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Best Buy: 20% Of Customers Are Wrong 1234

Posted by timothy
from the wrong-wrong-wrong dept.
Mr Show writes "Ars Technica has an article up discussing Best Buy's strategies to drive off the deal hunters. It's a good follow up to the Slashdot story from back in July, and offers some details on what they're actually trying to do."
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Best Buy: 20% Of Customers Are Wrong

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday November 08, 2004 @07:58PM (#10761575)
    Best Buy recently changed the terms of their "Reward Zone" package to make it harder to earn certificates, and one specific tactic they are using is deducting the value of rebates from what they count towards earning a certificate. So, picking up a "Free after rebate" deal is now worthless according to their program.
    • by joeflies (529536) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:04PM (#10761629)
      I don't remember it word for word, but in essence, it said "Based on customer feedback, you'll now earn rewards for every $125 of purchases".

      I wonder to myself ... what customer gave feedback that they wanted to the program to be more difficult to earn rewards?

      • by gcaseye6677 (694805) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:42PM (#10761912)
        This unfortunately is not surprising. One thing I have noticed about modern corporation customer relations is that when the customer is clearly going to be screwed, they always try to spin it as some sort of benefit. Comcast does it when they have their annual 20% rate hike.

        Example:
        Dear Comcast Customer, you can now pick from an exciting new cable package with more home shopping channels plus the Hallmark channel! Try not to notice that it's $10 more expensive than you are used to paying.
        • by Speare (84249) on Monday November 08, 2004 @10:05PM (#10762486) Homepage Journal
          All I can say is, "The chocolate ration will be increased to 20 grams."
        • by telstar (236404) on Monday November 08, 2004 @10:47PM (#10762755)
          My favorite line from the cable rate hike letter is:

          "We promise you that you will not get another rate hike for another year."

          Actually they're promising that they'll raise my rates again exactly one year from now!
        • by sunhou (238795) on Monday November 08, 2004 @11:37PM (#10763031)
          ...when the customer is clearly going to be screwed, they always try to spin it as some sort of benefit.

          In my local supermarket, they've put anti-theft devices on one wheel of each shopping cart. It makes the wheel lock up if you remove the shopping cart from the parking lot.

          My favorite part about it is they sign they have posted letting people know about this feature. The sign prominently says that this is "for the convenience of the customer". Yeah, it's a great convenience for me --- for years I've been wishing they'd put an anti-theft gizmo on the shopping cart wheels; it's been such an inconvenience without it. Those marketing folks just have to squeeze their crap in wherever they can, huh?
      • by glimmernull (815949) on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:16PM (#10762169)
        To better serve our customers feedback please select when you would like to earn rewards:

        1. $125
        2. $2500
        3. $5000
        4. $10000
    • by guarddonkey (669975) on Monday November 08, 2004 @10:59PM (#10762830)
      The best way to combat the new policies I've found is to use their 'double points' offer for using the Best Buy CC.

      The best example is when buying a video game. I go in to pick up GTA:SA, get the game, and get one of their 'Gamer Giftcards' (a coupon on the back of the case gives you 5 dollars off a game price $20 dollars or more). You go up to the register and make a pile for the gift card, and then leave the out of reach of the clerk. You buy the gift card using your Best Buy CC, putting fifty bucks on the card. This gives you $100 dollars towards the new minimum. You then take the gift card and the aforementioned coupon from the gift card case and proceed to check out with the game. The coupon from the back of the gift card takes care of tax (effectively) and you use your reward zone card with the gift card to buy the game, giving you $150 towards the new minimum and earning you $5 in Best Buy bucks for a $50 dollar purchase.

      The decent clerks just get pissed about having to do two transactions and send you on your way, but the extra time this takes is more than made up for by the joy in watching someone who takes clerkin' at Best Buy way too seriously scan your cards over and over again trying to figure out a way to prevent you from doing this. I love leaving their checkout and looking back at the line that has formed behind me while I give them the old lady with a coupon act.

      Just out of spite, any purchase over 20 bucks now results in a gift card purchase first.
  • Only 20%? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 08, 2004 @07:58PM (#10761578)
    I would've expected it to be much higher. "What do you mean I can't play Playstation games on my Xbox?"
  • by rednip (186217) <rednip@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Monday November 08, 2004 @07:59PM (#10761585) Journal
    I'd guess that I look like a Barry to them, but next time I walk into best buy, I'm wearing a name tag "Buzz", just so they don't get it wrong. When I was working in the service industry, I used to tell my trainees "The Customer isn't always right, but it's not my job to tell them that."
    • by captnitro (160231) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:19PM (#10761745)
      We used to say, "The customer is always right, just not at this store."
    • Re:Wear a Name tag! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by einhverfr (238914) <chris.travers@gmail . c om> on Monday November 08, 2004 @10:18PM (#10762573) Homepage Journal
      I work services too (computer services) and my motto is:

      "If the customer was always right, he/she wouldn't need me."

      I definitely tell my customers when I think that they are wrong about something, respectfully of course. Customers pay *me* to be right. Yes, my customer base is growing largely on the basis of customer referrals.

      But Best Buy is doing something different and extremely counterproductive. The customer might not always be right about the technology, or other things where they pay an expert, but the customer is *always* the expert on the customer's needs. Best Buy is second-guessing the customer's intentions and integrity. If you are hostile towards your customers (like the ??AA) your revenues will shrink, and you will find yourself in a viscious cycle fighting with your customers and losing money in the process!
      • by ergo98 (9391) on Monday November 08, 2004 @10:39PM (#10762710) Homepage Journal
        If you are hostile towards your customers (like the ??AA) your revenues will shrink, and you will find yourself in a viscious cycle fighting with your customers and losing money in the process!

