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How Best Buy Tried To Whip The Geek Squad Into Shape 476

Posted by Zonk
from the deeply-shocked-by-the-lack-of-subtlety dept.
The Consumerist site is featuring a follow-up to their Geek Squad porn collectors story, a feature we discussed back in July. According to Consumerist, Best Buy set up their own rigorous internal investigation to catch the culprits soon after these revelations became public. At that point, of course, employee morale went out the window. Draconian interrogation methods were apparently used, and innocent employees lost their jobs. "There were three Geek Squad members fired from my store including myself. The first two were fired for burning a non-copyrighted CD for another employee on a non company issued blank CD-R. I admitted in my interrogation that I was aware of this, and that I stopped these events after that occurrence. I was fired for being aware of this non copyrighted CD being copied. To quote, I did not provide the proper example of leadership. Keep in my mind I removed over 100 illegal tools and pirated discs upon my arrival as supervisor, as well as some remnants of an internal porn scandal."
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How Best Buy Tried To Whip The Geek Squad Into Shape

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  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:33PM (#21538859) Homepage
    You want techs that can look at the data to trouble shoot and remove viruses, etc. but at the same time won't look at the data that may be of a personal nature. The answer is obviously zombies.

    Heck, I'll make my own Geek Squad. With hookers, and blackjack...
    • by kalpol (714519) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:36PM (#21538897) Homepage
      Forget the Geek Squad. And the blackjack.
    • Butlers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alaren (682568) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:46PM (#21538993)

      While I did smile at your joke, I would mod your post insightful. As I said the last time this got brought up, techs are like doctors or lawyers, [slashdot.org] without the years of rigorous training or state ethics boards.

      But there's a reason Doctors and Lawyers cost so much. Do we really want $350/hr computer technicians?

      (Pauses for "Have you checked Best Buy's prices lately?" comment.)

      Well, however you feel about it, if you don't either (a)know how to fix it yourself or (b)know someone you genuinely trust to fix it for you, don't put sensitive data on your hard drive. Until we perfect that whole zombie thing, you're SOL, no matter how crazy Best Buy goes on their $13/hr technicians.

      • Re:Butlers (Score:5, Funny)

        by computational super (740265) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:53PM (#21539059)
        Do we really want $350/hr computer technicians?

        As a computer technician I say yes, absolutely.

        • Re:Butlers (Score:5, Funny)

          by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:20PM (#21539329) Journal
          Hell, as a Sysadmin, I'd like to carry that motion... if the box-jockeys get $350.00/hr for working on a home user's rig, then all you motherfuckers at the Enterprise level best be prepared to have your A/R department brace for impact... (evil grin).

          (and while I'm dreaming of writing up an invoice big enough to make a DoD contract agent drop his jaw in fear... well, I'd like a pony while I'm at it.)

          /P

          • Re:Butlers (Score:5, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:25PM (#21539383)
            then all you motherfuckers at the Enterprise level best be prepared to have your A/R department brace for impact... (evil grin).

            I would imagine that their Accounts Payable department would be more shocked. But then again, maybe actually understanding the difference between 'receivable' and 'payable' is the reason why the "beancounters" typically make good wages.
            • I know, I know... it didn't hit me until after I hit the submit button.

              /P

            • Re:Butlers (Score:4, Interesting)

              by shamer (897211) on Friday November 30, 2007 @07:31PM (#21539911)
              the funny thing is Best Buy contracts there Enterprise IT needs... to the company I work for. They will not let the geek squad touch any Best Buy corporate machine.
              • Re:Butlers (Score:5, Funny)

                by xSauronx (608805) <xsauronxdamnit@@@gmail...com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @07:37PM (#21539947)
                ...because the geek squad will find all the porno.
                • by torkus (1133985)
                  That, and on a serious level it's another sign of how little BB trusts their employees (read: not at all).

                  They'll have seminars, classes, training materiel about honesty, respecting the company, having pride (sic) in your job, and they essentially treat you like a criminal. Oh, and the pay is crap too.

                  Does anyone really wonder why geek squad "techs" have little to no interest in their jobs and would rather look for pron (or pics of the guy's wife even better) then do what they're supposed to.

                  Honestly, i ha
              • Re:Butlers (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2007 @08:25PM (#21540275)
                That's like saying that Webcor employs steelworkers and not their facilities guy to construct their skyscrapers even though hey they both know something about welding. The average home that geek squad goes into probably isn't running a 5,000 user Exchange server or optical switches for their SAN fabric.

        • Re:Butlers (Score:5, Insightful)

          by b17bmbr (608864) on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:29PM (#21539419)
          A very funny answer for sure, but it is a simple economics question. not how much do we pay X, but rather how do we get people to put higher value on X's services (sorry, I teach econ.) or more importantly, how to get them to opportunity cost of data loss. My school has a job shadowing program. I like to tell my students that they should not shadow jobs they might want, but rather spend time at McDonalds shadowing a burger flipper. That way, they will learn the cost of not not getting a good education. sometimes, most times, we don't really know the value (really the opportunity cost, that which we give up) of something.

