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How Best Buy lost my business
2005-04-27

I've been a some what fan of Best Buy for a while. Its not Fry's Electronics, but it has a reasonable selection of stuff at reasonable prices, and when I want something "now" and don't want to wait for an on-line order, its great. I've bought some ridiculous percentage of my Christmas gifts at Best Buy over the last couple years, for instance. I've used their "performance" guaruntee stuff for things like digital cameras, or when buying gifts that I don't want the giftee to worry about, despite the annoying pressure sales tactics they use for them (and they are not alone in this). I've been annoyed at the whole rebate thing, since I almost never fill out rebates, especially on gifts for others (where I won't have the stupid UPC or whatever they require), but convenience and price have kept me coming back.

That all changed last week when I attempted to buy one of the new Sony PSPs for a friend for his birthday. I should have ordered it online, but I was running late, and most of the online stores had these stupid bundles or where charging a premium anyways, so I went looking around and a Best Buy on my way home had some in stock.

They also had an annoying 'bundle', which was poorly explained to me, but I had to buy two "accessories" and two games along with the unit. Fine. They were mostly out of accessories, but I picked up some $10 case that was clearly never going to be used, and a memory card and two games, which were fine. The salesman had also said something about a free AOL subscription and a free subscription to the "netflix" for games, but I figured these were just the usual "free cd's" or whatever that I could ignore. He pressured me for the performance guaruntee, tauting it especially for the dead pixel problem the PSP has, and was more annoying than usual about it. Especially when I talked with a different salesman and he also tried the hard sell for the performance guaruntee.

I get up to the counter to buy this stuff, and I'm buying like $130 worth of stuff above the $249 PSP just so I can get the PSP, when the guy at the counter asks for my credit card for the AOL subscription. I said, what? Apparently, not content to just hand out their stupid free CDs, they actually wanted me to sign up for AOL right there, and I'd have to cancel the subscription later after the free hours if I didn't want to continue using it. The idiot at the counter couldn't really explain this, because he couldn't really speak. Couldn't really do math, either, since he claimed the bundle was giving me one of the games for free because there was $20 off... except the games were $40 each, and when I pointed this out, he then said "ok, that makes it $10 for the game then"... right, and I didn't even mention having to spend $130 to get $20 off... so he goes looking for a manager at my insistence, and the manager explains that "this is how we've chosen to sell these" and no doubt it was working, since they claimed to only have 4 left (and there was someone in line behind me buying one). I just said something like "fuck it" and walked out of the store without the PSP.

This is a new low in dirty annoying retail tactics. The whole "free until we start charging then you have to call us up to stop" tactic is one of the lowest forms of scams that I expect from places like "free" porn sites, and not places I would ever choose to spend my money. That AOL uses this tactic, I'm not surprised. That Best Buy would force their customers to sign up for this at the store, especially to wring a few extra dollars out of the sale for a high demand item is beyond the pale for me. If they had any balls, they would have just done what the online stores did, over charge for the damn PSP.

They've lost my business. And all extol my opinion to my friends as well. We spend a lot of money there, relatively, but I'd be surprised if that affects as much as $10k of their yearly business, which is no doubt a drop in the bucket for them, so they can feel free to ignore my boycott. If I had a great deal more time, I'd be sending them a paper letter and starting a boycott best buy campaign, but as it is, this blog post on the subject is already 8 days behind.

As for my friend, well, he got a book about Italian Wine, some Italian Wine, and a gift certificate for Wine. Yes, my wife's idea. And one of his other female friends had the same idea.


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