Dear New Circuit City CEO: Here's How To Fix Your Stores

Yesterday, we asked you to tell us how Circuit City’s new CEO should fix his stores. It’s been a troubled few years for Circuit City. Before the former CEO resigned last week, he’d embarked on an expensive and drastic “turn around” plan that, well, let’s be honest — failed.

First, he tried firing everyone who knew anything about the products that Circuit City sold (about 3,400 experienced salespeople) then, he responded to the inevitable tsunami of blood that followed… (2nd quarter losses of $62.8 million, and 3rd quarter losses of $207.3 million) by unveiling a retention program that would reward each top executive with $1 million.

Meanwhile, Circuit City’s human resources department was wading through their own entrails and trying to hire their own fired employees back.

Finally, Blockbuster tried to move in and take over Circuit City — hoping to “differentiate products in both Blockbuster and Circuit City stores by offering exclusive content and content-enabled devices.” Whatever that means. After taking a good hard look at Circuit City’s books, Blockbuster decided that whatever Circuit City had, they didn’t want to catch it, and called the deal off.

It’s clear that Circuit City’s new CEO, James “Tourniquet” Marcum, has his work cut out for him, but here at Consumerist we’re pro-success. In the spirit of a new beginning, we’ve decided to share your suggestions with Mr. Marcum.

These comments were all written by you, the shopper. If Marcum wants to turn it around, he’d better listen up.


How To Fix Circuit City

by

The Customers of Circuit City

  • CC lost their best employees, which in turn meant they lost their best trainers for new employees.

    How would I fix it? Hire arsonists and collect the insurance money. You’re going down in flames, you may as well get paid.

  • Firing competent, experienced staff so they can hire incompetent inexperienced staff at a lower hourly rate is only one step above off-shoring (which is kind of difficult to do if you want your store staffed with live people on-site!). Scumbags, that’s what Circuit City’s upper management are: Scumbags. And honestly, I’m insulting scumbags by making the comparison.
  • When spending at least $2,000 on a HDTV or Plasma TV, I don’t think that I can trust the expertise of a 17 year old high school dropout to guide me into choosing which one might be best for me.
  • Fix the damn CD and DVD sections. Seriously, can anyone find one thing they’re looking for?… Highlight the gadgets! I hear people like little handheld things these days. Maybe make them easier to find, easier to fondle etc… Blow everyone away with friendly returns/customer service. Unlike Best Buy where they like to accuse you of committing a crime when returning something.
  • Stop selling Monster Cable! They would sell exponentially more cables if they didn’t want $103 for 6′ of HDMI cable. If I see a retailer selling Monster Cable, I will usually look for an excuse not to buy something from them.
  • The only *good* thing about Circuit City customer service is that it’s SO bad, they usually just ignore you. And ironically, I count that as a plus, as there’s no faster way to turning me off in a store than to be pestered by incompetent customer service. At least when I walk into a Circuit City, I know that the reps are all going to be huddled together in the part of the store farthest away from me, so I’ll be left alone to browse at my leisure.
  • Make the executives work for a month at random Circuit City stores, with no power or authority to make changes. Spend one week at each in the “Customer Service Booth”, and require them to provide responses to each and every inquiry.

  • What do I find wrong with Circuit City?
    They have higher prices than their competitors, and most of the time they don’t have what I want. How do you fix that?
    Cheaper prices. Better selection. Aggressively letting people know that they have both.

  • Reduce the size of the stores and aim for the higher end customers. Make sure everyone selling an item is an expert on that item, or at least on that category. Spend money on wages, benefits and training to attract and retain those people.In other words, become the opposite of what Circuit City is now, because you’re not the best at that and you probably never will be.
  • Integrate the CircuitCity stores with the CircuitCity website, with the goal of making shopping easier and less stressful.
  • Does anyone get that good feeling that they get in BB when they walk into Circuit City? No. The stores look ancient, the cust. service is just piss poor, there are never any cash registers open at any store.
  • Most of these kinds of stores put a bunch of cheap ass computers on display, then hire a moron to help customers. Real computer experts only go to CC or Best Buy because they are in a pinch- not because they want to. I could go to Target and get the same stuff they sell at CC, but it is cheaper.
  • Stop selling the same thing as Best Buy. Switch to high-end computer parts and systems only. At least then you’d have something different… as it is, there is nothing different between Circuit City and Best Buy.

  • I would love it if I could feel like when I go in and need to ask a question, it’s not being answered by someone who just picks up the box and reads what I just read.



Since CEOs are super busy, we’ll summarize:

Hire people who know what they’re doing. Offer a better selection of products that will interest high-end cash-heavy consumers, and staff your store with people who know at least as much as they do. Clean your stores. Hire enough people so that you can have a register open at all times. Concentrate on the products that people actually want to buy, like handheld devices, cameras, consoles, and other gadgets. Mop the floor and tidy up. Don’t let your employees huddle in the back of the store. Make shopping through the website easy. Lower the prices on your accessories to compete with Best Buy. Find friendly people and put them to work behind the customer service desk.

Good luck.

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. HIV 2 Elway says:

    Here is how to fix your company:
    Don’t buy Blockbuster. You don’t fix a failing company by buying a failing company.