        Several years back, when the Diamond was a big name in the video card market, and 3dfx was the king of the hill, I frequented comp.hardware.ibm.pc.video -- many of the forum regulars made no bones about the fact that they were devil customers: They purposefully would "buy" a video card, hold it for just under the return period, and then return it. They'd get a full refund of their original purchase price which they'd use to buy whatever was new (again starting the return clock anew). These customers are hugely costly for retailers -- it would be better not to have them as customers (in fact you wish them on your competitors). This sort of person will rationalize their behaviour (much like the cable modem user who rationalizes saturating their connection 24 hours a day) under the guise of "if they let me, let them suck it!", but the end result is naturally restrictive policies that hurt everyone because of the abuses of a few. Simliarly it isn't cost effective to have customers who'll bogart your salespeople's time for hours while they ruminate over a trivial decision -- one which they'll likely recant on, reappearing in your returns line. These people do exist.
  • by ravenspear (756059) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:02PM (#10761607)
    What they are basically saying is that 20% of customers are wrong "for Best Buy." In essence, they are trying to rid themselves of intelligent shoppers who look around for the best deal and are usually more knowledgeable about what they buy and instead cater to the sheep and the unwashed masses that will buy anything regardless of features and price simply because a Best Buy salesman tells them too.

    This is yet another attempt to dumb down consumers to make the more receptive to truly weak sales pitches. Best Buy won't be getting any more of my business if they value this philosophy.
    • by rev0102 (701177) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:04PM (#10761623)
      Yeah, but I think they've made it clear they don't want your business anyway :)
    • Not upstanding? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mike Hawk (687615) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:09PM (#10761668) Journal
      They buy products, apply for rebates, return the purchases, then buy them back at returned-merchandise discounts.

      I wouldn't even stretch to call people who would do this shoppers. Thats not looking for the best deal, thats borderline robbery. If you engage in that sort of activity, I'm sure you promising to never shop there again is exactly what they want. Win/win.
      • Re:Not upstanding? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ravenspear (756059) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:20PM (#10761757)
        They buy products, apply for rebates, return the purchases, then buy them back at returned-merchandise discounts.

        I wouldn't even stretch to call people who would do this shoppers. Thats not looking for the best deal, thats borderline robbery. If you engage in that sort of activity, I'm sure you promising to never shop there again is exactly what they want.

        No I don't do that kind of stuff. I was referring more to the other parts.

        They load up on "loss leaders," severely discounted merchandise designed to boost store traffic, then flip the goods at a profit on eBay.

        That's not robbery. It's called commerce. Buy low, sell high. Nothing illegal or shady about it at all. Is Best Buy saying they don't want any of their customers to be able to sell any of the things they purchase?

        And then this:
        They slap down rock-bottom price quotes from Web sites and demand that Best Buy make good on its lowest-price pledge.

        Why even have a lowest price pledge if you aren't going to honor it?

        Sorry but Best Buy is not the injured party here. They are simply bitching because selling to consumers who exercise some initiative makes it slightly less easy for them to earn maximum profit.
        • Re:Not upstanding? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Southpaw018 (793465) * on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:34PM (#10761857) Journal
          Why even have a lowest price pledge if you aren't going to honor it?

          The purpose of a "low price guarantee" like that is ensuring that your prices are competitive. The problem comes in when someone can find a quote at a particularly shady outfit [pricegrabber.com] on Pricewatch or Pricegrabber, favorites of companies who deal in subpar and even stolen goods. The linked company was just the first in the list on a quick search for "lowest ratings" on Pricegrabber; there are pages upon pages more.

          Anyhow, as I was saying: the problem comes in when I can get a price quote from some guy selling stolen goods out of his room in the basement of his Mom's house, then take that to Best Buy and demand they give me the same price. That's just unfair. Best Buy may be a buy-low-sell-high retailer out to make money, but they're following the letter of the law. Taking advantage of that seems like a devil to me.
          • Re:Not upstanding? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by nelsonal (549144) on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:15PM (#10762159) Journal
            It's quite a bit more devious than that. Low price pledges are signals to other competitors that you are ready to end a price war, or enforce a cartel decison. If you match low prices you can find out that one of your cartel partners is breaking their half of the bargain, and you didn't have to spend anything on cartel enforcement (your customers did it for you). That said, if you don't already have a cheap DVD player, a little birdy told me that they would have the cheapest ones on black friday.
            Best Buy's CEO (or one of the chiefs) is a firm believer that one of the best ways to boost profitability is to reduce the customers that don't make you any money and provide excellent service to those who make you tons. It's a bit like the difference between a Nordstrom's and Wal-Mart (grew up in the NW so Nordy's was the only high end retailer for a long time). One has free coffee, and salesfolk who kiss your butt. The other is doing volume business. The former makes up the services they offer with a markup, the latter makes a smaller margin on each sale, but has much, much lower overhead so they each net about the same amount on each dollar spent. Best Buy's goal is to become more like Nordstrom's but without pricing themselves out of the latter market. This is a very tall order, and we won't know if they succeeded for about a decade.
            If it wasn't over in the Ars article, the WSJ (free today) has an excellent article about the whole topic. It's available here. [wsj.com]
        • Re:Not upstanding? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Hobadee (787558) on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:01PM (#10762069) Homepage Journal
          When I bought the WarCraftIII battle chest, I first looked online for pricing. I found a website that was selling it for $30. I went to Best Buy. They wouldn't give me a discount, so I went to CompUSA. CompUSA first said "We don't honor on-line ads.", but then the guy went and asked his manager, and I got it for $30! Moral of this story? I'm going to CompUSA from now on! If you're nice to your customers, they will come back, and in the end, you will turn a profit, because although they are buying discounted, they keep returning to you instead of someone else!
          • Re:Not upstanding? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by leonbev (111395) on Monday November 08, 2004 @10:40PM (#10762716) Journal
            No offense man, but companies like Best Buy and CompUSA don't WANT people like you as a customer. That was the whole point of the article! They aren't making much of a profit selling you that copy of WC3 for only $30 to begin with, and they probably LOST money on the sale once you factored in the time that you spent nagging the sales clerk and manager for your discount.

