Circuit City's Firedog Charges $169 For 'Home Theater Installation', Doesn't Hook Up HDMI Cable

Circuit City’s Firedog Home Theater Installation package is a ripoff. It includes:
•Connecting all new and existing A/V components
•Remote consolidation
•Demonstrate operation of system

…..and costs $169! For that much money, you’d think they’d bother to hook up your TV using the provided HDMI cable. And maybe hook up the surge protector you purchased. And maybe program your remote. Joe writes:

…They also bought an expensive Monster home theater surge protector. It’s the kind that has connectors for the coax cable from Comcast so that you can protect from surges over the broadband line. Except, Firedog decided this wasn’t worth doing. The cable went from the wall directly to the back of the cable box, bypassing the surge protector entirely.

While I was back there, I figured out why the picture didn’t look as crisp as it should have. They had the cable box connected to the TV with component video cables. I went over to the table where my parents had all the owners manuals along with two cables: an unused coax cable (which of course was intended for the surge protector) and an unused HDMI cable!

Lastly, they didn’t bother to program the codes for their TV into the Comcast universal remote.

What service did Joe’s parents pay them $169 for exactly? We haven’t figured it out.

Joe writes:

Hi Consumerist team,

I love your site, I’ve been reading it for a long time now. After reading your complaints about Best Buy’s Geek Squad service, I wanted to sound off about a similar service, Circuit City’s “Firedog”, which apparently staffs the same caliber of “technicians”. Thought you’d be interested to know and maybe pass on to the readers to warn them before paying the $169 for home theater installation.

Last week my parents bought their first HDTV. They weren’t comfortable setting it all up themselves, so against my advice they had Firedog set it up for them. My mother told me the next day that they seemed very hurried but everything seemed OK – except they didn’t think the HDTV channels looked as nice as when they watched HDTV channels when visiting my apartment. So I figured I would come over and inspect Firedog’s handiwork.

First of all, they also bought an expensive Monster home theater surge protector. It’s the kind that has connectors for the coax cable from Comcast so that you can protect from surges over the broadband line. Except, Firedog decided this wasn’t worth doing. The cable went from the wall directly to the back of the cable box, bypassing the surge protector entirely.

While I was back there, I figured out why the picture didn’t look as crisp as it should have. They had the cable box connected to the TV with component video cables. I went over to the table where my parents had all the owners manuals along with two cables: an unused coax cable (which of course was intended for the surge protector) and an unused HDMI cable!

Lastly, they didn’t bother to program the codes for their TV into the Comcast universal remote.

Now, according to their services page http://www.firedog.com/ht_install.html , the standard service includes “remote consolidation” and “connect all new and existing A/V components”. I guess CORRECTLY connecting A/V components is an optional service.

-Joe

This may be another case of “just pay the neighbor kid.” For $169 your neighbor kid will probably hook up your TV, install wifi, mow your lawn, wash your cat and program your remote. Seriously.—MEGHANN MARCO

Comments

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  1. homerjay says:

    Did he complain to the store? Ask for a refund? Anything?

  2. yalej says:

    Had a similar situation happen to some friends of mine. I told them I’d set up their HT when I came to visit and when I arrived and saw what the DirecTV people did I just laughed. These jokers do not know ANYTHING. They had cables with no signal going to the tv, they put the coax cable from the sat receiver into the tv (!), it was just a Rube Goldberg set up.

    The Monster surge protector (if it’s the one I’m thinking of) is not too bad, and it’s the only thing I’d ever even consider buying from them. Panamax also makes good surge protectors.

    I wouldn’t trust these guys to set up my toaster.

  3. niccernicus says:

    For $169, I would have installed the tv and made you a sandwich!

    Chrissake!

  4. nozzle-a says:

    I think Firedog actually refers to their attitude towards work. They run from it like a dog runs from fire…

  5. DougDascenzo says:

    I’m sure this service is a ripoff, but to their defense I’m fairly certain that Comcast boxes don’t support HDMI connections. This might have since changed, but I remember when we bought our plasma (a year and a half ago) we couldn’t get an HDMI cable because our Comcast DVR box didn’t have the connection.

  6. xdabomb911 says:

    Hey I’m shocked you paid for installation. Installation is the easiest thing in the world. Especially if you consider u’d be “paying” yourself 169 bucks and can actually finish the job.

    Maybe Firedog is trying to teach you that.