          I'd gather that most people who pay $15/hour for tech service have never had a major data/security failure. $350/hr tech service is cheap if your data is worth that much. I'd guess that even for most people, this holds true, though they don't realize it. when they do, it'll be to late!!
          • The supply. That drives up prices too. If it costs more, both in monetary terms and non-economic things like time and intelligence, to do a given job it will raise the end cost of that position. If it costs more in terms of schooling and licensing, you have to charge more to make all that worth it. Nobody is going to take on $250,000 in university debt for a job that pays $6/hr, you'll never earn it back. Likewise the more skill something requires, the more options the people in it have and thus if they pay
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by CastrTroy (595695)
              How many people really go into debt for $250,000 to go to university? That sounds like an extremely high amount of money to me. Maybe if you became a doctor, and you went to Harvard, and you didn't make any money during your schooling at all, and you had absolutely no scholarships, and drank a case of beer every day, and... Anyway, that seems like you would be going into quite a bit of debt. I know people who went though school funding the whole thing with no help from their parents, and still came out
              • It's not hard. Takes a hell of a lot of years of schooling, and it is competitive so the schools are generally high dollar. I work for a state university and our tuition is fairly average, which in this context means around the mean or median tuition. For an out of state undergraduate, it is about $13,000 a semester. That's over $100,000 just for your undergrad assuming a normal 4 year. Law school is more, $14,000 per semester. I don't know how many semesters it is, but it is at least 4 and I think it is cl
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by blincoln (592401)
                CastrTroy at www.kibbee.ca wrote:

                How many people really go into debt for $250,000 to go to university?

                Just to give you some perspective on how much more expensive university can be in the US than in Canada, I am an American who went to SFU [www.sfu.ca]. My non-citizen tuition there was about the same price as in-state tuition at the University of Washington would have been. My roommate, who had Canadian citizenship, paid closer to what community college costs here in the US.
            • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Friday November 30, 2007 @08:57PM (#21540483)
              Nobody is going to take on $250,000 in university debt for a job that pays $6/hr, you'll never earn it back.

              Please use google to lookup "Liberal Arts Majors"

              What do you call a liberal arts major? "Check please!"

              Badabing!
              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by Valdrax (32670)
                What do you call a liberal arts major? "Check please!"

                That would be, "How do you call a liberal arts major?"
                "What do you call a liberal arts major?" would be answered, "Waiter!" or "Waitress!"

                Geez. Those who can't, criticize.
                • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                  by NoMaster (142776)

                  That would be, "How do you call a liberal arts major?"
                  "What do you call a liberal arts major?" would be answered, "Waiter!" or "Waitress!"
                  So, you majored in Lit. Crit. too?

        • Re:Butlers (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Technician (215283) on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:58PM (#21539695)

          Do we really want $350/hr computer technicians?

          As a computer technician I say yes, absolutely.


          I don't. It is for the same reason we don't use $100/hour TV repairmen. It's cheaper to replace it than fix it. I used to fix VCR's and Camcorders when they were well over $500 items. Now that many of them can be replaced for about 2 hours of labor or less, I have found other employment. Be careful what you wish for. You might get it and have no work.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Blkdeath (530393)

            I don't. It is for the same reason we don't use $100/hour TV repairmen. It's cheaper to replace it than fix it. I used to fix VCR's and Camcorders when they were well over $500 items. Now that many of them can be replaced for about 2 hours of labor or less, I have found other employment. Be careful what you wish for. You might get it and have no work.

            Oh. At which retail outlet can I replace the last decades' worth of financials and client data for my company? What's that worth, the cost of a CD-R and some shrink wrap?

            It's not the cost of the vessel that matters, it's what's contained within that's worth $350/hour. I have nothing critical in my television set, however I would like the DVD back when I throw away my DVD player.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Technician (215283)
              Oh. At which retail outlet can I replace the last decades' worth of financials and client data for my company? What's that worth, the cost of a CD-R and some shrink wrap?

              Data Recovery services is another specialty. That can command high prices for data that is a lot more valuable than the hardware. Often computer repair is wipe and reinstall. You pay more for data recovery.
      • Some software developers/architects already bill out considerably more than $350/hour.

        Not me, sadly. :-(
      • Re:Butlers (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Blkdeath (530393) on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:09PM (#21539219) Homepage

        But there's a reason Doctors and Lawyers cost so much. Do we really want $350/hr computer technicians?

        No, but $100-200/hour depending on the skill levels required sounds perfectly acceptable to me.

        I was priced out of the market in computer and networking repair in my area because of every Joe and Sally who'd taken a crash course, read a few books or were just "the smart computer person" in their house opening up shop and charging ridiculously low rates for repair work.

        Sure, for on-site work I was billing myself out at $60/hr and they were billing out at $20/hr. Sounds great, right? Sure it does; until you realize it takes them 5 hours to perform the tasks I can perform in 1 and mine won't be a cobbled together nightmare.

        Sure, a few clients realized this and called us back in to fix the problems these cheap techs caused them (usually more problems than solutions) but it simply wasn't enough. We couldn't compete with the prices, we couldn't stand (or afford) to contract ourselves out for such low rates and we wouldn't dream of resorting to the tactics these places used to ensure job security (namely "leave behinds").

        I've said for years that there should be a standard body for establishing credentials for computer technicians that includes proof of skills and semi-annual retesting to ensure skills development matches the pace of the industry and that a standardized set of fees should be established by this body to be charged by its members. If an organization chooses to have their work done by a non-member they do so at their own peril.

        • Re:Butlers (Score:5, Interesting)

          by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:27PM (#21539397) Homepage Journal

          I've said for years that there should be a standard body for establishing credentials for computer technicians that includes proof of skills and semi-annual retesting to ensure skills development matches the pace of the industry and that a standardized set of fees should be established by this body to be charged by its members.

