Best Buy Optimization Is A Big Stupid Annoying Waste Of Money

Over the past year, a number of you have been telling us that, due to “pre-optimization” of computers, it’s difficult — sometimes impossible — to walk into a Best Buy and leave with the advertised deal (in effect, you would be paying a $39.99 surcharge over the computer’s advertised price). We decided to look into your complaints. We sent the Consumer Reports secret shoppers to 18 different Best Buys in 11 states, and one of our shoppers was denied the price advertised for a specific model because only pre-optimized computers were available. When the Consumer Reports engineers compared three “optimized” computers to ones with default factory settings, there was no performance improvement. In one case, an optimized laptop actually performed 32% worse than the factory model.

Optimize This

Would you pay $39.99 to improve your computer’s processor speed by 200%? What about software updates that would take you two days to perform on your own? Or how about services that take an “incomplete” computer and make it more useful? Good deals, right? Just one problem: None of these claims – made by real Best Buy sales clerks about the company’s Geek Squad optimization services – is true.

We wanted to know three things:

  1. What is optimization? What does the service consist of?
  2. How is Best Buy marketing the service? How widespread is “pre-optimization,” in which a store sells computers that have already been optimized?
  3. Is optimization something you should consider? Can you do it yourself? Is it a good deal? Are there any downsides to the service?

To find the answers to these questions, we enlisted the help of the Consumer Reports secret shoppers, the technical experts on CR’s electronics testing team, and of course, Consumerist readers themselves.

Preoptimized computers stacked up in a Best Buy store. (Photo: Mike)

Meet Betty and Nelson
All Betty (not her real name, but a real Consumerist reader) wanted was to go to Best Buy, pick up a laptop she saw advertised in a newspaper circular, pay for it, and leave.

It wasn’t that simple. She was quickly informed that if she wanted the laptop she saw in the ad, she’d need to pay $39.99 for optimization.

“I replied that I really didn’t care about computer optimization, and that I came into the store to purchase the laptop for $649.99, the advertised price,” Betty told us in an email. “[The Best Buy employee] said that there was nothing he could do about the $39.99 optimization charge, since those were the only models left in the store.”

Betty is the stubborn type. She refused to pay for a service she didn’t want, so she was told to go pick up the laptop at another branch. Once Best Buy employees began calling around, they discovered that the pre-optimization issue persisted at other nearby stores.

After another 45 minutes passed, the second manager Betty spoke to agreed to waive the fee.

Reader Nelson, however, wasn’t as lucky. He wasn’t able to walk out of the store with the advertised deal. Despite protesting, he was charged a fee for a service he didn’t want.

“It wasn’t optional,” Nelson told Consumerist, “They said that they sold out of the unoptimized $250 Acer laptops and the only ones left were the optimized versions. The other Best Buys around my area were sold out too.”

Nelson managed to talk Best Buy down 50%, to $20 for optimization, but still feels cheated. He told us he doesn’t think pre-optimization is fair to the people who don’t want the service.

What is optimization?

Getting to the bottom of what exactly the consumer gets for their $39.99 was more difficult a proposition than we initially assumed. Eventually, we had to buy three optimized laptops and enlist the help of CR’s electronics testing experts to tell us what had been done to them, but we started by looking at Geek Squad’s website.

Here’s how they describe the service on the Geek Squad blog:

Our Geek Squad Agents enable up to 100 system tweaks that improve PC performance and functionality, including optimized startup and shutdown, improved menu navigation, quick launch and taskbar cleanup and program shortcut creation.

There are also several different types of “new computer” services being sold to prospective buyers. They include, but are not limited to, anti-virus installation and recovery-disc creation. The services range in price from $29.99 to $219.99, and include offerings for both Windows PCs and Macs.

Services offered by Best Buy include “Netbook Protect,” a $50 plan that includes installation
of anti-virus software and Windows updates — and adds 20% to the price of a $250 netbook.

On our first visit to Best Buy we intended to ask about the optimization services, but the sales staff never seemed to come our way, so we grabbed a Geek Squad folder full of sales information that was being made available to prospective customers.

