March 11, 2007

Best Buy — Is Their Time Over?

Filed under: Business — Tom @ 11:56 am

Is there any point to stores like Best Buy anymore?

I think most people have a love/hate relationship with the big-box chains. And those that don’t tend to have a hate/hate relationship. Recently, CompUSA announced that they’d be shuttering half their stores. Now we find out from Boing Boing and elsewhere that Best Buy has admitted to keeping a fake version of its website running on store computers — the fake site displays higher prices than the real site and can be used to refute customers who claim to have seen a better price online.

Personally, I’ve lost patience with these places. The “helpful” sales people offer assistance and then start reading the product’s package to try and answer my questions. Hint to CompUSA / Best Buy / Circuit City / wherever — it’s incredibly irritating when some salesdrone starts doing exactly what I was already doing, only slower. Train your people to knock it off. If they don’t have an answer, then just have them say they don’t know.

I already avoid CompUSA as much as possible. My most recent visit had some sales guy arguing with me over the existence of a Firewire 800 hub. And I can’t stand their use of supplier operatives to demo printers — the HP rep doesn’t actually tell you that they work for HP as they extoll the virtues of their printers and ignore other brands. Be sure to ask if the person helping you works for the printer company. (Of course, this is a double-edged sword. These people are much better informed about the products they represent. Just don’t think that you’re getting impartial advice. In fact, don’t assume you’re getting impartial advice from anyone in any of these places.)

This news about Best Buy just reinforces how I already felt about them. I already hated how I got offered an extended warranty on just about everything. Their pricing isn’t particularly good. And, as mentioned, the employees can’t do much more than point to where stuff might be located.

How do traditional retailers like these compete? Why wouldn’t I go to Amazon first and take advantage of their thousands of crowdsourced reviews? Sure, you have to be on your toes and look out for astroturfing, but you can usually find reviews that can be relied upon. Why wouldn’t I buy everything online?

CompUSA has made an effort to turn their retail stores into an online strength, allowing me to order online and pick up at a local store recently. But how do they fix the retail stores themselves?

I like retail stores. I like to see products side by side and examine them before I buy. There are reasons why I wouldn’t buy everything online — Best Buy and their ilk just need to give me some.

How about these:

  1. Knowledgeable salespeople. Train your staff so they can actually help me. Pay them more so they stay longer and gain experience.
  2. Stop offering extended warranties. Everyone in the world decries these things as a complete rip-off. Why would you associate your brand with these things at all? Let alone constantly? (It should go without saying that phony websites to scam consumers should not be part of the retail strategy.)
  3. Use some of that massive floor space to set up some of your products. Show people how a wireless home network is configured. I’ve seen a little of this, but not much. How about some educational clinics to educate people?
  4. Is there any hope that technology will speed up the checkout process? I doubt that a system of roving checkout people like Apple’s EasyPay would work in an environment this large, but can’t there be some way to pre-scan my stuff? I think the massive line at the centralized bank of registers needs some reconsideration.

Given the recent article praising Apple as America’s top retailer (thanks, TUAW!) with over four times the sales per square foot of Best Buy, the big-box stores need a major overhaul. Obviously, Best Buy and Apple are wildly different creatures, with Apple focusing its small retail stores on a narrow selection of products. But unless stores like Best Buy give me a reason to visit them — a good product selection coupled with smart, savvy staff who can inform and enlighten about a given product — then I think I’ll be getting my advice from the millions of helpful folks on the Internet. And checkout will certainly take a lot less time.

Hey, I may even start visiting local specialty stores that focus on what I want to buy. Wouldn’t that be a novel concept?


  1. I would love to tell you of our experience my wife and I add with the Big Blue Box (Best Buy). Trust me if I would have know of your Web site I would have heeded the warnings and advice of others that have had just horrible experience with Best Buy.

    Well here goes:

    My wife and I decided to take some of our Tax Return to buy us a new Washer, and Dryer. Well as usual we went to BB as we have done for in the last (9) years to buy all of our Big Price appliance items, as we have bought our (3) Desktop Computers, (2) Refrigerator, (1) Dishwasher, (2) TV’s (3) DVD Player’s, (2) VCR’s, (3) Surround Sound Systems…. etc…well you get the picture, close to $10,000.00 over those (9) years.

    Things seem to go smoothly with the purchase of both of them till the arraigning of the FREE delivery that was with the package deal. But the sales person worked out the glitches an made the delivery on Wed’s the 14th of February in the late afternoon. I informed the sales person that we had some serious plans made, and could they arraign it before or after the 14th. “No” was the reply that it was the only day they could make the delivery. Well ok I said, “but let’s make sure it happens”. No problem was the reply; a they would call us the night before to confirm the time in the afternoon. “Great”, I said, let’s do it.