          You mean something like CompTIA? [comptia.org]

          I've mentioned this guy before; he had graduated from a local technical school and was even a card-carrying A+ tech. As this school had the reputation of "pay to pass", I decided to test him, and pointing at an open box, asked him to point at the motherboard.

          He pointed at the case. I repeated the question, wording it differently.

          He pointed back at the case.

          Standards organizations only work when they're not cash-oriented, and there's always some unscrupulous ninny willing to trade cash for sheepskins...

          • Diploma mills (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Blkdeath (530393) on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:46PM (#21539587) Homepage

            You mean something like CompTIA?

            I've mentioned this guy before; he had graduated from a local technical school and was even a card-carrying A+ tech. As this school had the reputation of "pay to pass", I decided to test him, and pointing at an open box, asked him to point at the motherboard.

            No, I specifically avoided mentioning them because I firmly believe their organization and the certificates they provide aren't worth the paper they're printed on (even if they provided PDF files). It's also widely known amongst the technically literate which "schools" are little more than diploma factories (if you pay your $8 grand, hell, here's your diploma! You're now educated!) I've dealt with way too many "I have ${cert} so I'm qualified to make six figures! Hire me or your company will wither and die!" types to mention.

            My boss informed one of them that he should be a garbage man. See, he was trying to string together an ethernet LAN without using a hub or switch (because that's wrong, or something) but instead by installing two network cards in each of the fifteen computers and cabling them one to the next to the next in a lovely bastardization of, I dunno, token ring with ethernet with thinnet with ...

            What we need is a professional standards body that actually measures skills and mandates periodic skills reviews to maintain certification according to accepted industry guidelines. Practical examinations as well as an apprenticeship period would be preferable to ensure capability.

            If I'm not mistaken, one can still go out and buy a CompTIA A+ certification book, schedule a time to take the test and be certified without ever actually opening the case on a computer, which was also the cause of the complete industry-wide invalidation of the MCSE certification when it came out.

            Take for example Cisco certs (yeah yeah); the CCNA means nothing in a practical sense, but it does indicate that you have some grounding in networking fundamentals. Ok. So you can assist our network techs and troubleshoot problems at the LAN level. After a couple years experience you write the CCNP test. Now you're able to move into the bigger office and assist our WAN techs and touch the real routers. A few years of this and you enroll in the CCIE program. Combine that with 10+ years in the trenches and suddenly four letters mean you can pretty much write your own ticket.

            However if you somehow do manage to aquire even a CCIE but don't have a decades worth of relevant experience you may as well have saved yourself the few grand and just written your CCNA because, hey, you're our new tape switcher.

            Combine all this certification nonsense with HR people and management who don't understand anything about the computer industry but who do recognize "industry recognized certification body" and associate it with "skilled professional" and make the leap to "qualified for this position" and you have a very large disconnect from reality, compound that a million fold and welcome to today.

            • by Colin Smith (2679) on Friday November 30, 2007 @08:08PM (#21540159)

              What we need is a professional standards body that actually measures skills and mandates periodic skills reviews to maintain certification according to accepted industry guidelines. Practical examinations as well as an apprenticeship period would be preferable to ensure capability.
              Sorry that isn't enough to give high salaries. It is a good beginning step though. You want to know what the ??? step is towards profit? Scarcity.

              1: What you do is persuade your local representative that government contracts require the professional certification.

              2: You persuade your representative that certification is required to practice at all.

              3: That's when you hit paydirt. Profit!!!

              The key to profit is scarcity. Induced naturally, by law or by whatever means you can arrange. It's how the doctors and lawyers have arranged to become wealthy.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by QuantumRiff (120817)
                Ahh, we could be like plumbers.. Want to be one of us? You'll have to be an "apprentice" for x years, for bad pay, and crappy work (yeah, I know). Then, you can take the test, but only you have the x000 hours of "apprentiship". Then you can be called a plumber, and learn how poop should always run downhill, or else it backflows
              • by Blkdeath (530393) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:43PM (#21540803) Homepage

                Sorry that isn't enough to give high salaries. It is a good beginning step though. You want to know what the ??? step is towards profit? Scarcity.

                That's part of the problem with not having any sort of standardized governing body from the start. The cost of entry to IT is effectively the cost of either a home PC setup and an Internet connection, a couple books, the cost to sit for an A+ exam, etc. In other words, the cost is practically nil. Hence we have every high school/college kid or every burger flipper with a home PC and broadband (or dial-up in the beginning) thinking they're qualified to be a computer / network technician.

                Then comes the dot-com era. Techies are suddenly glamorous and anybody can make $75k/year out of high school, or if you graduate college/university you can walk into six figures straight away! Dilute that to include anybody with an MCSE, A+ et al. and you've got this massive influx of students into any educational facility or diploma mill that's accepting tuition cheques and we have this enormous surplus of "graduates" who now believe themselves qualified.

                In a way that killed us. HR departments and hiring managers never really, truly knew what to look for in terms of certifications. Experience was up in the air because so much technology was so new who could put a time frame on it, and how well did you learn it in the time you had with it? Remember back in '97 all those ads requiring "Minimum 5 years experience with Microsoft Windows'95"?