  2. ElizabethD says:

    Annnnnnnd… the people have spoken!

    (Will anyone listen?)

  3. ribex says:

    “Does anyone get that good feeling that they get in BB when they walk into Circuit City?”

    I don’t get a good feeling walking into Best Buy, either. I used to, back in…1998 or so. I rarely set foot in BB anymore, once every year or two at most.

    • blackmage439 says:

      @ribex: My sentiments exactly. I never, NEVER enter a Best Buy without first viewing their selection online. 9/10 times, the online specials are better than in-store pricing; and as we long-time Consumerist readers know, Best Buy has a horrible reputation in that whole online/in-store-pricing relationship thing. Getting in-store pickup also allows you to dodge the sales staff, and grab your item in 10 minutes or less.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @ribex: OTOH, out here in China Best Buy really is best if you don’t feel like wading through the millions of tiny vendors in the computer markets who may be selling gray-market goods at inflated sticker prices (you’re expected to haggle).

  4. dragonfire81 says:

    “Hire people who know what they’re doing. Offer a better selection of products that will interest high-end cash-heavy consumers, and staff your store with people who know at least as much as they do. Clean your stores. Hire enough people so that you can have a register open at all times. Concentrate on the products that people actually want to buy, like handheld devices, cameras, consoles, and other gadgets. Mop the floor and tidy up.”

    Is it sad I think these should be very OBVIOUS requirements for ANY successful business?

    • Farquar says:

      @dragonfire81:

      None of that will actually do anything to save the business. As a matter of fact, a good portion of it (Hiring better staff, requiring higher wages) will only do in the company at a faster rate if other more substantial changes aren’t made.

      As mentioned, if they don’t differentiate themselves from Best Buy/HH Gregg etc they will fail no matter how knowledgable their staff, and clean their stores.

      Either change the business model, or do what Best Buy does better than Best Buy does.

      Circuit City already knows this. They just haven’t figured out how to make it work. It’s really easy for a bunch of yahoos on the internet to say this is what needs to be done.. It’s a helluva lot harder to actually make it happen.

      In the meantime, save some coin by hiring the barely competent.

      • Skybolt says:

        @Farquar: I’d say that if Circuit City did what we yahoos recommended, it would be a change in their business model. Circuit City needs to spend good money to solve their problems, not waste money by continuing to do what they are already doing. If they can’t succeed as they are now, and they can’t change anything because it would cost more, they should just liquidate everything.

        • Tmoney02 says:

          @Skybolt: Exactly right on having to spend good money to solve problems.

          Just look at Sears/Kmart. They are in bad shape losing money every quarter with time running out. Also Their stores desperatly need a facelift/remodel. If they want to turn things around they have to take what they have left in the bank and invest it in their stores.

          That is the only way to get people to come back in and give them another shot. Also it will make people stay longer and possibly more prone to buy more expensive items. Also note that successful retailers remodel their stores very often. When is the last time you have seen a face lift/remodel of a circuit city or Kmart?

          If sears/kmart and circuit city don’t invest in their business and just hope superficial changes and quick fixes will turn things around they will just continue on a very slow death march to oblivion. At least the investment allows for a chance for them to turn around and live even if it is a gamble.

  5. Yankees368 says:

    “Does anyone get that good feeling that they get in BB when they walk into Circuit City? No. The stores look ancient, the cust. service is just piss poor, there are never any cash registers open at any store.”

    Hey! That was my comment! WOO!

  6. Trevor says:

    Demand every executive work without pay until the company is profitable again. If that’s not possible, slash all executive pay to reasonable levels for a company bleeding money out of its ears. This same philosophy could work for, oh, say GM…but that’s another story

  7. Outrun1986 says:

    I get a really bad feeling when walking into CC, mainly because I am usually one of maybe 5 customers in the store. I usually go on busy weekends too so this is more disturbing. Why am I shopping at CC do you ask, because they have good clearances on video games, and thats the only reason I am shopping there.

    The 2 biggest problems I see is lack of organization in the store and the fact that there is never a register open. This is huge because if a customer is ready to check out they might just dump their merchandise on the counter and head to the best buy that is 5 min away from the CC here if they find there are no available cashiers. Since there are so many electronics stores, customers have many options. I cannot comment on firedog service, warranties or computer buying at CC because I have never used those services.

    Lack of organization, some stores are better than others, the one that I frequent is horrid though. They have weird diagonal aisles and the DVD’s, CD’s and video games are all over the place. The video game section just doesn’t flow well, and its hard to get from one system’s section to another. They often stash new release video games behind the counter so you can’t even see if they are in stock or not. DVD’s are all over the place in bins, and there are video game bins scattered around the store as well. People who want to buy a new release video game are just going to walk out if its not on the shelf in its proper spot because they will think the game is sold out. There is no excuse for this because they have plastic boxes to hold all video games so there is no reason to stash new ones behind the counter since anti-theft measures are already in place. Customers have to see the product in order to know its in stock and know its available. It doesn’t help that there is never anyone at the CS desk or registers to answer basic questions about products that are in stock or not.

