LEAKS: Best Buy's Internal Customer Profiling Document

Attention Profiled Shoppers: Consumerist is now in possession of an internal training document that teaches Best Buy blue shirts how to stereotype customers. While Best Buy’s use of personas has been known for several years, our exclusively obtained document contains several brand-new Best Buy personas, including “Maria Middle America” and “Empty Nesters” Helen and Charlie.

Why do customers need to be stereotyped, you ask? Because some customers are good, and others are bad, and Best Buy employees need to know which ones are which.

Back in 2004, the Wall Street Journal announced that Best Buy had a new customer service strategy. The meat and potatoes of the new strategy was this: Best Buy would concentrate on outwitting pesky bargain-hunters (now known as “demons”)and cater only to its most profitable customers, or “angels.” This new philosophy was based on the work of Larry Selden, a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business, and consultant to Best Buy.

Larry is all about the customer. He hates products, “…the obsessive focus on products needs to be replaced by an even more obsessive focus on the customer,” he says.

One might assume that with this customer-obsessed guy directing Best Buy’s strategy, there’d be an emphasis on customer service. Not so.

In fact, the first thing Best Buy did after adopting Selden’s method was amend their return policy to include a 15% restocking fee. Too many “demon” customers were returning things.

The most important part this new world order is the “persona.” Personas are essentially stereotypes that Best Buy’s salespeople study in order to sell their most profitable services to different “types” of customers. Young urban males are called “Buzz.” Upper middle class women are known as “Jill.”

Each persona comes with a customized sales approach. Jill wants Best Buy to “help me find and fuel my new passions so I can remain true to myself,” whereas upscale suburban Barry wants “premium brands presented as a total solution.”

And what happens to those bargain-hunting demons? Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson told the Wall Street Journal in 2004 “that Best Buy will first try to turn its bad customers into profitable ones by inducing them to buy warranties or more profitable services.”

“In most cases, customers wouldn’t recognize the options we’ve tried so far,” he said. Maybe this new document (which adds several new categories to the known Best Buy persona universe) can help.

NEW PERSONAS:
Meet Carrie (Young Urban Female), Maria (Middle American Female), and (Empty Nesters) Helen and Charlie!

Click on the pictures below to bring up the slides. navigate using arrows that appear (when moused over) at the left, top and right of the slide, or using the “previous” “next” and “gallery” links at the bottom.

PREVIOUSLY: Best Buy Profiles Customers

Comments

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  1. Chairman-Meow says:

    Gee, I wonder how much Larry soaked Best Buy for this load of steaming dog-doo ?

  2. Noiddog says:

    According to the company, you are a bad customer if you just buy the product on the shelf and not anything else….

    “Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson told the Wall Street Journal in 2004 “that Best Buy will first try to turn its bad customers into profitable ones by inducing them to buy warranties or more profitable services.””

    In the Words of Eric Cartman…. LAME.

  3. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    “I want to stand apart – with style and newness”
    – Carrie (Young Urban Female)

    Oh lordy.

  4. John Whorfin says:

    Nothing BB has in their arsenal suprises me, really.

  5. iguanoid says:

    “Ray is engaged in the shrewd pursuit of a more fun and exciting family life.”

    Shrewd pursuit indeed!

    I think that is my new imaginary band name:

    “Ray and the Shrewd Pursuit”

  6. xmarkd400x says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t most businesses do this? Isn’t it an appropriate way to teach employees how to interact with different types of customers?

    I mean, suppose you run a computer hardware store. You are going to pitch products differently to a techie than you will to a layman.

    In a website design class we had cards like these (albiet less information). We had people like “Technical Tony” and “Stay-at-home Sara”.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      And how, exactly, does BBY customer service know what type of person I am by just looking at me?

    • NewsMuncher says:

      Facebook has stuff like this:
      take the (anything) test to find out what kind of (anything) you are!
      (dog, fairy, cartoon character, star, slime mold, rock, gem, wood, tree, narcotic, food, sweetener, clothing item, criminal, Disney villian, Disney princess, amphibian, dinosaur, mythical beast, character from the Wheel of Time, character from Harry Potter, character from Lord of the Rings, character from Lost, Friends, Heroes, Marvel comics, X-Men, Little Ponies, G.I. Joe, Glowworms, Mayberry, Lost in Space, Brady Bunch, Leave it to Beaver, He-Man, She-Ra, Firefly, Howdy Doody, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Cheers, Happy Days, Joan of Arcadia, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Trigun, Alien Nation, Coneheads, SNL, The Good The Bad & The Ugly, Samurai 7, Tenchi Universe, Fullmetal Alchemist, Sex in the City, Desperate Housewives, Young & the Restless, All My Children, The Twilight Zone, Full House, Grey’s Anatomy, House, Family Matters, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier, In The Heat of the Night, The Cosby Show, CSI, Bones, Medium, Far Scape, Ugly Americans, Law & Order, Numbers, Cold Case, Ghostbusters, oh, my I could go on, but I don’t want to make the list too long)

  7. thewriteguy says:

    It’s profiling like this that has made me actively stay away from Best Buy for the past couple of years now.

  8. sirwired says:

    Grouping customers into narrow “slices” is a pretty common marketing tactic. While it seems kind of stupid, since not everybody can be put into pigeonholes, it can help in sales training for folks that simply do not have the “knack” to figure out sales strategies themselves. Catering to profitable customers is not exactly the height of evil, nor is trying to get unprofitable customers to shop somewhere else.

    As long as everything is done without denying anybody any consumer rights, I don’t see any problem with it, even if I doubt it is nearly as effective as marketing consultants think it is.

    SirWired

  9. y0shidono says:

    Oh wow. Just.. wow…

  10. Quellman says:

    Can we get this as a download in a simple package like the walmart powerpoint that circulated a few years back. (I’m just a little lazy today)

  11. BStu says:

    Can I just say that I’m glad Best Buy hasn’t profiled me yet. That makes me feel better about myself. Thanks Best Buy!

  12. JessiesMind says:

    Ah, ya gotta screw with these guys. Marias, go get your noses pierced and don’t take the kids. They’ll think you’re a Carrie. Now, go outta your way to behave like a Helen. Fun times, people!

  13. OminousG says:

    They messed up Buzz’s profile. He does not in fact like Best Buy. He uses Best Buy as an very last resort.
    Buzz in fact likes Newegg.

  14. iguanoid says:

    Ominous – But Buzz’s bonehead cousin, BeerBong, is a very loyal Best Buy customer.

  15. thewriteguy says:

    Do they have any hot young female profiles? Carrie sounds like she’d be high maintenance. :-

  16. sleze69 says:

    This is basic sales education. For a store that doesn’t have commission it’s a bit unnecessary but it probably is good for Best Buy’s bottom line. I can’t fault them for this one.

    Anyone who thinks they aren’t sized up like this when they walk into a car dealership or high-end electronics retailer is fooling themselves.

  17. girly says:

    “customer coaching” — what a depressing idea

    I can’t imagine what they cast me as…I tend to be more unkempt than I should be. They probably have some secret list of customer profiles for people who should be followed around the store.

    Poor Carrie–they think she’s pretty shallow. “ME ME ME”

    I like how all of their profiles pretty much say that the person is cheap. “does not want to pay full price”

  18. Erwos says:

    I don’t see the problem here. For the most part, these profiles / stereotypes look about right to me. A good salesperson will know when (s)he is dealing with someone different, of course.

  19. if there truly are demons out there, the entire SD/FW/etc community must be satan themselves. ::reaches for pitchfork::

  20. internal says:

    Funny thing about ‘Ray’ – he would never shop at BestBuy because their prices suck.

  21. Pro-Pain says:

    So you don’t make commissions but they will train you as such. Fucking Best Buy. Die already. DIE!!!

  22. Is there a profile for 30 something who only goes into Best Buy to take 3 hour lunches and play their free video games in the nice gaming chairs.

  23. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    Remember when “bad” customers were ones that shopped anywhere else but your store?

  24. eggshelld says:

    I’m not sure if this is supposed to be surprising, or what. There are tons of companies out there specializing in similar “customer segmentation” products, which are just sets of consumer profiles in different permutations. Acxiom, Claritas, Buxton, Cohorts, Yankelovich, etc etc… They all make money profiling consumer groups and selling the data to marketers and retailers. The fact that Best Buy uses a similar product isn’t particularly surprising, nor is it offensive, nor does it affect my opinion of them.

  25. Rusted says:

    “…….Larry is all about the customer. He hates products……..”

    Funny, isn’t that what we want?

  26. mgy says:

    When I worked at Best Buy, we were quizzed over this information in order to keep our job. No joke. I worked as a service technician.

  27. JackAshley says:

    It’s called “Demographics”, and it can mean anything from cultural to societal to “common shopper types”, and there is nothing really wrong with it. How else do you prepare Joe Schmoe trainee blue-shirt to do his job? You give him examples which he may come across. Heaven forbid that there might be moms aged 35 to 40 with kids aged 8-12 out there…how dare they!

    Also, when did it become wrong for a company to attempt to know it’s best customers? There is such a thing as a bad customer, the one who only comes in on super sales to price match and such – they just arent profitable, and you cannot blame a business for attempting to make profit…

    /rant.

    Usually I side with the Consumerist on these things, but now you’re just condemning capitalism…

  28. girly says:

    @sleze69: Oh I wouldn’t doubt it. I bought a laptop from BB a few months ago. They were ignoring me. I went with my bro and he told me to stand next to the most expensive laptop. Lo and behold someone came to help me.

    If I could have just taken a tag to the register for the laptop I would not have needed help, I knew exactly what I wanted.

    It was hilarious, though. The guy was trying to convince me I was certifiable for not purchasing their additional services. I’ve set up dozens of computers before and the stuff he was telling me was silly but I tried to humor him.

    My nephew was so entertained by it, he nicknamed the laptop after the guy who sold it.

  29. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    Well Consumerist you’re a few years behind here. Not only is this something Best Buy actively promoted publicly but they’ve been doing it a long time. They redesigned their stores a few years ago and publicly pointed out these personas they were trying to attract. Next you’re going to point out internal Best Buy documents that tell us HD-DVD is dead.

  30. EJXD2 says:

    I think it’d be funny to go into Best Buy and act exactly like one of these stereotypes.

    What percentage of associates would “get it”?

  31. Ben Popken says:

    @stanfrombrooklyn: Wrong. This document contains new personas not previously disclosed.

  32. stevegoz says:

    Not pictured: the pirate, the noble savage or the candlestick maker.

  33. endless says:

    @OminousG:

    Not exactly… Buzz likes looking at things at best buy… he likes buying things from online.

  34. Oh, BROTHER. They think I’m a Helen, when I’m really a BUZZ.

    Bad enough when they address the Monster Cable sales pitch to my spouse on the rare occasions we visit, when I’m the one who’s wired the house systems (and buy from Monoprice, of course).

    Grandmothers love technology, too, Best Buy idiots. Only thing you got right is that we also HAVE MONEY.

  35. ptr2void says:

    I went into the new local BB this weekend (late Sunday, about an hour before closing) just because I was bored. They had *way* too many people working there and trying to help me. Must be because it’s a new store. Or maybe they pegged me as “Barry.”

  36. BugMeNot2 says:

    @sleze69:

    Hell, banks do this exact same thing, especially now that the focus of banks is to push their retail products. I worked for a bank up until a few years ago, and they had been doing exactly this for some time and were really getting big into it when I left.

  37. savvy9999 says:

    @stevegoz: +1

  38. apotheosis says:

    I see this thread is well-stocked with the anti-demographic demographic.

  39. Parting says:

    ”Time to respect your elders” : I love the title!
    Does that mean that employees were disrespecting elders BEFORE?
    Or all employees left, are kids without any concept of respect?

