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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Best Buy Says Customers Not Always Right 1754

Posted by timothy
from the they've-been-telling-me-this-for-years dept.
linuxwrangler writes "Best Buy is one of the retailers that has now decided that the customer is not always right. Best Buy consultant Larry Selden has identified "demon customers" like those who file for a rebate then return the item. OK, I get that one (hey Best Buy: dump those customer-despised rebates and you won't have that problem...). Other categories like customers who only buy during sales are more interesting. Best Buy declined comment on how they are dealing with those customers. Some stores have actually "fired" customers. Welcome to the end result of all that customer information data mining."
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Best Buy Says Customers Not Always Right

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  • by odano (735445) * on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:02AM (#9618485)
    The last two paragraphs are a great example of putting in a worthless interview that has nothing to do with an article, solely to defend an undefendable topic.

    If best buy is sick of people using rebates, then stop offering them. Rebates work by the majority of people not using them, while thinking they are buying it at a great price. If people are going to use rebates without actually buying the item, Best Buy is going to have to live with that. If they think they can get it both ways, they are wrong. It is just another example of horrible customer service and deception backfiring, and then the company having such a great monopoly that they can somehow blame it on the customers, the very people they rely on to make money. Just absurd.
    • by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:36AM (#9618729)
      Rebates are not done just for the fact that some people won't claim them...

      They're also done as a limiting mechanism for loss-leader items. If they want to reduce the price of an item to less than cost, they most likely want to make sure you can only claim that deal once... and that's where a rebate with "limit 1 per household" kicks in. Sure, some people might use two mailing addresses to get it twice, but nobody's going to be able to grab 20 of the item and get the post-rebate price.
      • I did just that. In 2000, I had a web development client who knew I used to be in sales/service of PC equipment. So, he approached me about a dozen systems across a couple of his offices. System, with monitor, and printer, ready to go. I ordered a dozen boxes and monitors, and set one up, and ghosted the other 11, tested them all, and it was great, easy money, and I shipped the boxes directly to the offices where they needed to go, using his corporate shipping account.

        But then came the printers. Well, a local Staples was having a sale on a perfect unit. I'd charged $100 for them, and these Canon printers were normally $90 each. Taht would have been $120 profit on 12, but there was a $30 in store instant rebate, AND a $30 mail-in rebate on each one too, bringing my efective cost down to $30 per unit. I figured even if I never saw the rebates, it was still $40 profit per printer alone, not to mention the computers. I sent in all 12 rebate coupons with the receipts and serial number stickers (there were copies in the box for just such a purpose), and waited. A mere two weeks later I received a dozen $30 checks from Canon in my mailbox, all on the same day.

        You'd be astounded how loose they are with checking multiple rebates. I just did it again a couple weeks ago with 4 Netgear wifi routers.

  • scammers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Barbarian (9467) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:04AM (#9618495)
    You will always get scammers, like people who the article description described (send rebate, then return), as well as people who purchase extended service plans, then static zap their video card, hook it up to 110 AC, or otherwise kill it after a couple years, and get a much better card in replacement. At least with data mining, you can identify suspect customers instead of just going on the manager's whim.

    • Re:scammers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DJayC (595440) * on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:12AM (#9618541)
      The biggest scammers are the employees. I have a lot of friends that work at Best Buy, and I don't know one that hasn't tried to scam them. One scam includes buying stuff with their discount, then returning it at another store (without a receipt) for gift cards for the full price. Another breaks his TV every couple years to get a new one (but waits for this model to be not carried so he can get the latest and greatest). Instead of blaming the customers for whatever their worries are, try looking a little closer to home.
    • Re:scammers (Score:4, Insightful)

      by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:45AM (#9618787)
      There'd be nothing illegal about programming the store computer to detect the phone number or credit card of people who have more-frequent-than usual claims against the "purchase protection plan" schemes and then make sure to forget to prompt the salesperson to try to pitch the scheme to such people... or for that mater, raising the price for such people if they want that plan.

      It's only illegal descrimination when you're manipulating prices or offers based on the so called "protected classes" mentioned in the laws. "One who frequently breaks stuff" is not such a class...
    • Re:scammers (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nailer (69468) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @02:17AM (#9618940)
      You will always get scammers...


      • Mod parent up! [asshat.com] [a] by Anonymous Coward (Score:5) Thurs, June 31, @13:37



      You sure will. :^)

    • ::shakes head:: (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ayanami Rei (621112) * <rayanami AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @02:24AM (#9618985) Journal
      I've had staff members RECOMMEND that I do those things and take advantage of those annoying Best Buy "perks" that they are instructed to pitch at you.

      Best Buy is totally aware that the customer would quickly think of ways of abusing the policy. But they already figured that would happen. They're banking on the gobs of people who are trying to be "decent", and Best Buy is just abusing that goodwill. Same thing with rebates. They assume (correctly) that most will forget about it, or not photocopy your UPC, then return the product.

      The problem is that now, with the internet, these notions have spread far further than they projected. People do it out of spite, even if they end up wasting time and money doing these things.

      So Best Buy could either demonize these customers who are acting just as they predicted we would, or adapt (maybe they could just provide better customer service?)