    I like the idea of having a central hub that someone else posted, have one station clearly in the middle of the store so if a customer has a question, they can go there and always find an employee available. Those employees can either take care of the customer or direct them to an employee in another department for assistance. This is something best buy doesn’t have and would do wonders to differentiate CC from BB.

    • floraposte says:

      @Outrun1986: Yes, there’s nobody in my local Circuit City either. And the problem with most of these suggestions is that they won’t bring people into the store; they’ll just make it likelier that they can sell to the handful of shoppers who might otherwise have walked out empty-handed.

      I don’t know how they should proceed to get people back into the stores, though. I’m trying to think of an example of another company that’s managed to turn this kind of situation around–can anybody think of one?

      • Outrun1986 says:

        @floraposte: Its interesting because in the area that my CC is in, its in a huge shopping plaza and its about 5 min away from a Best Buy. I don’t know why this location hasn’t closed yet, it has no business whatsoever (its even more dead than Sears, and thats really saying something there!) and its in an area where there is huge competition between electronics stores.

        When you walk into the store its just empty, no one at the service desk, no one at the register and all the employees are usually standing around in one place talking and doing nothing. At the very least, they could be organizing and pricing things with the correct prices. It does get busy around the holidays but thats the only time I have seen a normal amount of customers in there. I can totally understand a messy store during the holidays but I don’t think anyone ever updates anything in this store or organizes, maybe once a month if that.

        I can’t think of any example of a company turning around, but you may have a point when you say they should sell to whoever walks into the store.

        They could start by focusing on the customers in the store instead of everyone standing around in one place and not doing anything. If there is no cashier then one should run to the register as soon as a customer approaches with merchandise. If there is a line at the service desk, take care of the people in line as quickly as possible, don’t go having a conversation while the line builds. Apologize to the people in line if its taking an extra long time to get to them. Pull people from the floor and have them work registers and the service desk if possible when it gets busy, every other store does this. Get a floor worker to find out why the people in line at the CS desk are there and if they have to fill out paperwork and stuff get them started on that while they are in line to save time. For the holidays bring in extra registers and extra cashiers and sales people, you know it will be busy, and I have seen other retail stores do this so its not impossible.

        People don’t like to wait these days, and face it who has time. If your waiting for 30 min at CC just to pay for an item because there is no cashier, then you might as well jump in your car and go to BB and get the same item there, you would probably save some time.

        Maybe if they start by focusing on who is in the store, those people will spread the word that the store is good and then bring in more business, its not much but they have to start somewhere to try and improve things.

  8. illtron says:

    I don’t see Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. as their real competition. I can get the same thing for approximately the same price at any of these stores. Amazon, NewEgg, iTunes, etc. These are the real competition. I can get my order from them quickly or cheaply, it’s my choice.

    If Circuit City could give me the prices I get on Amazon or NewEgg without the wait, I’d go there every time. Instead, their prices are way more than they should be, and they just bank on people’s ignorance of better online alternatives. Who in their right mind would pay $100 for a simple HDMI cable at CC if they knew they could get something just as good at Monoprice for under $10?

    Online-style prices + superior customer service = win. Think about it.

    • endless says:

      @illtron:

      If it were that simple you wouldn’t see CC struggling.

      The way monoprice is open because they have no overhead. Same with Amazon. Despite the general lack of talent their sales staff has and how unattractive their stores are, circuit city still has to pay for them. Not to mention all the extra support staff, transport, inventory, customer service.

      Best buy knows this, thats why you see them doing things like geek squad and other services that online doesn’t compete against. Circuit city also figured it out, but fire dog is late to the party and not that good so… i guess thats why we are having this post.

      • TheSpatulaOfLove says:

        @endless:

        I still wonder WTF were they thinking when they called their services division ‘Firedog’. It sounds like the Chinese banker that loaned them money demanded naming rights to their new services initiative. ‘Firedog’ probably sounded GREAT in Chinese, but the English translation is laughable.

  9. Skankingmike says:

    I used to work for Circuit City back in 2003, I lasted about 4 months (basically the holiday season).

    I knew more than most of the people there except a few college kids.

    In the end i see the only way Circuit City can make them selves stand out is to offer a rental service of their products.

    Having worked there you would be surprised by how many people would come in buy something use it for a few days and then return it. That’s why they implemented the restocking fee’s i know they suck but the people who abused the return policies sucked too.

    If they legitimized the renting of TVs for big games, camera’s for vacation, and they added a small fee for insurance, they would make a lot of money. Accompany this with a rent to own program the company would turn around in profit, especially with the economy the way it is; I can’t see many of these electronic only stores lasting.

  10. Daemonstar says:

    Since the Circuit City I usually go to is in the city that I work in and not the town I live in, I rarely get go in there. So the thing that struck me was that there are rarely employees in their respective departments when I’m there. I’ve called a couple of times to see if something was in stock, but no one in the department would ever answer the phone (maybe once?).

    Along those lines, the website and the store inventory simply don’t match up. What’s the point of checking store availability online if it is just a guessing game, anyway? And since no one in their department hardly answers the phone, that means I have to take myself down there and waste a lunch hour and gas. No thanks, I’ll get what I’m looking for somewhere else.