  40. B says:

    @apotheosis: We are all unique snowflakes, and cannot be pegged into any one demographic.

  41. Parting says:

    @JackAshley: If you read what they wrote for the employees :) It looks like it was written for kids out of kindergarten, who do not know how to sustain a polite and professional conversation.

    Just for fun : go on Best Buy website and APPLY for a job.

    The questionnaire is moronic and insulting. We were ROFL reading questions. I would never want to work for a company who treats potential applicants like this ;)

  42. arsbadmojo says:

    The part of me that thinks I’m a unique snowflake hates this sort of crap, but honestly this isn’t anything new nor surprising.

    What I don’t really understand about the whole thing though; when I go into a Best Buy (or any other electronics retailer) I go with a purpose, and I know exactly what I want. I’m not looking for a ‘lifestyle’. I want X, and I know what it should cost.

    Are there really people that just sort of wander into Best Buy that aren’t sure why they are there – but are hoping to find a TV that defines them?

  43. Nighthawke says:

    I ought to go in there dressed as a redneck and see how they react. First sales droid that comes up to me will probably point me to appliances, the smucks!

  44. spinachdip says:

    My initial thought – “Maria” is the last name I’d pick for Middle America. It sounds, at the very least, Catholic, possibly even Hispanic.

  45. Juliekins says:

    Ugh, they think I’m a Carrie. Which is pretty accurate, except that I’m a Carrie that prefers to shop at Amazon or Newegg or…well, just about anywhere but Best Buy. I don’t even have to get all self-righteous about “I’ll pay more to avoid them,” either, because their prices blow.

  46. Nytmare says:

    @JackAshley: because it’s mostly fluff – sales fluff designed to extract maximum profit. Real customer benefit comes from knowledgeable product information. If it improves friendly service techniques, that’s about the best you could hope for from this drivel.

  47. IndyJaws says:

    @JackAshley:
    Agreed.

    If you don’t like that companies try to profile their customer types, don’t bother shopping anywhere. This is all about identifying your core customers and improving the chances of making a sale. There is nothing discriminatory in the presentation. The fact that Best Buy was “caught” doesn’t mean almost all retailers do the same thing. As long as a group isn’t being discriminated against, it’s perfectly fine. Business 101.

    I will now shove an icepick into my eye for defending BB.

  48. PinkBox says:

    @girly: Best Buy doesn’t work on commissions, actually… so standing next to the most expensive laptop wouldn’t really mean anything to the salesperson.

  49. mindshadow says:

    About 3 years or so ago I worked at CompUSA (argh). When I first joined salespeople were on commission, which made for some decent dough to get myself through college. Then the stores went through “Oh shit our company is failing” retraining. They got rid of commission, which pissed lots of folks off.

    Anyways, point of the story is that they had something like this, except in a much more offensive manner. For example, the top-tier buyer was called a “pig” or something to that affect. I forgot what they called the lowest-tier buyer, but the whole thing was overall offensive in its approach.

    So glad that company is dead.

  50. girly says:

    @chouchou: whate kind of questions were there?

  51. girly says:

    I would like to see the document that profiles who they should receipt check.

  52. backbroken says:

    It’s hard to be offended by this. All they’ve done is put to paper (pixel?) everything that we do to each other in our heads anyway. Who doesn’t pigeonhole the elderly lady writing a check in line in front of you at the grocery store? Or the kid with Chuck Taylors and a nose ring on the bus? Or the well dressed man getting out of his Lexus with a briefcase?

    Hell, just read this site for a few days and you’ll figure out what stereotypes we have assigned to Best Buy employees. We are all guilty of this. It’s human nature.

  53. girly says:

    @NameGoesHere: Maybe it’s worth more towards quotas, though, because it worked!

  54. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @sleze69, @sirwired, @Erwos, @JackAshley: I think you’re missing the point which is:

    1) The internal document is hysterical.
    2) Knowing how companies and salespeople try to get you to buy things makes you a smarter consumer.

  55. realist.com says:

    @Ben Popken:

    umm not wrong Ben…

    Buzz is about 4-5 years old

    these “new” ones are about a year and a half to two years old…

    nothing new, they actually talk about this classification system in the bestbuy shareholders report (they are tools taught to help customers based on particular demographics).

    I don’t see anything “evil” or wrong about it, all companies do this…all of them. (look at advertising, you don’t think they have the same idea in mind to appeal to a specific “type” of person).

    this post gets put to the wayside as more biased Consumerist anti-bestbuy propaganda.

  56. IamTCM says:

    Responsible Buzz, Reporting in

  57. girly says:

    @realist.com: Old to some, new to others.

  58. HOP says:

    BEST BUY SUCKETH

  59. HOP says:

    .

  60. Why on God’s green earth would Maria marry Ray? Maria’s a responsible, frugal wife and mother. Ray is a manchild attempting to buy his family’s love.

  61. redhelix says:

    This is ancient news. Entire stores are built on these demographics. They literally have “Buzz” and “Larry” stores depending on the location. When hey look up your purchase history, it says which persona you are. This has been the way it is for years.

    For example, the old Newbury Street store and current Landmark Center stores in Boston are Buzz stores because there’s a ton of colleges around. They design the sales floor as such, with lots of videogame and handheld gadget displays. Meanwhile, the suburbs on the south shore are all Charlie stores, which have massive home theater sections.

  62. quagmire0 says:

    @BStu:They *have* profiled you, you’re a demon like the rest of us. :)

    Sadly, I’m sure this all works. I don’t think I can point to anyone in my family (aside from my wife) that would NOT be an ‘angel’ and be stereotyped like this. I’m talking immediate family (which is large) AND extended. :P

  63. More seriously, the one thing I do like about this is that they recognize that virtually all of the female market segments LOATHE shopping there and find the store irritating to navigate and the service poor. Maybe they’ll step it up since those are target customer segments to attract.

    I also like that they’re coaching salesmen not to “talk down” at least to the younger female segments. Although a hard-sell can come across as basically the same thing as being talked down to.

    I went to Best Buy against my better judgment the other week because I needed a new keyboard IMMEDIATELY and couldn’t wait for shipping from a non-sucky place like New Egg. Worst selection of peripherals EVER, and the prices were appalling. I ended up getting a Logitech for about HALF of what Best Buy was selling it for, for full price at Target. Which had a better selection of basic peripherals (keyboards, mouses, etc.), incidentally.

    And yeah, the service was appallingly bad. The shelves were messy. The salespeople were standing around picking their asses and having gossip hour. (Does nobody get barked at by their managers to front the shelves anymore? That was the litany of my high school years in retail!) The weirdest part was that there was hardly any LIGHT in the store, it was so dim I felt like I had to squint. I briefly considered picking up a Wii game (as I’m not often in stores w/ video games), but the video game section of the store was a disaster area and nobody seemed interested in straightening it up. Pawing through it just seemed distasteful and unnecessarily difficult.

  64. Fairplay says:

    MA in Counseling with decades of experience speaking: I agree that BB got ripped off by their consultant; these stereotypes are so lightweight and shallow that they wouldn’t help make a sale any more than a couple of standard buyer-centric questions. But people keep giving me BB gift cards, so I do shop there occasionally – I do my product research b4 going in and, once there, politely refuse to engage with sales staff …

  65. seraphicstar says:

    … so this is why im always treated like a kid with down syndrome whenever i go into best buy?
    I dont know why they even bother putting women on these sheets… the employees still act like women are completely ignorant about anything technology related.

    (ill just go with the old standby… THAR R NO GIRLS ON TEH INTARWEBS!!!!!!!!!)

  66. stageright says:

    Missing is “Eugene – Educated Consumer!” He says “Hey, what little of my business Best Buy got was when I could find a decent price among their otherwise over-priced crap. From here on in it looks like ALL my electronics shopping will be online…”

  67. Canerican says:

    Best Buy has marketing? O NOES! BOYCOTT!

    Seriously, this is no big deal at all, every company does this.

  68. WTFIWWY says:

    I’m not offended by a company trying to anticipate my needs. If you all are that pissed off you should probably re-evaluate where you purchase products because every successful companies does this in one way or another.

    Wake up.

  69. Mary says:

    I’d love to see what category Best Buy would put me in. I’m in my late 20’s and married. I look like a fresh-faced teenager who either has no money or is there to pick up the newest crappy horror remake.

    Oh well, they can try to stereotype me all they want. I only walk into their stores when I’ve done my research and I know exactly what make, model, and price I want. If they try to hard to sell me anything else, then I walk out. I don’t have time for shenanigans.

    Also, I’m amused by the fact that “Carrie’s” sheet says first don’t talk down to her, and then says “tell me things I don’t know in ways I can understand.”

    Because those two statements fit together!

  70. So are they saying that the only reason to respect elders is because they have money.

  71. girly says:

    @Meiran: I think what they are trying to say, but in a way that is not very clear, is to not use gratuitous jargon or technobabble with a ‘Carrie’

  72. heyimbobo says:

    I feel dirty….

  73. apotheosis says:

    @B:
    The “I Am Unique” demographic is a huge market.

  74. gamin says:

    BB is missing Jose the guy who barely speaks english and wants to buy a TV hopefully BB will give hima credit card with a 50% APR. Jose my friends should be best buy’s priority

  75. TheKel says:

    I enjoyed reading Charlie’s profile:

    “RETIREMENT = DEATH”

  76. NotATool says:

    Ha. Sears corporate did this too. Stereotyping, or in marketing-speak, it’s called segmenting the market.

    I remember going through this stuff on the Sears intranet, laughing all morning long.

    It made the executives feel like they were getting to know their customers better somehow, so they could come up with ways of serving them better.

    As you can tell, that idea has really paid dividends for Sears.

  77. yesteryear says:

    i would like to thank best buy for creating these character profiles that i will be using for my next comedy show and i would like to thank consumerist for sharing it with us all. thank you!

  78. Draconianspark says:

    These stereotypes also determine how stores are laid out, a “Ray” store will have more home theater stuff, while a “Buzz” store will have more gaming hardware and high end fad electronics, for example.

  79. TheKel says:

    @NotATool:
    I worked for a huge bank here in the US and we had to put those together in corporate. I felt dirty when we were done. It was so cheesy and embarrassing in the pitch meetings.

  80. warf0x0r says:

    The other day I went to BBY to buy a TV. After about 10 minutes and a short conversation with an attendant I decided I did not want to be there at all. I left and bought the same TV at Target.

    I have no regrets.

    So long Best Buy.

  81. apotheosis says:

    @gamin:

    BB is missing Jose the guy who barely speaks english and wants to buy a TV hopefully BB will give hima credit card with a 50% APR. Jose my friends should be best buy’s priority

  82. girly says:

    @JessiesMind: Don’t forget to tell them your name is Jill

  83. amoeba says:

    @gamin: Are you Jose?

  84. BugMeNot2 says:

    @apotheosis:

    Hence the large amounts of space dedicated to iPods and iPod accessories. ;)

  85. smitty1123 says:

    I guess I’d be profiled as Buzz, but I’m honestly not in a Best Buy long enough to be profiled. Go in, find what you went in there for, buy it, leave. If you are in there browsing, you are just asking for trouble.

  86. SaveMeJeebus says:

    @gamin: At my part time retail job we get non-English speaking people come in all the time and the teenagers working will gladly tell them that filling out the application will get them 15% off. They go home with their stuff and come back wanting to cancel once someone told them what they signed up for when it is too late. Do the bosses care? Nope. Their job is to make sure the register monkeys hawk credit cards to everyone and selling clothes is second priority.

  87. smoothtom says:

    Is “Wretched PowerPoint Design” a required course for all MBA programs?