  7. bambino says:

    Maybe others can correct me, but don’t component video cables (that’s the green/blue/red ones, right) provide just as good a picture as HDMI? At least to the human eye? I know my sony bravia hdtv is connect to my TWDVR with these and not with an HDMI cable.

  8. Falconfire says:

    @DougDascenzo: Newer boxes do support it but you have to get them to GIVE you one, just like you have to for their version of digital recorders. Otherwise you get their standard crap box.

  9. rbf2000 says:

    @bambino: Component cables give you a hi-def picture and will transmit a 1080i picture without a problem (even a 1080p picture, actually). However, if you can tell the difference between component and HDMI it’s most likely a placebo effect as the actual difference is truly negligible.

    This is actually one of Firedog’s cheaper services, they have packages that go well over $500, so comparatively it’s not that expensive.

    Also, Firedog is in its infancy and they want to make things right. Sometimes they use subcontractors and if the subcontractors are doing a substandard job, Circuit City wants to know about it so people in the future won’t have the same problem. It sucks when a 3rd party company gives them a bad name.

    They want you to have a good experience, talk to the manager of the local store and I’m sure they’ll make right by you.

    On a side note, my HD-DVR from Comcast does not support HDMI. They have a DVI out on it, but you have to specially request a box that supports HDMI.

  10. WitchKing says:

    Firedog, the Geek Squad wannabes, right?

    Maybe they figured they’d challenge all the bad PR Geek Squad has been getting to carve out their own overpriced niche

  11. Xkeeper says:

    @jcase757:

    Also, Firedog is in its infancy and they want to make things right. Sometimes they use subcontractors and if the subcontractors are doing a substandard job, Circuit City wants to know about it so people in the future won’t have the same problem. It sucks when a 3rd party company gives them a bad name.

    Circuit City does a good enough job on its own.

    Honestly, though. Just read the damn instructions — now a days, most equipment comes with a very useful and helpful instruction manual, and I always read it and show people how to hook things up :)

  12. troublz says:

    The real problems here is that 1) they bought an overpriced and unnecessary Monster Surge protector 2) not enough education about component vs. HDMI 3) potentially sold a high priced HDMI cable.

    Personally, I think that phone line and cable line “surge” protectors are unnecessary. Perhaps the installer shares this opinion. What he should have done is given the homeowner the option (in case he/she has a different opinion).

    The HDMI cable not being hooked up could be, as previously suggested, because 1) HDMI not available on cable box OR 2) component cables work just as good as HDMI for HDTV.

    The remote consolidation is probably right — not many excuses there — but what I haven’t seen from this post is whether anyone contacted Firedog/Circuit City about this???

  13. Magicube says:

    1) jcase757 is right: you should go straight to the manager and give them the opportunity to make things right.
    2) Surge protectors can actually damage some equipment. Don’t just plug stuff into them without confirming first.
    3) Most equipment these days does NOT come with a “useful and helpful” manual. They come with very thin documents that carefully skip any likely problems you’re going to have. If it doesn’t suffer from a horrendous translation, it usually suffers from lack of information. Sony’s are laughably bad.

  14. pestie says:

    If I had a nickel for every time I’d re-wired my parents’ AV components after the Comcast guy had made a clusterfuck of it, well, I’d probably have, like, $0.25 by now. And they don’t even have a real home theater, just a big-screen TV, digital cable box, DVD player and some museum piece they call a VCR.

  15. TechnoDestructo says:

    So how much of that 169 is the installer seeing? What’s the incentive for him to do anything right?

  16. John Stracke says:

    @Magicube:

    Surge protectors can actually damage some equipment.

    Citation, please?

  17. John Stracke says:

    @Magicube:

    Most equipment these days does NOT come with a “useful and helpful” manual.

    About a month ago, I needed to replace our DVD player. This isn’t an important item for me (I’m not a video fanatic, so Good Enough is good enough), so I just went to Circuit City. I found a DVD recorder for just $100, so I decided to give it a try.

    Before I got home, I had to run another errand, which involved a long wait. I spent the time reading the manual for this recorder…and discovered that it was disgustingly complicated. To use it properly, you had to decide whether you wanted (roughly speaking) single- or multi-session recording, whether you wanted to be able to edit the DVD afterwards, and whether you wanted to be able to play it on a standard DVD player. Now, all of this might have been acceptable if it had been possible to say, “No, I just always want to press the button and get a DVD I can play anywhere”. (I don’t care if I can edit a DVD in the recorder, or a video in my camcorder, because I’m not going to bother; I’m going to import it into iMovie.) But, as near as I could tell, that just wasn’t an option; you had to go through the choices.