It included a confusing and intimidating order sheet that seemed inspired by the ones used by auto mechanics, complete with official-looking carbonless copy paper. The menu seemed designed to replicate the experience of having your car serviced.

For example, the folder contained a sheet that touted a six-month anti-virus protection deal, provided for free with all PC purchases. Geek Squad offers something called “Standard Security and Performance” ($69.99), which includes optimization and then the installation and configuration of anti-virus software (plus the cost of the software itself).

If, however, you choose computer optimization alone ($39.99), you could still get anti-virus programs offered with “Standard Security & Performance,” because they’re part of that six-month deal.

We drank coffee and tried our hardest to see why anyone would choose to pay $69.99 for a service that was nearly identical to one that cost $39.99 and were unable to think of anything that sounded reasonable.

Consumerist reader Patrick sent us this picture of an in-store display
designed to “prove” that an optimized computer boots faster than a stock unit.

The Secret Shopping Adventure

According to Nelson, the salesperson told him that ‘optimized was better’ and that Best Buy were sold out of un-optimized laptops. “Yes, I felt it was an attempt to upsell me on the ‘optimization fee,”‘ Nelson told Consumerist. “She knew I wasn’t going to budge on that ridiculous price of $40 extra ’cause I knew what I was talking about.”

With that in mind, we set out to see if Betty and Nelson’s experience could be replicated. Did Best Buy make inflated claims about the value of these services, and in some cases, even try to sell pre-optimized computers to customers who didn’t want them, citing a lack of unopened computers?

To help us find out, we dispatched the Consumer Reports secret shoppers to 18 Best Buy branches in 11 states.

The shoppers are scattered throughout the U.S. and are responsible for researching and sometimes purchasing the products that Consumer Reports tests. For our mission, each shopper was to go to a Best Buy location and inquire about an advertised laptop, then report back about the optimization options that were offered – and how they were characterized by the sales staff.

The first shopper reported back within a few hours. She had indeed been denied the advertised deal because all available units had been pre-optimized.

Here is her account of the conversation:

Salesperson: Best Buy has this model, but it’s $369.99 instead of $329.99.

CR Shopper: Why?

S: Because it was already optimized.

CRS: What does this mean?

S: The model is quicker, the user can “sign on” and it won’t have to be configured.
CRS: Why is it quicker?

S: Because they removed the trial version of products like Norton.

CRS: Does that mean that I will not have anti-virus protection?

S: They can install a 6-month antivirus program.

CRS: Is the optimization optional?

S: It’s not optional because we don’t have any of this model without the optimization, but we have other laptops that are not optimized.

CRS: Can you waive the fee?

S: The fee can’t be waived because it’s already installed.

We also learned a few other interesting things about Best Buy’s optimization sales pitch. One shopper was told that optimization made the computer’s processor “200% faster.” The same shopper was told that he could try to optimize the computer on his own, but without assistance he would not be able to increase the processor speed.

When the shoppers asked if they could duplicate the optimization themselves, they got a variety of estimates of the time they would save if Best Buy did it for them. One shopper was told she would save “an hour and a half,” while another was told that downloading Windows updates alone would take 6 hours. One shopper was even told that optimizing a computer at home would take about two days!

Another shopper was warned that the laptop was “incomplete” without optimization.

When she asked what the salesperson meant by “incomplete,” he told her that it didn’t come with anti-virus software or Microsoft Office. The salesperson went on to tell her that optimization was her choice, but that Best Buy didn’t “recommend getting online” without it.

He explained, “You’ll get online, get a virus, and end up spending $200 to clean it up.”

When she asked if she could install anti-virus software herself instead of paying Geek Squad to do it, she was told installing software yourself, “negates the vendor’s warranty.”

During this same conversation, our secret shopper says the salesperson also told her that the manufacturer’s warranty was “obsolete” and had been “replaced” with Best Buy service contracts (which she would need to pay for, of course, and that were not included in the optimization price).

Not all salespeople touted optimization, and many branches did have unoptimized units of advertised laptops in stock, and were willing to sell them without pushing optimization. One sales rep even told our shopper not to buy a laptop during that visit, because some “truly amazing sales” were coming up soon.

Dean Gallea of Consumer Reports, in the lab with two laptops purchased
from Best Buy (see video here).