            CompUSA and Best Buy cater to rich gadget freaks and clueless newbies because THEY are the kinds of people who will pay retail price and leave the store without thinking twice about it. The math is simple here... Higher product profit margins plus lower sales staffing costs equals MORE MONEY FOR THEM. By ignoring savvy shoppers like you, they're actually increasing their profits in the long run.
        • by Xenographic (557057) on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:40PM (#10762318) Homepage Journal
          Why have such a pledge if you don't intend to honor it? Because it allows you to rig the game so that you, in effect, collude with your competitors and all the players on the selling side can make more money!

          It's all economics. Game theory, to be precise.

          In a game where price is the only determining factor between two goods, and you have at least one competitor, you are forced to sell your good at rock-bottom prices, or they'll go to another store. Thus, the Nash equilibrium of this game is that you all have to sell the item for no profit (assuming you all get it for the same price--otherwise, you just undercut the next lowest bid by one cent or the least you can & steal all their customers).

          Now then, when you introduce this pledge, it turns out that all the people selling the product can, in effect, collude and sell it for a higher price! Sadly, I forget all the details of how it works out in recalculating the Nash equilibrium, and my game theory textbook is probably propping something up just now (sorry, I took that class quite a while ago now--the textbook on it is nowhere to be found). However, I can tell you for sure that this was one of their examples on how "hyper-competetive" seeming strategies can actually be anti-competetive in effect.

          The good news? They're not the only ones who can change the rules, as we saw from some of the ways people got back at them. In fact, the article mentioned one person doing this to buy things at a loss from them just because they wanted to hurt the store (this in the Wall Street Journal article I saw in a comment here).

          It's funny, too, because one of the other quotes was from them worrying that culturally, they might be seen as consumer-hostile. A worry it would seem is well-founded, given how many people seem to hate that store.
    • by Dr_Marvin_Monroe (550052) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:44PM (#10761932)
      Don't act shocked by Best Buy's policies. They've deliberately made an effort to make their pricing confusing in order to cull an extra few dollars out of the "unwashed masses" that come through their doors. You are exactly right that they (BB) are attempting to rid themselves of the smart consumers. Their policy seems to be more about differential pricing and impulse purchases than about offering a fair deal to everyone. That's just the way they operate, they've picked their target/strategy and they'll try to milk it for everything they can take. Get over it, spread the word, and shop somewhere else! I'm not saying that you (writer) have any problem with it, I've just seen some of the other "OUTRAGED" responses and feel they're misguided.

      We all know that rebates will most likely NOT get sent in, extra money for them... Most people will buy the service policy AND throw the unit away when it breaks 6mos. later. Don't fall for these stunts... That's the best way to transmit the message to the Best Buy management. Punish them on the bottom line. That's all they've thought of, so it must be important to them. Show them that you are watching too. Say "NO" to the service plan, no matter how many times they ask, then walk out without purchasing anything when they try again (for the 4th time).

      Secondly, there must be a supplier SOMEWHERE that treats the customer like they're smart and offers a fair deal without the tricks. Seems like that merchant should be looked to as the "place where cool & tech. savy people" shop. That would help boost their sales as almost EVERYONE would want to be flattered by being thought of as "hip" and "tech. savy" just for shopping there. You get the idea, it spirals up... Help those places to succeed!

      Changing this works a little like the election strategy, when you get another customer to switch, you actually hurt Best Buy TWICE! Once when they lose the customer, and again when they vote with their dollars for the competition, making them relativly weaker in the marketspace.

      Anyone reading this, start the change by putting down some places where you've felt like you got an AWESOME deal without any tricks, from a sales guy that you trusted and who didn't try to sell you with a bunch of technobabble (that you know is false). The list of Cool places to shop starts here --> (you reply)
      • by AdamHaun (43173) on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:15PM (#10762164) Journal
        If you want good deals, you go online.

        http://www.newegg.com/
      • by Mornelithe (83633) on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:55PM (#10762417)
        If you have one in your area, Micro Center has always been good to me. They have decent prices for a retail shop, usually a great selection of books, and a wider selection on pretty much any computer component than any store I've been to. Plus, (at least in my area) they seem to hire more geeks than your average Best Buy/CompUSA, so it's a good place to go if you want to shoot the bull about how the new Microsoft mouse looks like it was designed for a Mac, or something like that.