    The deciding factor was that the manual had far too many cross-references; there was no Quick Start page that said, “To record a simple DVD, do A, B, and C”. I decided that, if the company’s tech writers couldn’t figure out the simple way to do the simple case, I wasn’t going to ask my wife to try. So I returned it, and got a cheaper, but simpler, DVD player…and that’s one sale the company lost purely to the quality of their manual.

  18. vocalyouth says:

    I used to be an installer for Circuit City, and I always did a good job (it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to hook up a surround system and a dvd player…), however, the fact that people payed sometimes up to $500 for an installation and I was still making $7 an hour was infuriating. And again, as people have said, many cable boxes do not support HDMI, and if they hooked up component as well as optical for surround, you are getting as good of sound and picture as you would get out of HDMI. Not defending them, I know a lot of people cared less about about working there.

  19. azinck says:

    Component will indeed provide effectively as good an image as HDMI. I’m guessing the original poster meant that the tv was connected with a “composite” video cable, not component.

  20. heiicat says:

    As someone who works for a cable company (a Canadian one and one I don’t hate at that) just an FYI those Coax surge protectors cause no end of grief for people with digital boxes. They will more often than not prevent two way communication (by design) and screw up things like video on demand and ppv ordering. So first of all don’t use the surge protection for coax if you have a digital box. Decond Monster anything is a ripoff especially for digital cables like HDMI… the cheap cables work just as well.

  21. jmarsden says:

    I can speak on a side that isn’t heard much. I was a contractor for C**cuit C*ty. I was with them for 3 years. I was let go because, and it doesn’t sound possible, but, for doing my job correctly, and to the customers expectation.

    The stores didn’t want to hear when there was a issue with what their half witted salespeople did.

    I have worked with numerous manufacturers, and have found all of the following to be fact…
    a. If you have a ht system, then you do not need, or want sound at the tv. Echo will be caused.
    b. HDMI will not work with most cable boxes if there is a video switching receiver installed.

    The stores didn’t appreciate me selling the customer the correct equipment instead of installing what they were selling.

    EX…
    Customer is sold a HTIB, and yet they have 4-5 other items that they want hooked into the sound.

    Please feel free to comment. I feel Firedog is a worthless attempt to control the industry. They are currently subcontractors, and store associates. I was told on a sidenote that it will all be employee based in the end.

    They have associates that have no concept on home structure, asthetics, and proper installations. I actually heard from a private customer that a associate suggested installing the speakers in the corners by the ceiling. That is TOTALLY incorrect.

    TIA.

  22. falcon241073 says:

    @DougDascenzo:

    comcast HD boxes do support HDMI now, as that is what I am currently using with them. Even though they are losing me as a cable customer at the end of the week.

  23. formated4tv says:

    I work at Circuit City, and refuse to sell “Firedog” installs just because of all the horror stories I heard about the installs. CC is also pricing themselves out of sales because 169$ is obviously a huge amount to pay for some cables to be hooked up (or not, apparently).

    The best example I can think of, was an older customer came in the store and needed help programming his TV to find all the channels. The CHEAPEST SKU that we offer to get him help was 79.99 for an hour of labor. I repeatedly told him that it was a waste and I didn’t want him to have to pay for that, so eventually I talked him into trying to find a neighbor.

  24. bluesdues says:

    When I purchased my HDTV I figured it was time to hook up the digital outputs that I had been over looking up till then. And I realized that I didn’t have any, no optical, no HDMI, and no DVI. So I went to the local high-end electronics store for some guidance on what I would need and some how to advice. Well when I was armed with what I thought was enough info I told them that I was going to head over to the comcast office for some help. And they all broke out in laughter and said no just tell them what you want or you’ll be screwed. I assumed this was meant in jest only to find I was sadly mistaken when I got to the comcast office. When I got to comcast and informed the customer service rep that I had a digital box with no optical, HDMI or DVI output, they turned a cable box around to me and asked what does one look like and is there one on this box. Well after talking to several people, and someone finally calling there warehouse I ended up with HD box 3 days later, with all the proper outputs. This all took place in late 2005, I’d hope its better now. I am now just waiting until verizon FIOS is available here. Hopefully things will get better.