                QuantumRiff mentioned plumbers and I'm afraid in a multitude of ways he couldn't be more wrong. The prescribed method to gain full journeyman status in any skilled trade is exactly what he said and it's there for good reason. First you have to prove yourself educated and intelligent enough to gain entry which narrows the field right off the blocks. Next you have to gain your hours of apprenticeship working in the field with actual, experienced professionals. Yes, you have to earn your stripes doing B.S. work which will include coffee and lunch runs, sweeping floors and all the other crap jobs that come along. But hey, some day you'll have your own apprentice to do the same exact thing. Everybody went through it, new people are no exception. During the course of your apprenticeship you have to attend mandatory school sessions teaching gradually more and more advanced materials which you can now relate to your actual on-the-job experience so what your experienced bosses are telling you starts to make sense.

                After your 4-5 years and your x000 hours of service (with increasing pay every year, mind you) you're now a full-fledged plumber, electrician, mechanic, glazier, mason, etc. Now, if this were the case with computer / IT professionals - don't you think there'd be much fewer of [us|them] out there, namely the unqualified sort? The few who remained would logically command a much higher pay scale and who knows, maybe this (digital) world would even be a better place for it. :)

                As a side note to QuantumRiff; have you ever experienced a house with improper plumbing/venting? Ever experienced sewer gas creeping into the building, killing all the residents? Ever had a toilet back up so severely there is literally 8" deep raw sewage covering the floor? Ever taken a shower and been scalded to the point of permanent disfigurement?

                Yeah, didn't think so. Next time you have a problem with your skilled tradesman, keep it the hell to yourself.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Squalish (542159)
          So go out there, and start a union/guild.

          That's the traditional thing to do when faced with a field where skilled, expert labor cannot compete with unskilled labor doing the same jobs.

          I was never a fan of organized labor as a negotiation tool - it's full of lose-lose situations, like whether to allow an airline's retirement benefits to lapse or allow the company to go bankrupt (resulting in those benefits being cut).

          But it has two other roles
          As a political action group, it can achieve things that no amount
          • Re:Butlers (Score:4, Insightful)

            by TheGeneration (228855) on Friday November 30, 2007 @07:38PM (#21539963) Journal
            Dude, you know you're talking to Americans right? American tech workers would rather die of starvation then pay a measly $100 a month (or less) in union dues for a union that gets them an additional $1k-2k more income.
            • Re:Butlers (Score:5, Insightful)

              by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:36PM (#21540767) Homepage

              American tech workers would rather die of starvation then pay a measly $100 a month (or less) in union dues for a union that gets them an additional $1k-2k more income.

              I don't know about you, but adherence to moral principles is worth a whole lot more to me than a measly $1-2k extra annually. You misrepresent the anti-union group's arguments by casting the issue in purely financial terms.

              Anyway, $100 a month ($1200 annually) for $1000 return would be a rather poor deal even without considering the strong moral and ethical arguments against coercing others out of work for your own benefit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hal9000(jr) (316943)
        Insightful? You have got to be kidding!

        You think you pay that much just for privacy? Hell, pay me $350/hr and I will keep your secrets. Nah brother, what we need are techs who are honest and ethics because that is right.
      • Re:Butlers (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday November 30, 2007 @07:03PM (#21539735) Journal
        I would also like to add that doctors and lawyers are protected by the law when they need to keep secrets private. A doctor can tell to his boss that a given practice goes against medical secret or medical ethics. There are no such things in IT.
    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <[Satanicpuppy] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:50PM (#21539033) Journal
      Meh. It's all about their crappy hiring practices. If you're going to have employees dealing with sensitive information, you're going to have to do more than promote morons off the sales floor, and you're going to have to pay a decent wage, and get managers who have clue, and run audits and all the crap professional shops do.

      Are they going to do that? Goes without saying, the answer is no. Running a group of techies, especially bench techs, is like herding teenagers. They're all going to think they're smarter than you, they're all going to know the "right way" to do everything, and they're not going to listen to some low tech Bob whose community college associates degree entitles him to a big sexy manager job at best buy.

      Just another example of a big corporation trying to expand into a field it doesn't know a damn thing about.
      • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:53PM (#21539055)
        People who need techs from a professional shop should get techs from a professional shop. Otherwise, they should know what kind of tech they're hiring and adjust their expectations accordingly.
      • Dunno... most local PC repair shops (from my admittedly limited experience with 'em) seem pretty much the same way - they hire kids who happen to be taking classes/courses in CS/CIS/IS, and throw 'em at it. Not like Best Buy does much different IMHO.

        Then again, I build/maintain my own stuff - the local shops are great for the occasional used part, some have some excellent geek types in them, but otherwise I wouldn't trust most local PC shops with repairing a games console, let alone machinery that I actua

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I volunteered the summer between 11th and 12th grade at a computer donation place where we refurbish computers and repair computers that we have sold in our thrift store. There were some kids my age and a lot of people who all were adults learning about technology and knew enough to be pretty damn smart about PC repair, a lot of them were going back to college or needed jobs or were veterans. They were some of the most fun people to work with and they did a good job too. I was humbled by them many times and
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ZWithaPGGB (608529)
        The problem goes beyond Best Buy, and to the tech industry in general. The buyers, be they consumers or the corporate CFOs, really have no idea what they are buying, so they can only distinguish based on price. The result has been a race to the bottom.
        Honestly, I blame the consumers, they get what they deserve. Mechanics and Plumbers get paid more than computer techs, yet the computer field is more complex and changes faster. Why does anyone expect anything other than ignorant juvenile behavior for less th
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by CastrTroy (595695)
          Probably because you can replace the entire computer for $500 (or less). If your car breaks down, and the options are, spend $1000 on repairs, or buy a new car for $15,000, then the choice is pretty simple. However, when you go into a computer shop, your computer is 2 years old, and they tell you it will cost $100 to fix it, the many people will just choose to buy a new one. If computer techs cost $80 an hour like mechanics, nobody would ever get a computer repaired.
    • by nurb432 (527695) on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:03PM (#21539167) Homepage Journal
      No, it really can be done. You just have to train yourself.