  88. TrexSchad says:

    I agree with a few of you, this is standard marketing fare. Demographics are used heavily in most retail stores to decide how to market things. Check out http://www.claritas.com if you want to see the largest of the segmentation companies and what they do.

  89. Okaasan says:

    Let’s go out and get our appropriately labeled shirts, kids, so that they can identify us when we come in the door. We’ll have meetings and stuff! I’ll bring some cookies. Now who’s bringing the coffee? Best Buy, you suck.

  90. Raignn says:

    The problem is, most companies have profiles or personas to help them learn how to better target their customers. And yes they are generalizations, but for the most part, they work. However, Best Buy’s problem is they are jerks about it. They write condescending, rude profiles of potential customers and try to figure out how to best exploit people.

  91. Catperson says:

    Yeah, this is standard stuff. I teach business writing and these kinds of profiles even show up in the textbook I use. However, I do think that profiling doesn’t work because it’s ridiculously stupid. Not all of your customers will fall into these pre-defined boxes, and to treat them as if they do will only make them righteously angry.

  92. Claystil says:

    I used to work with one of the chief importers for LifeWay Christian Resources. I was fortunate enough to see a demographic profile similar to this while in his 11,000 sq. foot house. The profile detailed what middle-aged Christian women were most likely to buy. It was attached to a huge order for 15 cent a piece Chinese candles with “[bible] verses targeted to bored, middle-age housewives.”* Lifeway sold each candle at somewhere around $25.

    *Not hyperbole

  93. Thaad says:

    This stuff has been going on since I started working there 4 years ago. This is not new information. The only thing new they have done is add more “names.”

  94. mikejonas says:

    We should have T-shirts printed up with our BB Customer Profile names on them, to make things easier on them when we walk in. Who’s with me?

  95. @chouchou: Oy, so I headed on over to BB.com to look for funny employee questionaires, but I got distracted by the vigorous pimping they do of their “Community Relations”

    Couple of gems:

    Q: Does Best Buy have an employee volunteer program?
    A: Yes. Best Buy encourages employees to volunteer by providing grants from the Best Buy Children’s Foundation to organizations where employees share their talents. Many Best Buy stores use their local volunteer centers to find volunteer opportunities in their area. To post your volunteer opportunity, please go to http://www.1800volunteer.org or call 1-800-volunteer to find your local volunteer center.

    Ok, so BB picks out what they think is an acceptable charity, and then they ‘encourage’ workers to volunteer by giving money to the place where they volunteer. Um, yeah, color me motivated.
    ——
    Best Buy has been a long time supporter of United Way. Last year alone, the company and our employees contributed over $7.6 million to our communities. The dollars donated are in addition to the numerous hours that our employees spend volunteering with United Way funded agencies in their communities.

    So BB participates in shaking down their workforce, again ‘encouraging’ employees to give a percentage of their earnings to the United Way, and BB gets to claim credit for the dollar amount given. [www.dba-oracle.com] [www.edwardtrimnell.com]

    But I think the best is this page: [www.bbycommunications.com]
    where there are numerous photos of BB employees happily doing volunteer work while wearing BB shirts. Yeah, I know that if it was me, and I was ‘volunteering’ with a group of people I work with, we would all definately want to wear those same shirts that we all see each other in day after day. Way to suck, pressure (encourage) your employees into volunteering, and then ask (force) them to wear shirts emplazed with the corporate logo.

    Yes, yes, I know that had nothing to do with the OP, but this got me all riled up…

    On topic, I get such a kick out of this marketing crap, as if the people doing the research are living in bubbles, and have never had contact with regular folks, and they descibe people like they are narrating an Animal Planet documentary: “Our Customers In Captivity”

  96. @alphafemale: shirts emplazed with = emblazoned

  97. Hiphopopotamus says:

    Yay! I’m Responsible Buzz! Sell me crap! Now!

  98. sisedi says:

    I remember getting trained at BB and seeing this stuff and the first thing I thought was that the other employees couldn’t possibly follow these b/s guidelines. You had to make some assumptions based on age and the kind of questions they asked and blah blah I never handed off customers to anyone for those reasons.

    They should be teaching you how to interact with people and be sociable rather than following some sort of step by step consumer based dance routine.

  99. snwbrder0721 says:

    This sort of thing is called “Psychographics” (close cousin to demographics which are simply facts about people). Psychographics are more subjective and vary in terms from company to company (claritas and VALS are two popular psychographic data companies each with different terms for similar groups). They basically describe the lifestyle of a group of people. i.e. “New Homesteaders” are young middle class workers who have recently purchased a home and intend to start a family. They like skiing, coffee, and Ford SUVs (I just made that up, but it’s similar to claritas info for that group from what I remember).

    When you start talking about “profiling” vs “stereotyping” vs etc. you’re really just arguing semantics. Obviously profiling and stereotyping have negative connotations and are, in fact, different from gathering and using psychographic information.

    Bottom line: it’s not the fact that Best Buy has these classifications that’s evil, it’s how they decide to use them (since I challenge you to find a marketing effort worth anything that didn’t include psychographic research). That’s what makes the difference between profiling, stereotyping, and knowing your customer.

  100. SeraSera says:

    I was going to ask where the profile for college students is, but then I remembered that the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought at Best Buy was an $80 hard drive.

  101. P3nnst8r says:

    Ahhh, i remember taking that test.

  102. XianZhuXuande says:

    Yep, this stuff is real. But the idea behind it isn’t that some customers are good and some customers are bad. They try to tailor different stores to their corresponding demographics, and as long as employees don’t take these definitions too literally it can be good training for a new salesman. Every customer in that document is a ‘good’ customer.

    The ‘bad’ customers are the ‘extreme price shoppers’ (and you might be one of them if you only visit Best Buy after you read about them on Fat Wallet). They have a system which is supposed to identify these types of customers and when a customer of this sort is found (and the employee actually checks the system) they are not supposed to make any exceptions to the rules. The other customer type is employees and aside from discounts, they get the shortest stick of all.

    Most well-run retail companies have a model like this which is used to determine where and how to open stores. They just aren’t always as transparent as ol’ Best Buy’s. Also, this has been going on for years and years…

  103. picshereplz says:

    This is pretty amazing. I love it.

  104. B says:

    @spinachdip: When I heard the name Maria, I immediately thought of West Side Story.

  105. BrewMe says:

    That makes me so glad I am not in sales.

  106. gusnyc.com says:

    i worked @ best buy for like a month or two.. they teach you all this shit the first week

  107. Sockatume says:

    At the risk of validating a corporation’s new cash-extracting mechanism, these aren’t stereotypes in the negative sense that we’re used to. They’re stereotypes of shopping habits first and foremost, and most importantly, they’re based on actual market research rather than unfounded speculation on pre-existing biases. It’s cash-grabbing, but it’s evidence-based cash grabbing.

    Of course, I expect that most of the managers will try in vain to cram every available customer into one of those boxes, and therefore screw things up anyway.

  108. strider_mt2k says:

    Just don’t shop there.
    What is at Best Buy that you can’t get elsewhere?

    NOTHING

  109. anon545 says:

    OK, I am a former best buy employee, and a lot of the things that consumerist is saying is untrue. It is true that we are taught to use different selling techniques for different customers, but we are NOT taught that any customer is a “bad” customer or that we should ignore any customers. For instance, I would personally be classified as a middle-america customer, and what this tells the employee, is that if I am in buying a TV and have no idea what I’m looking for, they probably shouldn’t start by showing me the $10,000 tv’s, and work their way down. Also it helps us know what questions to ask. For instance, a lot of products work better for people with children. I.E. a person with a kid who plays soccer would want a camera with a high shutter rate. None of the stereotypes here are bad stereo types, they just help us to better assist customers.

    And for anyone who thinks that we simply try to pigeonhole our customer into one of these, one of our “core philosophies” reads something like – ‘Respect each customer’s differences and find a unique solution to fit their needs’

  110. faabshaam says:

    this is barely newsworthy. Best Buy is up to no good? They profile? Say it aint so!

  111. Ok. On some level this is clearly generic insulting marketing jargon garbage written by old white people who have designated personality types based on the characters of the CW’s Programming line up.

    That being said, I dont think knowing what a specific type of customer might want is inherently evil or even wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I hate dealing with CSRs, I dont like greeters, I don’t like people helping me unless I ask (because I’m an adult and can read.) I dont think training your sales reps to, at the very least, have some idea of what I might be interested in is all that bad. If anything it gets them thinking about the specific person not just a completely generic customer and they might actually be helpful, though, I’m sure that is just wishful thinking.

  112. @Sockatume: Exactly.

  113. redragon104 says:

    I love you consumerist

  114. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: There’s a star by my name now! I feel so…special!

  115. SmellyGatto says:

    What they have done is a pretty good sales strategy in a very pithy and childish manner.

  116. SmellyGatto says:

    @Voyou_Charmant:

    WOW. Nothing like employing a stereotype to try an explain a stereotype. Good jood, goofball.

  117. kc2idf says:

    I’m not sure if this set is complete or if I am just a wierdo…. I don’t fit any of the profiles.

    …which I kind of feel good about.

  118. picardia says:

    I like how gay people and minorities don’t exist at Best Buy.

  119. llcooljabe says:

    Honestly, who really cares? Demographic study and analysis is key to almost any large business from banking to retail.

    Move along, nothing to see here.

  120. manfriend says:

    I really loathe Best Buy. I bought an Olympus digital camera there years ago and I had purchased the extended warranty. 4 years go by and the camera dies. I was going to toss it or ebay it for parts and I find the warranty and original receipt. Good times, right? Wrong. They would not fix it or replace it. They claimed it was “moisture damage” and wasn’t covered by the warranty although they couldn’t cite where in the warranty that this wasn’t covered. There was no such language(It gets humid here). After months of bickering I threw in the towel. I still shop there. I go there for blank CDs/DVDs and I talk other people into not getting the extended warranty at the register. I suppose they’re too timid to send the jackboots after me in front of other customers because I have thwarted at least 50 warranty sales. I encourage others to do the same. No one fucks me out of a warranty I paid through the nose for 4 years ago.

  121. SmellyGatto says:

    @kc2idf:

    You fit the new category. KC the Sunshine rebel. Wants electronics and is stealthy enough to baffle the selseman into not being able to be categorized. You get ignored and immediatley receipt checked if you buy anything. You are not a demon or an angel, you are the devil’s advocate and the holy ghost wrapped into one.

  122. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    @B: LOL. “Mariaaaa….I just met a girl named mariaaa…” OK, I’ll stop now.

  123. SmellyGatto says:

    @picardia:

    Actually this is a good thing. They made their categories sexual orientation and race independent. A gay guy could be any category and so can a person of color. This is truea psycographic bucketing of consumer habits andit is VERY non-offensive.

  124. jetexas says:

    How does Best Buy stay in business when everything they have is priced at least $50 higher than anywhere else? Even Circuit City is cheaper by a noticeable margin, and a $1400 Best Buy camcorder is like $1000 at Fry’s. I do not know why anyone shops there.

  125. bufftbone says:

    I worked for them and the store I worked at focused on “Ray.” No shit when I say that he was thought of and modeled after Ray Romanos character on “Everyone Loves Raymond.”. He was a middle aged man, had 2.5 kids, loved financing and made a combined annual income of $32k-70k a year. This stuff was so pathetic. I just sold whatever the customer wanted and never forced anything on them like we were told to do. am so glad I don’t work for them anymore although I do miss he discount.

  126. Big Poppa Pimp says:

    They left out the slide that advises the salespeople to not give a f*ck about customer satisfaction since they are not paid any commission. Seriously, why waste time with all of this when the blue shirts will refuse to make eye contact with customers anyway?