        As for online stores, I second the vote for newegg. They consistently have among the best prices of any reputable online reseller, and their service is always top notch.
  • by cliveholloway (132299) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:02PM (#10761608) Homepage Journal
    Currently, you can read it here [wsj.com].

    cLive ;-)

  • by lothar97 (768215) * <owen AT smigelski DOT org> on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:03PM (#10761618) Homepage Journal
    Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't buy anything from them, but hear me out. Best Buy is a for-profit company (pubicly traded), and legally a corporation's loyalty (at least in theory) is ultimately to the shareholders (Enron et al made a mockery of this). This duty means that the corporation has to increase the value to shareholders, either through dividends, profits, increase share price, etc. I'm not saying I agree with it, but that's the idea. So, Best Buy has some "devil" customers, and they're losing money off of these devils. From TFA:

    The devils are its worst customers. They buy products, apply for rebates, return the purchases, then buy them back at returned-merchandise discounts.

    Kudos to the people who figured this out, but clearly it is costing Best Buy money. These are customers that should be weeded out. It's Best Buy's fault for allowing this scenario to happen.

    Once someone discovers something that is "too good to be true" like the returning scenario, many people start doing it, and the company catches on. Since they're losing money, they stop it.

    The other things in TFA, like profiling customers and selling them what their profile dictates is just common sales practice. Sure they might be forcing people to get things they might not want/need, but then again, when was the last time a sales person tried to sell you something you don't need (car options, clothes, dinner specials, etc). It's the nature of capitalism to increase the profits.

    • by div_B (781086) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:23PM (#10761774)
      Kudos to the people who figured this out, but clearly it is costing Best Buy money. These are customers that should be weeded out. It's Best Buy's fault for allowing this scenario to happen.

      Frankly, if they're not being evil, they're atleast being a bit cheeky. From TFA:

      They ["devils"] slap down rock-bottom price quotes from Web sites and demand that Best Buy make good on its lowest-price pledge.

      If they don't want to sell things at the lowest-price, then they shouldn't pledge to. Problem solved. But of course, that's no good, because what they really want is to give people the perception that they can get things for the lowest prices, without actually following through on it. My heart bleeds for them.
    • by mdfst13 (664665) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:31PM (#10761834)
      "These are customers that should be weeded out."

      Or Best Buy could just stop trying to fool their customers into thinking that they are getting a deal when they are really being screwed over. If Best Buy did not have crazy rebates, then they wouldn't be having people abuse them.

      It's like how Microsoft claims to lose money on each XBox sold. If people buying XBoxes to use as MythTV frontends costs Microsoft money, then maybe Microsoft should quit subsidizing the XBox. Problem solved.

      Personally, I think that customers buying Best Buy products purely for the rebates is great. It helps make up for the fact that 80+% of all rebates go unredeemed. Note that even if you subtract out the returned products from the sales and still include those rebates as redeemed, they still make up a redemption rate of less than 50%. Perhaps Best Buy will eventually drop rebates and just lower their ridiculous prices! Or they will just go out of business and I will continue to buy from Circuit City and the web. Either way works for me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:04PM (#10761624)
    "They can wreak enormous economic havoc," says Mr. Anderson.

    I think this explains alot...

  • Shady (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MacFury (659201) <me&johnkramlich,com> on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:04PM (#10761626) Homepage
    I understand the want to make money, the more the better...but their comes a time when you really can bilk your customers anymore than you already do, or they will go someplace else.

    Best Buy's rebate scams are among the worst in the industry. I've been told that something would be free after rebate, only to find out the rebate expired a week before I purchased the item.

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:04PM (#10761630)
    I'm sure everybody who reads Slashdot has been in the position of being asked by their non-geek friends and family about potential purchases... so the customers that Best Buy sees as losers may have a bunch of profitable customers behind them that they could very easily send to Circuit City instead. I wonder if Best Buy's models take that into account.
    • by plover (150551) * on Monday November 08, 2004 @10:25PM (#10762606) Homepage Journal
      True, but I'd pick a different example than Circuit Shitty. I have been so disappointed every single time I've walked through their doors that I may never bother returning.

      I've gotten in the habit of going to the local stores first, then Best Buy as a second choice (only if I need to.) I'm spending more money in some cases, and less money in others, but my overall satisfaction with my purchases is much higher.

      And while some people seem to enjoy the game of shopping in a store with a knowledgable staff, then purchasing the product online at a steep discount, I'm not one of them. I know that when I went to National Camera to purchase my Canon G2 that the salesman helped me for over an hour (even while the store was packed with customers.) He showed me the details of each camera, options, discussed battery life, etc. I know I received at least $60 worth of advice from him that day, and purchasing the camera from him at their retail price was very much worth it to me.

      The same experience has been true for me at other stores as well. I'm willing to pay for service, and I give out my recommendations commesurate with my experiences. As the family's "Tech Guru" my recommendations do carry some financial weight. Best Buy simply isn't my first choice for anything other than a simple "just get a little 13" TV at Best Buy" type recommendation.

  • by havaloc (50551) * on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:05PM (#10761635) Homepage
    ...do we still hate Circuit City over the DIVX debacle, or can we forgive them now?
  • by macshune (628296) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:05PM (#10761641) Journal
    Just pay in cash. Then they can't track you and put your info into demographic databases. Those rebates are another matter, but for purchases, cash 'll do it.

    Oh, and when you carry that cash, be extra cool and put the money in an aluminum briefcase that's handcuffed to your wrist.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:06PM (#10761653)
    That article was pretty good, but you might want to think about getting our extended warranty plan for it. Everybody who reads that article gets it.

    Well, there was one guy here who didn't get it, I heard something happened with his ears after he read the article and he was left helpless and with some HUGE bills. The bills were bigger than just getting the warranty and even more than a new article would have cost.