      I guess customer profiling is the next best thing. It's like... you asked for it. Be prepared to fight for your right to abuse their policies... or get used to shopping with Amazon or Circuit City.
  • Sales customers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Endareth (684446) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:05AM (#9618502) Journal
    I would have thought that many of the customers who only buy during sales would be buying a lot more products than if they bought on a semi-regular (non-sale) basis. Surely this means that the customers make up in bulk for the slightly lower profit margin due to sales? After all, the point of sales is to attract a higher product turnover at a lower profit margin, so what are they complaining about?
    • Re:Sales customers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Misch (158807) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:17AM (#9618589) Homepage
      Not nessecairly. Another tactic of offering a product at a sale price is to get the customer physically into the store where you may encourage them to select a different product (at a higher profit), or purchase other products or accessories.
      • Re:Sales customers (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Myopic (18616) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @03:24AM (#9619251)
        That's a loss leader. As a customer, I consider the use of loss leaders to be sneaky at best, deceptive or even fraudulent at worst ("hey, we have the best prices in town, here's an example"). Even if you don't consider the use of loss leaders amoral, you can't possibly fault the customer for taking advantage of it.

        Of course, you never said that you personally fault the customer. I just want to make sure that all the mods who called your comment insightful didn't think that, either.
  • by Engineer Andy (761400) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:05AM (#9618504) Journal
    What on earth is wrong with waiting until a sale is on til you buy whatever it is that you have your heart set on?

    If it is an urgent purchase that can't wait, then buy it then and there, but if you're happy to wait until whatever it is goes on sale due to it no longer being the newest and shiniest widget, what is wrong with that?

    This is penalising people who are swimming against the tide of instant gratification that our credit driven society has pushed.

    People have done this from time immemorial in raiding the new years and mid year sales at department stores they don't otherwise shop at
    • by Dmala (752610) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:20AM (#9618618)
      What on earth is wrong with waiting until a sale is on til you buy whatever it is that you have your heart set on?

      The idea is that they put stuff on sale virtually at cost to lure you into the store, and then you're supposed to be a good little consumer and buy a bunch of other crap at full price. The store would prefer not to do business with people who don't fall for this ploy.
      • by Pofy (471469) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @02:53AM (#9619127)
        The idea is that they put stuff on sale virtually at cost to lure you into the store, and then you're supposed to be a good little consumer and buy a bunch of other crap at full price. The store would prefer not to do business with people who don't fall for this ploy.

        They should contact the music industry. We clearly have a case of theft here. People are stealing!! Those stores make a living out of selling you stuff and you are depriving them of the income. No, they have a right to make a living out of you and you clearlycircumvent their method to make you pay. I think we need a law against it so people (thieves) can't just come in and buy stuff on sale without buying other things too. The industry must lose billions each year.
    • by pnatural (59329) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @02:14AM (#9618931)
      You don't even have to wait for the sale. I've grown the habit of always asking for 10 or 15 percent off any item over US$100. The worst that I get is "no", and that's rare. The only places I don't try it is restaurants and warehouse stores -- basically any other place where I have face-to-face contact with a sales agent.

      When I go to Best Buy, I just ask for 10% off, tell them I saw it in a competitors advert. If they need help w/ the register transaction, I tell them "to hit F6". If I'm feeling frisky, I'll ask for 20 or 25, then play down to the 10 that I wanted. I've done this at least a dozen times at Best Buy, and it's worked each one.

      You'd be surprised at how often the posted price is up for negotiation. I guess it's that we've been trained well as consumers to not ask for a break on price.

  • it's true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:06AM (#9618506)
    Normal costomers like my mom are alright. I mean she thinks, "oh, I need a TV" so she goes to BestBuy or Costco or whatever, finds one that looks pretty, and buys it. Big profits for the store.

    If I need a TV, I wait a few weeks until I find a good deal on dealsea or FatWallet. Then I price match to someplace with massive coupon discounts, then I try to even pricematch the rebate. Then if they try to get me to pay for shipping I bitch about it and get that charge taken off. The stores make nothing.

    If I was running a business, I wouldn't want people like me as customers. I would want people like my mom. It's just plain business sense.
    • Re:it's true (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kfg (145172) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:21AM (#9618629)
      If I was running a business, I wouldn't want people like me as customers. I would want people like my mom. It's just plain business sense.

      Get rid of you and your mom just might decide to shop elsewhere as well. Get rid of you and your mom and they might just end up with noone.

      The idea is to attract cusotomers. You'll like some better than others, but it's better than having none.

      KFG
  • by LordKaT (619540) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:13AM (#9618557) Homepage Journal
    I have to agree that the customer is almost never right. 99% of the people who complain - and by complain, I mean whine like a 2 year old - are not right, and deserve to be beaten with a hose. the only customer that is right, is the customer that is quite and just pays.

    My case in point:

    "This sign says 2 confections for 2 dollars!"

    "It says 2 HERSHEY candies for 2 dollars."

    "So?"

    "Gobstoppers and popcorn don't count, and "almost" only counts in horse-shoes."

    And then the customer will whine, and whine, and whine, and whine, and whine. My god, I've never heard so many adult-aged persons whine so much.

    It's always something retarded they whine about too: they misunderstood the advertisement and want the deal anyway (yeah, right), or they know somone who used to work here and wants an employee discount, or they have a coupon ... that expired two years ago.

    No, I don't need anger managment. I need a shotgun and some whiskey.

