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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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  • re (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:48AM (#15196615) Homepage
    Um- this sounds like buying most things, from washing machines to cars. Salespeople that aren't knowledgable? No way! You need to research things yourself....
    • Re:re (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:58AM (#15196720) Homepage Journal
      Um- this sounds like buying most things, from washing machines to cars. Salespeople that aren't knowledgable? No way! You need to research things yourself....

      Salespeople in many industries are very knowledgable, and are actually capable of listening to your needs and making informed, educated choices to guide you to the right purchase. The primary problem with electronics, however, is that many of the shops they visited pay their employees close to minimum wage, possibly with a marginal commission enticement. Given that, who do you think will fill those roles? I don't intend to demean workers at those shops, but it's inevitable: You're not finding the brightest stars of the tech world toiling away, with terrible hours, for $8 an hour at the local Best Buy.

      Compare this to real estate where an agent might make $20,000+ on the sale of a single home. While there are exceptions, the financial draw does entice more intelligent, more motivated, more capable individuals. The same can be said for many other sales industries where representatives can actually make enough to earn a decent living, and to credibly call it a real career.
      • Re:re (Score:3, Insightful)

        My point is that many b to c (retail) salespeople are horrid.
        Obviously professional salespeople who sell B to B are different.
        The salesperson who sells million dollar computer systems to industries and pulls in 500k in commisions each year is going to be more knowledgeable/professional that the guy at Best Buy making $8 an hour.
        • Re:re (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:39PM (#15197726) Homepage Journal
          "My point is that many b to c (retail) salespeople are horrid."

          The trouble is....the service industry in the US has gone to hell!! This was not the case in recent past...(ok, I'm getting older, but, doesn't seem THAT long ago to me). You actually DID used to expect knowledgeable sales people in most any area of sales. People who sold clothes used to know a bit about clothes...used to people selling consumer electronics DID know a bit about the products they sold.

          But, for some reason, this along with courtesy all went downhill.....and unfortunately, it has been with us long enough that the newer generations accept this sub-par level of service as the 'standard'.

          Geez, even a few years back, most any waiter in a restaurant could explain a dish on the menu or special..of late, I've asked about a special, and they didn't have a fucking clue....had to go back and ask every time. This was not a new trainee either from what I could tell...just lazy. I'm a generous tipper...very generous, but, shit like that really does hurt what I give.

          You used to have people that took pride in their matter what level of pay it was...I dunno what happened to that work ethic...

          • Re:re (Score:5, Insightful)

            by johneee ( 626549 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @02:11PM (#15198609)
            We're the problem.

            No, really...

            Yes people used to have pride in their work, but the problem is that for someone to have pride in their work, and to actually know something, they need to be able to stay there for a while, and for them to stay there for a while, they need to be paid a living wage. If you don't pay a living wage, you're going to get either those who stay there only until they can get a job somewhere else, or the people who are unemployable anywhere else.

            And the reason, of course, that people aren't paid a living wage is that we the consumer are drawn to the lowest cost. There are still electronics and computer stores where the people who own the store run it, who are in there as a career, and those are the places I shop. Unfortunately, to support that, the prices must be higher. I'm fine with paying an extra 5-10% (or more) to get good service from intelligent people who know what they're talking about. Most people arent, so the minimum wage big-box stores with retail drones are taking over the landscape.

            If people actually want better service, they should be willing to pay a bit extra to get it. You can only have one or the other, not both.
          • 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.)
      • This is true, whilst I was buying diving equipment a few years ago I visited a number of shops and all the sales people I spoke to were very knowledgable and helpful. However I suspect they were also paid more and enjoyed enough perks such as access to vast arrays of dive equipment that they cared more about their dealings with customers than a lot of the staff who work in places like Dixons or Currys.
        • They're also working in a more specialised shop though, and would all be divers themselves (I used to dive a little, was one open water dive from having my basic diving license when the family stopped diving). In Dixons and Currys, there is a wide range of equipment, and the salesperson can't be as knowledgeable in every area. They also won't be passionate about their work, or feel a sense of kinship with someone who's going to buy a washing machine, whereas real divers will like to help fellow divers, and
      • >>The primary problem with electronics, however, is that many of the shops they visited pay their employees close to minimum wage, possibly with a marginal commission enticement.

        That's like every retail store. I don't expect much help picking plants from the employees at Wall-Mart either. Home Deopot/Lowes employees are just as bad as best buy employees. 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
        • Re:re (Score:4, Insightful)

          by flappinbooger ( 574405 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:21AM (#15196984) Homepage
          I actually live close to a Lowes in a small midwestern town. They are employing people there who actually KNOW STUFF. Really! There are people there who have abandoned the lean midwest rural plumbing and construction trade for more steady income. For instance, the plumbing department guy actually used to be a plumber, likes plumbing and helping people DIY, but is sick of doing it for a living. Now, a Lowes in a large urban area won't be like that. The plumbers and construction guys make more money doing it in TRW, and a Lowes there will be stuck with the typical inexperienced people.
        • Home Deopot/Lowes employees are just as bad as best buy employees.
          That's a hasty generalization, and a very incorrect one.