    We were trained to recognize the people who would refuse extended warranties. They're like Barry's, but we call them Dingle Barry's since they're really like unwanted poop that clings to us. If you tell me one more time you're refusing the warranty, I'm going to get on my radio and "start combing out the 'barry's" so to speak.
  • by gnu-sucks (561404) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:07PM (#10761658) Journal
    Any retailer with a brain, so to speak, has people working in loss prevention. And of course, they want to eliminate fraud. The first level of defence is, of course, with employees. Then, its with customer policy, and finally, with best buy, its with the actuall customer base.

    This is probably a very intelligent scheme, and certainly the first of many from America's electonic retailers.
  • by kjones692 (805101) <the.cyborganizerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:08PM (#10761665)
    The thing that worries me the most about this policy is the concept of quickly "pigeonholing" customers and treating them a certain way depending on how you have categorized them.

    As a young adult, I run into plenty of prejudice among employees and managers (though most of it is annoying rather than seriously detrimental). Would they look at me, and decide, "Here is a young person. He doesn't have a lot of money, so we're not going to waste time helping him find what he wants, since he probably couldn't afford it anyway."

    What if they do the same thing based on ethnicity? or noticable disability? or a myriad of other potential factors that go into stereotyping?

    All I can do is hope that the free market will sort things out, and prove to Best Buy that this policy is hurtful to customers.
    • by Queer Boy (451309) <dragon.76@mac.cCOFFEEom minus caffeine> on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:36PM (#10761873)
      Would they look at me, and decide, "Here is a young person. He doesn't have a lot of money, so we're not going to waste time helping him find what he wants, since he probably couldn't afford it anyway."

      Having worked retail as a profession for 9 years, most sales staff do not have the ability to help me. They're not skilled enough. Therefore I have an easier time if they don't bother me. Luckily most of them do look at you and make decisions, so I usually use my "annoyed and disinterested" face to ward them off.

      Most of the time I find consumers know more than the sales staff because the sales staff at most places are not paid high enough to have high quality sales staff.

  • by thundergeek (808819) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:10PM (#10761676) Journal
    They said they are putting their employees through hours of training on how to interview us customers.

    Shouldn't they be training them on the stuff they sell?

    Everytime I go in there to buy a camera, I'm usually faced with a deer-in-headlights sales man who only know how to say, "I'm sure it's in the manual." And I end up helping the poor helpless chap next to me who thinks a 9 mega pixel still camera will produce wide screen movies!!

    Get real Best Buy!
  • by LiquidHAL (801263) <LiquidHAL&gmail,com> on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:13PM (#10761700)
    Another trick Best Buy has is the extended warranty. It sounds like a great idea, and it is. Extended two year warranty, no questions asked, for a few extra dollars. However, you need the warranty receipt. Most people lose it after a few months, usually sooner, or totally forget about it. Two years is a long time. Only a small percentage of those who get the warranty actually cash it in so to speak. That's where a lot of their profits are coming from.
    • by billyradcliffe (698854) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:49PM (#10761969) Homepage
      Yeah, unfortunately you failed to mention that all "extended warranty" information (actually called a "service plan") is stored in the Best Buy system, so that in the event of losing the receipt, that receipt can be retrieved.

      And it doesn't "extend the warranty," it goes above and beyond what a manufacturer's warranty will cover. Just simply read the terms of both plans and tell me I'm wrong.
  • Play Acting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Moby Cock (771358) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:18PM (#10761741) Homepage
    The next time I go into Best Buys (or Future Shop in Canada; they are the same company) I am going to try an act like a Barry or a Buzz and see what kind of interest I get.

    It seems that the publishing of this info is going to hurt Best Buy the most. If they were to target their *devil* customers and kept it on the lo-down, maybe nobody would have noticed. Having it on /. has got to be a bad deal for them.

    Thanks for the idea about getting a rebate (although I still hate them) and then returning the product. That's a great plan. I'll be sure to try it out this weekend.
    • by easter1916 (452058) on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:03PM (#10762079) Homepage
      You mean you'd go to all the trouble of getting a bad haircut, wearing some retarded boring chinos and ugly polo shirt with sneakers that are so white they induce blindness, and pretend to be some dull, moneyed suburbanite just to save a few dollars and get better service...? Why not just shop at a decent place to begin with, and save yourself the debasement?
  • No Sympathy (Score:4, Informative)

    by futuresheep (531366) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:23PM (#10761780) Journal
    As long as any retailer makes buying appliances and electronics a negotiation, this is what they get. As long as they use service plans as a negotiation tool, this is what they get. As long as rebates exist as a tool for bringing in the masses, then this is what they get. As long as these stores advertise loss leaders in the Sunday paper, then this is what they get. Best Buy and stores like Best Buy have become the car dealers of the electronics world. They're own practices have brought this upon them, I have no sympathy.
  • Wow (Score:5, Informative)

    by FiReaNGeL (312636) <fireang3l&hotmail,com> on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:24PM (#10761791) Homepage
    So basically, they want people who :

    - Don't buy their "loss leaders", but stock up on their overpriced stuff.

    - People who don't check other companies price, but get attracted by the "Best price policy"

    - People who don't return their mail-in rebates.

    Why don't you just ask me to give you my money?

    On the Canadian side, FutureShop is exactly like that : Best price policy, overpriced stuff... and they "labeled" me a devil, for sure (a seller once "recognized" me : "Yes, I remember you...", first time I meet the guy). When price matching Camera-Canada for a new Canon G5, a seller even told me :
    -"I can't match that price, maybe remove 50$ off the total but that's it".
    -"But your policy is to match the price, and remove 50% of the difference"
    -"Yeah but I'll lose money that way!"
    -"Well its not MY policy, isn't it?"

