With the holiday shopping frenzy upon us, I thought I'd give you a few reasons why I'll be avoiding Best Buy at all costs. What follows are a few tales of personal woe inflicted upon me by what I used to consider a respectable retail outlet for home electronics and gadgetry. I was inspired to write about this by Mike over at WetWire.
It all started when I bought a stick of RAM to upgrade my Sony PCG-FR130 laptop. I took it home, installed it, and all of a sudden I started getting random blue screen crashes that just shut the thing down. I took the RAM back to Best Buy and wanted to exchange it. Since I have both opened it and used it, they say they will neither return nor exchange it. I asked what else I can do. They said there is nothing else I can do but take it back home and live with it. Great.
Since that left me with no answers or options, I went to talk to the Geek Squad about the effect this new RAM was having on my computer. They refused to believe that the RAM was causing it, told me I don't know what I'm talking about (I do repairs and service on computers in my spare time, so I assure you I do know what I'm doing), and that there's nothing they can do.
Also, a couple of pixels had died in the screen and I asked how much longer my laptop service plan through Best Buy was good for. The guy looked up the information reluctantly, told me I had about a year to go, and asked if I want to give it to them to fix/replace at that time. I hadn't backed up everything yet, so I said I'd wait a while yet.
The very next day, I pressed the power button on the same laptop and nothing came on but the cooling fan. It was dead. Convenient that it died the day after I said I'd wait to get it fixed. So I took it to the Geek Squad again where the same guy happily greeted me with an "I told you so" demeanor and said they'd have my machine back to me in ten days or less. Fine. I have no choice, right?
Ten days came and went. I heard nothing. I called, they said they just received it at the repair place. Fine. How much longer? Oh probably another five days, but they didn't know since they hadn't diagnosed it yet. Fine. I am patient.
Ten more days went by, and nothing. I called and got no answers, but plenty of transfers to different departments, and no concrete information. I called several more times over the next ten days and still got nowhere.
Thirty days had now gone by since I first handed it over to them and I had no information about the diagnosis, status of repair, or what's going on. I kept calling but just got the runaround. Finally, one of my friends was having a particularly rotten day and sympathized with my plight. She called them and pretended to be my wife. Hell hath no fury indeed! Somehow, ten minutes later, she hung up the phone and told me I could go in the next day and pick out a new laptop of my choice, and would only have to pay anything above and beyond the purchase price of the original one.
But there's a catch. They made me buy another service plan, even though the original one still had a year left on it. I was happy with my last Sony VAIO laptop, so I picked up another one with impossibly good specs for the price (that was a case of deceptive marketing, but that's another rant). I end up paying about $400 total for it, but got it taken care of finally. A month later!
Then I went shopping at Best Buy for an LCD monitor with inputs for game consoles and a PC (S-video, VGA, and DVI, essentially). One of their salespeople asked if he could help with anything, I said what I was looking for, and he said, "Oh, that's not my department," and walked away. He didn't redirect us to someone in that department, or even show us where the department was! When I finally did track down someone from the correct department — which took over 20 minutes — he told me that the monitor I had decided on wasn't what I wanted. He gave me no reason why. He just pushed me in the direction of more expensive ones. Fabulous.
I bought the monitor I was seeking, no thanks to the "service" reps. Pixels start burning out the same night I bought it! I took it back the next day and just wanted to return it and save up my money for a better model. They didn't want to take it back. They also only had one person working the returns/customer service desk right around Christmas time!
They insisted that I must have done something to damage the monitor. So they took it behind some flimsy wall and hooked it up to their own "diagnostic tool" to figure out what I supposedly did to break it. Could they be any more insulting? After about 45 minutes, they come back out and with the most reluctance possible admit that it just went bad and it wasn't my fault, and they would do a return, but would not give me my money back. They wanted to give me store credit. I had to make a lot of noise and get nasty until they finally produced a manager who would give me a proper refund.
I got a Best Buy gift card for Christmas that year and so I had to go there one more time to spend it and be done. I was in the market for an external DVD-RW drive, so I got one for about $90 and finally was done with the place. They tried really hard — to the point of being annoying — to get me to pay one of their people to come to my home and "install" the drive. It's a USB cable. Any idiot can attach that. I refused his offer over and over, and finally the cashier conceded, but slipped me a price sheet for the Geek Squad anyway. At least now I have a reference point for my clients when they think I'm overcharging them for PC repair service.
I thought then that I was free and clear, but somewhere along the way someone else got me yet another Best Buy gift card. I was having some power outage problems over the summer, so I spent the card on a battery backup, which I was about to buy when the store lost power, making them unable to sell it to me! Then, in about the rudest way possible, they told all the customers to get out of the store and don't bother coming back. No problem, buddy. I eventually got the power supply, but I have to warn my friends, family, and complete strangers right here and now:
Do not buy me Best Buy gift cards for any reason!
I eventually got a 19" LCD wonder monitor from Sony with DVI-D, SVGA, HDTV component inputs, S-Video, RCA inputs, the works. I love the thing. I get a little ghosting when gaming due to the response time of the LCD elements, but overall I'm happy with the $900 I spent on it at Circuit City where they were totally helpful. So helpful in fact that I went back later that day and bought a 62" HDTV from them.
Sometimes it pays to be nice to your customers.