  • Best Buy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HBI (604924) <{kparadine} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:13AM (#9618559) Homepage Journal
    Home electronics resellers have a pretty spotty past - seems they expand exponentially, then raise their prices and reduce their service to customer-unfriendly levels, then they go bankrupt. It's a constant cycle caused by cutthroat competition and low margins.

    Best Buy is just summiting the mountain and headed to the downhill side of the cycle. Profits are up. The problem is that i'm not going there anymore because the prices are pretty exorbitant. I'm sure others are getting the same impression.

    They are following in the path of Crazy Eddie, The Wiz, Circuit City, and lots of smaller outfits.
  • by Kris_J (10111) * on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:15AM (#9618571) Journal
    ...and I don't think I like to be bundled in with people attempting fraud. I'm not high maintenance but I can spot a deal. Either you're selling something or your not. Don't start trying to second-guess what I might buy next. Maybe I'm taking advantage of a cheap offer to find out how good your service is...
  • by meta-monkey (321000) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:16AM (#9618578) Journal
    I run a small business, and sometimes I refuse to take on a client because I can tell they're going to be more trouble than they're worth. Why would I want to bother with someone who's going to constantly bitch about prices, try to wheel and deal me, and make me work twice as hard as the average customer? I don't need the money that bad.

    It's probably the same thing for Best Buy. Why would they want to bother with people they know are going to take up their customer service reps' time, which costs money, and thereby result in no profit for Best Buy? There is no "right" to shop at Best Buy. There's probably a "we reserve the right to refuse service to any customer at any time" notice somewhere near the entrance to the store. Best Buy is simply choosing to exercise that right.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:31AM (#9618698)
      No, those are two very different situations.

      You negotiate and decide on a per job basis. In retail there is no such thing; the prices are set and you are welcome to buy the items (in general). If the store can't really sell at those prices and expects you to throw away that rebate slip, then they are lying to you about their prices.

      At least you have the decency to admit "No, I can't take this job." A better analogy is you taking that "trouble job" and then screwing everyone over later.
  • by sane? (179855) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:17AM (#9618586)
    There is nothing to be unexpected in this type of development - shops, like people, will attempt to optimise their habits to maximise their gain. The only question is what should the result be in the escalating arms race from the shoppers' perspective?

    My suggestion is shopping clubs.

    Get together a group of good consumers, mums on the school run is a prime recruiting ground. Organise until the number of participants is significant; and issue a membership card.

    Then visit the shops.

    Tell them that the group will promise to use a particular store for a particular type of shopping in exchange for a discount off all elements in store on production of the membership card. Organise an auction process for a type of shopping for an entire quarter and get the shops to bid against each other.

    Providing the manager sees the take goes up for those stores in that quarter, everyone wins.

    That way you can exercise the power of the mass market in the same way the shops use their marketing size to drive down supplier costs - the enticement of the large numbers with the threat of losing those numbers if they don't play ball.

    In fact, since one thing Slashdot does have is size, that model would work well for Slashdot membership and computer goods...

  • by Richard Mills (17522) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:17AM (#9618592)
    I see that Royal Bank of Canada sends wealthier customers to the head of the phone queue, while making ones with smaller accounts wait and wait. This is a classic example of abusing the facelessness of phone transactions, leveraging it to their advantage. Could you imagine customers putting up with this kind of stuff in a face-to-face setting? You walk into the bank, and they tell you to go to the "poor people" line? Or say you go into a department store, only to be told that you will have to let other customers cut in front of you, because they are buying more expensive items? That sounds almost like it should be illegal. But hey, what do you expect for a gigantic, faceless corporation?
    • Could you imagine customers putting up with this kind of stuff in a face-to-face setting?

      You mean like the first class only lines at the airport, or the the preferred customer lines at the car rental, cruise, and hotel counters?

      But you piqued a pet peeve - the notion that the person standing in front of you is less important than someone calling on the phone. The LAST time this happened to me (I just walk away now) was at a motorcyle dealer parts counter. There were a half dozen of us who had waited for over twenty minutes while the counter staff took call after call. Finally I turned to the wall phone (this was before cell phones), and called the dealership number and asked to be forwarded to parts. At this point a couple of guys in front of me clued into what I was doing and moved in front of me so the staff couldn't hear/see me. Sure enough, they took the call, checked the part, and told me it would be ready when I got there. I turned around, waved the phone at them, and bought my parts. Then raised hell until I got a manager, raised hell with HIM, and left with my parts while the rest of the customers continued to revile them. Priceless (tm)!

      KeS

  • no they didn't (Score:5, Informative)

    by MOMOCROME (207697) <momocrome@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:20AM (#9618612)
    RTFA.

    Some other guy from another retailer with a mere 21 stores in the same market is talking about 'firing customers'. The guy from best buy went out of his way to say that they won't give up on 'problem' customers.

    C'mon people, follow the narrative.
  • by geminidomino (614729) * on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:21AM (#9618623) Journal
    I worked as a Tech at Blue&Yellow Hell a few years back, and I ended up quitting after getting into it with the weasly little sales manager over screwing over the customers with that ripoff service plan.

    Hell, if you think the company is customer-hostile OVERTLY, you should see the kind of crap they tell the employees at those micky-mouse-micromanagement "Huddles" every morning before opening.
  • by GrpA (691294) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:22AM (#9618634)
    I don't have any sympathy for bad retailers who offer ridiculous deals to customers, with profit margins based on the fact that customers will not exercise options (eg, rebates) or will buy accessories to supplement the original sale.