    They promise you customer heaven, but slowly draggin you in hell. They're the devils, not us, the intelligent customers.
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:25PM (#10761793) Homepage

    I fit the profile of a "bad" customer: I watch the rebates and advertised prices and make sure I'm not paying more than I have to. They probably want to be rid of me. But, when it comes to computer parts and systems, a lot of my friends who fit the "good" BB profile come to me for a recommendation. If BestBuy's been pushing me out, you can bet I'm not going to recommend going to them. End result: annoying me, the "bad" customer, causes "good" customers to end up somewhere else.

  • by I(rispee_I(reme (310391) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:28PM (#10761818) Journal
    I just went shopping for a computer at BestBuy with my dad last night. He selected one (going against my advice that he avoid intel and buy amd), and sent the clerk to get the box. The clerk returns with the shopping cart, containing the computer, a UPS, and a copy of Norton Antivirus. Here is the actual conversation that followed:

    Clerk: I just added these for you.
    Dad: Why?
    Clerk: This is a UPS. It will protect you against power surges and lightning. And this will protect you against all those viruses.
    Dad: I already have a surge protector.
    Clerk: Surge protectors are useless against power surges.
    [A moment of silence, no doubt induced by the store's mind-numbing window dressing]
    Me: Just the computer will be fine.
    Clerk: Okay, but if lightning hits it tonight and you bring it back to us tomorrow, we won't take it.
    Dad: That's fine. I'll buy another one.

    We proceed to checkout, where we are told that not purchasing a service plan puts our souls in danger of perdition, etc. My father has agreed to let me build his next computer.
  • by adam31 (817930) <adam31@@@gmail...com> on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:35PM (#10761868)
    Meanwhile, Dell and others seem to be doing their best to attract those customers Best Buy doesn't really want.

    Man, Dell makes a living off being that girl that drops by 5 minutes after your girlfriend dumps you. And you wake up the next morning with a headache, an empty wallet, and a big smile.

  • Insurance/Warranty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:38PM (#10761892) Journal
    This is the biggest "scam" of all: selling "extended warranties". I nver buy them and use the rationale of self-insurance.

    These "extended warranties" are an insurance policy. The buyer is buying insurance, not a warranty.

    Question: why buy insurance if you can insure yourself. Think of it this way: most people could afford the loss that the insurance covers, so, if you really want to be anal about it, instead of buying the insurance, put the money into an account. Pretty soon, that account will have sufficient funds in it to cover any losses that you could possibly imagine an extended warranty covering. The difference is that it now YOUR MONEY, not the insurance companies'.

    You will be in effect, your own insurance company.

    There is a small, but finite chance that over the long term you will be worse off if you self insure, but I think most people would acknowledge that the risk is small in comparison to the gain.

    Since, for many sales by Best Buy and others, there is no profit on the sale of the item itself and only the extended warranty provides all of the profit, that's why I will never be the sort of buyer Best Buy are looking for. Of course, I can always let a sales assistant THINK I'm going to buy the warranty, right up to the time comes to actually pay!

    • by fimbulvetr (598306) on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:11PM (#10762134)
      I agree with you, the extended service plans are a ripoff.
      However, a few that I sold at radio shack were actually cashed in on.
      One guy backed his truck over his laptop, we replaced it no questions asked.
      Others would spill water/pop, drop them, jump on them, recover them from theft, you name it, and we would replace them all with no questions asked.
      I sold those service plans like a mofo. That year I netted over $6000 in commission from service plans alone. They are so easy to sell it's insane.

      Anyway, my point is that I've seen these payoff big time. Though a majority of my old customers probably never took advantage of the plan.
  • by Maul (83993) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:45PM (#10761940) Journal
    Customer: Hi, I'd like to buy this TV.
    Salesguy: I won't sell it to you.
    Customer: What? Why not? Isn't it the TV you advertised in this morning's paper as being on sale?
    Salesguy: Yes, you see, that TV there is just a ploy to get you into the store. I'm not allowed to sell it to you, I'm supposed to convince you that this TV is just a "basic" model and this other TV we have here for $300 is much better.
    Customer: I guess I'll just need to take my business elsewhere, then,
    Salesguy: Good idea!
  • Profiling 101 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:47PM (#10761956) Journal
    For four years ending in early 2000, I owned a computer store.

    The name of the store was "Computers Cheap!" which was a great draw for audience. We were the only guys in town who'd sell a used computer with warrantee.

    But, with a name like "Computers Cheap!" you can be sure that we got plenty of people we called "bug people". Named after the nerdy entymologists on "Silence of the Lambs", they were people who had lots of time, and very little money. They were VERY good at wasting time and demanding refunds on used, "AS-IS" hardware that turned out not to work.

    We built our own customer-filter - the $1 box. A box set in the corner, with a bright orange sign that said something like: "Wow! $1.00, no warrantee". It was filled with MFM hard drives, ancient motherboards, ISA video cards (when AGP had long since come out) and stuff that was generally worthless.

    It was out of the way enough that you had to get down on your knees to get to it. It was also nearly 100% effective at identifying the "bug people".

    It was incredible... over months and years we found that it was simply never wrong.

    If you were caught kneeling in front of that box, you were immediately put on my "ignore" list. I'd be nice, but wouldn't give anything but a monosyllabic response from anyone.