  127. DrGirlfriend says:

    All these stars are giving me an inferiority complex. Pardon me while I go channel Stuart Smalley for a little bit.

  128. Brookespeed says:

    Every good salesperson that you really love probably does this same thing, but they do it in their head and don’t write it down. Are they being insincere? I don’t think so. If they had to spend the time to really get to know each customer they’d have to employ many more annoying people for the floor and we’d all pay a lot more for stuff. BB can be evil because they are big and give people hassle on honest returns. But they are a business and last time I checked that’s all about making as much money as possible and everything else is secondary. As far as aggressive upselling goes, that’s rotten to play on fears and then be just as scary. It’s stealing and they should be treated like regular thieves for it.

  129. Part-Time-Viking says:

    I wasn’t aware that this was new to anyone, just like the PSP story Consumerist had not to long ago. It’s not only not new, but it’s not uncommon either. I’m just getting the idea that the folk here just want something to complain about with BB.

    Now, to throw in an alternate take on the matter, I work for the company, my store is top rated for customer satisfaction in my district, and is one of the top in the company, and my managers advise us, that despite corporate policy to only pay attention to this if you think it helps you. I personally have never applied the profiling system to a sale, I’m well aware of it, but I don’t do anything with it.

  130. ebgdae1016 says:

    I am suprised this is new news. These new “life style groups” were being used when I left the company last june. We had some fun with it… Upscale Suburban JILFs… good times, oh wait that place sucked.

  131. Counterpoint says:

    Really, this blog has gotten so anti-capitalism lately it’s depressing.

    These customer segments are being done to help customers and therefore help Best Buy’s bottom line. Happy customers buy more things, right? If a store is in an area where there is a lot of Buzz’s or Maria’s or whatever they are called, and then is catered to those people, the store will be more functional and desirable to those people who will in turn buy more items.

    To the guy who has a MA in psychology or w/e and thinks this is a load of crap: check out Best Buy’s annual reports since it was initiated. You’ll find yourself questioning your education. All of the retail companies have followed Best Buy’s lead since it has been so successful, even to the point where Walmart is trying to reach some wealthy segments by redoing some of there stores to be all posh and upscale.

    To all of the unique snowflakes who are aghast at this: get over yourself. You can’t train 150,000 16-21 year olds how to find the unique snowflake in every customer during a 10 minute transaction. Would it be better to train them on how to serve 5-10 segmnets better (which make up probably 80%+ of their customers), or to just keep spinning their wheels because you just can’t categorize unique snowflakes.

  132. irid3sc3nt says:

    Creepy.
    Yet another reason not to shop there.

  133. carvelo says:

    I wonder what everyone here would think if instead of profiling you, Best Buy tracked every item you looked at, watched over your shoulder to see how long you looked at each item, noted the themes of items you looked at, and then presented you with those items every time you came in. Best Buy would know everything about your shopping habits…and I suspect most people would be put off by this.

    These sites you prefer online do exactly that. Look, Best Buy just has to find a way to compete in a much more competitive marketplace now.

  134. strider_mt2k says:

    @manfriend: That’s super only you’re screwing the sales associate who makes their money that way.

    You’re aiming at the top, hitting the bottom and shopping there anyway.

  135. Erwos says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: I think it’s because of the sex. That’s just my take on it. She’s a nice girl now, but back in her college days… let’s just say she was “open for business”. Ray reminds her of those golden years.

    Things haven’t been working out too well lately, though. I predict a divorce.

  136. Part-Time-Viking says:

    @Counterpoint: *In before “BLUSLAVE!” and other wonderful insults that the folk here sling towards people who defend BB*

    Not to disagree with you or anything, but (and this is just going off of my store) we can only truely classify probably 10% of customers on a good day. Unidentified customers make up the raw bulk of the traffic. Again, this might be just me going off of how traffic is at my store.

  137. Chairman-Meow says:

    Hey Best Boobs ? How about instead of this useless crap, try teaching your employees to actually learn about the products they are selling ? How about teaching them how to actually talk to someone, learn what they want, and how to effectively close a sale ?

    Ohhh noes! we have to have some way overpriced “expert” from academia tell us some fluffy nonsense because, after all, he’s an EXPERT.

    I’m sure all the dopes in the BB boardroom nodded like sheep when marketing presented this steaming bile.

  138. Every company I have ever worked for in customer service has had something similar to this, categorizing different people. It isn’t ment for you to ‘profile’ people in a negative way. It gives new employees a possible solution to help typical customers.

    The reality is that you really can take 100 customers and devide them down into these groups. If new employees have never gotten their feet wet in sales, this is a great starting place.

    Ask anyone that has worked there for more than a few months if they still look for these ‘types’ and a would be willing to bet your answer is no.

  139. TurboFool says:

    Working as a vendor at Best Buy, this is all well-known and has gone on for some time. More important, though, is that the individual stores are actually targeted at ONE of these stereotyped shoppers. My store’s a Jill, which means it has personal shoppers who are allowed to ONLY help Jills. Anyone else has to be handled by a regular employee. The products, layout, etc. are all geared toward Jill. Everyone else takes a lower priority.

    The one thing I won’t fault Best Buy for entirely is the restocking fee. First off, it’s only on a few product categories, not the vast majority. And those categories are the products people tend to buy for vacations, parties, meetings, etc., then return when they’re done. The restocking fee ends up being a sort of rental fee at that point, as now the store has to sell the item at a discount because it’s been opened. And normally if it’s exchanged instead of returned (even for a different model or brand) they waive the fee, since exchanging is evidence that you were genuinely unhappy with the specific item and not just renting. Also managers can easily waive the restocking fee if they have a good reason to trust the customer.

  140. @NotATool: “that idea has really paid dividends for Sears.”

    yeah, why is it we mostly see these from crappy, underperforming companies?

  141. Carencey says:

    Gah, when I worked in retail, my manager trained me to you know, actually listen to my customers when they were telling me what they wanted, find it, and point out other things they might like. I suppose those marketing consultants have to make the big bucks somehow though.

    I guess I would be a Carrie without the nice suit? Sadly, my first thought upon discovering that I was probably a Carrie was to wonder if the store would go up in flames if they pissed me off. It never has yet, but I didn’t know then that they thought I was a Carrie. hehe.

  142. Alexander says:

    If you believe you don’t fall into a demographic, then you belong in the “doesn’t believe he/she falls into a demographic” demographic.

  143. BrianH says:

    Best Buy now has a 15% restocking fee? (You can tell how often I’ve shopped there in the last 2 years).

    OK Best Buy, suck it.

  144. @Rectilinear Propagation: I know, right? How cool is this!

  145. avconsumer says:

    whew! Thought they had me pinned there for a minute. Good thing us 33 year olds don’t fit into any category. We’re mysteries even to ourselves. :D

    demographics = loss

    customer service = profit

    idiots

  146. this is old. they rolled this out over 3 years ago. i’m surprised it took this long to leak. i would have done it if i still worked there.

    and the angel customer/demon customer was just the basis for this. bby never specified any demon customers, except maybe Barry customers. and that’s just because they’re arrogant.

  147. kgelster says:

    While taking a marketing class at University of Chicago last year, I saw a presentation given by a consultant from Fair Isaac Corporation. FICO is the company responsbily for creating credit scores, developing heuristics for the CIA, and general database pattern identification. They use their technology in a consulting practice to help big companies with big databases on customer purchase history to identify trends. They then identify average customer demographics and write “stories” about them so that Best Buy’s marketers can better understand who they are talking to. The idea is that they know a particular kind of person is likely to buy a DLSR camera so they’ll send fliers and emails to that person that feature DSLR cameras instead of something that aren’t likely to buy like a refridgerator. So the goal in the end is to improve a relationship between Best Buy and the consumer. The problem here is that the presentation from Fair Isaac that I saw has been quite a bit altered by Best Buy.

  148. IndyJaws says:

    @strider_mt2k: Free Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly subscriptions? ;)

  149. tketch says:

    I work at Best Buy – and to be honest you have to have some idea of who you are talking to in order to get them what they really want. It’s not good vs. bad, its simply a “tool” for attaching correctly to the right people. For instance if an obviosuly rich person comes in looking to buy a TV, the last thing they want to hear about is some b.s. financing option. However they might want to hear about the difference between surge protection and power conditioning.
    The problem here is that Best Buy typically only pays enough for bottom barrel sales associates who usually don’t know thier d**k from their a**hole. I just work there during breaks as I go to college in an area with no Best Buy. I get paid pretty well for my efforts in spurts, but its certainly not even close to touching what an associate should be getting paid who can actually identify somebody’s needs without a retarded “guide to demographics”.

    p.s. It’s also notable that in their core philosophies it says something to the effect of “treat each customer individually to meet their specific needs” so the borad demographics guide is just that. A guide.

  150. SaraAB87 says:

    The sad thing is that many people who walk into a best buy probably do fit many of these profiles. Given the American attitude of “ooo, shiny and popular, buy it now” even though we can’t really afford it and are rolling in debt I am not surprised that best buy looks out for these type of people. There are also people out there that are just generally uninformed and who will take the saleman’s bait no matter what product they try to pitch. Truly informed people buy from Amazon, newegg or another online retailer, and only walk into best buy if its an emergency and they need it now. I don’t really care if online retailers suggest other products to me since I am not being pressured by anyone to look at or purchase them I just ignore the suggestions.

    The only way I would be offended by this would be if the salesperson started asking me questions like, do you have kids, are you married etc as if they were trying to fit me into one of the profiles, which in that case I would be out the door so fast they wouldn’t even have time to blink. As long as they don’t make it totally obvious to each customer that they are profiling them then it shouldn’t be offensive at all, its just marketing. I think all salespeople in all retail stores profile to some extent so this shouldn’t be any surprise to people at all. Of course I refuse to shop in a best buy or even enter their stores, but that is for different reasons than this.

  151. XJ_4x4 says:

    I have one to describe most salespeople: Moronic know-nothing useless idiots.
    Most B&M’s are a last resort when I need something RIGHT NOW (and it’s on SALE).

  152. Part-Time-Viking says:

    @BrianH: Only on camera’s and laptops that have been opened. And it makes sense too, as Turbofool pointed out, people would buy the product for a specific event and then return it. BB isn’t a rental store.

    I’m beginning to get the idea that Consumerist is on the forefront of a socialist movement trying to brainwash people into communists or something.

    In the end it makes me laugh because Best Buy is still profiting (maybe not so much now with the recession). People have bad experiences, a rotten egg employee can do more damage than I think people realize. These kinds of employees are not exclusive to Best Buy. However, more often than not when I read stories about how a “poor consumer” gets mistreated, I really wonder what their attitude was like in the store. With all of them we only get one side of the story and of course if they are writing to a blog about it they will try to gain as much sympathy as possible.

    In the end, if you want good customer service, be a good customer. Drop the attitudes, learn some patience because people don’t want to help you if you’re carrying a chip into the customer service. Despite what you all clearly think, the people in the blue shirts are human too.

  153. @Eyebrows McGee:
    “yeah, why is it we mostly see these from crappy, underperforming companies?”

    Well, to be fair, you can’t debunk a widely accepted marketing practice based on the results of one or two companies. I guarantee that high-growth, overperforming companies like Whole Foods, etc. use similar customer segmentation techniques.

  154. Part-Time-Viking says:

    bleh, said “in the end” twice.

  155. oneTee says:

    i think this is a little ridiculous…and for once, i think it’s on your part Consumerist. Is there some company out there who DOESN’T have a target audience? If you don’t know your target audience and know how to market TO them, you won’t be successful. To me this is just a lame thing to make Best Buy look bad.

  156. wring says:

    this is effin awesome and makes me not want to set foot on a best buy ever again.