      Once you can sit at a desk with a CEO and help him format his confidential IPO document but don't read one word in the process, you have succeeded.
      • by pla (258480)
        Once you can sit at a desk with a CEO and help him format his confidential IPO document but don't read one word in the process, you have succeeded. [bolding mine]

        ...Because you only need to read one number to make sure you buy in (or sell out) at the right time. ;-)
      • by msimm (580077)

        Once you can sit at a desk with a CEO and help him format his confidential IPO document but don't read one word in the process, you have succeeded.
        Honestly I know what you're talking about. I can do it too, but it still worries me. Our priorities are funny.
  • by Spinlock_1977 (777598) <Spinlock_1977 AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:34PM (#21538873) Journal
    Sounds like you did all the right things - I'd hire you in a snap. Don't let the micro-managers of the world get you down - their heads will be rolling down the same street soon.
    • by megaditto (982598)
      Sounds like the poster has put the wrong spin on things. What he probably said:

      I was aware of this, and that I stopped these events after that occurrence

      What he should have said is:

      I was aware of this, and that I stopped these events after that occurrence

      He also probably went on about how the CD wasn't copyrighted thinking it vindicated him, but honestly they probably don't give a fuck since the keyword here is copying. The takehome lesson here is to know what the PHBs are looking for, and deliver it to them.

      • who cares if you copy a CD that you're allowed to copy?
        • by davetd02 (212006) on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:33PM (#21539457)
          who cares if you copy a CD that you're allowed to copy?

          Because the whole problem that BestBuy had was techs copying material from customer computers. It sounds like the rule was "no copying of CDs, period" because that's a clear bright-line rule that is easy to enforce. If a CD is being copied then there's a problem. The alternative rule ("no copying unless you can prove it's yours") introduces a nightmare of proof and its own maze of privacy violations: if a supervisor suspects that a CD of personal data is being copied then he'd have to look through the files on it, which could be the employee's personal files or the customer's personal files. Inevitably there would be disputes as to whether the files could be copied or not ("I swear I was just copying software, not documents, from the customer's computers" or "this is my friend Billy's computer and he said it'd be OK") and the problem wouldn't get solved.

          In large organizations with a bunch of employees, bright-line rules are fair for everyone as long as they're well-publicized. Employees know exactly what behavior is and is not allowed, and the company can protect the privacy of its customers.

          Look for a new job, kid. It sucks that you lost this one, but there are a lot of better jobs out there.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:38PM (#21538911)
    rarrrrrr, I'd love for the Geek Squad to whip my naughty ass and punish me anyway they see fit for my transgressions and pirating.

    Warmest regards,

    CmdrTaco
  • I bet those $35k/year managers felt good after getting a chance to swing their dicks around. On a more positive note, I'm sure these guys will end up with better jobs now that there's motivation to look for one. That usually tends to be the case with talented people stuck in shit hole jobs.
    • by CRCulver (715279)
      I think you'll find that a great many people would prefer crap jobs with limited responsibility to a job that pays more and yet drains one's youth and energy.
  • by Cassini2 (956052) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:41PM (#21538937)
    In Canada, you might have a case for wrongful dismissal. You stopped the activity from occurring after it occurred. Your not supposed to fire employees after every small infraction occurs. You need to try remedial action first. If you fired everyone that made a small mistake, you would run out of employees pretty quickly.
    • by ackthpt (218170) *

      In Canada, you might have a case for wrongful dismissal. You stopped the activity from occurring after it occurred. Your not supposed to fire employees after every small infraction occurs. You need to try remedial action first. If you fired everyone that made a small mistake, you would run out of employees pretty quickly.

      Sure, but if you're above the people you are sacking, you look like you took corrective action to your own supervisor. The Best Buy around me, whenever I go in there, looks like it is run by kids. I figure those who are on some sort of track stick around for a year to give their resume an entry and move outward and upward.


      • blockquote>
        Sure, but if you're above the people you are sacking, you look like you took corrective action to your own supervisor.


        By the logic of this firing, firing the subordinate only after you become aware of the transgression is not soon enough. You my friend, are fired too. Darn, that escalates all the way to the top. Oops, loophole. The CEO recognizes the error of his ways right before it applies to him.

        Michael Moore points out in Sicko that fear over loss of health care benefits (severely emph
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by merreborn (853723)

      In Canada, you might have a case for wrongful dismissal.

      IANAL, but my understanding is: in the US, if you don't have a contract (and it's a pretty safe bet that Best Buy employees don't), then you're employed "At Will", and may be terminated for (almost) any reason at any time -- although it varies by a small. It's very, very hard to successfully sue for wrongful termination of at-will employment, short of cases of gross discrimination -- blatant, documented racism, sexism, or something along those lines.

      h [wikipedia.org]

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:41PM (#21538939)

    Suggestion: wrongful termination [google.com]

    Or try "employment lawyer." Beware: the US is largely employment-at-will. So, unless you're a minority, pregnant/a woman, handicapped, over 50, or in the military...you're pretty much screwed.