    On a side note, that $1 box came in real handy selling OEM copies of Windows legally. See, the contract requires that it be sold with a hard drive or motherboard. No mention of new/used, nor was there any requirement for a warrantee. So, we sold lots of copies of Windows with a used motherboard for $1....
    • Re:Profiling 101 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by frohike (32045) <bard.allusion@net> on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:33PM (#10762279) Homepage

      That's pretty funny (and probably true, your post even puts a picture in my head... *shudder* :)

      But there are actually legitimate reasons why people would want those sorts of components. Namely if you are a hardware experimenter. I bought a good number of pieces of "throwaway" equipment at Goodwill Computers in Austin because I wanted to rip a rare component off of it, take its connectors, or even just have a piece of test equipment (one of my projects involved building an ISA bus).

      It had nothing to do with the price, I probably would have been willing to pay more than the going rate for an equivalent piece of modern equipment in some cases. Finding a store that actually stocks that stuff is pretty hard these days. After I moved away from Austin I ended up having to wait until I took a visit back there to get some stuff like that!

    • Re:Profiling 101 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NeoSkandranon (515696) on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:34PM (#10762284)
      On behalf of all the computer enthusiasts who like taking a peek at old hardware, i have to wonder how many customers you drove away who just wanted to have a poke through a box of stuff that looked old as they were
  • Eh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro.gmail@com> on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:48PM (#10761966) Homepage Journal
    The main point of any discussion is that it's your money. If you don't like their practices, vote with your money and go somewhere else.

    That said, something similar was posted on Fark a couple of hours ago, so I've already read it (given, at work.) Looks like it was a different article on the same topic.

    From what I can tell, they're pissed off at people buying items, getting the rebates, then returning the items, and more. Basically, they're mad that people are turning a profit on stuff bought from a Best Buy store.

    I've heard complaints and gripes about Best Buy all over. However, you get horror stories from every store, regardless of big name or how crappy it is.

    Perhaps I'm biased, but I've never had a bad experience at a Best Buy. The one near where I live has gotten good recommendations from people, while the one near my college tries to skate around the extended warenties at all costs, among other things. But that's what I've heard from others, never experienced myself.

    I worked at a Best Buy (the one near my home) for about three months (occasional/seasonal, in Computers.) I felt I was lucky in the fact the people I worked with actually knew a good amount about Computers, whereas other places have had general sales people. The atmosphere I worked in was nice one, everyone was helpful, and I can't remember having a bad day (not even Black Friday, but I was just a gopher then.)

    Was I told to push the replacement plans/extended warrantees as often as possible? Try and get people to buy accessories? Try and sell services with computers? Yes on all accounts. But you know what, it's a business, they turn a profit with that, and they need the profit to counter the low profit they make off, say, video game consoles.

    If you have that much of a beef with Best Buy, stop whining and just got shop NewEgg. I'll be browsing around Best Buy, using the sales and rebates as I like, and still getting a good experience. If I ever get a bad experience from a Best Buy, I'll just stop going to that one, but not the entire chain.
  • by DirkDaring (91233) on Monday November 08, 2004 @08:50PM (#10761977)
    "They buy products, apply for rebates, return the purchases, then buy them back at returned-merchandise discounts."

    Go ahead. Try this. Apply for the rebate (by submitting the UPC symbol) and then return the product. You can't.

    Crap detector going off big time.
  • by Hamster Lover (558288) * on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:04PM (#10762092) Journal
    I am a suburban mother stuck in a high income man's body that's an early adopter. What does that make me? It's so confusing...

    Have to go drop off the kids on my way to my Wall Street job in my brand new hovercar.

    Later.

  • by Clod9 (665325) on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:14PM (#10762149) Journal
    Another poster mentioned that Best Buy, like many other corporations, have changed their sales and marketing practices to such an extent that we now negotiate for electronics, rather than simply purchasing them. The price is no longer fixed: it depends on coupons you may hold, on a competitor's advertising circular you may have seen, your willingness to buy insurance^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hextended warranty coverage, your willingness to divulge information in order to claim a rebate.

    What Best Buy and other corporations haven't figured out is that we, the buying public, don't have any sympathy for them. They've set the rules, and we will take them for everything we can get.

    It would be different if it was a single owner. When I buy from a family-owned business down the street, I'm not going to cheat him; I will even pay more than the going rate, because I like the person and I like how the business is run. But when I buy from a corporation, the gloves are off. If they offer a half-price deal and forget to specify a limit -- fill the shopping cart! About 5 years ago, I figured out that they are trying to TAKE EVERY PENNY THEY CAN GET FROM ME, so I don't feel the slightest pang of conscience when doing the same back.

    I'm not talking about stealing. I'm only saying that, when dealing with Circuit City or Best Buy or Dell or WalMart or Safeway or ToysRUs or Home Depot or anyone else, the megastores have lost all pretense of actually caring about their customers. It isn't even slightly dishonest to gouge them if they let you do it -- because they're gouging you with every means at their disposal. Try it -- you'll find you enjoy the challenge of sticking it to them!

    (And yes, I'm sure I'm the devil incarnate for some stores I shop in.)

  • by shoemakc (448730) on Monday November 08, 2004 @09:20PM (#10762195) Homepage

    I knew this would make them come out of the woodwork.....that certain demographic of people who somehow think that the only fair price, is the :::lowest::: price.

    There's more to shopping then just price folks, and that attitude is exactly what led us to the situation we find outselves into today. There used to be a large number, of helpfull, friendly, local audio / tv / computer stores....but over time people passed them up to go to a larger box store...then an even larger box store and now these.

    What motivation does a business have to provide good service when they know their "clients" would abandon them in a heartbeat just to save a few pennies on the dollar? Then.. .then....have the nerve to claim they're being ripped off?

