Best Buy "is awful and deserves to die," Slate writes

Categories: Best Buy
BestBuyCampus.jpg
Best Buy's Richfield headquarters.
The news has been pretty good for Best Buy since Hubert Joly took over as CEO last year. Though the company is still laying off people, its stock has been one of the best performing on the S&P 500 so far this year, and Time recently proclaimed the company "back from the dead."

SEE ALSO: Best Buy hit by Banksy-style prankster [PHOTOS]

So it's a bummer to read Slate write that "the store is awful and deserves to die." But that's the conclusion writer Matthew Yglesias reached after he and and an intern headed to two Best Buys for a premeditated shopping spree.

Yglesias went to a Best Buy in D.C. and his intern headed to one in New York City. Neither of them could find any of the products they sought at either store for a price that beat Amazon, and most were more expensive. But that's just the beginning.

From the Slate piece:
But where the store truly fails is as a store. Not everything in life is about bargains. It could make perfect sense to pay a premium in exchange for a useful customer service experience. To put this to the test, I wandered over to the home theater section and told a sales rep that I needed to pick up an HDMI cable. These connector cables are the locus of notorious markups and sales scams. To make a long story short, all HDMI cables are good enough, but many brands gouge customers with premium prices and bogus claims of quality. Best Buy's guy was very much part of the con. He offered me three levels of cable quality for a 6-foot HDMI. The "cheap" $19.99 cable (Amazon has one for about $6), a superior $39.99 cable, and high-end "high-speed" cable from Monster for $59.99. Just to be clear, I asked the salesman if the more expensive cable was really better. He assured me that it was, that if you really want to make sure you're getting the best from your Blu-ray player, for example, you need that high-end cable. To his credit, he didn't push me when I declined. But this is malpractice verging on fraud.

Amazon, to its discredit, also sells this crap. But the big question for brick-and-mortar retail is how it can deploy the physical presence of human beings to generate value. For Best Buy the answer seems to be scams. Eavesdropping on other customers, salesman after salesman was trying to upsell people on service plans or warranties or reminding them that they might want to buy screen-cleaning wipes.
Yglesias argues that instead of taking the advice of experts who suggested that Best Buy, after the Brian Dunn debacle, should try to revitalize itself by stocking fewer products and turning its store employees into curatorial experts, the company's impressive 2013 has actually been the result of nothing more than cost-cutting and upselling customers without bringing them any value in return.

"A year ago, Best Buy looked to be headed for a well-deserved death. Today, it seems to have escaped that fate without doing anything to deserve its good fortune," Yglesias concludes.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.

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24 comments
CinBlueland
CinBlueland topcommenter

Their service not withstanding.. Nothing in the past year or so has made anyone revise their estimates that BB is headed for the boneyard in 2015-2016. 

Their proposed plans to expand into micro stores in malls is a gimmic at best. The only reason they even look halfway decent on paper is the heavy cuts made their losses look OK on paper.  Investors are looking at the short position, probably do a little now and hope for a Q4 spike and then dump Dec 26 before earnings come out.

LuteFisk
LuteFisk

 I had an Instance where I was TV shopping for my guest bedroom at Bad-Buy, so I thought I would have some fun with the salesman after he fed me a line of why I needed a higher refresh rate because I wouldnt be able to "see the the puck" with a lower refresh rate TV , I'm a huge hockey fan. I argued with him over his claim and asked him to prove it. He could not. I bought the less expensive TV ($260 cheaper) with the lower refresh rate that he insisted I needed to watch hockey in high definition, I can see the puck fine.

k2yeb
k2yeb topcommenter

City Pages is becoming the TMZ of local news. 

Deejay St Joel
Deejay St Joel

Damn shame making all the Richfield homeowners move so they could build there headquarters especially when it goes under!

cnerlien
cnerlien

The problem with Best Buy is that whenever I go there, I know more than the customer service guys. I'm no IT special or computer nerd but at least I know what a USB port is. 

Mark Witte
Mark Witte

Best buy died when they devolved from being a small stereo components store called Sound of music into a home appliance store. Service is non existence and Geek squad is a huge ripoff.

Joe Green
Joe Green

I've had nothing but great experiences at Best Buy.... for years.

Padraig Ralztin
Padraig Ralztin

City Pages, So when are you going to put an article on how other companies must die because someone had a bad experience? Pretty tacky...

Jeff Schwartz
Jeff Schwartz

I personally witnessed a manager at one of the stores doing rails of coke off his dashboard in the back parking lot on multiple occasions. It took, 12 formal complaints from customers, 3 sexual harassment complaints, and an investigation which revealed that he had stolen over 24 grand in product before they made him resign.

Andrew Leonard
Andrew Leonard

I wish I could disagree with the Slate article, but I don't. Unfortunately, my experiences at Best Buy range from disappointing to infuriating.

Fred Johnston
Fred Johnston

I have not shopped at a Best Buy in years and will not shop there in the foreseeable future PERIOD

kyl3wyld
kyl3wyld

I only go there when I don't want to wait for something to come in the mail, and the only time I talk to the employees is when I am not sure where something is. That is if I can find an employee to help me for the 5 seconds I need it.