  11. mac-phisto says:

    so, what WILL CC do to “save the company” instead of fixing all the blatantly obvious issues?

    easy – spend $100 million on logo & store redesigns over the next few years. problem solved!

  12. van_line says:

    Prime examples of what is broken with CC:

    My last and final visit to CC, order something on-line in store pick up, hoping to run in and get it and go.

    Walk into to the store, stand at the “to go” register, wait 10 minutes. The other register is 10 people deep. Watch and listen to Mgmt types stand and chit-chat the entire time not doing anything about the increasingly longer and longer line. Finally the little girl behind the counter interrupts them and ask them for some help, of course they shot her the evil eye. Someone finally comes out to the “to go” register and tells me I have to get in the other line, I do. Then they do whatever they do and now I have to go back to the “to go” register.

    Instead of being in and out in 10 minutes, I walked out 25 minutes later with a red hot hatred of CC.

  13. InsertBullets says:

    What about actually having the item on sale in the store?

  14. grunt2008 says:

    To the person that suggested reducing the size of the stores and catering to high end customers… ask Tweeter how THAT’S working out for them? It’s not. Tweeters are shutting down left and right. Too often, the decision on buying electronics comes down to price and Tweeter has high prices. There aren’t enough high end customers out there to justify Tweeter’s business models… and the high end customers would rather install a home theater using a company that specializes in just that… not a high priced chain store like Tweeter.

    If CC wants to completely differentiate themselves from Best Buy, they should go 100% web only with their stores being pick up points, only. It appears they are completely disinterested in hiring qualified sales people… so take that part out of the equation. People can get all kinds of expertise on the web through site like cNet and others of that ilk… plus comsumer reviews on the CC web site. Eliminate your showrooms, CC… you’d save millions in real estate costs, sales person salaries, devote more resources to being the best customer service option out there, and you might actually catch and then separate yourself from the competitors.

  15. SannidhiNanger says:

    When the PS2 came out me and a bunch of college friends waited outside CC all night for its release. Finally right before the store opened a manager came out and informed us that inorder to buy the PS2 we had to also buy a $50 stupid fireworks game. The game would not be exchangable or returnable in anyway. Under protest many of us were asked to leave (including me), some still made the purchase then returned the game to walwart. Ever since we have all boycotted CC and got as many others to do the same. I’m happy to see CC on the edge of finacial ruin. I feel like I’ve really accomplished something.

  16. OneMHz says:

    “Make the executives work for a month at random Circuit City stores, with no power or authority to make changes. Spend one week at each in the “Customer Service Booth”, and require them to provide responses to each and every inquiry.”

    Can I vote for this one? Can we do this with more things? Make politicians live in the poor areas for a month and work minimum wage jobs? Make mortgage execs try to get a loan with my credit? Hell, make any execs work the trenches for their wages.

  17. philipbarrett says:

    Hire arsonists and burn down Costco. At least you’d then have a chance at selling a flat screen or 2!

  18. tande04 says:

    I’m not so sure that “products that will interest high-end cash-heavy consumers” is the way to go. Especially during these times. The food industry has seen that they’re going to have better luck selling the $.98 can of basic soup then the $1.39 can of “gourmet” soup I don’t think CC is going to have much luck convincing people to buy a $2,500 radio over a $6.99 one.

    The first suggestion is probably the best. Sell off what works and burn the rest.

  19. Preyfar says:

    I shop at Circuit City online here and there, but every time I step into their B&M stores I’m sorely dissapointed. Their layouts are generally overly busy or confusing, as others have stated, the selection leaves a lot to be desired. Every other store will always have Hot New Release(tm) for games and movies, but Circuit City sometimes lags being by a few days. Not only that, but their gaming department always looks like they randomly throw stuff up on the shelves with little care towards presentation or organization.

    And as others have said, finding a register that’s open can be a difficult task at times. I’ve literally stood over 20 minutes at the Wyomissing, PA store waiting at the front register for somebody to assist me. If I didn’t need it that day, asap, I’d not have bothered waiting. Other stores have been better, but the quality of service varies from “average” to “failgasm”.

  20. johnnya2 says:

    I am no fan of CC, but I love how people seem to think they have the answer to something much larger than what they see in their individual store or market. Having untrained people can work in many instances. Wal Mart, Target etc do not have experts in their fields. I would hardly call Wal Mart clean and inviting. They seem to succeed. The key to any business is how you differentiate yourself. If you want to be the cheapest, BE THE CHEAPEST. If you want to be the best BE THE BEST. If you sit somewhere in the middle, nobody cares and you aren’t needed. If CC wants to compete with BB, they could either go to rock bottom cheapest pricing and warehouse type stores (think Costco for electronics) or have the most inviting showroom to sample all the electronics at any time and have an expert walk them through what makes a plasma tv different than a LCD. Have them explain why brand X costs more and what to look for in that product. The current problem is they want to be lowest price, but they aren’t, AND they want to be high end, but they aren’t.

    • TheSpatulaOfLove says:

      @johnnya2:

      One big key to Walmart’s success is screwing their vendors. Been there, done that – won’t do ANY kind of business with them again.

  21. quail says:

    Circuit City has too bad of a reputation. They aren’t going to fix things without an image makeover. A drastic image makeover.