    Shame, as it wasn't always that way [rbs2.com], and the US is one of the few places where at-will employment is the norm.

    • "So, unless you're a minority, pregnant/a woman, handicapped, over 50, or in the military...you're pretty much screwed."

      You know, there's an easier way to say this .... Young White Males.
    • by jdray (645332) on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:00PM (#21539127) Homepage Journal
      "At will" employment is the norm in America because litigation is also. As a small business owner, when I fire someone, I don't give a reason. With the exception of one case, where the person in question was completely oblivious to what was wrong with what she did to get fired, people know by the time I fire them why they're being fired. By not giving a reason for the firing, I protect myself from wrongful termination suits.

      The Best Buy situation described here is far different than that of a small cafe owner like myself, and the situation at hand was much more complicated than those that I deal with. For instance, in the case of the oblivious employee I mentioned, I caught her sitting in the sun with her boyfriend when she was supposed to be out on a delivery. It wouldn't have been so bad, except that the other four people back at the cafe were up to their eyebrows in deliveries backing up because she hadn't returned, and we had a line of customers at the counter. This was after several instances of stern discussions with said employee about her insubordinate attitude, being late all the time, and lack of focus. When I fired her, I explained simply that, "it isn't working out," and that was the end.

      I, for one, am glad for the at-will employment laws. But, as with anything, they can be abused.
    • by KiahZero (610862) on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:30PM (#21539427)
      It doesn't work that way. Everyone's protected against discrimination on the basis of race, sex (including pregnancy status), national origin, religion. Disability, age, and I believe military status are non-reciprocal.

      If you're fired because you're white, you have a claim, just as you would if you were fired because you're black. If you're fired because you're a man, you have a claim, just as you would if you were fired because you're a woman. If you're fired because you're not pregnant (that'd be an interesting situation), you have a claim, just as you would if you were fired because you were pregnant. If you're fired because you're Christian, you have a claim, just as you would if you were fired because you're Discordian.

      On the other hand, discrimination on the basis of age is only actionable for any age over 50 (so if you were fired because the company preferred to have 60 year olds instead, you'd have a claim, but not if you were fired because of your youth below the age of 50). The ADA only covers the disabled, so there's no recourse there if you're fired because you're not disabled, and while I haven't dealt with military discrimination in the past, I believe the law is structured in a similar manner (it would depend on whether it was written as barring "discrimination on the basis of military status" or something similar, or if it was written as barring discrimination against people because of their current status in the armed forces).

      More on-topic, at-will employment does indeed suck.
  • when you're dealing with an organization the size of Best Buy, you aren't going to have people taking the time to see if Geek Squad employee intentions were in the right place. To make it simple, they probably just said any employee that knew of wrong doings and didn't report them or fire the responsible party (or whatever) had to be let go ... no exceptions, because that opens the door for every employee to plead their special case.
    • by Dan667 (564390)
      I have worked for a big corp and I bet it went more like this. Big wig, marching orders - minions, thoughtless execution. There is no incentive for most middle managers to be good at their job aside from making their boss happy so you get dumb decisions like these. Best Buy should be doing a better job of collecting feedback for performance reviews, but that takes a lot of effort so you get these kind of results.

      I really feel for the author, he is clearly in the right and I hope he gets snapped up by a
  • "Non-copyrighted"? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:43PM (#21538975) Homepage
    > "The first two were fired for burning a non-copyrighted CD..."

    What do you mean by "non-copyrighted"?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:52PM (#21539047)
      I want to know that too.

      There's "open source" (and other licenses that permit copying), "fair use", "copied by copyright owner" that would all be legal, and very occasionally "public domain".

      But the copyright always belongs to someone, even if they have licensed that right widely.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm a GS agent as well and in our precinct we went through the same sort of thing, although we didn't have any of those torture session or anything. Corporate confiscated all of our harddrives and external backup devices and said they were checking for SOP compliance. About three weeks later or so we got a message from them saying we were 100% compliant with approved tools and such so as far as corporate was concerned we were angels. Any agent that has the time to look through someone's personal files must
    • by Blkdeath (530393)

      I think they were right in sacking the agents who weren't working while on the clock. Our budgets are pretty harsh, so we don't have the service budget to give you hours to burn porn on the clock.

      Pardon me? If you're representative of a typical GS member I'm glad I've never taken one of my machines to you for any work. It takes all of 2-3 minutes to locate, copy, and initiate a transfer of a media directory. It takes about the same amount of time or less to initiate a CD-R burn of said data.

      You're aware that with modern operating systems users can perform multiple operations simultaneously, right? It's entirely possible to copy files to, say, a thumbdrive whilst installing iTunes and re-arrangin

  • So at Best Buy... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:46PM (#21538997) Homepage Journal

    So at Best Buy you show your management potential by collecting scalps. How is this different from too many other places?

    • So at Best Buy you show your management potential by collecting scalps. How is this different from too many other places?
      When I was a part of a big faceless corp you had to do some seriously heinous things to get fired. A firing an employee reflected badly on the manager and hurt their managers future prospects if it occurred too often. But I live in Canada so the big faceless corporate evil likely exist in another form.
  • One-sided guess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by secolactico (519805) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:47PM (#21539007) Journal
    Based on the side of the story told in the article, I would guess that they couldn't find anybody "guilty enough" to fire. Maybe the one guy they caught with the illegal data and didn't fire had connections of some sort. Still, they wanted to fire somebody to make an example and their numbers came up. The CD burning incident was probably an excuse after the decision was taken.

