My recent trip to Best Buy to purchase a laptop got me thinking on a few things. In order to explain them, I’ll have to tell you about my ordeal.
So I showed up at my local Best Buy at around 4 pm, and wandered straight over to the laptop section. Along the way, I was greeted by about 2 or 3 associates who were plenty friendly and eager to help me make a selection. I told them I was just browsing, to which about half of them responded with something like, “Let us know if you need anything.”
The other half thought they knew better, and proceeded to tell me that they just received the new 3-billion gigabyte ultra razor-thin 3-trillion core smart thingy-majig with a picture of some piece of fruit on it for a logo.
They told me this with the expectation that all of the sudden my eyes would glaze over, I would start salivating like a dog, and would beg to be led by the hand to the aforementioned product, and then immediately taken to the checkout counter for purchase… on store credit, of course.
Eventually I had to take the bait, as I had found the laptop I wanted and had to ask for an associate to take it out of the case. Turns out they didn’t have the one I wanted. When I asked if the other Best Buy store about 10 minutes away had one, I received the answer of “No” about 15 minutes later… apparently a quick phone call to the other store includes setting up the phone service as well.
They then offered to check the warehouse, which they promptly told me was out of stock. Purchasing the display model was of course out of the question. So I began to look around again and found another comparable one. I told them I wanted this one instead.
The guy with the key came back around, and, even though they clearly had the correct laptop for sale stacked right underneath the display, told me there was an “issue.”
“Well, all of these laptops cost $100 dollars more that what that price tag says because they’ve been pre-configured by our Geek Squad.”
Now, I get that some people genuinely need this service, and for them that’s okay, but considering I’m a guy that makes a living working on computers, they couldn’t have given that service away to me.
He headed to the back to see if they had any that weren’t pre-configured. Just guess what their answer was.
So again, I asked if the other store had any that weren’t pre-configured. As I waited for the answer I decided that if the other store didn’t I was done. I would go without a laptop until I was ready to brave the commercial behemoth that is Best Buy once again, however long that took.
They got lucky, as the other store had JUST ONE in stock. I was told I could pay there and then go directly to the other location to pick it up. I agreed, and I and my pimple-faced 17-year-old Best Buy associate meandered over to the Geek Squad counter… because you can’t simply buy a computer through their regular checkout.
After shooting down about 13 things they offered to sell me in support of my new laptop (Geek Squad 1-year service, anti-virus, 1-year extended warranty, 3- year extended warranty, wireless travel mouse, travel bag, and a subscription to something even I had never heard of before), it came time to actually pay for the dag-gum thing, when I was given a tip buy the gal at the counter that was actually rather useful.
She knew I had a Best Buy credit card (I know, credit cards are bad, but it was paid off and I had cut it up months ago. I actually had forgot that I even still had an account), and she also knew that I just wanted to pay cash. She told me that if I used my credit card, and chose the “double reward-zone points” option, instead of the 18 months no-interest option, then I would get a gift card in the mail based on how much I had spent. I asked if I could just then turn right back around and pay off my credit card balance, thereby avoiding any interest payments, to which she replied yes.
It was a done deal. All I had to do was head across the store to customer service to pay off my balance, because heaven forbid I be able to pay it off at that particular register, and then head to the other store, show them my receipt, and be on my way home with my new laptop.
The other 17-year-old at the customer service counter then told me that they only accept check or cash to make credit card payments in-store.
Who carries their checkbook on them anymore? And who walks around with $912.04 in their pocket?
I think I just stood there for a moment with a pair of suddenly dilated eyeballs and a dumbfounded look on my face.
I pulled myself together, calmly told the girl thank you, and quietly walked out. I had to make another trip back home now to grab my checkbook, and then up to the OTHER Best Buy to pick up my laptop and pay off my credit card.
Fortunately there were no issues picking up my laptop, and at this point if there had been, I’m pretty sure I would have just broken down in a fit of psychotic laughter.
Throughout all of this and during the days after, I kept asking myself why they had made it so difficult for me to give them money. That’s exactly what it all came down to; it was like pulling teeth, me trying to give them my money. 3 separate times I could have walked away disgruntled.
1. The first laptop I wanted, they didn’t have, but they couldn’t sell me their display model, simply because it was their display model. Why have display models if you have no product to sell?
2. I wouldn’t buy the next laptop because it was $100 more for some trumped –up service I didn’t want, so because they wanted to make a sale of $1012.04 instead of 912.04, they almost made a sale of $0.00.
3. To top it off, instead of allowing me to pay my credit card off with my debit card, they thought they would rather run the risk of me not making any payments on that credit card whatsoever (for all they knew, I could have planned on defaulting on that card)
To be fair, I know enough about retail business to understand why they do some of these things. For example, the $100 for their Geek Squad service is probably 50% pure profit for them, as opposed to a much smaller profit margin on the sale of the laptop alone, due to the company that actually made the laptop getting money from that sale.
Still though, I often wonder how much more giant retail stores could possibly make if they operated more like a small, intimate local store, one that really does put customers first and makes their purchasing experiences easy and straight-forward.
One thing is for sure… there’s no way a smaller retail store could pull all the stuff that Best Buy pulled and stay in business long.