          I was doing some plumbing in my basement, and the dude in the plumbing department was a licenced plumber who was on disability. That doesn't make him incompetent. He was quite helpful, and didn't demean me in any way when I asked him really dumb questions. There are quite a few people who work at Home Depot who are either retired and bored, or are unable to work in a trade any more
        • 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 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 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....

      • Salespeople in many industries are very knowledgable, and are actually capable of listening to your needs and making informed, educated choices to guide you to the right purchase. The primary problem with electronics, however, is that many of the shops they visited pay their employees close to minimum wage, possibly with a marginal commission enticement.

        I think that is a big problem for nearly any retail store, not just ones that sell electronics. Electronic products are generally more complex than others
      • Re:re (Score:4, Informative)

        by Deanasc ( 201050 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:37PM (#15197710) Homepage Journal
        There's a far cry between 5% comission on a $400,000 house and what the agent actually takes home. Half will go to the agency. There are few agents who still get both ends of the sale today. Most agents now represent a buyer or a seller but rarely both. Commission will be split evenly between buyers and sellers agent. So now the agent actually gets 1.25% of the sale or about $5000 out of which they deduct health insurance, SEP/IRA, license fees, membership dues, TAXES, gasoline, office supplies, dry cleaning, cellphone and in some cases, rent on their desk and phone at the agency. That's why there is a high turnover, 80% of all agents quit in their first year. Those who don't are still working another job for at least 5 years or have another income in the family. Smart folks may be attracted to a quarter of the $20,000 commission but the competition in the market place is such that many only sell 3 or less properties in a year. The few at the top who do well have been in the market place long enough to gain repeat business or very favorable word of mouth and other press. For the stress and irregular hours many would actually do better at $8 an hour wearing a blue shirt.
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:49AM (#15196620) Homepage Journal
    I usually go into Best Buy because I don't want to be bothered by salesman. Alas, my last major experience with them was less than impressive. While I was browsing for a new home router, a salesperson decided to help out. While he did eventually point me toward a nice Netgear Wifi/Switch combo that was well-priced, his technical information left a lot to be desired. He informed me on no uncertain terms that the unit I had been looking at "wouldn't be full speed" because it was "a switch instead of a router." According to him, a switch was a network device that simply splits the signal, thereby allowing only one port to talk at a time. I shook my head and tried to explain that he was thinking of a hub, and that a switch gives full performance on each port. Unfortunately, I had a head cold at the time and probably wasn't very persuasive. He just sort of gave me a look like, "Whatever, dude".

    All in all, Best Buy "geeks" (*cough* *sputter*) tend to have the computer knowledge of a third grader who's been throwing around factoids with his friends at lunch in a desparate attempt to arrive at a miniscule of real knowledge. It used to be amusing to ask the sales staff complex questions just to hear their wonderfully made-up answers, but these days I'm far too busy for that sort of nonsense. They would honestly be a lot more helpful if they just gave their recommendation (the same "here's the popular product" one they give everyone) and went away. For everything else they need to either profess ignorance or point the buyer to websites where they can do their own research. (Not that they're actually going to do that. They need to sell overpriced "Geek Squad" cables and useless warranties somehow.) *sigh*

    That being said, I feel sorry for the well-intentioned geeks who spend some small portion of their lives with a Best Buy name tag affixed below their lapel. It must be horrifying to be expected to be so disinformative just to sell warranties and accessories.
    • I don't like to be assaulted when I walk in the door. However, when I have a question, I very much like being able to find somebody nearby that isn't hiding (unlike Best Buy), who knows something about the product, other than what it says on the back of the package (unlike Best Buy), and where the products they stock are all decent, not just the cheapest thing that fell off the boat. Having reasonably short lines for checkout and returns would be quite nice as well. And maybe not forcing me to return eve
    • Everytime I go into these stores I usually get asked if I need help, but I always decline since I am probably more knowledgable about what hardware I'm looking for than the sales staff. (Say "no thanks, I'm just looking," it works REALLY well!) Other than that, I've noticed that you will often have a high risk of making a bad hardware purchase if you know nothing about the specific models that you're looking at.

      I went to look at wireless access points, and while they still exist on the shelves of CompUSA

    • ... I didn't see in TFA, was any mention of the missing installation media. With all the recent brouhaha with the Geek Squad, I've seen shitloads of claims that (re)installation media is only included when an extended warranty is purchased, or it's outright missing period (see google). The claims have also been made that the reason is so that BB GS can charge more for "repairs" when the customer has no (re)installation media.
      I'd like to see/hear more about that myself.

      • Re:One thing... (Score:4, Informative)

        by jp10558 ( 748604 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:42PM (#15197756)
        I work at Best Buy in the Geek Squad, and as far as I can tell, most machines we get when we open the box (for a functionality check) don't have install media. They either have a restore partition, or bug you on first startup to make DVDs. I've always thought that when I'm testing it out (I can't do the media burn unless the customer pays for that), and I click "not right now", it would ask again, and AFAIK, thats SOP - and we may be wrong on that...

        If they just don't have media, they come sealed in the box without it - we aren't taking it out at my store.

        I'm guessing what is happening is a combination of manufactuers *not* sending reinstall media, and customers either

        a) not making it at startup for whatever reason - they don't understand, don't care, or we said ask later and the program never asks later (got to check on that one)
        b) no option to make disks, manufacturer only provides partition (really bad if the HD goes, but I've seen this setup on some machines we sell).