  25. hdcowboy says:

    Something to consider folks regarding the slamming of the installation cost and service…

    price of the installation… 169

    cost of the installation – 2 technicians for 10/hr each (20/hr)(2hr install – 1 hr travel=60/install) hope it doesn’t take longer than the two hours on-site! Truck (figure payment, maintenance, fuel, insurance at commercial level, etc- Say it costs about $100/day for your truck/van — 3 installs a day = 33/install truck costs.)tools and consumables(tape, connectors etc)

    it cost 90 just to get those guys to your home for the job and we haven’t paid our liability insurance or taxes or workers comp insurance — and for sure at 10 bucks an hour we didn’t hire the BEST in the business… and at that rate we might not be able to afford to train them.

    I charge about 50-55/hr for home installation; if I have to take extra time to learn your system as I am doing the call… I take that off the bill… MY EDUCATION doesn’t cost the customer anything… IF I have to stay longer to educate the customer, I add that time to the bill because I have spent countless hours learning this stuff and… EDUCATION ISN’T CHEAP – DEFINITELY NOT FREE. One other factor about home electronics installation where you show the customer all they need to know about how to hook it up – there isn’t alot of repeat business in this industry, IF (big if) it’s hooked up right the first time.

    Run your own business and see how far the 169 install price paid takes you…. On things like paying for home, family, office, etc…

    Lastly, What is YOUR TIME WORTH? You need to factor that when deciding if you need to learn how to do something, before you can do something.

    When someone hooks it up and you’ve paid for it, YOU have the right to have it done RIGHT. When I’ve hooked it up WRONG, I have the RIGHT to cover the return trip out of MY pocket, not my customer’s. That said get something back if it’s not “Right”.

    HighDefCowboy

  26. dbmatson says:

    I had an on site survey done to instlla a 50″ plasma tv above my fireplace. They came out and were very nice. They then wrote every thing down and told me to go to any Circuit City store and they would be abel to tell me what I needed to purchase to hook it up. I went to one of there stores and went to the fire dog desk and spoke to a smirking teenager and told him that I wanted to get the items needed to install my tv. Why the customer has to go to the store and purchase the material I don’t know. Why dont they have the material on their truck? Any way the smirking teen did not have a clue. Then they found a serious minded teen and he knew what I needed. We went over and got the cables I told him I would furnish the wall bracket. When he totaled it out it came to 970 dollars for what they advertised on the web site as 549 dollars and tht included the bracket. Need less to say I canceled the installation but am out the 100 dollars for the on site survey. I beleive this comes under the heading of bait and switch.

  27. ColleenT says:

    So how much of that 169 is the installer seeing? What’s the incentive for him to do anything right?

    ——————————————————————————–
    I know exactally what the installer makes on that job, $45.00. Would you give a crap about the type of job you did for a lousey $45.00 whan the store is seeing the other $124.00 of it?

  28. tixg8r says:

    Firedog did not only incorrecty instal my system, They ruibed the living room. I called firedog and explained the exact situation, They gave a quote. As I have always been happy with Cirit City, I paid for the job. When the crew showed up, They took a breif look at the living room and informed me they could not run the wiring inside the walls, And instead went to Home Depot and bought some crapy aluminum tracks they hid the wiring behind. They even made ME pay for the crap. The system never worked one hooked up. Within a week, Their whole instalation fell off the walls, Breaking a family heirloom and knock a picture off the wall, Breaking it. When the service manager came out, He had them reinstal the wiring behind the walls, After which the patched the walls, And repainted with miss-matched paint. Speakers again fell off the walls as they were only held up with tiny screws into the drywall, Not even drywall screws. The situation has since that day never been rectified, I am simply out the fees paid and have all this damage. I have put up with the inferior sound as I am trying to save up for a flat screen TV, After which I will find a proffesional company to do the system correctly. I placed a negative message on their home page comments, But ofcourse it never showed up, They only post the glowing recomendations, Which I wonder if are even made up by their own company to promote their own worthless company.

