founders Edition cards (opens in new tab) on Nvidia's behalf following the green team's decision to put a pause on its own store until it could deal with the increase in bot activity (opens in new tab). Best Buy would also later halt most of its online sales of RTX 30-series cards (opens in new tab) in favour of a ticket-based system at its brick and mortar stores.
Though yesterday it released more graphics cards on its online store, with one major stipulation: you needed to be a Totaltech member in order to buy any.
A Totaltech membership includes:
- Geek Squad tech support
- 24 months product protection (providing you buy another year of Totaltech after the first 12 months are up)
- 'Free' delivery and installation (though it's not really free because you're paying $200 a year for it)
- VIP access to dedicated phone and chat teams
- Access to exclusive Totaltech member prices (this is the kicker)
- Free 2-day shipping (again, you are paying for it)
- Extended 60-day return and exchange window
- Everyday savings on repairs, advanced services, and more
I don't really see the appeal of most of it, but perhaps you're an avid techie and you like the cover. I won't blame you for that. You can read the full Totaltech terms and conditions here (opens in new tab) [PDF warning].
Though the real kicker is the access to exclusive Totaltech member prices, which as some PC gamers have since discovered, includes Best Buy's hoard of RTX 30-series graphics cards, many of which you can't buy elsewhere.
The Totaltech package does not guarantee the purchase of a new graphics card, however. It's valid for a chance to buy a graphics card.
Well, that was a waste of time, not paying 200 bucks a year to buy ONE card.. bullshitFebruary 10, 2022
This isn't an entirely new approach to exclusive stock drops or in-demand tech—bundles and lotteries have become the norm for PC gamers today. As Tom's Hardware (opens in new tab) points out, it's not an entirely new strategy for Best Buy, either. Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 stock has similarly been locked behind the Totaltech paywall. Though Best Buy's involvement in its quasi-official role as Founders Edition supplier, and thus privy to GPU stock that other retailers are not, feels somehow worse.
To further rub salt in the wound, it appears as though there was a one card per customer limit that only pertained to each particular model of graphics card (opens in new tab). Customers were able to buy one of each model available, and they did. That means those looking to resell GPUs for a profit were able to snap up more cards than any one gamer could need, and easily make back that $200 sign-up fee.
Ultimately, Best Buy has leverage over PC gamers and by placing its graphics cards behind a paywall it's showing its intention to use it—a good day for Totaltech memberships, but a very bad one for goodwill among its PC gaming customers.
I'd also be somewhat surprised if Nvidia was happy with Best Buy tacking a fee onto its Founder Edition cards—essentially the only cards it sets pricing for.