Consumer Reports: Free Shipping, Setup with HDTVs

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Spend $999 on an HDTV at Best Buy, and the store will deliver the TV to your home, plug in an existing video source and haul away your old set for recycling—all at no extra charge, a first as far as we know.

The retail chain, one of the largest retailers of HDTVs, introduced the offer in its weekly circular on March 8 and on its Web site. It covers TVs bought online or at one of the company's 1,006 locations nationwide (provided you’re within 25 miles of a store).

Delivery, of course, isn't newsworthy in and of itself. But it's often an extra-cost service that adds $50 to $100 or more to the tab. Even when delivery is free, as it is from online retailers such as Crutchfield and Amazon—top scorers in our most recent Ratings of electronics retailers—it might be limited to certain sizes or to the threshold of your home. No other retailers, to our knowledge, include recycling of your old TV and setup with free delivery.

We hasten to point out that the setup that comes with the Best Buy offer is as basic as it can be; they'll simply plug in one existing video source, such as a cable box or satellite or antenna feed. But even that can be helpful for consumers who are completely flummoxed by technology.

Best Buy said it has not raised TV prices to cover the cost of the added services, which they estimate as a $70 to $100 value for delivery and basic setup. Our quick, informal price check against other retailers showed that a 46-inch Samsung LCD that did very well in our TV Ratings (available to subscribers) was listed at $1,600 at Best Buy (including the delivery bundle). The same set was selling for $1,500 to $1,750 at several other online retailers, and in some cases shipping was additional. And you'd have to hook it up and remove your old set yourself.

In a separate move, Best Buy recently rolled out a recycling program for most electronics gear at all its stores. Consumers can bring TVs and monitors up to 32 inches, VCR players, computers, phones, and more to a store, where they'll be accepted for a recycling plan at a cost of $10 each. The plan began last year as a pilot. The retailer got low marks for previous recycling efforts, but the current program seems to be improved.