        The Geek Squad doesn't charge "more" (per SOP and where I work) if you don't have install discs, we just insist that you have legal install media - we don't care where/how you get them. Our fee to install an OS is the same in any situation.

        The other confusion may be our modular fee structure (or maybe confusing). We bill per service, but it may be badly broken up, IDK.

        There is the HD cost if you are doing COD. Then there is our install fee for the HD - $39 for a desktop, $59 for a laptop IIRC. Finally, it's $59 to install an OS, but again, *you* MUST provide legal install media. We can sell you a boxed XP copy first if need be.

        If you have a PSP, the whole thing is covered under that, except you still have to provide legal install media. Due to what I think is beuracratic issues (could be legal, contractual, or just coporate is lazy) we cannot obtain restore discs from the manufacturers for you, the customer has to do that. Some manufacturers charge for restore discs, I've seen quotes from $20-$90 so that may also be the issue, but that clearly IS NOT going to Best Buy.

        What we CAN NOT do is pull a CD from the back, slap in your install code and go to town, Activation, and probably legal issues make this a non-starter. This is a PITA all around, and I wish it wasn't so, but those are the rules.
    • 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.
  • 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

    I am shocked, shocked I say, to see that there are incompetent employees at a retail store.

  • by Dlugar ( 124619 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:51AM (#15196652) Homepage
    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.

    Not only that, but that's typically not their goal. They're typically on commission, so if grandma comes in looking for a computer, they're not going to try to find a computer to fit her modest needs--they're going to try and give her the biggest, most expensive computer with all the add-ons and extras they can manage. Buying a computer at one of these stores involves (a) knowing what you want, and (b) dodging the sales team's efforts to saddle you with extra stuff that you don't want.

    • by Manmademan ( 952354 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:01AM (#15196761)
      I can't speak for CompUSA (though it's unlikely) but Circuit City hasn't had comissioned employees since the first month of 2002, and Best Buy never has. There are minimum quotas everyone is expected to meet (otherwise, how can you tell if they're doing their job or not?) but you'll find that just about anywhere.
      • I can't speak for CompUSA (though it's unlikely) but Circuit City hasn't had comissioned employees since the first month of 2002, and Best Buy never has. There are minimum quotas everyone is expected to meet (otherwise, how can you tell if they're doing their job or not?) but you'll find that just about anywhere.

        That's true; I spoke hastily. What I meant is that they're highly pressured to make sales and to add extras that the customer doesn't really need. A friend of mine worked at Best Buy (in the compute

    • Buying a computer at one of these stores involves (a) knowing what you want, and (b) dodging the sales team's efforts to saddle you with extra stuff that you don't want.

      And the customers who meet those criteria most likely would not be shopping for their system at a place like Best Buy. They would get what they need from places like Newegg, ZipZoomFly, their local geek shops, etc. and build it themselves to their own exacting specifications.
    • Just to provide a different view (though much the same), I used to work (both as a salesassociate and manager) at Radio Shack in Canada. While I personally tried to see what exactly people needed and sell them that, not sales associates were so ethical. That said, sometimes it wasnt for malicious intent so much as stupidity... generally I would say salespeople knew maybe 50% of the things in the store well, and the other things they would only know passably.Still, its a mistake to view all salespeople as si
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...get suckered whether they are buying a car, home, or major appliance. Consumers must be informed to get a deal or merely an adequate system. This will not change unless some volunteer collection of geeks is setup to help norms make buying decisions.
  • Apple (Score:5, Funny)

    by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:55AM (#15196697)
    Clearly the submitter has never been to the Apple store. All the mall needs to do is combine Sephora (with all the hot girls) and the Apple store and it would be like a black hole that no one could ever leave from.
  • Olds (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:56AM (#15196700) Homepage Journal
    This ain't news, this is olds. At best. It was like that 10 years ago and more, except that back then you also had the small computer shops where the people who actually knew a thing or two built your machine to custom specs if you asked for it. Almost all of those have been driven out of business by WalMart, BestBuy, whatever-large-retailer-you-have due to aggressive pricing and, of course, your average Joe "no clue" Doe shopping there because it's $5 cheaper.

    The thing is, for the margins of your average retailer, you can't afford quality staff. And that's not just computers, that's everything.
    • [] was called Evesham Micros and was based in a tiny shop, next to a chip shop I think, just down the road from me and sold games for my spectrum and joysticks.

      They seem to have done quite well for themselves since then so it seems some of the smaller retailers who were around could have survived to this day.
  • by alta ( 1263 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:57AM (#15196708) Homepage Journal
    As a geek, who sometimes doesn't have a life, one of my favorite pasttimes is to pull aside customers and explain to them the amount of bullsh*t that the salesperson just fed them. It's actually quite a lot of fun.

    My experience though is that best buy has a comparably small amount of BS. Circuit city certainly has more, but the worse is at the small mom-pop shops. These little places are TERRIBLE! They can't compete on price, so they stay in business by selling old hardware at inflated prices. They must hire used car salesmen to push 2 year old hardware. Buyer beware.
    • by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:11AM (#15196877)
      I like to take people aside and give them even MORE misinformation.

      "SD cards will protect your computer from viruses - you know, StD's."