    I’d suggest making the store managers part owner of their store. Flatten the management. Store managers would then have the will to take ownership of problem and to fix them. (Wal-Mart did that in the early years with stock options for the managers and gave them great discretion when it came to marketing items in the store. They did away with all of that of course, but managers from the early years left with millions and created a well liked brand name. The 90’s and 00’s WalMart is a different story.)

  22. mbz32190 says:

    It it too late for Circuit City to turn around IMO. If the country was in a better economic situation, possibly, but they are too far gone (and I’m sure Best Buy will start to hurt as well a few years from now). You are not going to see people buying 52 inch plasmas and stacks of random movies like it has been. I count them on going out of business after this holiday season.

  23. Snarkysnake says:

    Easy. Incentivize everyone. And I mean down to the lowest level employee,not just the executive suite.(Funny how a big payday seems to work as motivation for higher ups,but they don’t believe in the practice for underlings) The reason that everyone complains about piss poor service is that CC is just a paycheck to these people (and a small one at that).If the manager of an individual CC location knows that he can become a millionaire by hard work and great service,you can bet that service and cleanliness and overall spit and polish will improve.Look at Starbucks- The employees there make pretty good money and have pretty good benefits. Getting on at ‘Bux is not easy and the service (where I live) is top notch. But, (as John Belushi would say),Nooooooooooooo!!! Management kisses the CEO’s ass and tells him that everything’s fine. The shareholders just sit there and watch their investment destroyed day after day. The Board Of Directors probably never even visits their stores and collects a lot of money while nodding their head at the dumbass CEO’s nonsense.All of you folks that think for a SECOND that this company will save itself before going Tango Uniform are living in a dream world. They have been in business since 1949 (?!) and they haven’t listened to any of you yet. Do you think that because the stock is under a dollar that they will begin now ?

    The dead pool for CC is January 5,2009 BTW…

  24. SacraBos says:

    I’d vote for this one, too. I think ALL Executives of companies should periodically do the common jobs, or at least sit quietly and see what really goes on, just to keep them in touch with reality.

    • downwithmonstercable says:

      @SacraBos: I love this idea. They’d probably have to scrub themselves with bleach and live on their yacht for a week though to get all the blue-collarness off them though.

  25. parad0x360 says:

    Hold the phone, who the hell said this?

    “Does anyone get that good feeling that they get in BB when they walk into Circuit City?”

    Good feeling at Best Buy? Here’s a story for you. Went to BB to buy a laptop and TV. Looking to spend $1000 on the laptop and $1800 on the TV.

    They had both in stock, it was confirmed by a sales person who then went to break. In fact I saw the boxes of laptops and 4 of the TV’s when he opened the door to the back area…model numbers and everything.

    The new sales guy comes around and starts trying to sell me delivery on the tv and installation and service plans. I turn them all down. Then we go to the laptops and he starts offering me to have Geek Squad inspect it for $60 and offers me a service plan. I turn them down, say no thanks and I was about as nice as I could be about how I dont want any of it.

    Suddenly the TV is sold out and so is the Laptop…despite the fact that I can see the laptops in the case on the sales floor.

    Instead of getting into an argument with the guy who refuses to make a rather large sales my Girlfriend and I leave and we travel to Circuit City.

    We find the TV for $300 cheaper so I requested a service plan because the salesman was very helpfull. I know the plans suck and are next to useless but even after buying I still saved $200. Its quite possible I bought it more out of spite than anything else.

    I then went to CompUSA and bought the same laptop. It was the same price but that didnt matter because they guy who sold it to me wasnt a jerk and he took a polite no for an answer.

    My experience in CC has always been better then BestBuy. Sure more often than not the service in CC is subpar but when you consider they give next to no training and they pay people dirt and expect them to constantly push useless crap on anyone can you really blame them?

    The way to fix CC is simple, so simple its pathetic.

    Pay your sales team better, give them better benefits. They will be happier to work for you. They will stay longer which means they will know what they are talking about. They will treat customers better.

    Also train them to offer a service plan and if the customer says no ask if they would like to hear the benefits. If they again say no SIMPLY DROP IT or offer them some kind of incentive to make it worth it, like a discount on the high priced item. If a service plan is next to pure profit and someone doesnt want it perhaps if you lower the price of the item or plan you can make the sale and still make out at the end of the day.

  26. Tiber says:

    I disagree in the whole thing about becoming a store for high-end parts. That’s a niche, and many of those users are smart enough to buy online, where it’s cheaper. Besides, they already have the big box stores. Unless they can turn the grocery shrink ray on the store, they’ll either be paying for a store too big for them, or face massive costs relocating to smaller stores.

    Why do people go to Best Buy? They don’t go because it’s cheap. Some items are cheap, but overall a lot of stuff is overpriced. They don’t go for high-end parts. They have some selection, but if you’re looking for some specific high-performance part, you’re probably already researching it online, and can get it cheaper.

    The reason is habit. They have people around who can help you out. They have a good selection. In other words, people have consistently decent performance (not good, but usually not terrible), and you can find what you need and go.