    Still, it is only one side of the story and I don't know the author of the same so I'm basing my speculation on his word.

    After an embarrassing corporate incident, it's easier to look "tough on crime" and fire somebody than actually fixing the problem. "Yes, we had a security incident a while ago. 200 employees were fired as a result. We take this things seriously".
  • What exactly is a non-copyrighted CD? There as -no- artistic merit to anything on the CD? It would have to be raw data and executables, no artwork, no source code... Nothing copyrightable because the instant that it's created is when copyright takes effect.

    Even if the original employee was the copyright owner and had given permission, it is -still- copyrighted. And that's against the store policy.

    Were the interrogations wrong? Absolutely. Should he have been fired? Maybe... He obviously didn't read
  • Honestly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eyeareque (454991) *
    You seem like a smart guy. You don't belong working for geek squad. Find yourself an IT computer support job at any office and you will be much happier. I worked for CompUSA for 3 months... it was a harsh 3 months let me tell you. The pay is horrible and the management is bad as well. I quit my job at CompUSA and started an IT support position for a local telephone company. It was basically the same work, but I didn't have to deal with annoying customers or managers as much for almost double the pay. It als
  • People are fired due to a series of events, not one in particular. No one wants to lose a good employee that makes a single bad decision. Given I'm not familiar with this situation, I'm willing to bet there's more to this story than just a CD being copied. Regardless, learn from this, move onward & upward. The worst thing you could probably do is dwell on it.
  • Not Suprised (Score:5, Informative)

    by tkid (821402) on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:08PM (#21539205)
    Long ago, in college, I worked at Best Buy in Indianapolis. I worked in the Audio/Car Audio departments. So anyways, one night I'm coming into work and get pulled aside by the LP guy (the goofy guys where the yellow shirts that think they're important). I thought he was just going to ask me to watch the front while he took a break but instead pulled me in one of the front offices. Told me he'd be right back after asking me to sit down.

    A few minutes later, he comes in with one of the assistant managers with him, they both sit down and hand me a clipboard with paper and pen. They ask for me to write down everything I've stolen. I'm like, WTF? I haven't stolen anything is my only reply to every question. The LP guy kept getting in my face, yelling and moaning that I've stolen something. He gets pissed and threatens to call the police, I say, call them, I'd love to explain to them your false accusations without any proof even if I did steal something.

    The LP guy leaves and the manager there has nothing to say. Granted, I was shocked cause it was the only manager I liked. The only thing I said at that moment was, "I've lost all respect for you at this time!"

    So the LP guy comes back and then threatens with police and polygraph test, I'm all open for the idea, this just pissed him off more. We exchange more words, he keeps demanding I write down everything I've stolen so I just dropped the damn clipboard and pen. I proceed to tell them, if you have nothing on me as I have not stolen anything, I'm leaving. LP guy walks out again all pissed, comes back in a few minutes and tells me I'm suspended til further notice. He escorts me out.

    By the time I get home, I get a call from a co-worker who's pissed off and tells me the same exact story. They pulled him in right after me, same type of interrogation. We later found out they did this to all but 2 employees in the Audio/Car Audio department. 6 out of the 8 that is.

    If we go back in time a little, they were opening a new store and had others help out from the surrounding stores. Guess which 6 helped, the 6 let go. While we were helping the store, they said we would get paid retro type pay since the other store didn't have us in their system. So we determined this was just a way for them to just not pay us after we kept insisting on our paychecks from the overnight work and days off we spent at the other store.

    Funny to think two weeks later we show up for our final check and they tell us we've been fired, our only response was, "Really, cause we already found other jobs, why would we want to work here after what happened?"

    We all talked to a lawyer but the amount owed he said just wasn't worth it to sue.

    Moral of the story, Best Buy = Shitty Place to Work
    • by Gazzonyx (982402) on Friday November 30, 2007 @07:56PM (#21540069)
      As a former manager of a fast food joint (it was good money for a high school student), I've seen a good number of managers who pull this crap. They're all talk. And they take themselves seriously. If you're ever in a situation like this again, push the envelope. If he says he's going to call the cops, and then doesn't, pick up the phone and call. Ask them to come down, as there is an issue that needs to be resolved. If they threaten to take it up to the store manager, suggest they call the regional manager and ask someone to get you the number (actually calling is a matter of politics that cannot be covered in a short message - but they won't let you anyways, so it's a moot point).


      If you're going to lose your job anyways over something you didn't do, take the time to put a black mark on their record as well. If you don't get fired (as you've put them in a place where all eyes are looking to see if they do the right thing), it's the last time anyone will accuse you of anything you didn't do. Ever.

      These type of people are bullies, and they get away with whatever they want until someone calls their bluff and one-ups them. They always pull you aside since they have no authority in a group; the more public you make the whole ordeal, the less power they have. Even if it's a crap job, the experience will pay off later down the road.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by einhverfr (238914)
      When I was in college I had an employer refuse to pay me promised retro pay. I complained to the a) Congress (i.e. you might want to have the IRS see if this is just the tip of the iceberg), b) landlord, c) largest customer. They went belly up the next year, in part because of bad press. I would have gone to L&I too, but for $100 in retro pay due to a raise that I given but never showed up on my paycheck, it didn't seem worth it.
  • What CD has no copyright? Copyright is automatic, and not released unless expressly done so.