      "Make sure to demand LRF-5 support for your computer."

      "Tell them you want a wireless ethernet card that can dial-in to the Internet - they'll know exactly what you want."

      "Tell them you want a Pentium of RAM and a 2.3gigahertz hard-drive from AMD. If they try and tell you you can't have those, they're lying - they just keep the good stuff in back for themselves."

      Okay, so I'm more of a misanthrope than a geek. Potato, potato.
    • 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 ju
    • by myxiplx ( 906307 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:15PM (#15197505)
      I've fond memories of baiting PC World, Dixons & Curry's sales staff (UK stores) as a teenager, and then much later on in life. Some of my favourites:

      Setting screensaver passwords on the Windows 98 machines on display (easy to get around if you're quick after the machine reboots, but of course the staff don't know that.)

      Adding a restart command to the startup folder on one machine. We figured the constant cycle of reboots would be good for a few giggles. We had no idea it would still be going 2 months later!! Cracked us up every time we walked past that shop.

      Hefting the full MCSE training guide (4 books, around £160) to have a look. Replying to the spotty 16yr old who asked "Can I help you with that?" with a condescending look and the words "No, I really don't think you can.".

      Spotting their webcam demonstration on 2 PC's at the back of the store, and realizing that the webcam was sat on the monitor of one, but actually plugged into the other... no self respecting geek could walk past that without asking for a demonstration :) I expected some confusion of course, but how little I knew. What I actually got was 3 sales staff, 1 technical assistant (who had actually installed the camera that morning), the technical supervisor AND the store manager, all trying to work out why the camera wasn't working... LOL... I never did point out it wasn't actually plugged in, just said I'd come back later and left them to it :-D

      While working for a local computer shop, we heard a PC World was opening just around the corner. We had a quick scout around on their opening day then had a merry 4 hours handing out flyers to their customers, beating every single one of their opening offers :D We'd have been there longer but we made the mistake of handing a flyer to a member of staff returning from lunch... security chased us off soon after :)

      But by far my favourite was one day I was working in the shop and got a call from a lady who already had one of our computers (and of course knew our quality of support first hand). Her friend was in PC World, ready to buy a computer but she had insisted that her friend speak to us first. Now her friend already had a price from PC world and a computer in front of her, but needless to say she'd been told complete nonsense by the sales staff. I told her a few things to check before parting with any money & she soon had the sales assistant struggling for excuses. I then spent a minute finding out what she actually wanted & gave her a quote over the phone, beating their price by a good couple of hundred pounds and with more features to boot.

      The icing on the cake - she placed the order right there & then, giving me her credit card details over the phone while standing right in front of PC World's sales assistant.

      Happy, happy days :)

  • The great thing to come out of increased retail competition, is that advertising budgets are increasingly being diverted into retail communication.

    No you may ask why is this better for consumers: the reason is that the closer the consumer gets to the point of purchase, the more rational are her communication needs. It's not so much about image or coolness, it's also about "so what does the expansion port look like, and, can I hook this to my laptop etc".

  • by jacobcaz ( 91509 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:59AM (#15196737) Homepage
    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

    I think a better way to say it is; Most shoppers won't pay the prices needed to ensure that retail sales people posses the necessary knowledge to correct recommend and expllain every nuance of a piece of hardware.

    I used to have some friends who ran a small computer store. They built machines and sold hardware. They were friendly and knowledgable and did at-home-at-office service calls. Their target was a small but fairly affluent town and they did well for those customers who realized that "cheap" and "quality service" are often words not uttered in the same sentence.

    When they saturatued their small town they were not effective at finding more customers that fit their demographic. The tried to compete with Best Buy and Dell and they failed miserably because at the end of the day they couldn't justify selling a computer for $20 profit.

    They could answer a customer's question knowledgably and spend the time needed to make sure the customer ended up with a very good fit for their needs. They just couldn't find enough customers who were willing to pay for this level of knowledge and personal service.

    • Somebody mod parent up, please!

      Consumers have shown time and time again that they'll go for the lowest price wherever they can find it - that's why WalMart is wiping out the local hardware store, and why Best Buy et al are wiping out the small computer retailer. Very rarely do I ask for a salesperson's advice anymore. First of all, their motivation is to make a sale, not satisfy your needs in the most economical fashion, and secondly, there is a treasure trove of information available online. I'll do my
    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:18AM (#15196949) Homepage
      The flip-side to this is that it tends to create an opening for a service-only business. After it became impossible to build computers for a profit, I found a niche recommending Dells and helping small businesses setup their computer, network it, and maintain software.

      There is definitely a market for smart helpful people, but I find that most people smart enough to help don't have the patience or interest in doing it.
    • by sremick ( 91371 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:03PM (#15197963)
      I worked at just such a place for many years. We were king in our day (early 90s) but as more people discovered Gateway, and saw low-end HP and Compaq junk in retail stores, it became harder to compete. It's hard to sell someone on something they don't realize they need yet (service) or explain to them why YOUR hard drive (faster RPMs, lower ms access time, bigger cache, better rep for longevity) is better than Gateway's when both are the same # of MBs but Gateway's is cheaper.