    They deserve what they get.

    On the other hand, I did run an ISP, so I know what it's like when you give a customer an unlimited account, based on a pool of bandwidth, only to discover they are a leech, and bring down the quality of service for all customers.

    Still, they purchased the service legitimately, so I wasn't going to ban them...

    So I sent them 3-month gift certificates from a competing ISP :).... And *all* my problem customers left me, taking up the offer.

    My competitor wasn't too happy when he found out years later, but I was left with a pool of good customers, and those customers I didn't want respected me also, and often recommended me to their friends, many of whom weren't leeches.

    Overall, I didn't abuse the customer rights, and I still managed to offer a premium service at a reasonable price. And at better profit margins than my competitors. Not once did I have to make excuses like fair-use policies do.

    The moral of this tale? Treat your customers with respect and they'll respect you in return.

    GrpA
    • "On the other hand, I did run an ISP, so I know what it's like when you give a customer an unlimited account, based on a pool of bandwidth, only to discover they are a leech, and bring down the quality of service for all customers. "

      you offer unlimited, and they us eit, they are not leeching, they are using what they paid for, the ISP is the one who screwed up. Don't give me expected usage, or worse, avaerage use as an excuse. The ISP said, here take all you want, so they did.
      No different then going to an allyou can eat buffet, and then eating all you can eat.
  • by ejaw5 (570071) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:24AM (#9618647)
    Now, mailing in a rebate then returning an item is unethical on the customer's part (didn't think it was possible since most require original UPC).

    However, it's been my experience that BB more often then occasionally won't have a rebate item on stock/shelves right when the store opens on the first day of the rebate sale. 3 cases where I've tried to get a rebate item (modem, HD, monitor) I'd get there and be the first few when the doors open only to find the item NOT on the shelf. Ask a salesperson and they'll say there's no more in stock. When questioned about the promotion, it's the usual B.S. "The item has been on sale for the past week, so we ran out".

    I see rebate sales going out of popularity soon. I won't dare touch BB, and once great-for-quick-rebates-turnaounds OfficeMax has gone down the crapper recently for denying legitimate rebate submissions. The second "denied" rebate from OM, I really let the guy on the other end have it on the phone. (got approved after "resubmitting") Since that day, OM's made it on my shitlist along with BB. My sanity and karma isn't worth it. There's only so much crap people in general will take, and more will start to ignore them and not care as word-of-mouth spreads. Perhaps that's the goal of some retailers...
  • by Cycline3 (678496) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:25AM (#9618657) Homepage
    I think people should read the articles they submit. Best Buy did NOT say they fired customers. Also, in my experience, Best Buy has been a better retailer than Wal Mart, Circuit City, Target and the like. I've received great service and pricing there and 100% satisfaction when I needed to return a dud digital camera.
  • by geek (5680) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:29AM (#9618680) Homepage
    SEARS dropped the "customer is always right" motto a long time ago and replaced it with "The customer isn't always right, but they are never wrong".

    Lets face it, if you haven't worked retail then you simply don't know what hell is. Customers are often devoid of communication skills, arrogant, flat out dumb or in such a god damn hurry that they just don't care about anyone or anything else. We've become a consumer culture where everyone says "gimme!" with complete disregard. I'm not even gonna get into the number of thefts frauds etc. Just enter a Fry's Electronics some time and try to find an item on the shelf that doesn't have a return label already on it.

    People suck most of the time, especially during the holidays. Sales or no sales everyone is pinching pennies and it's usually the rich pricks pinching them hardest and giving you a hard time for no reason other than to be a complete prick.

    What I find ironic is that Xmas is the worst time for all of this. A time supposedly for giving, for your fellow man, love, compassion etc etc which when put into perspective is complete hypocrisy from what it really is. Greed, parking lot arguments, massive crowds, bad tempers, increased suicide rates, fraud. I could go on and on. The fact is, people suck whether they are shoppers or the assholes who own the store.

    I'm no fan of Best Buy, I go only once in a rare while. But I don't see them as evil or wrong in this. You and I can decide not to patron them, they however have no fucking clue we are coming or what we'll do when we get there. As far as I am concerned they have the right to refuse service to anyone they like.
  • by John Seminal (698722) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:30AM (#9618688) Journal
    Best Buy is the most horrible place to buy anything, all they care about is the sale. I once went there to purchase some french tutor application (this is when windows 2000 first came out). On the box it said it was compatible with windows 98/NT. Since the app was made before 2000 came out, I figured NT and 2000 would be compatible, but just to make sure I asked a sales associate. He said anything made for NT would run on 2000. I purchased it, it did not work on 2000 (I got a dll error when running the exe file), and I went to return it. They would not return it, and threatened me that I was a pirate or thief or something really bad. After asking to speak to a manager, two big guys in yellow shirts came up to me and told me they would hold me for the police if I continued to try and return the product. One of the computer tech's who was listening in started laughing at me, and yelled out "NT is not 2000, it's on the box, can't you read". I guess nobody heard a word I was saying. Since then I have never purchased anything from Best Buy. Oh, and a friend of mine got screwed there too. He purchased one of those extended warrenties on a HP computer. The computer kept freezing up (it was running windows ME). He went to get it fixed, and they told him it would be 3 days. It took two weeks to get it back, and the computer was not fixed. When he went back to ask for an exchange, they told him the hardware was fine and he was on his own. So much for the extended warrenty. I knew it was windows ME doing it, but what could he have done? Best buy did not stand behind their product or their own in-house wareenty.