    The night of the 13th we waited till around 9pm for their call. Nothing, no call. So I called the store a talked to the sale person that sold us the Washer/Dryer, and asked when they would be delivered. I waited on hold for over 20 minutes. Finally I called back and asked for the Manager on Duty. Waited other 10 minutes till he came on the line. I explained the situation to him; he stated he would check into this. After other 10 minutes he game back on the line. He stated that the Order for delivery was CANCELLED and that there was not going to be a delivery. Well my jaw dropped to the floor. “What the Hell was going on”, I asked, I know we didn’t cancel the order for delivery. I informed him of this and said this was not acceptable and that they would need to make the delivery as promised and that we would not be available for any other day. And why the Hell had this had happen. After waiting for other 15 minutes on the phone he finally came back on with “ it will be delivered tomorrow between 4pm an 6pm” OK I said great. As I was about to thank him he hung up, without an apology of any kind, or any explanation of what was going on? Well this should have clued me into Best Buy’s customer service policy of SCREW’EM AN LOSES’EM. Well as promise they did deliver the machines on time, but not with out some hassles there too.

    Where comes the good part:

    The following week my wife an I decided to buy a new laptop computer, and of course BB was having a Package Deal on a Toshiba laptop with Windows Vista installed and also with Mini mouse, and carrying case. This sounded great, and in our price arrange too. So we went into the Store and as usual we had to hunt down someone in the computer department to help us with the purchase. After finding a fresh Snot Nose Narcissistic Kid barely out of high school to help us, we decided to ask a few questions about the New Windows Vista system. We wanted to know if this laptop would be able to communicate with the other (3) computers we have in our home running Windows XP? And would it work with our Linksys Network Router System? And will we be able to share files, and to use our Lexmark Printer with this new Windows Vista, and our Network? “ Well of course it would…was his reply, with no problems. “ Well with that, and the blind trust I put in people we bought the laptop, and the extended service plan. And back home with our new toy.

    Well we got it home and started to set it up, and everything was going as smooth as silk till we tried to set up the Network to share files/folders with the other computers, and the printer. Now I am not illiterate when it comes to computers, nor am I an expert, but I knew something was a miss, and something was not right. Well it was late and we decided to wait till the morning to finish the setup.

    The following day was the Worst Frkin Nightmare I have had in 35 years (showing my age of 55) of dealing with any big business, and of course the worst day I ever had with Best Buy.

    I kept trying to make the Laptop communicate with the Network, and my other (3) computers. I would keep getting a Microsoft Windows Error of “not finding a Network”. After spending an hour on their web site I could find nothing, so I called them. I spent over 45 minutes waiting; finally I spoke to someone about the problem (because I thought since it was a Windows Error the would be able to help) no such luck. They said I would need to contact Toshiba about this since this was an OEM (original equipment manufacture) problem, and not theirs. “Great” Called Toshiba, nothing, this were their service person informs me that the new Windows Vista program will not work with the network, router, a printer if my other (3) computers are running Windows XP. “HOLY COW POOP”. This was Frkin Peachy. Toshiba suggested to call Best Buy to see what they can do for me, buy asking someone there if they could help set up the network to communicate with the other computers. Sounded like sense. So I did.

    So I called the Big Blue Box (BB) and spoke to same manager I had dealt with on the delivery problem. Wow that was the most stupid mistake I ever made. This manager was the biggest “DICK” I ever spoke to. I calmly explained the problem to him, an how I was led to believe that there would be no problem with this Laptop running Windows Vista to work with my computers, network, and printer. He told me point blank told me that his sales person would have “never would have told me such a thing”. God I was outraged, not only was He calling me a Lair but also it was quite clear that this worthless manager was not going to help me at all. I asked to speak to his Boss, (the store manager) SHE was not there. Then I asked how to get in contact with his District manager…. guess what…that’s right, he refused to give me that info also stating he did not know how, an even if he did he would not give me that info, because all customer concerns, and problems are handled at the store level, and that this problem did not warrant any further attention. What a worthless piece of human waste. I asked what was the name of his store manager, at first he was very hesent, and then he gave me her name.

    Well for the next (4) days I spent calling the Best Buy customer service line, (what a gdamn joke this is), calling their Corp Office, calling their District office, trying to get someone to listen and care about my problem. Again No-one gave a Royal flying Rats Ass about what was going on. Only to inform me that all the customer relation problems needs are handle at the Store Level. “My God, don’t they understand that here in lies the problem the Store Management and the rotten little peckerhead that sold me the Laptop. “NO>>>HELL NO”. So after nearly going to the Hospital because on my Blood Pressure I decided to give it up. Knowing that Best Buy had SCREWED ME IN THE ASS AN NEVER USED ANY TYPE OF LUB TO EASE THE PAIN. Then out of the Blue the lousy Store Manager called an gave me the lamest apology I ever heard but still would not help me with my problem only offering to send out the GEEK Squad to make my Laptop work with my other computers, an network. But of course this would cost me other $200.00 for their service. God what kind of sick joke these folks live under, what kind of CON-Game they are playing on the costumer, what kind of people believe they would have me come back an waste my money in their store after this kind of Bull Sh___t.

    God I pray, and beg anyone reading this not to buy your need’s at Best Buy, they will Lie, Cheat, an screw you up the behind so hard, that you will see stars. If any one reading this and still believes they will get good service from BB, all you will get is a Stroke.


    Comment by Ric — March 22, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

  2. Wow, that’s quite a comment, Ric. Sorry you had such a bad time with BB. They definitely need to make some major changes if they don’t want to see their customers heading to Amazon.

    Comment by Tom — March 26, 2007 @ 10:31 pm

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