      When they walk in, they look at MHz, GBs, and maybe screen size... and price. That's it. If even that (we had plenty who wouldn't know the difference and just wanted "a good computer"). Most people don't even notice warranty details... you know, little things, like LENGTH. Try and explain the nuances that distinguish quality from crap, and their eyes glaze over.... THEY DON'T CARE. Until later, when the crap they bought from Gateway shits the bed and they come crying to you for help.

  • Not just computers (Score:5, Informative)

    by typical ( 886006 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:59AM (#15196746) Journal
    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.

    Yup, and this isn't just true of computers.

    Circuit City sells audio equipment, for example. How many salesmen there know the first thing about any of it? My experience has been zero.

    Try asking someone in a Wal-Mart a question about their bicycles.

    The replacement of speciality stores with larger, general-purpose stores has, in my opinion, vastly reduced the amount of domain knowledge that the salesmen offer. Of course, it costs more to have salesmen with domain knowledge, and general-purpose stores pass on much of those savings to you, so it's a tradeoff...
    • I've read all the slams on the "stupid" people that work at these retail stores and the greedy ones that are just selling you the most expensive thing because they are on commission. Let's face it. If they knew what we know (yes, I'm generalizing but I think it applies to most everyone reading this), then they wouldn't be working for minimum wage at a retail store. I think everyone needs to give these kids working their way through school, in most cases, a break and use some common sense when setting expect
  • by tsa ( 15680 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:00AM (#15196747) Homepage
    A friend of mine once said, after I told him about some bad experiences with computer salesmen: "If you know anything about computers, you're not going to work in a computer shop." He's right of course; you can make much more money elsewhere if you know anything about computers.
  • by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:00AM (#15196750)
    I used to work at Staples during College. They didn't care how many computers, laptops, printers, etc. I sold ... all they cared about was warranties. Honest to gosh, and it really pissed me off, everytime a computer, laptop, or printer walked out of the store without a warranty, my on-floor manager would walk over and give me a lecture ... trying to tell me how to better pitch the warranty so that it wouldn't happen again. I even had one on-floor manager who told me I should never let a customer leave without a warranty ... tell them whatever it takes ... tell them the pc won't last, whatever ... just don't let them leave without that warranty.
  • ...the sales thingies will try and sell you whatever product gives them the most commission. If it's straight up sales percentage they'll try and sell you something that's a lot more than you need, but sometimes there's a dog they're trying to get rid of, so they'll sell you that.

    Don't let them con you into buying extended warranties though. You might as well burn $20 bills right then and there, for all it's worth.
  • 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.


  • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:01AM (#15196759) Journal
    I was in a jewelry store a couple of weeks ago shopping for a birthday present for my wife, and all the salesman wanted to do was sell me an extended warranty on the necklace. It was like Best Buy with emeralds. I quickly fled for someplace with less pressured sales.

    BTW, for those who were wondering -- "B&M" is "brick and mortar". (And "BTW" is "by the way".) I'd thought the HardOCP guys had gotten confused and tried to by a computer at H&M and then either the submitter or Zonk had misspelled it.

  • A few weeks back I was in Office Depot and overheard a staff member telling a woman to buy a Linksys wireless router because:

    "Linksys is the company that invented networking and wrote all the specs for the wireless stuff"

    Now, I don't expect that everyone should know WHY a certain brand of anything is better than it's competitors, but spreading misinformation just to sound like you know what you're talking about and sell something?

    • Re:Office Depot Fun (Score:3, Informative)

      by evilviper ( 135110 )
      My experience with Best Buy is much better. I had a sales lady telling me that the cheaper computers couldn't be upgraded, because the CPUs were SOLDERED to the motherboard. No joke.

      I told the Best Buy tech guys up-front that little story, and they laughed their asses off.

      It's sometimes funny just how fragmented and demented a single company can be.
      • Re:Office Depot Fun (Score:3, Informative)

        by freeweed ( 309734 )
        Joke's on you. As others have mentioned, quite a lot of cheaper PCs used to be sold with the CPU soldered to the motherboard. e-Machines, PC Chips, and several other manufacturers have done this. Some to reduce cost, some to intentionally prevent upgrading.

        Of course, seeing as hardly anyone ever upgrades a CPU (hell, most geeks don't even bother), it's a moot point anyway.

  • by slagheap ( 734182 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:03AM (#15196779)
    A friend of mine was buying a printer at Best Buy a few years ago and needed a USB cable to go with it. The sales drone tried to convince him that he needed to buy one of the "gold" cables... and that going with a cheaper "silver" USB cable would result in blurry photograph prints. My friend (a computer engineer) almost started to explain about digital signals and all that, but decided it was pointless.
  • Printable Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by jonoid ( 863970 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:03AM (#15196791)
    The "printable" link, text is all in one page and no ads: MTAzOQ== []

    On another note, I used to work at Best Buy. I really needed a job at the time and couldn't find work anywhere else. I certainly know my stuff about computer hardware and software, so did a few other employees. One was even a computer science major fresh out of university just waiting for a real job opportunity to come by. Of course, a few employees knew absolutely nothing. So it's sort of a mixed bag, you could get lucky and find an honest and knowledgeable salesperson or you could get someone who knows nothing about computers and just wants to sell you an extended warranty.