Justin Beck
Justin Beck

TL;DR - If you are dumb enough to get conned into buying a $60 HDMI cable in the first place by anyone, you deserve to pay the $60. While I am aware that older/elderly customers probably aren't fully aware of what an HDMI cable SHOULD cost, they should consult family members first regarding the matter or consult other sources rather than just taking some Best Buy employee's word for it. Chances are that the salesperson has a double digit IQ and a triple digit income and didn't get past high school.

adams.steven
adams.steven

Really, This person is complaining because the salesperson offered items to help keep an expensive piece of electronics in good condition and to help a customer keep from damaging a screen. Also, you could actually ask what the make up of the cables were to make one better than the other. While there are unscrupulous sales people. More often then not, they are just trying to do their job and help you get the most out of your purchase. Nobody wants a customer to be unsatisfied with the product that is purchased. And as for markups? It is easy to sell things at minimum prices when you are only paying minimum wage to workers to fill the orders rather than paying their help a living wage.

Fluffy Singler
Fluffy Singler

I haven't been to Best Buy in at least a decade.

Bent Angle
Bent Angle

I once bought an expensive sony camera that was broken right of the box from best buy, I tried to return it just days later, they would not exchange it, they would only help me get 'warranty repair', for which there appeared to be 'charges' involved. I simply lived with the defect. I've NEVER been back, I NEVER will.

Noel Barrick
Noel Barrick

Those assholes are trying to push the things that actually make the store money. We should probably get them out of MN because we don't need their bad name or their crappy tax revenue. But no seriously. Marking up cables is nothing new. Ever been to ANY other retailer? Better start hating on Target, Walmart, etc. as well because every brick and mortar big box store is going to do the same.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

There's nothing new about this.  In 2007 I bought my mother a laptop at Best Buy. It had Vista on it.  I had an extra license for Office 2003 which I planned to put on the machine.  I was told I had to buy Office 2007, absolutely, positively.  I said I hadn't heard that and it couldn't be true or business would have revolted and it would have been news. The salesman called over his supervisor who swore up and down I would not be able to install Office 2003 on the Vista machine. I insisted they had to be mistaken.  They were openly laughing at me, and they took me over to the Geek Squad counter, where a Geek Squad guy told me the same crock of shit.  By this point, I wouldn't have bought Office 2007 from these grifters for a nickel.  I should have walked out without the laptop and gone to Micro Center, since I was at the 494 & Lyndale Best Buy, not far from Micro Center anyway.  But I bought that laptop there because if there were problems with it, my mom would have been able to take it to a Best Buy near where she lives.  But I don't think I've bought anything else there since.  Oh, Office 2003 worked perfectly on the Vista machine. Duh.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

@CinBlueland  Yeah, I agree with your assessment on BBY stock,100%.  Funny thing; last time I went in there was about a year ago.  My son wanted to look for some doo-dad (I can't remember what).  The 494-Lyndale store was being remodeled.  When we walked in, my son (he's 15) said, "Wow, they're remodeling this place to look exactly like an Apple store!"  He was right. They had a big Samsung shop in the middle,etc. It was the very image of a gimmick.

And I think you're dead-on about the finance side of it.  As for myself, just this past week I bought another electronic item from Tiger Direct, and some more supplies from Micro Center.

_Joe_
_Joe_

@adams.steven Your claim that less expensive cables cause "damage" to a screen is complete and utter bullshit.

loserdroid
loserdroid

@adams.steven HDMI Markups are common just about anywhere.  But the author is right. They are a total scam.  The $6 cable is absolutely as good as the $60 cable.  You absolutely do NOT need the better cable and the nature of digital data guarantees that there is absolutely no increase in audio/video quality with a better cable.  Some people think that a better cable gives you a better picture, but that's not even POSSIBLE with digital because digital is DATA... and the DATA has to be received exactly as it was transmitted for it to work at ALL.  

I stopped going to Best Buy after I was bitten by their gross misrepresentation of "product replacement plans".   Before the vast majority of you had smartphones, I bought one of the first smartphones ever made by Palm (remember them?).   Anyway... this was a $600 phone and the product replacement plan cost me a very steep $200.  They loved to sell you on the idea that you could "drop it off the roof of a building" and they'd replace it for you for free.  So just a couple of months later, I left it on the roof of my car and when it fell off I drove over it.  I went into Best Buy all self-assured, that I payed my money for a product replacement plan (an expensive one seemed justified and justifiable to me at $200 for what they claimed it would cover).  But Best Buy screwed me.   They told me any kind of physical damage was not covered... $200 for a warranty then?  My manufacturer offered a no-cost warranty!  What kind of scam did they sell me?  It was my fault for not reading all the fine print, but also you know, Best Buy, it is illegal to misrepresent contracts.  You cannot tell customers that a contract they're signing covers something when it in-fact does not.  I no longer shop at Best Buy. 

_Joe_
_Joe_

@loserdroid All cables carry 'data'.  Just in different formats.  HDMI signals are often not "received exactly as transmitted" and usually result in a skipped frame or a visual fracture in the picture until the next information is processed.

It's also true that all data going over cables are subject to latency and that different materials will cause different amounts of latency in transmission.  It's even possible that these monster cables are made of the lowest latency material out there.

The problem is that when you're talking about a 6 foot span, or even a 20 foot span, that difference latency is not going to be  noticeable by any human.  Ever.  Human eyes can process something like 125FPS and digital latency is measured in single digit MS.


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