    From the article: Anderson said Best Buy was tightening its rebate policies in the case of customers who abuse the privilege, but declined to say what else his company was doing to discourage its most costly customers.

    There is a simple way to stop mail in rebate fraud. Give the rebate when the sale is made and record it on the reciept. But computer stores will never do this because of how many people forget to mail in the rebate in time. I for one hate mail in rebates, and think it is deceptive for stores to list the price of a product as the price after the rebate (with the rebate listed in small unreadable font). On second thought, I wonder if what he really means is how to screw people from sending in the rebate, like forcing them to print out their own rebates from some website or shortening the time window.

    Now while Circuit City is no better with the rebates, at least there they really try and help you with what you buy. I purchased a laptop from them, saw 2 weeks later it was $100 less at another store (on-sale), and went to get the price match. The manager gave me the money plus 10% of the differance with no problems. She told me she was happy I was a customer and looked forward to servicing my needs again. That was good service.

  • by EZmagz (538905) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:33AM (#9618706) Homepage
    Although from TFA quotes like this made ME laugh:
    "That would be directly equivalent to somebody going to an ATM and getting money out without putting any in," Brad Anderson, Best Buy's chief executive, said in a recent interview. "Those customers, they're smart, and they're costing us money."
    That's the price you pay for making us customers jump through more hoops than a fucking circus poodle to get our product at the advertised price. Honestly, most of the time when I send rebates back to the company I totally expect to never see my check in the mail. It's such an arduous process now that I don't even bother most of the time. Look, a 50-pk of CD-Rs for $3.99! Oh wait, it's actually $50.99 + tax, but after a measly $1 instant rebate and a shitload of 6-12 week waiting periods, I MIGHT get the advertised price. Or, more likely, I might get hosed and never get those rebate checks in the mail...leaving me paying about a buck a CD.

    Honestly if someone takes the time to do a bit of research and sift through the ads in order to get free shit from promotional deals from companies like BestBuy that have horseshit customer service to begin with (anyone else remember the Native American dude arrested for trying to get his instant rebate on his pre-ordered NVidia card a while back?), then more power to 'em. Or maybe I'm just bitter because I've gotten screwed on so many of these rebate deals in the past.

  • My experience... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by singularity (2031) * <nowalmartNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:41AM (#9618761) Homepage Journal
    I worked at a very small specialized retailer (running store) for about three years.

    We had our normal "problem customers". People who would buy a pair of shoes and then bring them back after several long runs on the shoes and try to exchange them. People that would complain about our prices, and so on.

    The fact that the owner of the store was there most times to make the final decision, what helped more than anything was having firm, clear-cut policies on things.

    If you never took back shoes that had obviously been run in, then the person who was always trying to bring them back worn was going to have a problem. And, I admit, sometimes that meant calling the customer a liar, sometimes to their face.

    The customer was always free to go elsewhere. There were even times when I would give directions to another store.

    We would never refuse to sell someone a pair of shoes, and we would never treat a customer any differently than any other person off the street. If someone came in trying to return his tenth pair of shoes, I could objectively look at him (and the shoes) the same way as someone who was coming back for the first time to return something. Had the shoe been obviously worn outside? Would I feel comfortable selling this shoe *as new* to another customer? Would I feel comfortable buying this shoe myself, as new?

    If the shoe passed those tests, I would take the shoes back, tenth pair coming back or first.

    And I will add something on about the rebates - others posting are correct. If you have problems with rebates, *get rid of them*. No one likes them except the retailer, and if the retailer is having problems with them, then no one will be stopping them from getting rid of them.

    Now, I also see a difference between a retailer rebate and a manufacturer's rebate. I dislike them both, but the retailer rebate is the worst.

    SprintPCS, for example, is making a big deal about this new promotion for existing customers. If you have been a customer for over 18 months, you can get a new phone.

    Fine print: SprintPCS will send you a rebate check for up to $150 if you buy the phone, even if you buy is straight from Sprint! So I give SprintPCS my money, and then I have to prove to them I gave them my money, and then 6-8 weeks later they will return *my* money to me?

    Insane! Just give me the stupid phone up front!
  • by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:41AM (#9618763)
    I'm an Australian and I went on a trip to the US not so long ago for only a week on a business trip.

    My first impressions of service in the US (other than the really fancy joints, and the customers on the business trip) was pretty appalling. People talk to you as if you, the customer, are a problem that has to go away.

    Let's see... well apart from certain airline stewardess being a bit careless about which passengers they make fun of about on a flight, to the endless cancellations from hotel to hotel and at short notice.... to the rude replies when you ask a simple question:

    "Excuse me, can you show me where the bathroom is?"
    "Huh? YOU WANNA KNOW WHERE THE BATHROOM IS? WELL! IT'S STRAIGHT DOWN THADDAWAY!"
    Oh yes... the image of the bored-out-of-her-mind angry waitress I saw in the movies actually existed!
    Then some woman decided she'd check my ID for beer (I'm creeping up on 30 if you don't mind. But hey, nice to feel under 21 again), in a manner which made me feel like I did something wrong.