    On that note, stores are given a quota of extended warranty sales per day (usually they want 10% of profits to be extended warranty. Extended warranties are a major cash cow for these stores. Thus, employees (especially computer and home theatre) are told to promote the extended warranty and go through the checklist of it's features to EVERY customer, even if they flat out refuse upon first mention. So try not to go /too/ hard on the employee who mentions it to you, their job is on the line.

    My recommendation: buy online, avoid the sales pitch, do the research yourself.
  • by Entropy248 ( 588290 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:05AM (#15196811) Journal
    Ha! I love it! I work at a major store as a big-shot manager type, and I found this article interesting for a number of reasons. What the article describes is a very common problem. The people who truly know about these computers are not working in retail. So, you try to hire people who sound like they know what they're doing and sometimes train them on the rest. The stores with the best trained staff consistantly outperform poorly trained stores. A lack of training often implies a cost leader strategy by the company, and cost leaders rarely outperform quality leaders' profit margins. However, cost leaders can make more profit by volume. Best Buy, in particular, has isolated those who truly understand computers and created a "Geek Squad" that does not spend much time on the sales floor. They want the knowledgable staff to work on the higher margin tech support tasks rather than the low margin sales track. Geeks tend to be better geeks than salespeople.

    P.S. Commissioned sales staff tend to make a LOT more money than non-commission. Personal shoppers often work on commission, and their higher payrate gives them more weight to fight for you (the customer) when going through beauracracy or other paperwork functions.
    • 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 co
  • by Psyberian ( 240815 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:06AM (#15196821)
    It has since closed down, but it was almost a game going to the Future Shop in Eugene, Oregon. For instance I went in to help my Dad get a printer for his computer. Salesman almost immediatly walks out sounding off how this certain printer was great, and oddly enough one of the most expensive. He continues to go on for about 5 minutes about how he got it for his dads computer never had any problems, works great, blah blah blah.

    Cut to a few days later, I go in the next day to get some game or something. I over hear a different salesperson talking someone about a monitor. He continues to go on for about 5 minutes about how he got it for his dads computer never had any problems, works great, blah blah blah. You will notice the verbaitem cut and paste from above. Yep same spiel as the first sales guy almost exactly word for word. It seems, like most sales peoiple those at future shop lacked a soul and just had a clonded soul implanted from a master super salesman. Well maybe not, but I heard that same story a few more times. It has been a while, but I think it was five times I heard that.
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:08AM (#15196834)
    Do people actually think that they will get great service and knowledgeable reps when buying a PC from a chain where they hire people at $5.00 an hour?

    Come on now!
  • Points in the article about reps giving out wrong information (whether it be through ignorance or malice) are all too true. I bought a Toshiba laptop at Best Buy a couple of months ago. Of course, when talking to the salesperson about purchasing it, they gave me a sheet of paper to sign up for all kinds of extra services.

    One service they (there ended up being like 3 reps talking to me about it all at once) tried to push was this one where I could get as many battery replacements as I needed for I think
  • by IflyRC ( 956454 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:08AM (#15196844)
    Back in college I worked at Circuit City. I was a sales person in the computer department.

    We wore a tie, blue blazer and had a name tag with stickers based on our certifications. They actually sent us for week long training at different times or when new products came out. We were tested and didn't receive each "icon" without passing the tests.

    Granted, most of it wasn't difficult but it did require some general understanding of what you were doing! I was the only person in my store certified to handle the installs - I used to make so much money just installing graphics cards, etc. These days - how do you know the person knows what to do?

    Best Buy introduced the "no hassle" shopping experience. They looked at things from a perspective of "everyone is an hourly employee, no specialized training - all you need to know how to do is work a cash register".

    People who were in a hurry (most of the US these days) seemed to like the Best Buy way of shopping better than dealing with someone who could actually help them so Circuit City ended up switching over to the same business model. Notice the blue blazers and ties are gone? Replaced with kids in red polo style shirts who can barely point you in the right direction to find a product.

    But hey, this is what America wanted. They didn't want to be bothered by someone asking them questions about what they needed.

    Granted, some of the guys at CC did seem like used car salesmen but there were some that were very good at their job.
    • Notice the blue blazers and ties are gone? [...] Granted, some of the guys at CC did seem like used car salesmen but there were some that were very good at their job.

      Looking back at it, I can't remember ever hearing misinformation from their staff, but I generally assumed that they didn't know what they were talking about. Why? Well, it was probably the suits. In the computer industry, suits have always been the anti-thesis of knowledgable individuals. The fact that they were wearing blazers rather than sim
  • 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@oEINSTE ... minus physicist> 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.

  • In highschool, I volunteered at a local computer repair shop for a couple years. I learned quite a bit about computer repair there, and eventually when I need a job, I used this knowledge to get a sales position at a brick & mortar.

    I was astounded by the lack of knowledge my associates had. They knew quite a bit about selling computers, but not much at all about what a computer can do. There was plenty of talk about selling the 'right' machineto the customer, but this always ended up being the highes
  • I first read the headline as 'Computer Buying Experiences at S&M Stores'.

    I've been there and here's a tip: Don't ask for the "extra RAM" unless you're sure you can handle it.