    Hmm...hadn't meant to turn this into a rant...but I guess it just kinda headed that way.

    -Chris
  • after tax rebat? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iplayfast (166447) on Monday November 08, 2004 @11:26PM (#10762967)
    I hate mail in rebates. It's just a way of giving the government more money. Let's say you buy something for $100 on "sale" for $75. Only trick is you've got to pay tax on $100 in order to buy it, for $75!?!

    In Canada that's 15%. So instead of paying $11.25 in tax you are paying $15. So your sale prices of $75 is actually $78.75. I know it's only three dollars, but dammit I'm cheap!^H^H^H^H^H^it's the principle of the thing!

    Not only that, in order to get the mail in rebate it costs you postage. There's another 50 cents. And my time. (That's gotta be worth at least $20 per hour flippen burgers, so it takes me 5 minutes to fill in the stuff. 5 minutes to find a stamp. 15 minutes to walk down to the mailbox, 15 minutes to walk back.)

    Hey this rebate is COSTING ME MONEY!

    Hey Best Buy/Future Shop! Why not just put it on sale if you want to put it on sale. Why give your consumers more problems. One of the reasons I perfer to buy from the small independants. (No I'm not a devil customer. I'm not a customer at all!)

  • by superultra (670002) on Monday November 08, 2004 @11:54PM (#10763121) Homepage
    Two things.

    First: anyone who's read Malcolm Gladwell's _Tipping Point_ is familiar with what he refers to as human networking hubs. These people process and relay information to their friends and family and are often responsible for purchasing decisions not only for themselves but upwards 10-20 families.

    I would venture to say that most of the people BB is actively trying to alienate are those type of people. Yes, those people will go to great lengths to manipulate rebates and pricematches and loss leaders to walk away from the store having spent as little money as possible. But these human deal hubs don't just pass on information about what BB would consider rip-off deals, they also pass on information about other products in the store.

    I think what BB is really experiencing is what Wired covered in their last issue: brands mean piss in the information age. How much are these human hubs, these financial "tipping points" financially responsible for is hard to gauge, but I imagine BB will soon find out.

    Secondly, what BB is experiencing is merely karmic retribution. What are rebates but a similar way to manipulate customers into paying more? It is boldly advertising one price and requiring a substantial amount of work to obtain. That rebates have pretty much maintained legality is beyond me. BB could stop offering rebates. They could stop pricematching. They could simply offer a product at a fair price and that be the end of it. But they don't, because these systems inherently take advantage of the consumer. Wal-mart, for all their sprawling corporate evil, are rarely on the deals sites because the price they advertise is the price you pay. So what's up BB's ass?

    Well, the internet has empowered individuals to turn the tables on corporations like BB and take advantage of these manipulative systems on wide enough scale that it obviously causes BB execs to lose sleep and break par on the golf course.

    I am a FWer, and I have walked out of BB with some pretty good deals. But I've used BB to buy dvds on opening day, I've bought several hundreds of dollars worth of electronics without finnegaling, and I've refrerred people to BB many times over. In fact, I planned to go buy Halo 2 from them tomorrow. Now, I'll be going somewhere else. I'll be visiting BB again, but when I do it will cost BB, and it will be paid for with untrackable cash.

    Way to go, Brad. Enjoy your golf.
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @12:07AM (#10763184)
    In 1981 the company I was working for sent me to Boca Raton, Florida, to the big new IBM facility there that was manufacturing the as-yet-unannounced IBM Personal Computer. I was sent for both sales and service training, and it was a very interesting two weeks. One of the most important points that was driven home to me was, "Never prequalify your customer". In other words, the guy in the T-shirt and worn jeans may very well pull out his Visa and buy a computer on the spot, and the guy in the Armani suit may be a cheap bastard who wants you to spoon-feed him product info while he goes and buys it somewhere else. This from IBM, no less. Best Buy appears to be implementing a customer profiling system that goes directly against that premise. I guess that if you want service at a Best Buy nowadays you'd best put on a suit and tie and look like you have money.
  • by Newer Guy (520108) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @01:20AM (#10763567)
    I have a friend who got screwed by a company that refused to replace a defective high power transmitting tube. From that day, whenever he was EVER buying a tube, he would call the Sales Manager up from that company to tell him how their shit attitude had cost them yet ANOTHER sale! A bunch of us signed on with him too. After a year or two, (and several hundred tube sales lost; these suckers cost thousands by the way) the Manager said: ENOUGH! What can I do to re-gain your trust? That company now provides the best service of all tube companies. The moral of the story? Don't just hit 'em in the pocketbook - TELL THEM you are!
  • by Control-Z (321144) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @02:05PM (#10768218)

    I must be one of those 20% of devils. Best Buy pissed me off so bad when I was buying my mom a $500 e-Machine computer that I go out of my way NOT to shop there. It took me 45 minutes to get out of there. All I wanted to do was take a computer off the shelf and check out, but it was much more complicated than that. The saleslady kept pushing the extended warranty, software packages, and various services. They wanted to open up the computer in their service department to check out it because "e-Machines have a high rate of returns." Well if they're so bad why are you selling them? She had no answer for that.

    Then more pleas for the extended warranty, software, and other crap. When I refused the extended warranty the second time I actually had to talk to her supervisor to let him hear for himself that I really didn't want it. The saleslady stressed that they aren't on commission, but I found later their managers ARE.

    Finally (with escort of the sales lady) I was allowed to check out. If it wasn't for the price and the fact my mom needed the computer, I would have walked off. The good news is the cheapo e-Machine is still happily running years later.

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