Long time readers know that I am a pretty calm guy until some corporation forgets that it is the customer who ultimately makes or breaks a company.
Long time readers will also recall how PayPal tried to tangle with me, and wound up losing millions of dollars in business in the ensuing public furor.
Well, I have another horror story to share with all of you, just in time for the Christmas Shopping Season. This one involves flat-panel
computer screens and the Best Buy retail outlet.
Now, in the past year, I have done perhaps $10,000 worth of business at the Aiea Best Buy store. Prior to the opening of the Aiea store I had done business with other Best Buys without a problem.
I have had, up until I met Jim the Operations Manager at Aiea, very friendly relations with the employees of Best Buy. They treat me like I am welcome. They treat me like I am wanted in their store.
So, about a week ago, a 19 inch flat-panel monitor I had purchased about a month previously at the Best Buy in Aiea
starts giving out this fizzing sound and blacking out. I take it back to Best Buy.
The Geek Squad technician confirms the monitor has fried some critical part of its circuit. After just 1 month? Yeah, after just one month.
Go figure. Okay, so I need a new monitor and since this is work related, I need it right now.
Enter Jim the Operations Manager, who proceeds to inform me that since I am 2 days past the 30 day store warranty, and since I sinned by not purchasing the
extended service coverage plan, they cannot replace the monitor without permission from the original manufacturer, and that takes 3-4 business days.
Now, I don't work in retail. I live in the real world where business and especially film and television cannot and will not wait for 3-4 business
days. So, I purchase a new 19 inch monitor right there and proceed to contact the original manufacturer to see about getting the first monitor replaced, figuring to
use it as a spare since I can no longer trust any of the four monitors of that particular brand I have already bought that month.
It is important to note that I am following TO THE LETTER the directions given me by Jim the Operations Manager. He has given me a number to call,
866-XXX-XXXX, and told me that when the original manufacturer issues me a reference number that I bring back to the Aiea store that my monitor will be replaced.
I call the toll free customer support line at 866-XXX-XXXX. The original manufacturer assigns me a number to track my case, YYYYYY.
I keep calling back and on November 16th, the original manufacturer gave me a reference number ZZZZZ and told me to go pick up my replacement monitor.
So, I go back down to Best Buy, and the Inventory Control Manager uses her Employee Toolkit to enter the reference number that the original manufacturer has
given me only to find that the number points to a totally different individual. One whole hour of phone calls later and the call center at the original manufacturer
informs me that they have found my file, and that of the other individual and have no idea why both reference numbers point to the other individual.
The really bad news, and they are OH SO SORRY, is that they cannot fix the problem; they must start the process over, and this time, because
they have to delete my current information and start over, it will likely take 10 (COUNT THEM, TEN) business days to get a new reference number.
Enter Jim the Operations Manager. Same smirk. Same air of superiority. Jim ignores his own staff that are trying to tell him that the original manufacturer
has screwed up to inform me that there will be no replacement monitor because I don't have a correct original manufacturer
reference number for the replacement. I remind Jim that I followed his instructions to obtain the reference number.
I inform Jim yet once again that I HAVE a reference number that the original manufacturer says
is for my new monitor. Jim's exact comment is "[Supplier Name Redacted] doesn't tell me how to run my store."
Jim the Operations Manager has forgotten a couple things, and I don't mean the homily about "The Customer is Always Right."
Jim has forgotten that retail stores are held responsible by their customers for the quality of the products those stores choose to sell.
Yes, products fail, and yes, a LOT of Best Buy's products fail, but customers are willing to put up with that if the
retail store will stand behind its products. Jim the Operations Manager of the Aiea store seems to have forgotten that.
Jim the Operations Manager has also forgotten that it can take years for a retail chain to build up public good will, and only one bad
incident to ruin it. And in the age of the internet, one bad incident can get a lot of traction. Does the name "Xbox 360" ring a bell?
Jim the Operations Manager has forgotten that customers are not a necessary evil for a retail store but its very life blood. Customers want to feel like they are valued and will be taken care of, not dumped the first time a loophole in the rules allows it. Customers go where they feel they are wanted.
Jim the Operations Manager has forgotten that it is far easier for customers to get by without a reseller than for a reseller to get by without a customer. And as I have no reason to suspect a personal animosity from Jim towards myself, I am left to conclude that he treats all his customers and their problems this way.
In refusing to deal with the defective monitor and the original manufacturer's screw-up with the replacement, Jim the Operations Manager has permanently lost a customer who was
spending thousands every year in that store. Is that really good business sense? There is a Circuit City just a few blocks
east and a COMP USA a mile to the west, and as of today they have just gained a $10,000 per year customer that Best Buy has lost. I don't know; maybe Jim the
Operations Manager secretly gets paid by those other stores to drive customers to them. But I digress.
In making that single $200 sale, then refusing to back it up when the original manufacturer clearly botched the replacement process, Jim the
Operations Manager has sent out a very clear message to customers; You enter Best Buy at your own risk. The products they choose to sell are unreliable,
and Jim the Operations Manager is totally unsympathetic to customers who are not being taken care of by the companies whose products Best Buy sells.
So, as you head out to do your Christmas shopping, do yourself a favor. I don't need to tell you not to do business with Best Buy.
I don't have to. Just type "Best Buy Sucks" into any search engine. You will get an education that will save you money, time, and
grief this holiday season.
UPDATE: Both Best Buy and the manufacturer of the monitor were sent an advance copy of this article and invited to respond.
Just prior to publication, the manufacturer of the 19 inch monitor contacted me to express their apologies for the product failure and the goof-up with the service center, and to arrange to ship a new monitor to me so that I would not have to return to the Best Buy Aiea store. Since they "stepped up to the plate" to address this issue and displayed a very positive attitude towards the customer I have deleted their name from this article.
Best Buy finally did telephone me, and while the lady on the phone was very pleasant, their response was an apology on behalf of Best Buy and assurances that the Store Manager of the Aiea store would be notified of the complaint about the Operations Manager. Frankly, I did not get a sense anything meaningful will be done.
UPDATE 2: I just received the following email from the manufacturer of the monitor...
I regret to hear the problem you are experiencing. When a call comes into our call center, all pertinent information is logged on a form which is then sent to Best Buy Corporate.
Usually, in 24 hrs, we are given a confirmation number for an in-store replacement/ credit. In your case, we sent the form to Best Buy on the 13 th and received a confirmation back on the 14 th . The number that was given to us was 44162 . This number was then passed on to you for use at the store. I presently have a call into my contacts at Best Buy to see what went wrong.
I regret the response that you received at our call center when you called back with the escalating situation. I will address this issue in future training with them. The most I have had to wait for a confirmation number is 48 hrs. If you would like, we could bypass Best Buy completely on this issue and perform a replacement directly. This too can also be done within 48 hrs.
Michael, I assure you that we here at [REDACTED] are focused on customer satisfaction and would like to turn this whole situation around and make it a more pleasurable one. Please let me know how you would like to proceed.
As far as I am concerned, the monitor manufacturer has "stepped up to the plate" and shown an attitude of willingness to work with the customer. Because of this attitude, I can forgive the problems with the monitor itself. Things break; that is a fact of life.
This attitude and eagerness to assist is a far cry from the attitude I am getting from Best Buy.