  157. Part-Time-Viking says:

    @wring: You promise?

  158. magic8ball says:

    @mikejonas: I feel an Improv Everywhere skit coming on.

  159. matto says:

    If you need to cobble together this sort of Rube Goldberg scheme in order to simply sell your products, isn’t it a pretty clear sign that whatever you’re selling just plain sucks? I’d expect to see material like this on the wall of the “Boiler Room” or sales office in Glengarry Glenn Ross.

  160. wkm001 says:

    How about you teach them about the products in their department so when they are asked a direct question they seem to have some product knowledge. I can spend ten minutes online and have more product knowledge than the blue shirts. The average consumer is stupid, but on average the blue shirts are below average consumers.

  161. antidayjob says:

    Hmm. I’m a demon, but what about the times I say “screw it” and go to best buy knowing I’m not getting the best price. Does that make me a lazy demon? I would be the one best buy employee who catered to lazy demons. I’d be like “look. you and I both know you can get it online for 50 dollars less, but check it out dude. I’m holding it right now. You can just take it home with you RIGHT NOW.”

  162. SmellyGatto says:

    @matto:

    Your comments are just plain foolish. How can you deride a company for setting up a categories of consumers and then applying sales techniques to identify with those catergories aimed at maximizing sales? Oh, I forgot, you can do that because you are on Consumerist and you are programmed to complain about corporate America in any way you can.

    If you owned a bakery or a tire shop and your profits relied on closing sales for the given traffic you had in your store (an the copetition you had in your neighborhood), you’d damn sure devise a technique to quickly asses your customers based on a few idnetifying characteristics and then tweak your sales pitch/customer interation to best maiximize the potential to sell your product (even upsell)to that customer.

    Best Buy does that and you villify them for it. Get a clue.

    Of course the category names and descritions are hokey and of course some unknowing Consumerist posters are going to claim they are miscategorized…but the goal is to narrow down the laws of large numbers and maximize both selling potentila and time to sale in order to maimize revenuenes…you know Capitlism.

    And, for the record, you calling this a Rube Goldberg scheme couldn’t have been farther from the mark.

    You should use wikipedia more and your keyboard less.

  163. Atsumi says:

    @thewriteguy: Atsumi, the hot young female!

    (kidding, really)

  164. Ken says:

    I used to work for bestbuy/geeksquad. Walmart like this profiling idea so much, they have also implemented their own versions. Each store focuses on a different profile based on their customer base. It determines what they sell more of and how they place their items. Every time you enter bestbuy, you add to their counter, which is why you often see bestbuy employees enter through the exit.

  165. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I’m beginning to get the idea that Consumerist is on the forefront of a socialist movement trying to brainwash people into communists or something.

    @Part-Time-Viking: Seriously? You’re upset because Consumerist decided to share with us how Best Buy salespeople try to get us to buy products?

    Did the post about people overreacting to”free” bug you too? How about those posts about how to spend less at the grocery store? Was that socialist?

    If you think being a well-armed and fore-warned consumer who doesn’t fall for marketing tricks and sales ploys is wrong they you are on the wrong web site. But avoiding the upsell isn’t communism.

  166. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m waiting for Spike, who goes to read magazines, shoplift mini-cameras, surf porn and “accidentally” grab cute salespeople ass.
    Or Bud, who thinks he knows it all, and when clerks butter him up in such a fashion, will buy a 5-yr warrantee for his 2GB Zune. NASCAR edition.

  167. emjsea says:

    @gusnyc.com:
    Wow. Interesting literacy levels for former Best Buy employees. Not really surprising though.

  168. EllenRose says:

    Works both ways – I profile the stores. Best Buy is populated by jerks that turn up offensive music in an attempt to deafen me. (I call them “Thud”.) On the other hand, Micro Center has some pretty decent Joes, so I go there instead. And they have nice prices at NewEgg. The guy that sets them, I call him “Little Bill”.

  169. UpsetPanda says:

    I half-expected there to be something on Maria being hispanic, and how that is so hard.

    And Maria is married to Ray but Mr. Upscale Suburban can’t be married to Mrs. Upscape Suburban? They’re both married, but Best Buy doesn’t want to put them together like they did Maria to Ray? And Mr. Upscale Suburban looks like a smug SOB on his boat.

    Best Buy needs some serious prefacing on this one …probably with “there are a certain core of people who hate Best Buy…”

  170. rmeehan17 says:

    I’m not really sure I see the issue here…i’ve worked in a few retail jobs in my day, and they ALL had a way or profiling their customers just like this. Everyone does it.

  171. Geekbuster says:

    @alphafemale:
    So is this now just turning into bestbuy bash-a-thon. Come on people keep on the topic

  172. CPC24 says:

    As much as I can’t stand BB, I can see their point. Working in retail, you soon realize 90% of people fit in a few categories. Every place has a system, even if it’s not as clearcut as this one is.

  173. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    If they don’t identify me BY MY EXACT TRUE FULL NAME, I’m OK.

  174. Michael Belisle says:

    Enough about Best Buy, let’s talk about me.

    A few brief stints in cold calling taught me that there are really only 4 types of people in the world:

    1: *click*
    2: “You’ve interrupted my day… [rambles]“
    3: “Fuck you.”
    4: “Oh hi! Please tell me more.”

    @redhelix: So that explains why I like my college-town Best Buy better than my yuppie-town Best Buy.

    I played right into their games. I feel used, manipulated, violated, raped, and abused. This stain will never come clean :’-(

    @B: Individuality: Always remember that you are unique, just like everybody else.

  175. Primate says:

    When I worked for BBY, they didn’t use this a as a tool to turn away or give less service to certain customers. It was merely training to better recognize what products or services a specific niche was more likely to go for.

    I didn’t like it anyway, but mostly because the managers would come by a couple times a day and want me to fill out paperwork on my experience with a Ray, or Jill or whatever and find out what I sold to them. One of the more annoying questions on the paperwork was “List an unknown need” or something to that effect. Basically my understanding is they wanted me to find out something I could sell them that they didn’t actually come in to buy.

  176. Michael Belisle says:

    @HOP: Do you really have nothing better to do than write “BEST BUY SUCKETH” all day long?

  177. PenguinBlue says:

    Every retailer in the country does this. It’s not about “stereotyping” customers just for the sake of being big and evil – it’s about understanding who your core customers are and how they live so you can better meet their needs.

  178. hejustlaughs says:

    Too bad Bestbuy can’t profile me because I don’t actually shop there. I believe it’s always more convenient and price efficient to shop online. No need to drive there, deal with employees, lines, etc.

  179. Part-Time-Viking says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Hardly, I don’t care if people know what methods BB uses to help their sales group make sales and make the most possible money out of each customer, it’s part of business. What is irritating me is that the people here seem to want to throw stones at the company because it does just that, want to make money. There is nothing wrong with upselling, more onto that fact, there is nothing wrong with making money.

    What makes me the most mad is how narrow-minded the readers of the Consumerist are, I like coming to this site because on the occasion that there is someone that was wronged by the company, I can work out how NOT to repeat that issue for my own work. However, a story like this clearly was posted so that all of you “screw-BB” folk can get all moist and talk about how much you hate the company. Good for you, I can appreciate that you hate my company but big whoop because as much as you hate the company, there are easily ten out there that love it, and probably another dozen who have nothing against Best Buy.

    Like I said, one bad employee can bury ones confidence in a company, I understand that fully and will admit that there are places that I won’t go to because of one bad employee. I also understand though that my bad experience does not mean that the company as a whole is bad, so I won’t go onto these sites posting about my bad experience with said company following it up with “I’ll never shop there again” because I’m sure that said company couldn’t care any less about it.

    Also, there is nothing wrong with being well-informed and well-armed as a consumer, but at times it seems like The Consumerist isn’t about arming people with the knowledge to step around these selling methods, at times it seems like it’s more of just a blog site where a bunch of corporate anarchists hang out to complain. Which, might I add is neither productive or valuable. It’s just hogwash.

  180. Michael Belisle says:

    @Geekbuster: Welcome to the Consumerist. Every post about Best Buy is a Best Buy bashathon. It’s what we do here. Join the fun!

  181. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    Not sure why you guys are shocked or surprised. Its good business to understand consumer demographics and to cater to them. Only an idiot would put random crap on their shelves and hope that customers would find it like ants invading your kitchen. Read about SUpply and Demand economic laws for more info.

    And I don’t think you guys should be so judgmental. You guys stereotype corporations, execs, and sales clerks dozens of times a day.

  182. Superchargedgtp says:

    What’s my name again…..ah hell, I’ll just strive to be a demon!

  183. xboxishuge says:

    So with the new Personas added to an old document, this is like the FES of best Buy document leaks?

    Do you still have to shoot yourself in the head to summon them? What are her Maria Middle America’s abilities like?

  184. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    However, a story like this clearly was posted so that all of you “screw-BB” folk can get all moist and talk about how much you hate the company.

    @Part-Time-Viking: I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree.
    (Also, EW.)

  185. silver360boarder says:

    I worked at best buy for 3 years 2 on the computer sales floor and 1 on the geek squad (in home and in store) and yes they do try to teach the employees these categories of customers and they are very blunt about it, however to say its stereotyping only depend on how u read the material. If you read the material that’s there the object is for the “slow” employees to show customers products they actually want to see and to avoid messing up sales by showing “Jill” (mother with not much time but would like the best technology for her money) a piece of crap door buster camera that will break after 2 weeks or showing someone with a tight budget a 3,000$ laptop. And the names don’t actually reference gender either a male can be “labled” as a jill or carrie just as muc has a female can be buzz or barrie.
    They do make you take these trainings right off the bat along with a liven cartload of other pointless”training” programs. And to be honest most of the time the employees just skip threw them to get them over with. Most employees won’t know who Carrie Jill Barry and all the other profiles nor do most care about them.
    Personally when I saw them expand this program the only thing that went threw my head besides how ineffective the program will be, is that someone in a corporate office needed a project to take up time and spend money on. The customer centricity push isn’t that big of a deal (which brings to mind that the deepfreeze password is centricity01, emphasizing that someone has nothing better to do) and isn’t anything I would even think about.
    So to spell it out for all those freaking out THERE IS NO PICTURE ID STORED ON A SERVER THAT POPS UP ABOVE YOU HEAD WHEN YOU WALK IN. The employees at best buy are no different then those at circuit city office depot or any other electronic retailer (and all are probably trained equally). The concept of profiling isn’t new and till employees have heads up displays I would get my panties in a knot.

  186. nidolke says:

    I love how all the men can make decisions for themselves, but all the females desperately rely on their big strong husbands and precious children to make decisions for them. I hate having this darn female brain, it’s so hard to decide things for myself!

  187. milw123 says:

    Wow, according to the pictures at the top of each slide Best Buy’s core targets are really, really white.

  188. @Its The Beer Talking: I’m not debunking it, I understand how market segmentation works. I’m just wondering why we mostly see these from crappy companies. Disgruntled leaky employees? Or are they just lots and lots more amusing from bad companies than good ones? Because I’ve certainly seen ones way less stupid and entertaining than this.

  189. dweebster says:

    OK “Best” Buy… your 15 minutes of retailing fame is up – the economy is tanking and those cherry-picked customers you cater to aren’t taking out home equity loans to buy overpriced shit at your ridiculous stores with receipt-nazi anti-human mentality attitudes anymore.

    Most of the “demons” that got sick of your shit while the money was good for you have moved more and more to newegg.com and other online or friendlier businesses where we are welcomed rather than continually fucked with.

    Carrie, Maria, Helen and Charlie are watching their economic dreams dissolve into vapor, maybe they’ll take some of your spare cardboard boxes (for free) as backup housing after their homes are foreclosed. Good thing you didn’t cultivate honest relationships with those “demons” you so casually deride, as they’ll probably be the only ones left with any real money soon.