  • by Kurt Gray ( 935 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:38AM (#15197156) Homepage Journal when the retail rep asks "What are you going to use the computer for?" I try to toss out a generic answer like "Programming" but that invites more annoying questions like "Well, what type of programming?" It's obvious to me the sales person wants to dazzle me with their expertise in recommending the perfect model for "programming". So whatever, I say "Web programming." Then fun starts because then the ever knowledgable sales person actually points at a specific computer further down the shelf (where the screens are little bigger and the price tags have a few extra digits) and declares "This is one is the best for web programs." Why? I have to ask, purely curious as to how skillfully they can massage a pile of crap into an answer. "That other one is not as fast. See this one is faster for web programs. And this one also has more graphics which is better for like web..." and so on. For my further amusement I have to ask "Does this one have more internet? I need more internet." just to hear incredibly stupid answers like "Yes, this one has more internet." Ok, let's click up the stupidity dial even further: "What about like, email? Does this one have email?" Now the sales person is going to be honest and assure you that "They all have email... but this one has better email." And so on.
  • by Slovenian6474 ( 964968 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:47AM (#15197232) Homepage
    I currently work at one of these stores (Best Buy). I started out in the computer dept and have been moved to the Geek Squad and am currently working with cameras. I have to comment on what i've seen from my store. First off a little background, i am a pretty geeky person so i do a decent amount of technical info and have a hobby of keeping up on it. So i do not fit the general image of a sales person depicted. When hired, they didn't really want to hire me as much as some other people since i had no sales experience. My technical knowledge was not what they were looking for as much as sales experience. Thanks to a friend's reccommendation i did get hired. Best Buy generally hires salesmen and looks for technical knowledge second. I was shown that when i was hired and also have seen that when other people were hired.

    Secondly they move people around the store regardless of their knowledge. I wanted to go to the Geek Squad because i did know my way around the inside of a computer and the software. Again, many of the people hired up there didn't know to much. Some were meant only to run half automated "diagnostic" programs and install software. Only a few of us back there actually could fix a computer.

    Due to little hours, i was "forced" to go work in a different dept. I was put in Digital Imaging. This was not one of my more knowledgable area. The only reason i was there was to pay my bills. Thanks to a sparked interest in the area and lots of external research, i do know a lot more than most of the other employees in that area.

    Best Buy does not offer adequate training to its employees. The training provided is in the form of a online articles and quizzes. Although these are mandatory, they are easily skipped through. Also the articles for computer and cameras are generally outdated to the current hardware on the shelf. This is the only form of technical knowledge training given.

    Another thing to consider is that the majority of people coming in to buy a computer have little or no technical knowledge. When asked a question such as "what is hyperthreading?" Most, including myself, resort to a very simple non-technical answer as to not confuse the customer. This is adequate for 90% of the customers. The other 10% first see you as someone without a large amount of computer knowledge. When i can identify the person with a higher knowledge of computers, i tend to use more technical terms and more indepth explainations. Also i do understand that the majority of people at best buy do not have the knowledge for more technical terms and explainations.

    As a college student, this is only a job to pay the bills. Most knowledgable people in my store are the same way. The ones that actually know what they're talking about don't usually stick around that long. Just enough to get through school or land a good internship/co-op. All of these reasons would contribute to why many sales associates don't have much computer know-how.

  • by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:49AM (#15197259) Journal
    It's not "retail stores" that are the problem, its the "big box" stores that cause these impressions.

    You have a choice when you shop:

    Big box: large selection, lower price, low service
    local store: smaller selection (in stock), higher price, excellent service

    A local retailer that only has a few stores tends to hire much more knowledgeable people. Granted, you're going to pay a bit more for the products, but that's what it costs to hire people who love what they do. The in-store selection will be smaller but chances are the local retailer can custom order almost any item you desire from their distributors if you are willing to wait a few days to a week or two.

    I emplore you, though, do NOT pick the brain of your local retailer's expert for 2 hours only to turn around and purchase the item on the internet or at a big box store. You've now wasted the person's time and effectively stolen consulting services from them. Again... it costs more money to hire people who know what they are talking about. The smaller stores are not trying to rob or over charge you, they just don't do the volume to get discounts from the distributors.

    BTW: It's not the large retailers, like Walmart, that put small stores out of business; it's the people who decide that low cost and mediocre service are more important than intelligent sales help.

    What gets my gall is when people purchase from a big box but expect me, in my local shop, to provide free technical support to them. Many people get quite pissy when I tell them this is why my price is higher, I actually know what I'm taking about and can actually help (in most cases).
  • If you went to get your car repaired and left your CD's and photo album on the seat, you wouldn't expect them to clean your car so it looked just like knew -- you'd expect that you'd get your music and pictures back. In the case of computer warranties, it's like they would strip the car down, reinstall new upholstery, and throw out everything you had.

    It struck me reading about "loaner computers" -- imagine if you swapped out your current computer with one that was identical but without any of your data.

  • When I was hanging around in computer stores in the lear 1980's the local sales guys didn't have any clue about what they were selling. There was only one computer store within a hour's drive where you could get real answers to real questions.
  • Pay them minimum wage, work them long hours at a thankless job, make them sign away all their rights as employees to get that crapass job, take an invasive drug test...remind me again why anyone competent would take a job like that? And I'm not just picking on the electronic stores, it's that way with almost any appliance you're buying now days. Half the time at Lowes I know the inventory better than the people working there. Like last week looking for a package of door shims. The guy working there insis
  • What do you expect? (Score:3, Informative)

    by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:58AM (#15197342)
    Does anyone expect a commissioned salesperson to provide unbiased advice?

