Circuit City Price Gouging on Installation Fees

Reader Ben sends us this camera phone shot of the in-store Circuit City price list for their various home installation services. Holy Shit!

•Remote Programming: $129.99 ?!
•Stand Alone DVR: $149.99?! !##%@$#!

One Hundred and Thirty Dollars to program a REMOTE? Allow us to announce the Consumerist Home Installation Service… where for only $800.00… nevermind. Or, as reader Ben says:

“That involves hooking up some A/V cables to your television and turning the thing on– Maximum time… what, 10 minutes?? Excuse the poor camera phone quality, but you’ll notice that the prices are on stickers, clearly covering up an older, probably more reasonable price. My question is, does Circuit City regulate what their stores charge for home installation?”

Good question! Does anyone work for Circuit City? What’s the deal? Ben’s email inside.


    “I was at the Santa Monica, CA Circuit City today, and noticed how ridiculous their prices were for home theater installation. Plasma wall mounting is clearly complicated and requires skill, so it’s hardto argue what is reasonable, but things like DVR installation for $149.99?!?! That involves hooking up some A/V cables to your television and turning the thing on– Maximum time… what, 10 minutes?? Excuse the poor camera phone quality, but you’ll notice that the prices are on stickers, clearly covering up an older, probably more reasonable price. My question is, does Circuit City regulate what their stores charge for home installation? Going to the Circuit City website, they only list prices for the “big jobs” like plasma mounting and surround sound setup. These Halliburton-priced a la carte items like DVR Setup don’t make any appearance on the website.”

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  1. ord2fra says:

    So what? CC isn’t stupid for pricing it that way, the consumer is stupid for paying it.

    My theory is that during the holidays, if they priced at “reasonable” levels, the demand would be great as people would have someone else set it all up. So, they price it sky-high so that only those desperate or wealthy enough to pay for it will actually get it.

    This type of pricing has nothing to do with cost. It has everything to do with demand (probably very high during December) and supply of techs to do the service (probably low as CC is just getting started with their in-home service). At these prices, though, expect a lot of competition (the invisible hand of Adam Smith)

  2. Josh Smith says:

    I have always thought BestBuy’s Geeksquad prices were a ripoff too, though I don’t have a picture. Don’t any of these people have a friend who isn’t colorblind, a 14 year old neighbor, a nephew, anyone?!? I don’t understand the people who pay for these services.

  3. DeeJayQueue says:

    I think this is a move to price those services out of existance.
    I’ve seen it before where a service becomes unprofitable or simply unavailable due to training or manpower issues, or due to any number of other factors. You can’t just stop offering the service because people may still be asking for it, but you make it so expensive that most people will scoff at the price and go elsewhere. The people that pay the fees deserve to be parted with their money.

  4. incidentist says:

    What’s the big deal? It’s what the market will bear. These are consumer electronics, not electricity service or baby food or health insurance, so if CC wants to part fools from money, they can give it a shot. It’s kind of pointless to post this on Consumerist, since anyone who’s thinking about purchasing this stuff will see these clearly advertised prices at the store, and will be able to take that into account when they make their decision. Might as well post about the rip-off prices for food at airports.

  5. buck09 says:

    Most of the people who pay for these services do so because they’re too rich / busy / important to be bothered. I’m sure Circuit City knows what the market will bear to maximize their profits.

    Stuff like this seems outrageous to us, but only because we’re part of the group of people who “gets is” (or doesn’t, depending on the side of the fence).

  6. eliasg says:

    I used to work for some people that paid maybe double or tripe that figure to get their remote control programmed. The guy who installed/sold them their A/V equipment would rip them off all the time. For some reason, they liked the guy.

    Several times I showed them how they got ripped-off on equipment (for instance, he sold them a 42″ EDTV Plasma and told them it was HD… because it could accept HD signals, like 720 and 1080, but the panel itself was 480) or remote control programming, and they would get outraged, but in the end, they stuck with the guy.

    I guess some people like getting ripped off.

  7. RickyF says:

    Prices may seem high but…
    It takes time to go to the site and return. It takes knowledge and experience. If the consumer is uncomfortable doing this then they can shop around if they want but they will have to pay someone.

  8. missdona says:

    To me, this reeks of taking advantage of the elderly. It’s vile.

  9. Joe Hass says:

    I’m going to defend these guys.

    Part of the reason a price like this is so high is that you literally don’t know what you’re getting into. There are consumers who are wary of paying an hourly rate to these guys, so they’d rather pay a flat-fee. The problem is that, from a technician’s perspective, you have no idea what you’re getting into. So, to compensate for the occasional nightmare installation, the price has to cover the vast majority of installation scenerios.

    Take, for example, the Stand Alone DVR install price of $149. Here’s a situation where I’d consider that price to be reasonable (even cheap). Imagine coming into a house with one RCA input on the TV, already taken by the Playstation 2 they bought two years ago. They have digital cable (taking advantage of one of those $60 for Internet & cable bundles Comcast offers). The customer has heard that you can program the TiVo through your computer if you have a high-speed connection, which they do. However, they have no router; it’s just a direct connection from the cable modem to the computer. And there’s no phone jack near where the customer wants the TiVo.

    In that situation, you’re looking at a nightmare: to do what the customer asks will take two or three hours, involve ripping apart the current wiring setup, and generally trying to explain everything to the customer who’s still trying to figure out why they now have three remotes.

    The bottom line is that I’d rather see them offer an hourly rate than a flat fee.

  10. Trai_Dep says:

    Count me as being on the side of market forces. It’s a literacy tax. Or a Shoulda Been Nicer to Adorkable Geeks Cuz Now They Spurn Me tax.