  29. affordable_home_theater says:

    The biggest mistake one makes is Thinking that they know what they are doing and as soon as they find out there Plasma is in the floor or the TV don’t work properly. Time is money you have someone coming to your home and is Providing a service, Yes i do think that Fire Dog And Best Buy can be a little high, But did you know that taking the Cable from the wall and putting it in a surge Protector and from there to the box messes up the Signal and takes away some Hi Def Ch. That is way the Cable company Grounds the cable from out side with a approved ground block. I people knew how to do it them selfs then they would try, Leave it to people that know what they are doing, You will be better off, Being CHEAP WILL COST YOU MORE WHEN YOU HAVE TO GO OUT AND BUY A NEW TV.

  30. jbreezy642 says:

    The problem with with firedog is that they do not offer detailed work orders to installers. And to properly consolidate remotes that means you would need a computer
    programed remote that does every function like av receiver controls so you can trash the others. If not customers are mad that they were told different. Spend the extra money and get it done right you will be happy

  31. DpD4ng3r says:

    With the monster surge protector you dont really need to connect the coax cable through it. One, the chance of you getting a surge that will wreck your tv from the incoming cable line is one in a million. Also running the line through there usually makes you lose signal. So with all the other spliters in your house you will most likley degrade the quality going to your hdtv. If monster built in an amplifier for the signal (which they dont) that would be different.

  32. selen says:

    YOU DO NOT NEED CALIBRATION FOR LG!!!!

    I bought 42″ LG Hd television. They told me they need to make calibration, put all the cables. I am newbie it’s my first HD tv. Also they told me first Direct Tv have to come and after firedog is coming for all installation. Well, Direct Tv technican came and told me that he is going to put all the cables together. And don’t need firedog. I was so confused and after small search I found out LG has new system that it’s calibrating automaticly. Called also LG and ask them do I need calibration. They said NO! I DON’T NEED EXTRA CALIBRATION FOR 42LG50

  33. Mrt says:

    Hello very intersing reading going on here.
    I used to be a 3rd party installer for Future Shop(Canada) For there car audio division and total years in custom car audio I have 18 years logged in. Then I Took an interest in the custom Home installation and what a cool business to be in (I am independent). I have been doing this for seven years now and here is what I say about the big boys service.

    OK any third party install company dose not get paid well with the big Consumer Electronics stores. Corporations make the higher profit. So if the installer arrives and then there is some extras that you want don they may not stick around.

    A Install is calculated on a average time to set up x amount of equipment. So if there is more equipment they may not stick around.

    When purchasing your custom install do not take anything for granted tell the customer service desk or sales man what you need done to the detail even as programming a simple remote. Or they may not stick around

    If you have anything special like fishing wires or you are uncertain about where there speakers should go you should always ask for somebody professional to go to your house first to look over the project…. don’t get a sales man over ,get somebody that is an installer or a sales man that used to be an installer. Then they may stick around lol

    I took on a third party contract with A very high end Audio Store and the installation department works so much different then the big boys. They would send people over to look over the house and figured out already how the project was going to go what had to be done and the customer would know what it would take to do a project but the job was by the hour you could never come up to a price a hundred percent. I was paid well, the store was not making all the money on the install they just wanted a few bucks out of it. Witch is understanding and when the job was finished we never had a complaint. The Smaller Stores just want the job done professional and complete.

    when it comes to a simple setup , yes even those can be the biggest pain beacons they are not worth a visit first because they are about an hour or so jobs. But then you fine problems like cable wire not connected outside. ( hey how come I don’t have HD) AH did you tell the satellite company you wanted them …ah no I thought I got it when I bought the equipment. THEN YOU ARE ON THE PHONE FOR THEM………….LOL

    But with the big boys it is all prepaid and if something goes wrong they are not going to stick around and if you call to complain they will send somebody els. Hey maybe me . lol

    Her is my best opinion. Talk to friends that might of used the service from other install companies and pretty much of the installer are great guys and easy to talk to. All my customers and referrals know me by Name and if there is any trouble we are just a phone call away ok there might be some wait because we could be stuck in the crawlspace passing your new audio wires. And if you heard of a great installer working for that superstore don’t be afraid to ask for him and only him.
    I Have just released my new site it is called http://www.yellowcircuit.com there is no data yet but soon there will be there you will be able to fine installers across us and canda soon but if you are looking to get you house renovated or building a house here is a questionare that could help you out to send to a installer or audio store.
    http://www.wire.yellowcircuit.com/splash.php
    For any installation companies out there or installers go and get yourself listed
    Thanks

  34. Mrt says:

    Sorry i can’t seem to edit this oppps