    I put myself through college working at CompUSA by peddling 5 year warranties on PCs and laptops. I would concentrate on the three best PCs and 2 best laptops that were in stock and sell only those machines. Typically I'd sell the warranty before the people even saw the computer. I never really had to lie, people are wary of computers and would rarely balk at the warranty unless the salesman is an idiot. (Which most salesmen are)

    Was I selling the best possible product? Sometimes... the best PCs at the time were custom-configured machines from places like Dell. But I mostly sold Toshiba laptops which were top-notch. Even that wasn't really all that important... my job was to sell my employer's inventory.
  • 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 Sebastopol ( 189276 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:01PM (#15197372) Homepage
    I applaud the amount of effort the author(s) put into this research. I especially found their summary of warrantees a useful bullet.

    However, I think they approached this as if they were grading the marketing propaganda. What I mean is this: they zeroed in on specifics, marketing specifics: 64 vs 32 bit, Vista, video cards for games, memory upgrades. Asking these sorts of questions is testing to see how well the salespeople know the marketing icons, and if they are gamers.

    This is useless: no human being can explain how this marketing BS translates to real-world usage to a newbie in a 30 minute sales session, and no non-newbie is going to ask these questions.

    I worked in retail for about a decade and went to many sales conferences. One thing I learned is: it's all about price point. Everyone has a threshold they are willing to spend, and the sales/marketing force tries to push them as high as possible. In my experience in bicycle retail, ~80% of the customers would be more than satisfied with anything at their price point. Pushing them to the next price point serves no one but the salesperson (my commission!).

    In my recent experience recommending a computer to a seriously NON TECHIE people, I've found the same is true. Most of these folk were ready to fork over up to $1,000 (thinking there were no machines $1000). I've recommended this approach for 7 or 8 people, two were relatives. Basically, pick the best warantee and buy the machine at your price point.

    100% were happy (3/4 bought a DELLs, 1/4 bought an candy-colored iMac ;-). Yes, this is very anecdotal, but I tell this story to illustrate that nitpicking the salesforce at a B&M store is useless. In fact, unless you go to a specialty store, ANY GENERIC RETAIL SALESFORCE IS CLUELESS! This holds for kitchen appliances (Target), or power tools (Home Depot), bicycles, televisions, etc. I re-realized this when I was shopping for a table saw: The Home Depot doesn't know shit, they sell volume; but the Contracter Tool Supply store spent two hours with two staff members teaching me everything, in explicit detail.

    If you really want to be educated, go to a store that specializes in only what you want to buy. Don't rely on generic high-volume retail malls to give you any real information.

    I think that is the real conclusion of this B&M research.

    • ANY GENERIC RETAIL SALESFORCE IS CLUELESS! This holds for kitchen appliances (Target), or power tools (Home Depot), bicycles, televisions, etc. I re-realized this when I was shopping for a table saw: The Home Depot doesn't know shit, they sell volume; but the Contracter Tool Supply store spent two hours with two staff members teaching me everything, in explicit detail.

      This is absolutely true. I took a little time out of IT and worked in my friend's aquarium shop. He specializes in high end and unusual

  • by Flakeloaf ( 321975 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:06PM (#15197418) Homepage
    Gee, could that be because Best Buy is not a computer store, perhaps?

    If you want to buy a computer, go to a real computer store. We've all seen them, with the tiny shop space, store room in the back, fat white guy / skinny Chinese guy behind the counter, a few motherboards under glass and a price list printed out on a sheet of letter paper stuck to the counter with old tape. "We don't advertise" mumbles the sales guy, something about word of mouth being his best sales pitch, and from the looks of the greasy hordes in line behind you it seems to be working.

    If you want a job done right, go to someone who does only that job, all day, every day. That someone would not be Circuit City guy, unless the job you want done somehow involves MONSTAR CABEL.
  • by fak3r ( 917687 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:15PM (#15197518) Homepage
    Funny, I used to live in Austin, so I have shopped at all three of these stores. Out of all of them Fry's pertends to be the most 'geeky' but if you ask any technical question you don't get an answer. This is true when I asked in the Computer section, the hardware section, wireless and yes, Apple. Not trying to sound 'glib' but I knew more than these folks, so when I had a question of something I didn't know, they didn't either. This was frustrating, but since I know how to 'use the internet' I am able to learn/get advice from there, and then go buy.

    That way when they try to 'upsell' you, you know it's just a sales pitch and that you really don't need ${FEATURE} since you'll never have any use to ${FEATURE_DESC}.

    This does point to 'regular' folks going to buy computers; they're not going to get what they want, because they don't know what they want. I've walked a few friends/relatives thru computer purchases to insure they get what they need, and not more. Of course I think this is going to be true of anything; refridgerators, power saw, I don't think this is a big revelation. Fun article though, I could just hear the subwoofers from the car audio section while I was reading!
  • by Mr.Surly ( 253217 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:16PM (#15197525)
    "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..."

    No, I think I'd rather rub my head with a cheese grater while chewing on aluminum foil.

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. -- Christopher Morley