    Crack open the manual or pay $120 to have someone do it for you. Don’t see any guns to head there.

  11. buck09 says:

    The elderly don’t *need* any of those things. Most of the elderly people I know have a TV set with a cable box hooked up by the CableCo. No LCD projectors, no universal remotes, no XM Radio and no 66.2 THX-Certified surround sound.

    Frankly, I think it’s condescending to think that an elderly person couldn’t install most of those things (notwithstanding lifting the heavier things) if they took the time to learn about them. On top of that, they are perfectly capable of deciding if they want to pay for the service or not.

    Do you think that full-service gas stations rip off the elderly and handicapped too?

  12. Jon R. says:

    Programming a sophisticated universal remote with macros to properly control all of the components of a home theater could take a few hours. I don’t know how sophisticated CC is getting. Certainly programming a simple universal remote may not be worth that, but for complete programming of a Phillips Pronto, it may be a good deal.

  13. Smoking Pope says:

    I’m going to agree with Joe on this one. I used to teach computer classes, and would often get people calling to see if I would come to their house to teach them on their computer (and give them a flat rate up front).

    You really have no idea what you’re getting into, and when you factor in transportation, opportunity cost, the amount of time it takes to discover exactly what it is they want you to do, the entire thing can become unprofitable very quickly. (Especially when you have to explain to the 90-something year old customer that the reason why he can’t e-mail his grandson is that he has no modem, no internet account, and that you usually can’t send e-mails from a waffle iron. That conversation usually takes at least 1 hour.)

  14. acambras says:

    Buck09, my elderly mother had the cable guy come to her house to fix her cable. Then she got tired (she’s elderly) and went to take a nap on the couch, but the cable guy was already asleep on it.

  15. missdona says:

    @buck09

    I’m thrilled that the elderly people in your life can figure out the ins and outs of their electornics. That hasn’t been my experience at all.

  16. mendel says:

    The “things” that buck09 was talking about wasn’t the setup service, it was the product the setup service set up. He’s saying that the target market for DVRs and universal remotes is not the elderly.

  17. MeMikeYouNot says:

    I bought a 52inch HDTV from CC in July and they charged me $55.00 for delivery and setup. Seemed reasonable to me. In my local store, they don’t have a price list like this posted, but some of that stuff does seem high!

  18. chewy says:

    I’ve been doing computer work for over 11 years now and to me these prices seem very reasonable. There are alot of people out there who simply dont have the skills or time to perform the tasks that may seem very easy for us computer people.

    I have clients who are doctors/dentists/lawyers that charge $500 an hour for their services. When I come out for 10 minutes and install their USB printer for them, most of the time they are more than happy to give me $100. Why would they waste their own time fiddling through the manual, installing drivers and fiddling with cables etc. They almost look down at me, like a maid or something……someone who’s willing to drive to their house and perform some techno-hocus-pocus for a measily $100????? They think I’m a fool!!

    ~chewy

  19. MrBartokomous says:

    Well, it’s a ripoff as far as I’m concerned… but then again, it’s a question of what people are willing to pay. In my college res I charge 40$ if people want me to hook up their internet… and for the easy installs, it’s a little overpriced. For the nightmares, it’s underpriced. It’s just a matter of balance, and far less than people would pay if they had Geek Squad.

  20. Hangemhi says:

    I work for a competitor of Circuit City. I just wanted to clear up the Program Remote Control price, because people always ask me at MY store why it’s so high.

    For a “normal” universal remote, $100+ dollars would be ridiculous. However, the comprable install at my store is listed as “Harmony Remote” control programing. Now, if you are tech savvy, Programing a harmony remote is a piece of cake. Just enter the model numbers at their website, answer a few questions and download the program via USB cable. BUT, in order to make the remote work correctlly, you’ll need to know all of the inputs that every item in your home theatre is using. You’ll need to know that in order to, say, watch a DVD, the TV needs to be set to one input, Reciever needs to be set to another input, etc, etc… Unless you yourself hooked everything up, you probablly won’t program the remote very easily. And being that I STILL get customers all the time who try to plug Component cables into A/V Composite cable jacks, 130 bucks is a pretty good option. It beats spending seven hours in a cable chasing nightmare. Not to mention, the Harmony will do macros, and most people don’t want to fool with that.

  21. rbf2000 says:

    I used to work at Circuit City and I know that the individual stores don’t set the prices of the services, that is something set my corporate.

    What may change between stores is what you get for that charged service. It wouldn’t be as big of a deal for programming a remote, but for the computer installation packages that they have (where they optimize registries, install software, etc.) vary greatly from store to store, or even associate to associate.

    When I left they had just rolled out the Firedog brand, so they were starting to be more unified, but still, for a PC install that you might pay $100 at one store, another store my add on a couple of extra install skus and end up charging double that.

    It wasn’t so much intentional, but more of a sort of ignorance meshed with an intense pressure to make their budget for these relatively new services.

  22. headexpl0dy says:

    I work for Circuit City’s Home Theatre dept. Just like jcase757 said, prices are set by corporate.
    There are a couple things I don’t agree with either but for the most part the prices are the lowest of the big-box stores. When a customer has a TV delivered and set up, a basic remote consolidation is included. What the $130 remote programing does is program a learning remote. Normally high dollar internet programed learning remotes can take forever to set up. Other instals like the 599 flat pannel mounting is actually a pretty good deal since they take the set in, give you the mount for free, hang the set, run the cables inside the wall, and hook up your video components. Try looking at Best Buy’s H.T. prices, they used to charge 599 just for the labor to hang the set only. Hangemhi totaly hit the nail on the head.