    The taxi driver tried to rip me off, which reminded me of a similar experience I had in a third world country (Well the driver WAS from a third world country), but I'm not sure that this is the kind of experience vistors to the US should be getting. Made more sense to fork out for a limo.

    I only tipped for good service (and believe me, it wasn't that often!).

    I dunno, but maybe this talk down to the customer thing is just the way of life over there. Maybe you guys are all as tough as nuts and don't get easily offended - but the ordeals were a bit uneccessary. Everybody seems to be competing to be the alpha-male... for some reason.
    Makes the RIAA spats against customers seem a little more realistic in my mind.

    Oh yeah... and what the hell is it with you guys and Atkins anyway?
    • by servognome (738846) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @02:52AM (#9619121)
      Its a cultural thing, as an American I really never noticed the way customers are treated in the states until I travelled abroad.
      People in the states all feel they are equal and won't let themselves feel subservant. Its that sense that, "yes I'm a waitress, I'll get your food, but you're not better than me." Except, like you said, fancy places, where people will cater to you since you will pay the extra it takes. That gets combined with the sense that the job is what counts mentality, your plane ticket just entitles you to get from point A to point B, whether the stewardesses like you or not doesn't matter.
      I don't think your experiences are uncommon, Americans are used to and expect that kind of treatment. The perception from American customers is basically "I don't care how nice you are to me, as long as the food doesn't suck." [digitalcity.com] There is a level of service expected, but its below what I've experienced in foreign countries.
      I can understand how foreigners are shocked by customer service in the US. On the flip side, many Americans feel uneasy and even guilty at the extra level of service they get in foreign countries. When I travel I feel bad that I'm not supposed to tip the bellhop, or the waiter in some countries no matter how good the service.
      Just write off your experience to cultural differences
      As for taxi drivers, they will rip you off in any country, I think its part of the test to get their license.
      The Atkins craze is because everybody has a friend who dated this person who knew somebody who lost 50lbs on the diet.
  • by JVert (578547) <corganbilly AT hotmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:47AM (#9618803) Journal
    This is not an article about Best Buy practices. Its about how companies are coping with "Demon" customers. We have a "demon" customer that is slamming our tech support with questions unrelated to her service, but they will argue about the tie in and we need to keep our relationship. Its tough when people are trying to exploit your weaknessess. When the time it takes to patch the holes is time taken away from serving those who deserve it.
  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:56AM (#9618853)
    From the article:
    Selden, a consultant who works for Best Buy, co-wrote "Angel Customers & Demon Customers." In his book, he said that while retailers "probably can't hire a bouncer to stand at the door and identify the value destroyer," they're not powerless.

    Now, I'm afraid this will fail. The problem is that he doesn't realize that Angel customers are also demon customers, except with a soul. Now, it is true that they'll often help the Buffy customers stick it to the other demon customers, but that's because they're tormented by the past, and don't want to grab only the bargains anymore. But definitely, putting a bouncer before the store hellmouth isn't going to even slow down the demon customers. They'll make mince meat out of him. No, retailers should realize that they are really powerless, and let the professional slayer customers clean up the store.

  • by hng_rval (631871) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @01:57AM (#9618858)
    From the article:
    Best Buy executive vice president Philip Schoonover said the idea of "firing" some customers is one place where Best Buy disagrees with Selden. The company will try to find ways to make money-losing customers profitable, he said.
  • by humankind (704050) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @02:09AM (#9618913) Journal
    Maybe in the world of mindless retail, "the customer is always right" but this is absolutely NOT the case in other industries. As a developer and technology consultant, one of the most significant responsibilities I have is translating the customer's needs into something real and functional. In almost every case this involves at some point, me telling the customer what he wants may not be practical, economical, or even viable.

    I vehemently believe that behind EVERY botched tech job, there was at least one greedy, obsequious player that was too afraid of telling the customer he is WRONG.

    A few years back my company turned down a job for one of Stephen Spielburg's companies because what they wanted to do was ridiculous. We knew from the beginning that a bunch of detached executives had an idea for a net-based solution that would backfire on them, and we choose to not be the sacrificial lamb when the whole thing imploded. I lost some potential money in that deal, but I'm certain I would have been much worse off trying to patch the fatally flawed system they suggested we develop. Not a month goes by where I don't have to have one of these types of conversations with customers who want the earth, sun, moon and Jesus Christ piled on top of a rich creme filling that will rot in a few months time.

    In the area of technology and application development, it's almost imperative for the customer to defer to the wisdom and superior working experience of the IT professional.

    Back to the world of retail, how many of us have been in a store and saw some mindless consumer drool over a product that we knew was crap. Every day the goofballs in places like Best Buy have to nod and accommodate these people, even when, among the few employees that have a clue, are fully-aware the customer might as well toss their money down a drain.

    Life is too short to go through that. I am so thankful I'm in a position where I have clients who respect the wisdom of my recommendations. If you're not there, you might want to strive to get there and not be a slave to the all the goofy, destructive, superficial mantras corporate america tries to brainwash consumers with.
  • by humankind (704050) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @02:22AM (#9618975) Journal
    I have NEVER found a store with such clueless employees. If they get screwed over, it's not the customers' fault IMO.