    Go the way of Bear Sterns, “Best” Buy. You are hated.

  190. dweebster says:

    @milw123: Apparently security is there to stop any other colors from making it through their doors.

    Unless…of course… they can “act” white.

  191. consumersaur says:

    Yeah, what does a Harvard guy know anyway!

  192. @Eyebrows McGee: OK, I see what you were getting at now.

    The topic hits a little close to home because it’s basically been my life for the past 10 weeks (grad student)…in fact, I just turned in a large customer seg project this morning!

    I think a lot of people would be surprised to know how much science goes into this (mathematics, statistical modeling & analysis, etc.) It’s not like BB’s marketing team just sat around a conference table looking at photos of customers and conjuring up stories about them. I thought the Gladwell video that was posted yesterday was indicative of that.

  193. Coder4Life says:

    @mindshadow:
    Uh I worked there for over 7 years, I never remembered them having such a chart which named people “PIGS”. That’s maybe what you called them, but not the actual company.

    Also I don’t understand how these market strategic people in the company think that we are all some weird creatures. Like making a slide show of if a person is like this or this or this. It’s like we are all human beings you know.

  194. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    I am not Jill, I am not high-maintenance.
    But I also do “not enjoy the inconsistent purchasing experience offerred by Best Buy.”

    Thanks Meg, I’m going to use the sh*t out of that one.

  195. timsgm1418 says:

    seriously, isn’t all marketing done similar to this? you’re not going to see (hopefully) condom commercials during Higgleytown Heroes. If I learned nothing else from my marketing class, it was the making money is the sole reason for marketing. Commercials are generally placed during shows they think are their main consumers. Why isn’t anybody ticked off about that? How many tampon commercials are shown during the Super Bowl?@sleze69:

  196. insobox says:

    Honestly, this isn’t surprising at all, I mean who really cares, it helps them best profile the needs of each individual customer instead of wasting time. I would be surprised if any major retailer didn’t have these. If I owned a business this is exactly what I would do.

  197. iMike says:

    Just a basic customer portrait. Most savvy marketers use these.

  198. shor0814 says:

    It isn’t fair, I don’t fit in those categories.

    On a different note, is it just me, or does Helen look like she would be hot for a 50-60 year old?

  199. qrius says:

    best buy is full of know-nothings who are trained to say things they don’t know in a way that sounds like they know, to people that don’t know. so in the end, nobody knows!

    one of my fav things to do, if I must go there, is to tell a ‘secret’ to a buyer or something standing in line at geeksquad while the best buy dude is gone.

    once, I was in there to get something fixed under the bb warranty. this guy was in line and was going to be charged about $400 to get his desktop fixed. All he needed to do was boot up the computer w/a real windows xp disc and reinstall, not the unbootable OEM disk that his computer came with.

    But of course, they didn’t tell him, or didn’t know.

    I hate best buy.

  200. dlinkwit27 says:

    To quote from digg (because I couldn’t have said it better myself)

    “This just in: corporations use demographics to target key markets, maximize profits. Film at 11.”

    Economics 101. Where are the articles outraged at the lack of beer commercials geared toward 65-80 year old women? Why must then all target the 18-34 male? WHY!

  201. bones_rob says:

    I’m pretty sure most stores do this. I used to work at a outdoor/camping store this is a very large Co-Op. They do this too. Almost every retail job I have had has taught how to sell to different types of people based on stereotypes. Plus, this Co-Op taught me which ones to avoid. This is nothing unique to BB.

  202. Seth_Went_to_the_Bank says:

    This kind of reminds me of a series of classic Bloom County comic strips

    [snipurl.com]

    where instead of “eating less and exercising” Opus wants to try a million crazy radical plans to lose weight.

    Ergo, companies like BestBuy, that instead of simply “providing better customer service and a positive workplace for employees” pay a series of consultants for more and more complex and wacky ideas to make money.

    Meanwhile, Apple is raking in cash by the wheel barrow by “providing better customer service and a positive workplace for employees” at their stores.

    That crazy Steve Jobs.

  203. endersshadow says:

    Everybody that went to business school knows this crap. It’s not new, unique, or even that interesting. These are the main demographics of their customers.

    I hate Best Buy as much as anybody, but, really, is this news?

  204. TheSilencer21 says:

    “snwbrder0721″ I agree with everything you said and thanks for being one of the few people who posted who is not an idiot. Now I use to work at best buy, and all that stuff did was make us better as employees to better deal with the different types of customers that we encounter everyday. Now did it play a huge part in how my personal interaction with customers were, no. But it did serve it’s purpose. And to the people who are saying bad things about best buy. Well just think you go into any other electronic store and a large amount of employees know nothing about the product they’re trying to sell. Where as with Best buy if you don’t have an extremely high product knowledge of the department you’re working in and a good amount of knowledge about other departments in the store, you don’t have a job. So think of that the next time you go into a place and ask a question and the rep is looking to the shy begging for the answer. It’s called Best Buy for a reason, because we make sure that every time you come into our store any of our reps can give you all of the information needed to either make the best buy that day, or if you don’t believe us go home do some more homework and then come back another day to make that buy then. Because in the end it doesn’t matter what demographics you’re in to us we will and I have myself many times talked to a customer for 15mins just for them to say thanks and then leave. Because every Best Buy employee knows that if they did their job, then those customers will be back, because well it is Best Buy.

  205. zymase says:

    Damn Buzz for not being loyal to the Big Blue Box and its secret pricing and profiling. Corporations know best.

  206. Parting says:

    @girly: ”Will you steal from us?” repeating over and over again in different paraphrases.

  207. merrittdanielk says:

    mentioned above:

    “I like how all of their profiles pretty much say that the person is cheap. “does not want to pay full price””

    pretty much because every person is cheap as hell.

  208. fuzzymuffins says:

    no matter what type i am or who they my stereotype my looks as …. i RARELY if EVER talk to sales staff beyond “Excuse me, i want THIS please”. so whatever.

    “sales people”… do not offer me services or try sell me anything. i will figure out what i want myself if i haven’t already, and then tell you to get it for me (if i can’t pick up the box and walk to the counter myself) otherwise, don’t pursue me ….unless you’re cute, then i might say hello and ask for your phone number… ha.

  209. MeNotYou says:

    Well DUH! Best Buy is a business. The whole idea of a such a business is to make a profit. Its hard to do so when you have some schmuck who returns a working product only to buy it at a 10% discount next week as an open box. I, personally dislike most big box stores mainly due to the ignorant and catty “sales reps”, but the fact remains, businesses sometimes have to do what is necessary to stay in business.

  210. @Its The Beer Talking: My actual objection to it is companies that turn exclusively to metrics and totally neglect ACTUAL CUSTOMER SERVICE. Some of these companies, and I think Best Buy is guilty to some extend, spend TONS of time and money and effort on researching the CRAP out of everything under the sun, but don’t invest any energy in staff training, real customer service, etc. Things are are “soft” and hard to measure, things that might require managerial discretion, things that require treating individuals as individuals, not numbers.

    Yes, a GOOD salesman will start from a profile as a base and then approach the individual customer. But I don’t think Best Buy puts that kind of effort into its sales staff. It’s perfectly possible to watch a company six sigma and metric itself right out of business, with absolutely no idea why their constantly-improving numbers aren’t making profits improve.

  211. dsquare says:

    A stores primary customer group is identified and the whole store strategy is focused on the one type. I worked in a store that became a “jill” store… They then immediately stocked pink sony digital cameras and disney crap.

  212. SAugsburger says:

    @Rusted: Larry probably believes the marketing gibberish I have heard so many other sales managers say in retail stores say:
    “Why no they buy a user experience… not just the product”

    Even sales associates want to gauge out our eyeballs listening to garbage like this. We know that in a lot of cases these strategies don’t work. You always ask for the obvious add-ons(memory cards for a camera for example), but some things that some of these guys try putting together seem so discordent, I fail to see what user experience they are trying to sell other then going to a used car lot! I remember working at Fry’s and we used to sarcastically say that a lot of customers were like the kids on South Park: “I just want my Ocama Game Sphere.” There are some people that want one product and they will never fit into any of these idealized stereotypical customer molds where you can sell them the following stereotypical addons. The smart salespeople stopped at one maybe two nos on the upsell or the extended warranty unless they really felt like the customer was going to get it at some point earlier in the conversation.

    Even Fry’s dumbest managers for gods sake discouraged us to stereotype customers. I know one of the corporate guys (John Gamet) always gave Steve Wozniack as an example of how millionaires will walk into your store dressed in jeans and look just like any other joe on the street with the key difference that he can afford to buy anything item you sell in the store and more. Not ignoring this person because they look like they don’t have money is stupid.

    The same thing can be said about race. The best salespeople only see one color: green.

    Some things like trying to create strategies to get rid of money losing customers while still retaining most of your profitable one’s may be worth paying this guy something if it isn’t incredibly obvious (a 15% restocking fee fits under the obvious category). I gotta give this Larry guy kudos for bilking BB out of whatever six or seven figure consulting fee he charged for this goofy advice that anybody with a little knowledge of consumer electronics could have came up with!

    As long as BB keeps following the advice of idiots like this they may soon eventually go down the toilet along with CircuitCity into the retail graveyard in the sky.

  213. atrauzzi says:

    It is amazing that these stereotypes exist for Best Buy to manipulate. I feel as though in days long past, they might have had less success with an approach like this.

    It seems the youth and now young adults are an installed and functioning platform for profits.
    …That is of course if you’ve done the right legwork to interface to them with techniques like this.

  214. SAugsburger says:

    @fuzzymuffins:

    “no matter what type i am or who they my stereotype my looks as …. i RARELY if EVER talk to sales staff beyond “Excuse me, i want THIS please”. so whatever.”

    Most geeks are like this because they do know what they want as opposed to a lot of idiots who vacillate endlessly because they don’t know what they are doing and didn’t even try to learn about the products.

    “”sales people”… do not offer me services or try sell me anything.”

    Fry’s corporate had a name for these type of wallflowers:

    Clerks.

    Most stores, save for Fry’s, Microcenter, and a few high end niche shops are all straight hourly without commission so what impetus for going out of their way to close a sale? They will get the same pay regardless. Except for Circuity City maybe getting a new management team that sees merit pay as part of turnaround project to stave off their impending insolvency I don’t expect to see commission salespeople in retail electronics making a comeback at any stores that have eliminated it. BB hasn’t taken a Bear Sterns yet, so getting them to do something as fundamental as changing their pay structure isn’t going to happen. CC on the other hand, might want to look back at some form of commission system.

    “i will figure out what i want myself if i haven’t already, and then tell you to get it for me (if i can’t pick up the box and walk to the counter myself) otherwise, don’t pursue me”

    You know I am like that too, generally, but this is more because the salespeople generally don’t know jack, so talking to them is often a waste of time. If I find a good one who has actually used xyz new product I want to talk to them, you’re right otherwise go away.

    “….unless you’re cute, then i might say hello and ask for your phone number… ha.”

    Well, I am such a shy guy when it comes to cute women, but if there were such an animal at most retail stores I might strike up some idle conversation if possible.

  215. modsuperstar says:

    I’d say I definitely fall into their demon customer category. The only reason I go to Best Buy or Future Shop is when I have a good pricematch to screw them over with.

  216. dobu says:

    I worked at best buy for about two years in high school just as they were beginning to roll out this ‘customer centricity’ program. It’s really not at all as vicious as this article makes it sound. Seriously. I’m currently a business student in college, and I’ve spent a lot of time studying how businesses are consistently trying to better meet the needs of people who make up their main customer bases. And that is what the ‘customer centricity’ model is all about- not stereotyping, but meeting individuals’ needs.