    My suggestion then is to appeal to the customer. Fix your layout and make it easy to find things. Hire knowledgeable people who give a s***. Then work on letting the people know.

    People are feeling broke lately, so they’re not going out much. That also means they’re more likely to purchase things that are cheap and reusable, like DVDs. So, head up a big sale on DVDs, and similar things. Take a loss if you have to. Get workers ready, and offer them a bonus if they make customers happy, and the boot if customers are too dissatisfied. Then, when people are there, offer them some kind of deal to keep them coming back, such as a discount card, or buy X DVDs, get one free a la Subway. The whole point of this exercise is to leave enough of a good impression that some of the people will be frequent customers.

    My last piece of advice is to stop building so close to BB. Competition can be good, but at this point you’re just Best Buy-lite. People who aren’t attached to a particular store may just go to you if you’re closer to them than Best Buy.

  27. quagmire0 says:

    I think cleaning and reorganizing the stores is the right idea. I can think of two Circuit City stores by me: One is just horribly outdated, dirty and disorganized. The other is a relatively new store but is also disorganized. I don’t know who developed the layouts of the stores, but they should be fired. These must have been the same executives who drove stores like Venture and Sears into the ground. :)

  28. Trencher93 says:

    I think CC needs to concede the low-margin consumer electronics to newegg.com buy.com and other online retailers and try something else… I bought my first two computers at CC, but haven’t since.

  29. downwithmonstercable says:

    When I was a kid, CC was AWESOME…they used to have all those weird little gadgets like the lightning domes. Those were the days. I went back maybe six months ago for some printer ink (woo hoo!) and it was just like I remembered it in the late 80’s… This was probably due to the fact that the interior probably hasn’t been updated/cleaned/etc since then. A lot of those other complaints are spot on too – I think I waited at least five minutes for a register to open.

    No more lightning domes either :( That was the last straw. They lost me forever.

  30. Response from Circuit City:

    Thank you, Mr. Obvious.

    Seriously, the last time I went into a CC, I was looking for an external modem for my laptop. (lightning blew out my internal one)

    I asked 1 sales rep “Where are the external modems?” and he apparently heard “Please start insulting me on my choice of internet” because he started saying things like “We don’t STOCK modems anymore, those are for people who can’t afford DSL or Broadband. You’re better off buying your electronics from WalMart or maybe buy a used computer with DSL or Broadband capabilities. You’re probably still runnin’ Windows 98, aren’t ya?”

    Which, I heard… “You low life welfare recipient. Go to the store where all low life, Windows 98 using, welfare recipients go… WalMart. Or else visit a local garage sale for something within your budget.”

    I proceeded to the door immediately, as not only was this the worst stereotype I’ve heard in a while, but insulting as I’d just come from a Wal-Mart. (which I do occassionally enjoy.)

    My suggestion? PULL YOUR SALES REPS HEADS OUT OF THEIR ASSES. It’s actually easier than it sounds.

    P.S.- I live in the Adirondacks of NY, very rural. No cable or DSL, and can’t afford a $300+ installation of satellite internet plus $50 a month.

  31. CoAMarcus says:

    The problem is that the stores actually look like a 1990’s era electronics store. Nothing is that sleek looking, nothing is nice looking, and it all seems like a shoddy warehouse electronics store. I go to CC just for car stereo stuff maybe once every 5 years because that is where I got my first stereo installed when I was 16 and I have an addictive personality.

    I used to have what I thought was an irrational loyalty to CC, but I no longer do because I see how overpriced their products are and how bad their service is.

  32. assassinave says:

    Well the whole post kind of blew for the most part. Not that most people are in the business of being reasonable and helpful, but if they’d given thought and saw things from the other side this post could have been way more helpful as it intended to be. I want things to work out for CC for the sake of competition and that I have good friends in low positions at the corporate office who i’d like to see succeed.

    My suggestion would be drastic. Strip it bare and rebuild from there. It seems hard though as they think they need to compete at every turn with BB, when they just need to be busy and profitable.

    Start with the essentials. TVs, computers, cameras, digital music players, DVD players, CDs, DVDs, peripherals and cables. I know this sounds the same, but reduce your vendors, find cheaper alternatives for cables and such and limit your offerings.

    Instead of selling every TV brand sell three brands. High, medium and low priced models. Sell cheaper HDMI cables, printer cables, etc with a “name brand” and store brand.

    Apply this across departments. Of course this also hinges on customer service making a rebound.

    I always look to the model of business that 37 Signals operates by. Give the client the bare minimum they need to work with. Over time you can decide whether or not additions need to be made. Apple does this as well or leaves it to others.

