Channel 2 Investigates

WARNING: This common trick could leave you empty-handed when buying new electronics

ATLANTA — A Gwinnett County man was left empty-handed after a big-ticket purchase.

Brian Wysocki received brand-new Apple AirPods as a gift from his wife. But he got a bigger shock when he opened the box.

“To my surprise, all I received were instructions and a charger cord,” Wysocki said.

The manager on duty at the Walmart where Wysocki’s wife bought them told the couple they were out of luck.

“He said, ‘There’s nothing we can do for you, sir. The box has been opened. We don’t know if you took them. We no idea what happened. I can’t give you a refund or a replacement,'” Wysocki said.

A Channel 2 Action News producer went to that same Walmart undercover and was told by an employee this type of activity is common.

In fact, employees at multiple Walmart locations across metro Atlanta told undercover producers they, too, have seen electronics returned to store locations by thieves with nothing in the boxes.

At the Wysockis' Walmart, there is a sign on the register informing customers that all Apple devices will be opened prior to the sale.

Wysocki said the sign wasn’t there when his wife made her purchase and the box was never opened.

Read Hayes, with the Research Lab for Loss Prevention, wasn’t surprised to hear Wysocki’s story.

“You’re going to see the most desirable merchandise where it’s happening, and so now, you’re out of stock, which means the store has to eat the cost of that product and any future lost sales,” Hayes said. “That loss gets added to the cost of your next purchase or hits the stockholders, and they can’t pass that cost on to the manufacturer.”

According to a 2019 retail survey, theft and fraud cost the industry billions last year.

As for the $170 the Wysockis paid for their empty box, Walmart gave them a refund the day after we got involved.

Walmart told Channel 2 Action News:

"We take this issue seriously and have measures designed to help safeguard against these types of crimes. We address each case individually and encourage customers to reach out to the store at which they’ve purchased items to properly look into the situation and help make it right.”

The Wysockis’ tip to shoppers?

At any brick-and-mortar retailer, make sure you have what you bought before you leave.