‘Goodbye’ to Circuit City Doesn’t Need to Mean ‘Hello’ To Best Buy

Circuit City is going out of business, liquidating and closing their stores.  Obviously, they had a poor business model, which is unfortunate, because it means that more people are going to shop at Best Buy.

I have been boycotting Best Buy for a few years now. I do not engage in any social boycotts (although I do shop at Target when I can, as opposed to Wal-Mart, which can probably be a future entry). The boycotts I do engage in are when businesses have treated me shoddily. Best Buy is the prime example.  I won’t go into the details right now, because I am posting the letter that I sent to Best Buy Customer Care.  Suffice it to say, I was lied to and treated poorly.  But am I the only one who has undergone this experience at Best Buy?  Far from.

My father also doesn’t shop there.  Other people I know with less anger have had poor experiences, but continue to go.  Why?  Because people seem to be willing to put up with crappy service and worse if the price is right.   The bottom line:  I am not going to tell you to boycott something if you’ve had good experiences there, but if you keep having problems, why continue giving someone your business?

Maybe you think that there is minimal difference between Best Buy and Circuit City.  You’re wrong.  The best proof of the contrast, other than my personal experiences, can be found online.

The Better Business Bureau gives Circuit City an ‘A’ and Best Buy an ‘A-‘.  Why?


BBB Rating

Based on BBB files, this business has a BBB Rating of A-.

Reasons for this rating include: 

  • Number of complaints filed against business.

Looking further into the numbers, it gets interesting.  Why?  Because Circuit City is far from a perfect company.  They have 7,513 in the past 36 months.  Not impressive.  Best Buy?  11,870 complaints over 36 months.  

But the devil is in the details.  Out of Circuit City’s complaints, all but one are listed as “Resolved.”  For Best Buy, 4,825 of them had to be “Administratively Closed,” which means that the complaint “could not be satisfactorily settled using standard methods of voluntary dispute resolution,” which generally translates as “the customer is still pissed off.”

A standard Google search tells you something, too.

  • 23,300 Google hits for “Best Buy sucks”
  • 612 Google hits for “Circuit City sucks”

Hope you learned something today.

Below is my letter to Best Buy Customer Care:

            I am writing in regard to an upsetting experience I had in the Everett Best Buy on November 20th, 2006.

            In 2005, I purchased a pair of headphones with a Product Replacement Plan from the Lynnwood store.  I was told by the employee handling my purchase that I could return them to any Best Buy for an exchange of a new set of identical headphones.  I asked what happened if the headphones I had bought were no longer being sold.  The employee told me that in such a circumstance, I could exchange them for a product that was comparable to my original purchase and that if the new item was of a higher price, I would not have to pay the difference.

            Recently, one side of my headphones ceased to function, so I went into the Everett store to exchange them.  The headphones that I bought were not being sold any longer, so I assumed what I was told when I had bought the product would apply. 

            The first person that I talked to did not have the empowerment level to assist me, so I asked to talk to her immediate supervisor.  I explained my situation to the supervisor, after which he went to talk to another individual.  By this time, no less than twenty minutes had passed.

            When he returned, the manager informed me that he would not be able to help, so I asked to talk to his supervisor.  At this point, Q, the Operations Manager, became involved.  He told me that he would be willing to give me a pair of headphones that were priced around $51.00 for no additional charge.  I was not willing to accept this, because the headphones that he was offering were not comparable.  The headphones I purchased covered the ear; these rested on the ear, without covering.  From my perspective, this was not what I was told should happen when I made the initial purchase.      

           Since Q was unable to help me, I asked to talk to a Store Manager.  He told me that there was none.  I did not understand how this was possible, but he was adamant, so I resigned myself to dealing with him.  It became obvious that Q was unwilling to fulfill what I was told previously, so I reluctantly agreed that I would accept the arrangement of paying for the difference between the non-suitable headphones and the next set up, which I felt were comparable to my initial purchase. 

            I told Q that I wanted to purchase a new PRP, but I did not think it was fair for me to have to pay the PRP price for a product that was in a higher bracket, since all I had hoped for was an identical replacement.  He agreed to this and then went about solving it in with the computer.

            After more than ten minutes, I was informed that the PRP was not in the computer.  Q called someone else in the store and found out that there were no PRPs offered for headphones any longer.  He told me that I would not be able to have a PRP and I would still have to pay for the difference.  I found it absurd that he was unaware of the policies of the store and needed to learn them from a subordinate.

            At this point, I became highly frustrated again.  For all the time that I had to wait, there were no additional conciliations that were being made.  I was told that I would still have to pay for the difference, despite the extreme amount of time that this took.  He told me that he had used a gift card to make this work and was unable to do anything else.  Q said, “Look, it’s only eight dollars.”  It is highly condescending for someone to tell me that a price difference that I was told I would not need to pay should not be an issue.

            Out of nowhere, a man stepped in with a nametag that said “Brandon, Store Manager.”  I was told earlier that there was no such person.  Brandon, who was not around at any point before, told me that he felt I was receiving a fair deal and my option was to either take it or leave and call 1-888-BEST-BUY.  There was a back and forth between us as to why he was not there before and whether or not he had a higher level authority than Q.  The responses were contradictory.  By this point, I felt lied to and taken advantage of.  He pretended that he empathized with my situation, after telling me that he would not have offered me the ‘good deal’ that Q had.  When I told him that this whole debacle would make it so I would no longer want to shop at Best Buy and feel the need to complain to higher levels of management, his exact response, with an extremely aggravated face, was:  “I’m sure that is true, so why would I possibly want to help you?”  I found this to be the highlight of the store’s total lack of customer-centricity.

                Brandon and I argued for about two minutes until he told me that the offer they had given me was now rescinded.  Feeling that there was no chance I would be given what I was promised, I asked Q if I could just pay the difference and be done with it.  He looked at me, but did not say a word.  Brandon then told me that I needed to leave the store.  I was not cursing; I was not yelling; I was not threatening.  I left, extremely shook up, after over an hour of being talked down to and disrespected.

             I work in the customer service industry.  I found it impossible to believe that there was no one on-site that had the empowerment level to help me.  In reality, there was just no interest in attending to my needs as a customer.  The entire process was by far the most frustrating retail experience that I have ever had.  By the end, I felt like I was seen as a criminal, when all I wanted was what was promised to me by an employee when I made my original purchase.

             My minimal expectation is to exchange my headphones for a pair that both a Best Buy representative and I agree is comparable to the pair that I bought, as well as personal apologies from Brandon (the Store Manager) and Q (the Operations Manager) of the Everett store. 

              I will be anticipating a reply by phone or mail in the next few weeks.  If I do not feel that my problem will be addressed in a substantial way, I will engage in a personal boycott of Best Buy and insist that others the same.


Roni Weiss

(If you’re curious, in the end I got a gift card for either $10 or $20, I don’t remember which.  After using the gift card, without spending any extra, I never went back.)


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