    Sometimes being enough to one person, is better than being everything to everyone.

    p.s – for those not in the know, most electronics retailers make nothing off of computers. Tvs they do alright, but the reason they sell cords to unsuspecting clients at higher prices then need be is to make profit they aren’t elsewhere. This in turn provides the ability to put a store in your area, have staff to answer your questions and generally make you happy. I’m not an apologist, just wanting people to consider that before suggesting burning down stores and the other pointless rhetoric that was printed above

  33. billc124 says:

    Face it, these stores are just showrooms to look at the HDTV you want to buy online for half the price. Charge me the same price I pay elsewhere online and I will buy it from you. Otherwise I will come to your store, check out the TV I was looking at online, then go home and buy it online. I refuse to buy anything from CC or BB, they both suck. Brick and Mortar electronic stores are going to be a thing of the past very soon. I actually bought my TV at Costco, guess why. Because it was 200 bucks cheaper then it was at CC and BB. They should just shut down now, or if Costco and BJs were smart, they would buy all these and operate them as the electronics arm of their retail operations, or if CC was smart they would make it like a shopping club where you pay a yearly fee to shop there, but the prices are alot cheaper then everywhere else. I buy enough electronic stuff and movies every year to make it worth it to me, and I am sure I am not alone.

  34. wiretapstudios says:

    How about turning some lights on? The BRAND NEW Circuit City in our town is so dark you can barely read the packages. This isn’t a club, it’s a store.

  35. angelman says:

    maybe they should try not pulling stunts like they did on my friend the other day. Went in to buy a 46″ TV. He was going to get a Samsung but they pointed out he could get a better Sony for the same price. They pointed to a really nice Sony with 120hz and a bunch of other features. They only showed us this model and said how he could upgrade for another $400 to get a bluray player and home cinema system. wtih 24 months 0% credit it seemed like a very good offer. He didn’t actually check the precise model numbers and thought he was getting the 120hz model. They made this a big selling point. I was unsure since I was sure that those XBR lcds are way more expensive and certainly not $1300… Of course it was too good to be true and he had the lower V series model. Still a good tv and still a reasonable deal but it was still a sort of bait and switch. Very bad customer service. They tried to sell him all the usual nonsense, $400 wall mounts, $100 montster cables x3, $150 “calibration” etc. I made sure that he told where they could stick all those accessories.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Put FULLY CHARGED batteries in all the devices you sell. Cameras, MP3 players, portable electronics are pretty hard to evaluate when they can’t be turned on.

  37. Outrun1986 says:

    Deceiving the consumer is going to be the death of retail, period. People DO NOT like to be taken, simple as that.

    For accessories, I think a store should sell a high priced product, like monster cables then a lower priced generic one. Some people will buy the monster cables, but most consumerist readers know these cables are a scam. They would still be making a profit off the lower priced generic cables and this would give people who cannot afford monster cables the option to purchase something cheaper. Then it wouldn’t look so bad to the customer when they go home and go online and realize they could have gotten the same thing much less money. Charging something like 30$ for a USB cable is just criminal though.

  38. anonvmoos says:

    cc lost my business forever when, after spotting a deal on a cdrw (yes i’m a demon customer), went in for the weekend deal… of course most of the time the items are out of stock (i’ve been to plenty of weekend deals at compusa etc).

    but this time it was in stock! amazing! i grabbed it and asked the employee if it was the one on sale (them upc numbers dont always match). he said it was! then he said that particular cdrw was reserved for another customer (huh?) and took it in the back without giving any apology or explanation.

    well i left, never to return.

    CC has no registers. it feels weird to have someone sitting down, ring you up. stores look old as hell. employees are hiding. tvs are blaring. car stereo section takes up a lot of room and is empty. zigzag isles are unfriendly.

    BB has the door troll. why does he only inspect people with carts/bags? does BB have no video security?

    CU wasnt all that bad for rebate deals.

    Egghead was the best, friendly employees, lots of staff before they closed all stores and went online-only. guess they saw it coming.

    RS is bad, expensive batteries, employees having to stuff cell phones at you and ignore your questions if you dont want a phone. at least they still have the electronic parts needed sometimes, but employees know very little about what drawer they are in.

  39. kaylabear says:

    When faced with an electronics purchase, if the Internet isn’t of any help, which is rare, I usually avoid CC and go to Best Buy or even Office Depot, depending on what my needs are.

    And I’d like to add a few other recommendations:

    1)Lighten the store – I think someone else here mentioned how dark it is in the stores and I agree. Maybe it’s supposed to make the higher-than-usual prices hard to see…?

    2)Hire better sales people, even if it means paying them more. My main gripe with CC is how the salespeople tail you like prey: upon entering a CC, I get weird salespeople hovering around me like wolves around a deer. And then, when you actually have a question, no one is around or they don’t know what they’re talking about. I think the era of “more for less” regarding hiring and jobs should end soon – you obviously get what you pay for.

  40. Hanzo says:

    I realize that this will go unseen, but I figured I would chime in (late) with my two cents.

    Nearly a decade ago (it’s been so long..) I worked for Circuit City. I *loved* my job at Circuit City.

    When you were hired to work at CC in sales, you were sent off for a week of intensive sales training. You learned how to actually sell products. Granted this focused on over coming customer objections and properly pitching things like ESP (I think it’s called City Advantage now). But here is the thing:
    You were taught that if you sold the customer a product that didn’t meet their needs or left them feeling remorseful, they *would* return that product to the store. And you would take the hit on your paycheck.

    That’s right, Circuit City went down hill the moment they moved away from commission. Which is exactly when I left the company. The moment they started hiring “sales” people at a flat hourly wage with little to no incentive to really help the customer.

