March 6, 2008 — -- If you bought an HD DVD player before the technology became outdated last month, you won't be stuck with a technological dinosaur — at least if you bought your player at Circuit City.
The retailer will accept returns for HD DVD players that were purchased in the past 90 days, a spokeswoman told ABCNews.com Thursday. Customers will receive store credit for their purchases.
"We did not make a public announcement about extended returns for HD DVD players, but we have instructed our stores to take care of our customers. Therefore, we will accept returns for HD DVD players within 90 days of purchase," Circuit City spokeswoman Jackie Foreman told ABCNews.com. "Customers returning these products will receive store credit for the purchase price."
After a long tussle with Sony-supported Blu-ray, the competing high-definition DVD format, Toshiba announced last month that it would no longer make or develop HD DVD players.
Before Toshiba's announcement, HD DVD players could be purchased for about $300. Now, they can be found for as little as $120. Sony Blu-ray players start at $400.
Trouble loomed on the horizon for HD DVD starting in January, when Warner Bros. announced it would release the high-definition version of its films on Blu-ray. Nationwide retailers, most notably No. 1 chain Wal-Mart, followed suit.
Analysts contend that the Blu-ray format is still not a sure thing due to competition from online movie downloads as well as the players' high price compared to standard DVD players.
Still, consumer support for next-generation DVD players, both for Blu-ray and HD DVD, is small at best. Less than one million of the new DVD players of both types were sold last year, according to NPD Group. In comparison, consumers bought 10 million standard home DVD players in 2007.
"I think it's nice that they're willing to do that," Steve Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Group, said of Circuit City's offer. "I think that's a way from them to bring traffic into the stores for customers who are willing to be high-end customers. I think given the number of players out there, the cost isn't going to be prohibitive."
Still, Circuit City's return policy on HD DVD players differs from its policy for other merchandise. Generally, electronics stores will provide a full refund (minus a restocking fee) for merchandise returned within 30 days.
And although the store is phasing out the technology, Circuit City will continue to sell HD DVD players and HD DVDs for closeout prices.
"We expect to phase out the sale of HD DVD players and movie titles in stores and the Web site in the near future," she said. "It's clearance mode."
But according to Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at Jupiter Research, the unceremonious demise of HD DVD, and the angry consumers left in its wake, are all just part of being an early adopter.
"Let the buyer beware," Gartenberg said. "You can always spot the pioneers by the arrows in the back. That will definitely be true of those adopters of HD DVD."
Best Buy, the largest U.S. electronics chain, declined to comment on Circuit City's policy, saying that it doesn't comment on competitors.
"At Best Buy we do our best to educate customers about new technologies. And in the case of next generation formats, we try to be clear that one format will win," spokesman Brian Lucas said in an emailed statement. "That said, we understand the frustration that some HD-DVD purchasers may be feeling and we have been looking at options for what we may be able todo to help ease that frustration."
Some of the HD DVD players will display standard-def movies, so at least those models won't become paperweights.