    Each store ‘knows’ what kind of people primarily shop there based on the demographic data of the surrounding geographic area. The store I worked in was mostly patronized by the ‘Jill’-type customers with a secondary disposition towards ‘Barry’. ‘Jill’ type customers, as mostly suburban moms, are more likely to be somewhat overwhelmed by the Best Buy store environment, so we deliberately kept our in-store music at a lower volume and put a higher level of emphasis on store cleanliness and cultivating a friendly environment. I had several of these types of customers actually say to me things like ‘I’m not sure what you guys have done, but I like this Best Buy a lot more now!” Does making peoples’ lives better sound like dehumanizing stereotyping to you?

  217. user008 says:

    I work for Best Buy. Not just any Best Buy. Our store has consistently ranked very, VERY high since we opened. We were #1 in the company a few months back, as well. So there can be a LOT of pressure from management here, as you could imagine.

    The first thing I will say about Best Buy is that for a company that prides itself on not being commission-based, they sure do act like it. Customers are so surprised when they find out we aren’t; the company says customers are happy when they hear that, but from what I’ve experienced, they’re often surprised instead of happy, because of how high-pressured of a sales environment it can be to them. Customer Assistants (think of them as universal sales associates; they can sell anywhere in the store) have, would you believe, sales trackers, despite getting absolutely NOTHING extra for keeping track. It’s a joke. It honestly makes no sense, since a manager can just go into the server and pull up any sale, by any employee, from any date, at any time if they so desire. No need for a paper copy that justifies absolutely nothing.

    Sales Associates don’t always need trackers, but are expected to meet a LOT of expectations for getting only slightly above the minimum wage (just like Customer Assistants). I probably can’t say it’s illegal, but it truly is unethical how poorly Best Buy treats their employees. For all of their crazy sales expectations, for their poor staffing that often leaves only one person in a department by themselves for hours (and expected to be on top of everything at the same time), for all the monthly meetings (the one for the holiday season being the only meeting worth showing up to) on a Saturday or Sunday morning that we are forced to go to — honestly, just for the drive and overall committment they expect from their employees… it’s wrong.

    This company contradicts themselves all the time. They’re TOO adventurous. They are always trying new things or shifting their main focus entirely way too often. This disrupts any sense of consistency and it’s just a pain in the ass for any sales associate or customer assistant. On top of this, management often expects us to simultaneously stay on top of a lot of things pertaining to the merchandising end of things, because most BB’s have understaffed merch teams (like every other department, but that’s another post for another time).

    I’d argue that Best Buy is so high-pressured that they might as well BE commission-based. I can’t help but laugh at them for making fun of other companies who are using the commission model. BB isn’t much different. Every morning we have meetings before the store opens, where we are beat over the head about how important it is to attach accessories, sell services, etc. Believe me, Best Buy isn’t just doing this because they want to be there for the customer, they’re doing it because they want their MONEY. The fact that they get so pushy about making margin while at the same time priding themselves on not being commission-based really does show you how unorganized and just plain backwards this company is. If you could see first-hand how dedicated they are to basically forcing the employee to turn into a sales robot, you’d understand if you haven’t by now. At least those other companies we laugh at pay their employees more for being forced to act like a bunch of tools!

    I can tell you that many managers follow this lifestyle grouping (it’s basically glorified shopper profiling, and it disgusts me), as if it were their religion. Supervisors follow it either because they know they have to, or in some cases, they’re about as brainwashed as their superiors. Most other people on the sales floor are either indifferent about the whole thing, or hate it with a passion like me. I don’t follow the whole lifestyle grouping idea. At all. I carry on a conversation with someone and suggest things based on what they tell me they need. And that is, of course, if the customer is engaged enough in the conversation. I stop there. If they aren’t in much of a talking mood and have their mind set (nothing wrong with that, even though Best Buy frowns upon it), I give a simple pitch to try and tie in services (since, sadly, at my store at least, they watch services like hawks, and will eventually come after you if they feel you aren’t offering.) I don’t try to throw customers into some group that predefines them based on a few key phrases. It’s totally unrealistic and the most successful sales do not depend on such a pretentious selling model. I speak from experience, thank you.

    Best Buy actually has “360” forms (for employees) where you are to basically recap a sale that you had and turn it into a supervisor or manager. You identify the lifestyle group and talk about what you suggested, what extra stuff you tied in, etc. It’s a reflection of how stupid lifestyle questions/grouping is, though, because NO ONE does these forms unless they are forced to.

    It’s honestly impossible to put most people into these groups — and even if you DID, it’s still impossible to expect them to act like the leaked presentation says they should. By the way, the document leaked is just a jazzed up overview of what they’ve been doing for a long time now. But I’m glad it’s out there, since customers can now easily see how ridiculous of a company Best Buy is. Why do I work there? Good question… great discount, I’ve made some friends, but ultimately I am going to be leaving VERY soon as I’ve been there for a year too long.

    Also, Best Buy is desperate for margin. It’s kind of ridiculous. The whole lifestyle grouping is, as previously mentioned, ultimately about how Best Buy can exploit the customer and make more money off of them. Truly though, I would not be surprised if in the next couple years we read reports of the company losing a LOT of money and really going down the spiral. What a great day that will be.

    Best Buy essentially dug their own grave. In the 90’s they dropped their prices to drive away competition and shut down mom and pop stores. They’ve succeeded in doing that and have now flooded the electronics market with their big blue stores. They really have no regional competitors besides Circuit City, which isn’t saying much (no offense to CC employees, I shop at your store all the time). Who else is there in every single state? No one. That’s also why I believe BB can get away with doing so much crazy stuff… they’re the only show in town, and they KNOW it. It’s going to catch up to them sooner or later.

  218. wellfleet says:

    @alphafemale: I work at BB and no question, some stores do some crappy things, but questioning the charitable contributions that the company has made and that I, as an employee, have made, is crappier. I can volunteer for *ANY* 501 3 c charity and for every 40 hours I put in, I get to give that charity $1000. Wow, I’m a horrible person. Last year, I managed to get Susan G. Komen $800, a city scholarship fund $1000, a charity that helps disadvantaged youth join sports teams $1000, and an after-school program for disadvantaged youth $1000. I’m so ashamed.

    These profiles are salesmanship 101. Most natural salespeople have these “stereotypes” down pat. You tailor your approach depending on the customer’s personality. What, exactly, is shocking here? If I walk into Neiman Marcus wearing stained sweats, I will probably be followed by security. If I walk in carrying a Chloe bag and a little rat-dog, they’ll get me a San Pellegrino.

  219. wellfleet says:

    Also… someone commented about how gays don’t exist in the BB world. As a matter of fact, BB was voted #1 gay-friendliest retailer in 2007 and I’m proud of that. If our benefits manual ever gets leaked, the benefits given to same-sex partners are pretty awesome. Not only that, but before getting in big trouble with the IRS, BB’s benefits to same-sex partners were the SAME as given to hetero partnerships. But, since the US federal government doesn’t consider a same-sex partner a spouse under the law, any medical benefits are considered income to the other person. Now, however, you can insure your same-sex partner but with your after-tax income instead of pre-tax. Still…

  220. ginnylavender says:

    I’m a therapist. This is such crap.

  221. jess1985 says:

    strange how everyone thinks this kind of strategy is to “stereotype” consumers. as a former BB employee, I can tell you it is the exact opposite. the point of catorgizing shoppers is to lay the groundwork for what kinds of products a person will want (like someone earlier said different stores have different products depending on what customer segment is most abundant in the area…e.g. Magnolia is in stores with a lot of Barry customers)… it is for sales reps to know and understand their customers. nothing is based on physical appearance and one can only be labeled after a salesperson has spoken with and understood what a shopper is looking for. the truth is that it works. it gives the sales rep a chance to ask questions and recommend the right product for a shopper. and just because there are categories doesn’t mean everyone will fall into a category.

  222. cecilsaxon says:

    Holy Smokes, this is ridiculous. How about simply talking to folks to identify their needs and selling products that fulfill that specific customer’s wants/needs. You do it right and those evil demonic customers don’t return the junk you forced upon them. Returns are a byproduct of a failed sale- not bad customers.

  223. whistler40069 says:

    Sorry, Who gives a Shite. I worked at Best Buy I went to college too where they taught the same thing in my Business classes. For those of you who think it’s not so true its because you are in one area with out links to the other areas of Segments. This is how it is, your parents, you, your kids, your wife, this is life and we wont move from it. Not that I like best buy, they can suck mine if you know what i mean.

  224. @wellfleet: Sorry, didn’t mean to criticize you, or any employees who give time or money to charities… But it can’t be crappy to simply question a companies charitable giving, we have to question things, it’s human nature… What bothers me about it is that corporations take the credit for it all, and they give up nothing, any $$ donated is tax-deductable. I don’t know the particulars of BB’s proceedures, and I was basing some of my rant on my own experience at another company where we were handed a printout of acceptable charities to volunteer with, and we were hassled mercilessly to give to United Way so the company could get the publicity for giving.
    also:
    [www.alternet.org]
    [thinkbeforeyoupink.org]

  225. It’s is stuff like this that makes me happy i am no longer working there, I just couldn’t profile people like this ever.

  226. Michael Belisle says:

    @alphafemale: The value of volunteering drops by 10% if the volunteer is wearing a Best Buy shirt. So yes, every company should tell the community to go fuck itself: “Take off that Best Buy shirt, volunteer! Watch TV on your time off for all we care.”

    The Corporate Social Responsibility movement must end. No revenue, through any way, shape or form, should be funneled into “community” interests. The only thing that a corporation should care about is profits, its bottom line, and returning value to its shareholders. Economically speaking, volunteering is detrimental to the company. Clearly, companies today are only doing it for the tax break, which makes them evil. If we eliminate the tax incentive, we can eliminate CSR.

    But even then we all know that bleeding-heart liberals, having failed to change corporations through legislation, have begun to attempt to change corporations directly, one-by-one. One of those ways is shaming them here on the Consumerist.

    You see, Consumerist! You’re just playing into the liberal agenda to destroy our economy.

  227. deepb says:

    This is nothing to be upset about, really. This sort of thing is literally used everywhere, not just in sales.

    In fact, I would wager that the the majority of the people complaining have a boss that not only knows their MBTI personality type, but leverages that knowledge to get the most out of them.

    I know it’s much more fun to ignore all that in favor of complaining about Best Buy, but (this time) they’re not doing anything wrong.

  228. Kwitch says:

    Heads up from someone that has worked for Best Buy for 2 years, and has worked with co-workers that have been with the company for over 5-10.

    We don’t think about our service operating procedure every day and resort back to these stereotypes in order to answer the questions of our customers and help them find the products they want.

    This training is semi-annual, and is usually only to promote customer awareness in our employees, not so much as to turn all of our associates into mindless car salesmen. Asking what kind of uses for technology a customer has, their name, finding a package deal that suits their needs and budget… that’s a lot more important to us.

    To be frank, we somewhat scoff at these training materials due to their limitedness and profiling. Most of us realize that there is much, much more to a good customer experience than giving names to stereotypes and guessing what type of person one of our guests are.

    And I’m kind of ashamed that you all think we should ‘just die already’ are really being insensitive to the fact that we are real people that actually try to make a rewarding customer experience and help our guests with their questions and needs.

    If you’re in a Best Buy store, and you’re not being greeted, asked if you can be helped, or overhear employee’s ever, ever reference a customer by any of these stereotypes; something is wrong there. And As an employee who respects his ability to make an impact on others by amazing them with good service, I appologize if your Best Buy service is anything less.