    In fact, at my store in particular, a good 60% of the staff (the staff that was there since the opening, myself included) quit when commission was dropped and the new pay structure announced.

    So if you want to fix CC, bring back commission. As a sales person I was in heavy competition with the other people in my department. I made certain that every customer was taken care of in a courteous and efficient manner. I made sure that I knew every single detail of every single item in my department. I knew my products intimately. And I was the rule, not the exception.

    Because ultimately, if I was “bad” at my job; If I didn’t know the product, I sold people the wrong goods, I treated my customers like crap, my customers returned their goods, etc etc: I didn’t get paid*.

    But if I did a good job? I had repeat customers who were so satisfied they would instruct their friends to seek me out at the store. And I got paid very, very well.

    *It wasn’t completely draconian, Circuit also offered subsidy for those “slow” times of business decline. However subsidy had to be “paid” back when volume picked up. If you spent too long on subsidy, you were counseled and eventually terminated.

  41. unmeitatakau says:

    Can I also add to not make the best deals that circuit city has on the website only and to actually get them in the store. Change the colors of the store and add some light to it. Have the designers who made the pretty good logo work on the inside as well.

  42. LorenaMessene says:

    Um, actually, I don’t think sticking the new release video games behind the counter is a bad thing. The bad thing is not having the sense to involve a sign in this scheme saying “New Releases,” and perhaps even as its own counter where customers can even ask for games that aren’t new releases but do have an empty spot on the shelves. (“Oh, yes, that; come back Thursday, and if you’d like, we’ll even make sure we hold a copy back here for you.”)

  43. MrEvil says:

    Something else that Circuit City did really well back in the day (they were #2 IIRC) were appliances. My local CC has turned the former appliance alcove into a generic accessories alcove. Lowe’s has money rolling in like Gangbusters off their appliance department, and the appliance department at Sears I bet is the only thing keeping them afloat.

    My local store has a better atmosphere than a big box. The store is finished and quiet. Which I think they should play to their advantage. They really should offer more high-end merchandise and have more qualified staff in their stores.

  44. yikz says:

    Someone needs to find the old CEO and sue his dumb ass into oblivion. He clearly he was incompetent, and had no clue what was going on. He didn’t have the brains to run a fruit stand, much less a national company with thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. That CEO deserves to be as broke as the company he ran into the ground. He should be living in a trailer park, forced to go to work as a cashier at CC.

  45. ScottCh says:

    I wanted to buy a receiver last year. I went into CC to see what they had, and the displays there have no product information whatsoever. You’re lucky if there’s even a sign saying what the product is!
    Compare that to commercial web sites that have detailed specifications and often, customer reviews.
    After finding a couple of models that interested me, I went looking for a sales clerk to see if I could get some details, and bzzzzt… The one guy who was in sight was having a long discussion with someone else.
    After five minutes I left the store. I would have preferred taking one home that day, but I wound up buying from newegg.

  46. zippyglue says:

    This might be said here already, but there is a market niche that Circuit City has been missing for a long time. BB sucks. I don’t need to go into the details, just search the consumerist if you don’t already know why. If Circuit City wants to succeed, they can sell the same products as BB, but be anti-BB. That means honesty, good consistent policies, and focus on the customer. I’d pay more to get this kind of service. Let’s face it, other than high-end stores like Tweeter, there really is no electronics super store that treats a customer well and has customer focused policies and practices. Yes CC, you might take a hit by having a fair return policy, but in the end, treat the consumer well and they will come back. I haven’t set foot in a BB in 5 years and I have no plans to do so. If CC has an item at a slightly higher price, I go there instead.

  47. j0npeterson says:

    No more mail-in rebates. I won’t shop at Circuit City because of this reason. Go the way of Best Buy and just stick to the low prices and instant rebates.

    The closest they’ll ever get to my wallet is me price matching so I can buy at some other store.

  48. tschurter says:

    It’s quite interesting… while Circuit City languishes Best Buy booms. What’s the difference? The difference is what the company cares about – and what each company has chosen to care about dictates everything else they do.

    Circuit City is trying to “run a business” or maybe “restructure” or “turn around.” Look at what their leadership talks about. It’s a “me, me, me” perspective.

    Meanwhile Best Buy cares about the Customer and that care has shown us lots of changes (many good, some bad, some not quite right yet) in how they do business with us – the customer. You can see it in everything they do including in the behavior of their employees. Did you see that the latest Best Buy Denver store was custom designed to meet the needs of Denver-ites (particularly to meet female customer needs/wants)? That’s what I’m talking about – focusing on the customer.

    Not that the actions (like the custom Denver store) are the answer. They are the affects of having made the decision to focus on the customer, rather than on the business.

    While it may be so obvious and simple that most people would never consider the need to say it… the CUSTOMER IS THE BUSINESS. If you aren’t focusing on your customers you can count on only one thing.

    Someone else is and before long your customers will be their customers!

    Terry Schurter
    http://www.ipapi.org

  49. ShibaniAriadne says:

    And we can’t forget the two managers per store that were let go after the public firing of the employees that were “making too much money”. Of course no one can know this because the managers that were fired were forced to sign a gag order saying they would not disclose this information for at least a year. Well, years up, and CC still sucks.