By way of Mark Evanier’s site, I came upon this Forbes piece regarding the eventual collapse of retailer Best Buy. The story is not news to anyone — brick and mortar stores can’t compete with online when they long ago eliminated any value they had to offer from reasonably paid mammals who knew something about electronics. Corporations chose to downsize the geese that sell the golden eggs.
However, I shall tell a positive story if not about Best Buy but one of its employees. I recently purchased a new laptop, which involved my venturing to the Best Buy closest to me. I settled on a model that was not in stock. I was then told that a Best Buy further away from me might have it. I’m never a fan of “might” but I’m an unemployed writer, so what else do I have to do with my time? I arrive at the other Best Buy, where I learn from a salesman who is intent on informing me that he’s somehow affiliated with Microsoft that someone just purchased the last model that was in stock. He continued to go on about the odds of the store selling out of the laptop I wanted while I was on my way to the store. It mattered very little to me if the odds were a million to one or one to one, I still did not have the laptop.
Another clerk called a Best Buy even further from me. They had plenty of the laptops I wanted in stock. They would not ship it to a store close to me, though, for reasons that were unclear. This is when I asked a critical question. Best Buy’s Geek Squad offers a service where it removes a lot of the garbage that comes pre-installed on your computer. The process takes about three hours, I was told. However, some of the computers already have this done so you can avoid the wait.
“Can you please confirm that this Best Buy location has a laptop with the Geek Squad service already performed? If so, I’ll pick it up today. If not, I’ll go by tomorrow.”
“Oh, 40% of the stock usually has it done and since it costs more, it’s likely they’ll have one ready.”
There are certain things in life you can’t confirm: The existence of extraterrestrial life, what happens after death or when you move to the suburbs, but whether a specific laptop is in stock is something you can confirm with a phone call.
“Before I purchase the laptop here, can you please confirm that one is in stock with the Geek Squad service already done? Thank you.”
The clerk goes away and returns shortly to tell me that the item I want is at the other Best Buy and ready for pick-up. I purchase the laptop, declining the extended warranty, family plan, commemorative Civil War plates and whatever other crap they try to sell you. I then go to the other Best Buy. The young woman who greets me at the store pick-up desk acts as if it’s her first day — not at Best Buy but on Earth. Imagine a mad scientist creating her in a lab, rejecting her because his assistant goofed and provided an abnormal brain, and dropping her off at the nearest Best Buy to begin a career in retail.
She examines my store receipt, asks multiple questions that only serve to confuse her more, and then finally retrieves my laptop, which she places in front of me.
One of many things I learned from my mother is to double check every aspect of my order before leaving the store. When we’d go to Kentucky Fried Chicken (it was still Kentucky Fried Chicken back then), my mother would stoically open every box and examine the contents to ensure she wasn’t stuck with extra crispy or dark meat. She was an original recipe, white meat lady. I would think, “See, this is what she thinks of you. She had you repeat the order to her when she placed it. You even confirmed it with her when you handed over the boxes, but she’s going through it again right in front of you because she knows you’re a fool. Oh, and she’s right. That’s an extra crispy drumstick next to the mashed potatoes.”
I asked the young woman if the Geek Squad had already wiped the computer of the offending software, as I’d requested and paid for.
“No, this computer doesn’t have that, but if one of our guys is free, he can have it done in about two to three hours.”
It makes no sense to me that Best Buy bothers telling people that the Geek Squad service takes four hours (if they say two to three, it’s really four) to complete. What am I supposed to do at Best Buy for that long? It’s not like they have one of Quark’s holosuites in the back.
“That’s unacceptable,” I said. “Your colleague at the other Best Buy claimed that he’d confirmed that the there was a laptop waiting here that already had the Geek Squad service performed on it. That’s the whole reason I came here this afternoon.”
“Yeah,” she replied, offering no explanation. “It’s the only one we have.”
“I’m not staying here for three hours nor I am making a return trip cross town. Could someone bring the computer, once it’s ready, to the Best Buy where I paid for it?”
“Yeah, we don’t do that.”
“I realize you don’t normally but this was your error.”
“You can come back for it tomorrow if you’d like.”
I chose not to thank her for allowing me to pick up something I’d already purchased at a later date.
“I’m not going to do that. I’d like the laptop sent to the more convenient location or I’d like a refund.”
“I can give you a refund.”
At this point, I asked to speak to a manager, so it could be explained to me why they would prefer to lose money instead of simply rectifying their mistake.
When the young woman went for the manager, I expected very little. Why would they care? They had no stake in the sale. The manager would most likely offer some more shuck and jive before giving me a refund.
Instead the manager, also a young woman, politely introduced herself to me, apologized for the confusion, and said she’d personally deliver the laptop the the Best Buy that was actually in my zip code.
This was professionally handled but definitely not the norm. The manager was courteous and made no attempt to blame me or her colleagues at the other stores for the problem. She just focused on making it right.
The next day, as promised, my laptop was at the Best Buy location where I paid for it. I thanked the manager, who was still at the store, on my way out. She deserves better than Best Buy, and I hope she finds it when Best Buy stores start to close. Having worked in corporate America for a while, it would not surprise me if she were among the first fired and the clueless salesclerk temporarily promoted into her position simply because she’d be cheaper. Cheaper keeps the costs down, but it eventually closes the stores.