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Computer Buying Experiences at B&M Stores 449

bob gnosh writes "The team over at [H] Consumer go into Best Buy, Fry's, CompUSA, and Circuit City and buy a computer at each store. They relate exactly what happened at each store, talk about warranties, and what to do to protect yourself or your friends when buying at these places." From the article: "Navigating these retail stores isn't for the faint of heart or those not armed with the right knowledge beforehand. As much as you'd like to go to your closest strip mall, have a salesperson discern your hardware needs, and walk out with a shiny new computer that does everything but load your dishwasher, such an experience is just not going to happen. Most retail sales people are simply not going to possess the necessary knowledge to correctly recommend or explain every nuance of a piece of hardware."
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Computer Buying Experiences at B&M Stores

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  • Apple store? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by bwy ( 726112 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:53AM (#15196675)
    I think they should have also bought a computer an an Apple store to see how they measure up.
  • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:00AM (#15196757) Homepage
    OK, so I know it's slightly different. However, I would like to have seen them also go into an Apple Store and ask similar questions.

    My experience has been nothing but good in there (Regent Street), but others have reported problems so I'm perfectly happy to believe I've just been lucky and that flaws exist.

    Not a fan post claiming superiority or anything, it's just something I would have been curious to see. Apple make a lot of their 'shopping experience' (ugh, really dislike using the experience word) and it would have been interesting to see how they stacked up.


  • Interesting article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The-Bus ( 138060 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:12AM (#15196884)
    The article was more in-depth than I had imagined it would be. However, it leaves out the simple explanations for inadequate expertise in these stores.

    While the Best Buy experience was inexcusable, the other stores seemed to have pretty good service, even if their expertise was less than ideal. But their expertise only needs to be limited.

    First, retail is not the line of work you want to go into to get rich. Unless you're in management (at which point you're not talking with the customers), if you're well versed in computer hardware you can probably do better for yourself somewhere else where you'll enjoy greater pay, less hassle, and better hours. If you're in high school or college and need to raise some cash and already like computers, it's not a bad fit, but I would never expect to find a graphics card guru at my local electronics store.

    Second, most consumers buying computers don't care to be educated in their choices beyond avoiding a bad choice. As long as the computer runs what they need to and won't break, that's all they really care about. One exception in this might be laptops, although I imagine discerning businesses are not getting their laptops from Circuit City but some other source. (At which point a knowledgeable salesperson is useful, as they are selling dozens of these systems at any one time). Knowledgeable consumers, expecting uninformed salespeople at retail locations, will research first and may have limited their choices to only a few models once they get in the store.

    Third, with the exception of gamers, most people would have almost the same experience with any random computer that you select out of a store. As the article suggests, most people just want to go on the internet, check email, and run basic applications (Office, The Sims). There's no one computer that's best for that.

    Therefore, retail stores don't need to have experts on hand to assist everyone. It would be nice for them to know some of the basics and you certainly want them to be honest to the extent where it doesn't hinder their job, but not much more is needed.

    And if you really ache for that one-on-one advice, get in contact with a speciality seller like WidowPC or better yet, visit your local computer shop run by a bunch of geeks in shorts and ponytails, who will probably not steer you wrong.
  • by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <(wgrother) (at) (optonline.net)> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:18AM (#15196953) Journal

    I worked for OfficeMax on a couple of occasions in their Electronics department and was the authority on computers. Of ocurse their selection was not huge and it was easy to keep up with the differences between models, though usually customers were more interested in the price tags. At the time, the first GB hard drives were coming out and I couldn't imagine why someone would need all that room (can we say "software bloat" boys and girls?).

    It was a considerable challenge to make the differences between machines evident to the non-computer person. Numbers are daunting and don't even go into acronyms. I made sure to stay up on things so I could anticipate the more technical users, but we hardly ever got those kind of customer. I always told the other associates that you should never try to bullsh*t the customers, but try to be helpful and remember to say "I don't know" when you don't honestly know. I found a lot of people returned to the store to buy from us simply because we treated them well, not always because we had the best price.

    Of course today, you get either A) the guy out to pad his commission, who won't leave you alone, even after you make it clear you know more than he does about the machines, B) the slacker who is there to earn money because his parents cut him off and he'd rather be doing anything other than helping or customers or C) the guy who knows about 5 computer phrases and is pretty good at making up the rest as he goes along. For that eason, I order on-line now.

  • by b0wl0fud0n ( 887462 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:52AM (#15197287)
    Yes but that higher payrate also gives them more weight to pressure you to buy things you don't need to buy. My friend used to work at Best Buy and used to brag in high school about all the commission he was making because all these old people who didn't know what they were doing would come up to him for help and he'd make them buy things they didn't even need.