  229. havok2022 says:

    I think this is funny how people are reacting to this as if it’s a bad thing. Best Buy is not stereotyping people to segment “good” customer’s against “bad” customers. This is put in place for a few reasons. First and foremost BB wants to know their customer’s better to cater things to them. This is also an excellent training guideline for some high school kid with low social ability and no sales experience. Basically it says you don’t want to speak to a “buzz” customer the same way you talk to a “Helen” customer, typically. This absolutely correct. The AVERAGE retired couple wants a quality product that is easy to use. They don’t care about technobabble as long as it’s a reliable product and meets their needs. The “buzz” on the other hand is typically a younger male who really like technology. He knows what he wants, and can usually understand more of the younger fast paced talk. That’s not to say that a “Helen” can’t be a “Buzz.” It absolutely happens and they make that clear. Maybe “Helen” is a retired engineer from Boeing. These are things you should learn in the first few minutes in speaking with your customer. If that is something you pick up on, you can go into all the technobabble you want. As someone formally on commission, my paycheck relied on my ability to cater my sale to different types of customers. I didn’t talk to every customer in the same manner.

    As far as not getting helped because you aren’t standing next to an expensive product, that has nothing to do with these customer profiles, and everything to do with a lazy salesperson. I rarely stop to talk, I make constant rounds and always check with EVERY customer MULTIPLE times.

  230. aikoto says:

    Nice review with good data. I’ll add a link to it from my “Angel and Demons” article from my own page. Let’s spread the word.

  231. LiquorSuicide says:

    I worked at Best Buy between early 2005 and late 2006, it was about early 206 that they rolled out “customer centricity” Which is the concept that “you base your product sales around the customer, not around the product” meaning you ask questions like “what will you be using this for?” and then show them product based on the responses. The 9 out of 10 people I helped knew they wanted a computer, didnt know what they wanted, the 1 out of 10 that did were my favorites because I didnt have to break everything down to them. The customer centric mindset does help younger inexperianced sales people to pinpoint who they are dealing with.

    About mid 2006 they also redesigned stores to focus on one sales group based on what type of sales they had mostly. I live in Sacramento CA, I worked at the Arden Mall Best Buy, we were Buzz/Best Buy For Business, the store in Natomas was Barry, the store in Elk Grove was Carry. This concept has been going on for a while in Best Buy. The “New” demographics they have here have been listed in Best Buy since I left late 2006.

    If you really want to mess with the people that work there though get the TV-Be-Gone, the night crew in Home Theater are normally understaffed and you can really have some fun watching them run around trying to fix all these TV’s shutting off.

  232. gamin says:

    @amoeba:
    For a while I was Jose, still no English though

  233. perfektskyy says:

    I went with a buddy last year to look for a cheap new car. when we were test driving the Honda Fit the sales guy didn’t have a brochure so he swiped a coworkers training manual on it and gave it to us. I can honestly say it was one of the funniest documents that I have read in awhile.

    that being said, I see nothing wrong with demographics and sales training. I think for the most part it is hilarious to the people being trained as well.

  234. JRico162 says:

    “In fact, the first thing Best Buy did after adopting Selden’s method was amend their return policy to include a 15% restocking fee. Too many “demon” customers were returning things.”

    As a former Best Buy Tech (that’s what we were before Geek Squad was purchased) I have to argue this point. The 15% restocking fee was actually around well before the customer typing that is the focus of this article.

    It was specific to GPS, Radar Detectors, Notebooks, Desktop PC’s , Digital cameras, Digital Camcorders, Portable DVD players, and projectors. This isn’t something new, this is stuff going at least as far back as ’03, and even farther back as this was a well established practice when I started with them.

  235. yetiwisdom says:

    @xmarkd400x: You are not wrong but 100% correct – virtually all retailers and most other customer-facing companies utilize personas (not “profiles”) as a tool to for marketing, training and other purposes. This is pretty unremarkable IMHO.

  236. ne1butu says:

    This isn’t ususual at all. Most companies do this in some fashion. It’s also not meant to be as literal as people here make it out to be. The idea behind “marketing personas” is to give employees an uderstanding of the variety of people that they can encounter. It also helps marketers develop messages and offers that resonate better with their customers and prospects, also preventing offers that the customer isn’t interested in. You can’t visually identify these individuals when they walk into the store, and that’s not the point of this. Companies primarily use purchase data and other transactional information. The term “profiling” has a negative stigma associated with it. But other terms are “persona marketing””file segmentation””loyalty marketing” and other more neutral terms.

  237. texmandie says:

    I look like an angel (Carrie)…

    but I’m the devil in disguise!

    (must remember to tart up a bit before going to BB)

  238. CGCM says:

    wake up people. every major company does this. you can think of it as “evil” or you can think of it as helpful. it allows companies to target marketing and make messages more helpful, meaningful, entertaining, RELEVANT, etc.

    if you don’t like it, don’t shop there. and walmart, target, circuit city, mcdonalds, etc, etc.

    it is fine to be an informed consumer, but if you think every one isn’t doing this you’re blind. all the complaining won’t stop anything if you continue with mass consumption.

  239. NotMe says:

    I agree with the fictionalized ‘Maria’ on this point…Best Buy is ‘a store I go to only when….forced to go. Takes way too long to accomplish my mission…’

  240. wtimadams says:

    Well put, XianZhu. My former roommate worked for Best Buy and it helped me put a lot of this into perspective. These profiles are not meant to stereotype customers, rather they are designed to help Best Buy’s employees understand broad groups of customers and relate better to their differing needs/lifestyles/shopping habits. At the end of the day, you should have a better shopping experience as a result because the employee you are talking to is better able to “speak your language”.

    Of course, like all corporate policies and guidelines these profiles have the potential to be abused and work best in the hands of a capable, intelligent salesperson. Unfortunately, Best Buy does not have a great track record when it comes to hiring these types of individuals. They tend to move on to better, higher paying jobs.

  241. Catsmack says:

    Wow, just imagine if they put all the time and effort they put into stereotyping their consumer base into teaching their employees about the technology they sell.

    That might actually be a sound business model or something.

  242. Aetatis says:

    To really play around with their “system” use totally
    different clothes. I work as a painter and I love to go the electronic stores and wear my painting shirt and shorts. I have all the time in the world to do my shopping without someone asking if I need help. And what’s with the greeters? The only other store I can think of that does that is Walmart. Circuit City sure doesn’t do that and they also don’t tell you three times in conversation how they are not on commission.

  243. reykjavik says:

    Do people still shop at electronic stores?? Everything is online for half the price and no tax. You’d have to be an idiot to pay full price and tax at a big-box store.

  244. Michael1234 says:

    the article says:
    Best Buy would concentrate on outwitting pesky bargain-hunters (now known as “demons”)and cater only to its most profitable customers, or “angels.”

    The Tipping Point
    Copyright © 2000 by Malcolm Gladwell

    60-61
    What’s to stop them from cheating us with meaningless “everyday low price” signs every time we walk in? The answer is that although most of us don’t look at prices, every retailer knows that a very small number of people do, and if they find something amiss – a promotion that’s not really a promotion – they’ll do something about it.

    One name for them is “price vigilantes.” The other, more common, name for them is “Market Mavens.”

    Michael234: CVS pharmacies countered what “Market Mavens” can do by removing the unit price from all their merchandise. Now the power of the individual consumer has been quietly marginalized. Only the large and rich businesses and corporations can negotiate the price of an item. To CVS, we are now irrelevant to the marketplace because we are only individuals.

  245. j117513 says:

    Here is a star wars parody video made for training one of the stores of a new segment. It’s cheesy, but I think current and former employees would find some amusement from it.

  246. user008 says:

    @Kwitch:

    “We don’t think about our service operating procedure every day and resort back to these stereotypes in order to answer the questions of our customers and help them find the products they want.”

    Like hell you don’t. I can tell you that at my store, it’s quite the opposite.

    “To be frank, we somewhat scoff at these training materials due to their limitedness and profiling. Most of us realize that there is much, much more to a good customer experience than giving names to stereotypes and guessing what type of person one of our guests are.”

    Management at my store never scoffed at lifestyle grouping or ANY training materials. You must be in a district or at least store that’s a bit more lax when it comes to things, and for that you are lucky. You should work in the new stores that have been very successful to get an idea of what Best Buy is trying to become. It’ll trickle down to you eventually; the culture of slowly but surely having everyone turn into some lifestyle grouping services-attaching zombie with a new fixation on branded payments while simultaneously being forced to work within a skeleton crew so managers get even better bonuses (while you get next to nothing), that is.

    “And I’m kind of ashamed that you all think we should ‘just die already’ are really being insensitive to the fact that we are real people that actually try to make a rewarding customer experience and help our guests with their questions and needs.”

    Seems like you have some common sense at least (although I’m not entirely sure where you’re coming from), but a lot of Best Buys are not like this, and that’s why so many of us pissed off employees and customers feel the need to say BB must “die”. And I can tell you the newer stores that are highly competitive are basically trying to dictate the future of this company through impressive numbers attained by utilizing a brute-force “whatever it takes” approach with the “customer centric” model propped up as some kind of facade. We are not customer centric; that is, we are not a company that disregards short term goals for what’s most important for the customer. If we were truly that, then I wouldn’t be walking into the store every day being told that while services in general are great, we really need to focus on PSP’s right now because it’s “killing us” (more like management’s bonuses and misc. incentives). Perfect example: I sold $700+ worth of services on some computers for a small business customer, only to later be told that while the sale was good, I was ultimately frowned upon for not being able to attach PSP’s. The customer did not want a PSP on anything, and I pitched it many times, primarily so I could better defend myself against management’s typical self-serving bullshit after the sale occured. But it mattered not to them, and so the sale went by largely unnoticed by management because I didn’t attach PSP’s to inflate their already huge bonuses. Great culture, eh?

    If all the customer needs is the core product and either nothing or just one other thing with it, then Best Buy (at least my store) seems to have a serious issue with that. And so, they totally contridict themselves. They also look really snobby because meeting a customer’s needs is GREAT… until the customer will not buy anything else regardless of how good or bad the sales associate is doing and what’s being said. To be “customer centric” while at the same time frowning upon customers who get nothing or close to nothing extra with their core product is just kind of funny. It’s like saying “we’re only customer centric when you buy the extra stuff that makes us money.”

    “If you’re in a Best Buy store, and you’re not being greeted, asked if you can be helped, or overhear employee’s ever, ever reference a customer by any of these stereotypes; something is wrong there. And As an employee who respects his ability to make an impact on others by amazing them with good service, I appologize if your Best Buy service is anything less.”

    We’re ordered to contact customers all the time, to the point where they often get annoyed and become evasive! And many people, especially my former CEM, told me what lifestyle groups he thought my customers were in before handing me off to them.

    I am happily no longer a part of Best Buy, but I will continue to point out how poorly they treat their employees, and ultimately, the customer, through their approach to what is, beneath the surface, a highly pretentious, dishonest and aggressive approach to making customers spend a lot of money.

  247. Lots of companies keep customer databses… That’s why you shouldn’t use yoru credit card or sign up for magazines etc lol

  248. Daniel Maansky Sides says:

    This article is complete BS. I just underwent this training. The “stereotypes” are meant to help employees know what certain customers may be looking for. Some people want things that will help them stay in touch with their families better while others go for the high-end, with install, with warranty.
    I have not once heard the words “good” or “bad” or anything close to adjectives of that sort used to describe a customer at best buy.

  249. MTFaye says:

    Less focus on the product!? Thats one of my main issues with Best Buy. Years ago, when I would willingly step foot in one, I hated when sales reps tried to sell me something they knew nothing about. The situation where the buyer knows far more about your product than the sales rep is just terrible business practice.