    I purchased a DirecTV/Tivo system from BestBuy. I take it home and find out there's no card in the system. I can't make it work. The salesperson told me DirecTV would supply me with a card; DirecTV told me they wouldn't and I should get one from BestBuy. End result, I take the unit back to Best Buy and only then am I informed that they do have the cards, but they don't keep them in the boxes with the units. I tell them to piss off and I get a better deal doing business directly with DirecTV. I have NEVER found one thing in BestBuy that wasn't higher-priced than CompUSA, broken, incomplete or misleading. I'm glad this article came out, because for some perverse reason, Best Buy is on the way to CompUSA and I always stop there, but I'm now reminded that while I waste time poking my head in this store, I don't think I've ever gotten a better deal, or found less-clueless salespeople anywhere.

    Can we all look forward to the time when these stores will be converted into Chuck-E-Cheeses? I could probably get superior tech support and an order of cheesy bread!
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @02:22AM (#9618976)
    I had a buddy who bought a printer at Best Buy. After he opens it at home, he realizes that the model number of the printer doesn't match that on the box. So he tries to exchange it.

    At the store, the clerks look up up the printer and then they tell him they wouldn't let him exchange it. The printer he had had been discontinued for years and there was no way Best Buy could have sold it to him. Basically they tell him tough luck.

    Now in Best Buy's defense it looks like he's trying to scam the store, but my buddy asks them two questions. 1) If they can look up the printer, can they not look up if the box had been returned previously. 2) They can certainly look up his purchase history and see that he was a good customer.

    After some reluctance and some heated words, they find out that the box had been returned 2 months before my buddy bought it. My buddy had bought thousands of dollars of appliances, electronics, movies, etc with almost no returns.

    In my buddy's case they let him exchange the printer, but wouldn't had they not had the data and if he hadn't been so persistent.

  • Yes and no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davmoo (63521) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @02:29AM (#9619012)
    In a lot of ways I think Best Buy is a pain in the butt. Let's start with rebates.

    But at the same time, anyone who says "the customer is always right" has never worked retail. Contrary to popular belief, at least 90 percent of the time the customer is full of shit. In the past, businesses only let them *think* they were right. Most businesses had to take that line, because they had a limited number of customers in a given location, and they wanted to make everyone happy. Thanks to an era of retailers on every street corner and nationwide sales via the internet, those days are over. I will admit that there are a lot of instances where businesses are very guilty of poor practices and poor customer support. But there are just as many instances, if not more, where the "customer" should be told to go shove his head up his ass and shuffle it on out the door.

    Lets start with customers who regularly come in to a store, tie up a sales person asking endless questions, then go home and buy the item on the internet from a mailorder business. And before anyone fires up a reply saying "well then, the store should lower its prices", no brick-and-mortar retailer will ever be able to match the price of a mail-order only business, and you are being totally unrealistic (and very ignorant of business) expecting them to do so.
  • by SPYvSPY (166790) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @03:34AM (#9619294) Homepage
    At the end of 2002, I was delighted to find a pair of CDJ-1000 CD players on sale at bestbuy.com for the ungodly low price of $800 and change each. I bought two immediately. Then I received an email indicating that they were revoking the offer. That's not allowed under the law, so I called them up and offered to file for fraud with the FTC.

    They treated me like shit, and refused to honor the price. I filed against them at the FTC (yeah, a lot of good that did me--ho hum). I also demanded that they not process the charge on my card.

    Not only did they charge my credit card, they double-charged it to the tune of $4000! Consequently, I spent the week Christmas 2002 with my credit card maxed out for a pair of turntables that I wasn't getting.

    Obviously, Best Buy should be shot dead on the spot and dragged through the streets like the scum-sucking frauds that they are.
  • former employee (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @05:18AM (#9619585)
    I have learned many things being a former employee for bestbuy, hence why I am a former employee due to the fact that i despised so many of their practices.
    For starters, the best buy in brentwood tennessee, i have known the managers there to throw customers out or not let them purchase very large items in home theater if they were not willing to get the service plan, and this was a manager. This stuff happened all the time if people refused to purchase accessories or more stuff all over the store.
    Second, I started working in the computer department, wanting to kill a day and get paid for it, i sat down and read the whole computer department training manual. I found out a few weeks later that I was the only person in the history of that best buy to actually fully read one of the training manuals, most of the time they dont even read them. In the computer department i would walk by and hear some of the most outlandish claims thrown out by salesmen, and most of them confided in me that they didnt know the first thing about computers, they only knew prices, not what was best for the customer. Lastly are the service plans. Best buy used to have a policy fo judging sales people by their service plan sales but it had been cancelled a few months before i joined. I would offer the service plan to those people and items I thought it would actually be useful on, mainly emachines since if they broke they had a policy of not trying to fix it but just replacing it with whatever model was equal to the price that person purchased theirs at, a hell of a deal if your pc breaks every 6 months. I had been talked to many times for not hawking the service plans extremely hard, even if the person obviously did not want one.
    One final item, which may not be unusual for a corporation of that size, but still pissed me off. One of my friends working there completely destroyed his back doing lifting for them. A few days after his accident while he was working he was fired, due to some lame excuse about paperwork which no one does. Of course the friend filed suit but was constantly followed by a private investigator to make sure he wasnt doing anything that could be used against him in court.
    Anyway, thats just my 2 cents from a former employee, I still purchase things there but usually only on sales.
  • by Oligonicella (659917) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @08:58AM (#9620389)
    Not Best Buy, but CompUSA.