    One of my professors (Larry Selden) shaped their business model to focus and prey on people who had loads of money and didn't know anything about computers. He was able to increase Best Buy's profit by just ignoring the lower end of the market which is probably one of the reasons why the Best Buy sales people didn't help them as much as the other retailers. He changed Best Buy's strategy to ignore "demon" customers. These are customers who tie up a salesworker but never buys anything, or who buys only during big sales. Or one who files for a rebate, then returns the item. Th people at [H] would have fit this description...and is the reason why they didn't help them at all.
  • CompUSA experience (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sfjoe ( 470510 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:58AM (#15197346)
    I refuse to set foot in a CompUSA after having been ripped off by them. I received a router as a Christmas present and found that it was DOA when I plugged it in. I took it back to CompUSA and, since I didn't have a receipt, they refused to exchange it for a working model. I wasn't looking for cash or even store credit - I just wanted a working router. Since then, I've discovered they charge exorbitant "restocking fees". One friend opened the box with his new Imac and found it was cracked. Compusa charged him $200 to replace it with an unbroken Imac. How this is legal, I don't know. They're low-life pirates and I'll never shop there. I take every opportunity to direct people to alternate stores.

  • by Jett ( 135113 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:59AM (#15197351)
    Sad but true - a few years ago a friend wanted to buy a new PC and had me come along to the local mom and pop computer store. I lurked nearby while the sleazy salesman did his song and dance, when he finished I came over and asked a few pointed questions, next thing I know he's started a full on argument about whether a Celeron can do floating-point operations or not! It was incredibly absurd because the guy clearly did not know what the hell he was talking about and until he started getting agitated had just been the normal sleazy saleman kind of guy trying to make a sale to my friend. So finally to end the argument he yells to the back of the shop and this dirty fat man lumbers out, he says: "this is our lead technician who knows everything about computers - can a Celeron do floating point operations?" The huge dirty "techician" looks at me and says "No, don't buy a Celeron - it can't do floating point operations and is worthless".

    That company went out of business about two years later.
  • Re:re (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:48PM (#15197815) Homepage Journal
    "The only reason the slashdot crowd knows the best buy guys are full of shit is because they actually know more about electronics than the average person."

    I gotta say..it really hurts me to be in a store like BB, and hear the crap they are telling people, and it sometimes takes everyting I have in me to keep my mouth shut. On more than on occasion, I've had to tell people the truth. I saw an older couple wanting to buy an HD tv...and the sales goof was telling them all kinds of shit...I caught then when he walked away for a bit...and told them about the need for HDMI, for future use...that they'd need an external tuner or cable box with that model...and that one of the ones he was pushing, wasn't really HD...it didn't even have 720p resolution levels...

    I mean, I'm no expert..but, I just can't stand when they spew crap at people that is either ignorant or down right deceptive....

  • by NewKidInTown ( 888648 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:16PM (#15198088)
    True story: My brother worked at a Best Buy while putting himself through culinary school. He spent days in the kitchen, and worked nights during the holiday season trying to sell stereos to desperate holiday shoppers. Being a fairly young and tech-savvy guy, he actually does his research and knows a fair bit about the stereos he's selling. Other salespeople in his area end up sending customers to him with questions when they don't have answers.

    So one night, a woman comes in looking to buy something for her son. She singles out my brother and starts asking him all sorts of questions about the various floor models on display. My brothe fields all of her questions, and unfortunately goes a little over her head with some of his explanations. In a good natured sort of tone, the woman replies, "Well, you may know a lot about these things, but I bet you wouldn't know anything about cooking a roast."

    My brother smiled, and said, "Well, if you want it medium rare, it should cook to about 140 degrees..."

    The woman just stared at him, and then thanked him for his help and took the completed order form. My point is, not all the underpaid Best Buy drones are completely useless. Some of them are just there because it's the job they can have while waiting to do something else.
  • Re:re (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:45PM (#15198395) Homepage Journal
    I heard one guy trying to sell a warranty on a router, saying that's he's had 3 break down in the last year and a half, and that the warranty would be a really good idea. When in reality I don't think I've ever heard of a router failing. I really wanted to tell them that he was lying, but in the end didn't. I'm not one to confront people.

    I'm normally quite non-confrontational, but I just found it too funny when one salesperson was trying to push an extended warranty on a TV I just told them I wanted. Basically they were using the same line, basically representing the product as garbage that breaks down all the time, thus making the extended warranty a necessary thing. I replied that maybe I wasn't interested if the products they were selling was such junk. It was remarkable seeing the story change, and it demonstrated that it was, of course, just blatant lying to try to sell an extended warranty.
  • Re:re (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @03:00PM (#15199063) Homepage
    I agree to a point-
    People have riduculous expectations. For example, they want to be able to buy a Dell for $300 that would have been considered a supercomputer 5 years ago (exaggeration) and then are upset when it has crappy support.
    People want products cheaply- which makes margins thin, which takes away money for "better" employees....
    There are still places around where you can get good service and a decent price. There is an independent electronics store near me that sells TVs and such. I was talking to a salesguy, who was super nice and knew about everything there is to know about TVs, and he said that people just assume that because they are small that they are more expensive. The fact is, they were w/in $5 of Best Buys prices on about everything... ($5 on $1000 items, and actually cheaper for some things.)

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