electronics store and staff do not have the right information

Best Buy: A Comedy or a Tragedy?

I don’t want to pick on Best Buy. I really don’t. I like their products and the services they provide are usually what I’m looking for…it’s the customer service that stumps me. Or at least the 3 of my last four visits have been ripe for writing about. The first two are here and here. Here comes the third.

I went out to the local Best Buy because I knew they carried my target: HD Flip Video Cameras. I was prepared to buy, with a little direction from a member of the floor staff on which model worked best for me. I knew they ranged from $249 to $169 and I was set to spend the higher amount because I want the best of the brand. I knew what I wanted, where it was in the store and the steps that were necessary to get it in my hot little hands – talk, point, pay, leave. You wouldn’t think that would be tough would you?

Once in the department, I pointed to the most expensive of the three Flip Video models. I should point out, one was for $169, one for $179 and one for $249. The descriptions of the products (the tags Best Buy writes of each model’s details) seemed all exactly the same. The one question I had: why is the more expensive one so much more?

Here’s the exchange between myself and Best Buy staff:

1st try:
Staff: Well, the $179 model films in 720i while the $249 films in 720p. A significant difference in HD quality. Hence why the camera is more.
Me: But your description for the $179 model says it shoots in 720p. So no difference.

electronics store and staff do not have the right information

Buyer be happy? Confused maybe.

2nd try:
Staff: The $249 has built in software while the less expensive model makes you pay for the same software online. (What?! So the camera is useless when I walk out the store until I spend MORE money?)
Me: But on your description, it says the less expensive model has built in software too. Again, no difference.

3rd try:
Staff: It’s $70 more expensive because it’s smaller and made of metal.
Me: That’s stupid.  (FINALLY the truth…which was, by the way, printed incorrectly on their tags with the size dimensions actually being bigger for the more expensive one. A typo yes…but at this point, an insult to injury).

I asked another staff member the same question and he immediately started in, “well one shoots in 720i…” Arrrrgghh. At least he sticks to the script.

How am I supposed to make the right buying choice when I’m given the wrong information? The only explanation from the three staff members I dealt with (one a manager) was, “that’s what I was told.” Ouch.

BEST BUY Conclusion:

spork, utensil, "customer service",Friend Zone – I just don’t like you in “that way.” Are you kidding me? This is our third bad date out of four…and this time you give me excuses and misinformation. How am I supposed to want to build a relationship on that? Sorry, it looks like I may just use you when it suits me. I was hoping for something more meaningful.

Service Rating System:

Friend Zone – I just don’t like you in “that way.”
Booty Call – If I don’t have anything else better going on, I’ll stop by.
2nd Date – I’ll give you a second chance.
Going steady – This could be the beginning of something major.


  • Patrick Tussie

    It irks me when I see that happening! I feel bad for the employees because their management is not providing them with the tools+training they need to handle these very basic questions. What’s wrong with, “Let me find the answer for you?” It’s frustrating when you need to do your own research online vs. going to the “experts.”

    • Employees who are confident with the right information will instill confidence in their customers. I would have hated to have bought the more expensive camera only to get home and find out I didn’t have to.

  • you asked the question: How am I supposed to make the right buying choice when I’m given the wrong information?

    best buy, or most corporations for that matter, arent concerned about customers making the “right” choice, but moreso just choice.

    i think the onus is on customers to do their due-diligence on research and not depend on sales staff to address questions/concerns. after, they are ‘sales’ staffs, not ‘research experts.’

    just my 2cents.

    • Thanks for your 2cents Rani,
      So you don’t think staff should know the products they sell? Should the responisbility be solely on the customer or should the staff take some responsibility for providing the right information?

  • Best Buy is an interesting company as it has a dual-branding strategy with Future Shop (owned by the same conglomerate). Best Buy’s retailing techniques are based on three pillars, the introduction of self-service, salespeople on fixed salaries instead of commission and their stores formats are based on a discount style. On the other hand, Future Shops’ retailing techniques are more focused on aggressive sales, commission based salaries etc. (Thanks former BCom Case Study!)

    While I’m not trying to excuse the lack of customer service at Best Buy, intrinsically, the stores are not set-up to have staff that are passionate about product knowledge or sales quotas and therefore, the customer service probably lacks. Further, because they are such a large corporation, I think that employee motivation at the bottom level of the organization slips through the cracks and employees see little incentive to ‘go the extra mile’ when they are making some $8 an hour.

    These are reasons why I like to buy my electronics from more local sources like the Uvic Computer Store (for one because they’re just as cheap and two, they have much better customer service!)

  • With regards to the discussion started by Rani, do you think this is the reason we are seeing a swing back to smaller businesses selling more defined products? Not so much in the electronics market (yet), but you see it in the food world–specialized cheese stores, butcher shops, bakeries. Are people demanding more of these places because they are fed up with the knowledge-deficient box store mentality? I know I appreciate going to a place that KNOWS what it is selling, inside and out. As a consumer, I will take my business to a place that I trust (read: knowledgeable and friendly), over a place that is convenient and/or big.

  • I think that smaller businesses HAVE to sell more defined products in order to compete with the larger corporations and to stay afloat. The smaller firms oftentimes market their products to a niche because they can’t compete based on price with large corporations.

    I disagree that people are fed up with the “knowledge-deficient box stores” or else these stores wouldn’t be making money (i.e. Walmart is still one of the top 5 in the Fortune 500). Many consumers will remain being price elastic and therefore shop at the box stored, however, I also think that there are 2 things happening:

    (1) With the flow of information on the internet, television and other media sources, consumers are becoming smarter and more demanding. They expect stores to know their products and unfortunately many large box stores don’t provide the training on specialized products to minimum waged workers. Box stores are more concerned with selling things quickly at high volumes and low cost to the ADD materialistic consumers of my generation, than they are with building a long-term relationship with the consumer (and the product).

    (2) My generation has grown up in a globalized world that has facilitated way more options in products and services than in the past. Accordingly, our tastes are more defined than past generations and therefore, many new niches are created. Going back to my original statement, small businesses, in order to survive in a business world marked with multinational corporations, are recognizing that they can compete and maintain longevity by offering these specialized products.

  • I think that Jason is barking up the right tree.

    However, I believe that as consumers we have to take a share of the responsibility here as well. Over the years, we have shown ourselves to be primarily price focused and often will opt for the cheaper price/more options instead of the higher priced/better quality alternative. Since retailers are well aware of our consumers biases…the box store is born. Fewer knowledgeable staff = cheaper prices. This is also why you can often fine great “online only” deals.

    As well, consumers are often more informed and are more willing to choose the product themselves.

    In the end, if you require the service, you should be OK paying more for it and I’m sure you can find a local store in need of your business. If you want the best price you can get, accept that you will not get great service and do the leg work yourself.

  • The best part of this whole scenario is that two of the three salespeople decided to make stuff up when they could have easily just grabbed the boxes for the two products and read the product information printed on them.

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