    I was having a computer repaired. The woman and her husband in front of me were arguing viciously with the manager that they should be able to buy a memory card that was on sale two days prior at the sale price.

    She was in a wheelchair, she was vulgar, abusive, played the pity card, etc. Her husband was no better. They even lied that they had called in and the "manager" had told them they could. (note: she was talking to said manager)

    The manager wouldn't budge.

    I was amazed and amused at the gall these assholes exhibited and watched as the worked their way out of the store and through the parking lot. Making *very* sure everyone saw how upset the poor, crippled woman was.

    Upshot. When they got back to their truck, the "crippled" woman got out of her wheelchair, picked it up, and TOSSED it into the truck .

    I told the manager what I'd seen and all he could do was shake his head.

    And people wonder why retailers come to despise some people.
  • On rebates. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maul (83993) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @10:58AM (#9621598) Journal
    I've never been denied a rebate. Why? Because immediately after purchase of the items, I read the rebate instructions carefully and follow them exactly to recieve my rebate. Sure enough, X weeks later I do get my rebate check.

    Rebates are somewhat tricky, and I agree that the plot of the rebate is that Joe Consumer forgets about ther rebate or fails to follow the proper instructions to recieve the rebate. However, if you follow the instructions to get your rebate, you will get it in most cases.
  • by BMonger (68213) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @11:20AM (#9621855)
    First off... here's something I usually do at Best Buy (when I'm not just going there because I want to buy "something").

    I go to BestBuy.com and find everything I want and order it for In Store Pickup. You pay for the merchandise online, an employee will walk around the store and pick out everything and bring it up to the customer service desk. Then they e-mail you saying your order is ready. You just show up at best buy, show them the printed e-mail and the card you used to purchase it and be on your way. This is *wonderful* to do at Christmas time. I love walking into Best Buy, walking right up to customer service and leaving while watching the wrap around the store line. And I didn't even have to find any of my items. Use it!

    Last time I went to Best Buy I bought a logitech wireless keyboard/mouse combo that cost me about $100. I'm used to the first thing out of my mouth being a "no" once I hit the cashier. It went something like this (keep in mind I worked customer service at a store for about 2 years so I know what goes on).

    Rep: "Would you like to buy the service plan for $10?"
    Me: "No."
    Rep: "Well I work at customer service too and I see these come back a lot and if it breaks you'll need the service plan."
    Me: "No, if it breaks due to it being faulty you'll exchange it without the service plan."
    Rep: "Well... some people find that the range isn't long enough on this product so you'll need the service plan to bring it back if it's not good enough."
    Me: "No, if it's not good enough I have several days to make that call and bring it back for a full refund."
    Rep: *blank stare*

    I really don't get what he was getting at. From past experience in customer service I know I probably could have returned the keyboard and mouse to them covered in peanut butter without a receipt and gotten my money back and a $25 gift card. Being persistent and pleasant tends to get you results. I almost wanted to not buy the product on the basis that if it was that bad of a product I should probably get something else... although I've yet to have problems with it.

    The only two things I do have their service plan on is my TV (the tube did go out and the model was discontinued so I ended up better off for it anyhow) and my digital camera because I bought the display one (which was discontinued anyhow) and since they knocked a decent amount off the price it made up for the purchase of the service plan. Plus the plan entitles me to new free batteries for 3 years after I got the plan and the plan was $40 and the batteries cost a good $30. I've already gotten one new battery. Both of my service plans have been useful for me.

    Now to go place an order on the BestBuy web site to pick up after work... :)
  • by Hrvat (307784) on Tuesday July 06, 2004 @12:20PM (#9622578)
    I worked at Best Buy while looking for a full time programming job and I can tell you everything you want to know about the computer department.

    It is true that the managers receive bonuses based on the performance of their departments but it is based by monthly performance, so if you don't want to buy a PSP and don't want to be badgered by pressured sales people, go to buy from beginning to mid month.

    Also, as any customer service or sales representative will tell you, being hostile will get you nowhere. If you antagonize me or address me as if I am beneath you, you will not get any help from me. From someone else, you will get some lip back, because it is not a job people regret losing (low paying, crappy hours, dealing with customers like you).

    Last but not least. PSP (at least in my store) was a good buy ON CERTAIN ITEMS. (like emachines) We had an extraordinary number of them returned due to problems and Best Buy does not deal with manufacturer warranties. The reason people tell you "You know that you can't bring it back here if it breaks" is because many idiots bring an item back without a service plan, past the return period, and demand Best Buy to repair or replace the item. It wears down everyone in the customer service and the tech department when the customer should know that they need to contact the manufacturer.

    That said, I worked in a great store, while it was a great store. Rule of thumb is: Go to a newly opened Best Buy if possible, or one where there is a lot of competition. The managers there are more experienced and customer (as well as staff) oriented because they are either:
    a) training new staff or,
    b) trying to retain customer base.

    Our good management went away after a while (promoted internally) and supervisors, while good sales people, moved up into management and just were not so good. After that our entire computer dept. left because we could not deal with the management. :(

    After my stints in sales, and customer service, I was amazed at how many people can be just plain rude and hostile just because someone has to ask one question (I never repeatedly asked for PSP, but I was knowlegeable about computers and thus had a better sales record, and thus was retained as an employee)
    My dream is to make a "How to be a good customer" website, describing techniques of being nice AND getting what you want from the sales person (not mutually exclusive).

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