    Methinks he means "free to copy", such as a CD full of BSD, GPL, etc license code. All such licenses maintain copyright, they have to.
    • What CD has no copyright? Copyright is automatic, and not released unless expressly done so. Methinks he means "free to copy", such as a CD full of BSD, GPL, etc license code. All such licenses maintain copyright, they have to.

      People keep asking that. I'm completely confused as to how it matters. A customer's computer and everything it contains is sacrosanct. A technician should have the ethical responsibility to consider everything on it property of the computer owner, and act only as they've been requested to. If the customer asks you to remove spyware, you're free to delete any files you deem to be spyware. Under no circumstances shy of "hey Mr. Technician, feel free to take a copy of the files I've got stored in C:\COPY

      • by Bartab (233395)
        Nowhere in the article does it say the CD came from a customer's hard drive. If you have personal information about the case, please provide it!

        If, however, you're just ASSuming something, shut the hell up.
  • Can we start a union of computer workers so we have a little more barganing table? If Hollywood writers, janitors, garbagemen, Disney employees, etc. can unionize and fight back for some rights, we can too.

    Imagine what kind of mess they would be in if there was a strike?

    Is there any reason that we CAN NOT have a computer tech or programmers union? Seriously.
    • It's called the Communications Workers of America. Mostly in the telecom industry, but also cover various IT positions as well.
    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday November 30, 2007 @07:03PM (#21539737) Journal

      Is there any reason that we CAN NOT have a computer tech or programmers union? Seriously.

      We could, but the question is - would you really want to?

      I mean, Unions are great for certain career fields, but this ain't one of them. While yes a Union would curb management excess, it also tends to retard employee excellence.

      Case in point - Seniority. You, I, and pretty much most folks who think it through know full well that time-on-the-job does not equal competency-on-the-job. Problem is, most Union shops (I've worked in a few as a member) eat, sleep, and breathe Seniority. This means that merit no longer counts.

      Admittedly, these obstacles are few, but some of them can be rather large ones.

      Go on strike? Err, why, because some poor bastard in some other company or division thereof got a raw deal by some jackass manager? Screw that. I saw something similar as a teacher once. The whole damned state union (UEA) wanted to walk out on a week of school days, because they only got a modest annual raise instead of a large one... Meanwhile, I had just got on, and had fully negotiated my own salary and benefits --to my satisfaction-- before I accepted the position; just like each and every one of them could have done (Utah state law fully allows this).

      I don't know... I guess I just prefer the free agency of it all. I like the fact that I can advance without waiting for someone ahead of me to die off or retire. I like being able to move into a senior position at a new place without having to pay the dues (both monetary and otherwise), or being locked into something I know I can get a better deal out of - if only I am allowed to negotiate it independently. If I want to do something after-hours, I can (okay, sometimes it's a have-to deal, but I knew that going in and I get paid overtime for such cases, so...)

      Anyrate, it's a whole other culture, and not exactly the panacea that it appears to be. Having been in good Unions (Ironworkers, local 493) and bad (Utah Educators Ass'n), I know that it's a whole other world that what most folks expect.

      (and if you think outsourcing is ugly now - just wait'll the PHB's realize you gave them a friggin' union to deal with. Your job will disappear faster than grain alcohol in a frat house).

      /P

  • Best Buy doesn't deserve to have good employees if that's how they handle situations. But they sure need better ones than the ones who made that call. Try to get the job back with sweet reason? There was probably just one fool who made that very bad decision, and perhaps other authorities within the company will feel differently, and may restore your job, and make amends. If there's no willingness to do that, then since fear cost the job, maybe fear can get it back, as in threaten to report them and/or

  • Best Buy has zero loyalty. That's basically a fact. You may do great work, you may be super nice, but if they're looking for a scapegoat or someone to take a fall, you will go down.

    I don't know what else to say about this matter except if you haven't yet, head over to BestBuySux.org...

    Wait, what the heck? That site is now owned by Best Buy or some related PR company? Tis a sad day that so many great stories are gone.
  • Welcome... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by repetty (260322) on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:35PM (#21539481) Homepage
    Welcome to corporate Amerika.

    As the years go by, you'll recognize that this type of behavior is normal. The company that I work at reorgs every 12-months with random no-cause firings in between.

    Don't try to understand it. "Right" and "wrong" are concepts that cannot apply.
  • by FlyingGuy (989135) <flyingguy.gmail@com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:55PM (#21539677)

    It is quite difficult to tell from your remarks how far you went in stopping this. Point of fact, you were in a supervisory position, it was YOUR JOB to nail anyone to the corporate cross for doing anything that even remotely resembled breaking the privacy rules or repeating the previous behavior.

    The bottom line is this: When someone hires you to work on their computer, your job is to fix it not snoop around, not make copies of anything unless it is to preserve their data, and then you hand the customer the CD!

    I am consultant. I work on large systems and networks which frequently requires me to have ROOT passwords, all access, ect. I don't peek, I don't poke, I don't even ponder what might be hidden away on some corner of the corporate hard drive. I do the job I am being paid to do and wrap it up.

    If you get another job in a supervisory position of technical people who work on other peoples computers, especially if its ala GeekSquad, I suggest that you immediately, if not sooner, burn anyone you catch doing something like that, tack their hide up on the wall as an example for others and do your job.

    My guess is that the people who found their shit other then where they kept it are hiring or have hired lawyers and that Best Buy / GeekSquad are going to be dragged into court and taken to the cleaners for a lot of money.

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