In Which There Is Science

Though we did learn a few interesting things about Best Buy’s sales practices, we found ourselves no closer to being able to tell if optimization was a good deal – or even precisely what it was.

So, we asked Consumer Reports’ electronics testing experts to help us out. They purchased three optimized laptops from a local Best Buy: An Asus U50A-RBBML05, a Gateway NV5207U, and a Toshiba Satellite A505-S6980. They then compared each optimized laptop to regular factory setups to see what kind of improvements optimization might offer.

Here’s what they found:

When we received our test models, the initial impression was of a rushed service: Some samples were left in standby mode, and two had not finished installing Windows updates. A quick start guide for one laptop had been mixed in with the papers in another laptop’s box, and a power cable for one sample was missing.

Upon comparing the optimized changes, the first noticeable change was a cleaner desktop. Most of the removed shortcuts were for trials, promotions and software added by the manufacturer. The programs themselves were still installed and available for later access. Updates had been downloaded on all three models, but differences in the factory default setup can affect how the system is optimized. On one laptop, for example, because Windows Defender was deactivated by default, its definitions had not been updated.

Some optimization changes seemed intended to make the laptop easier to use, such as adding the status bar to the file explorer, or displaying the file menu bar in Internet Explorer. Including a link to the Downloads folder in the Start menu, for example, can save you a few clicks. Security settings were adjusted to allow for automatic Windows updates, and in Internet Explorer, privacy settings were eased up to allow websites you visit to save info you provide on your PC.

Because optimization was being pitched to some of our shoppers on the basis of improving the computer’s performance, we asked the tech team to compare the performance of optimized computers to ones with factory settings.

Here are the results of the tests:

We ran the 3DMark 2003 graphics benchmark on each laptop, comparing optimized and non-optimized settings. For two of our samples, the Gateway and Toshiba, performance changes were negligible. On the Asus laptop, however, optimized tests actually scored about 32% worse than the non-optimized setup. We have been unable to isolate the source of this performance change. On none of the three tested laptops did the optimized settings give a performance boost in our test.
[Emphasis added]

And finally, we wanted to know if a consumer could “optimize” their own computer.

Some of the optimized settings were changes that typical users can do themselves, and basic security measures, such as the Windows Firewall or OS updates, are normally already activated by default. The optimization service does cover most of the security settings we recommend you perform, but in addition, you should check that Windows Defender and your anti-virus software are active and updated, and keep a recovery backup of your system and files. Geek Squad’s optimization is best for saving consumers the hassle of waiting for updates to download, or applying tiny “tweaks” to promote usability. However, you might not like all the setting choices Geek Squad makes, and as a performance enhancement, the optimization failed to impress.

In Which We Draw Conclusions

Based on the results of the tech team’s tests, we believe that optimization is not a good deal for most consumers. Our tests show that the service did not improve performance, and there are a number of free ways to do many of the same tasks (though you may be out of luck if you just have to have those exclusive “100 system tweaks”). We’ve listed a few of them below.

Yes, having Geek Squad download your Windows updates can save you time, but the tech team found that the service was inconsistent. Best Buy hadn’t finished installing all the updates, and of course, a power cable was missing from one of the computers. The computers we received still had the trialware installed – only the shortcuts were removed from the desktop.

We asked Best Buy about the inconsistent information provided by their sales staff, and about some of the more incredible claims about the benefits of optimization. A spokesman admitted that boasts of a 200% performance gain “seem a bit aggressive.” He also said that no stores should refuse to sell a consumer an unoptimized version of a product.

“This is about the choice,” the spokesman said. “If you don’t want it, you don’t have to get it.” He added that “we always try to stock some that are stock and standard so customers have the choice,” and suggested that customers who feel they were pushed into optimization when they didn’t want it should contact the company directly.

We asked Best Buy about the real value of optimization to consumers. The spokesman acknowledged that the service “isn’t for everybody” and “some people can do it themselves.” He said that one advantage of optimization is the “customization” that can be performed for individual consumers. However, when asked about pre-optimized computers – which aren’t customized for individuals – he suggested that “things like the updates and tweaks and removing programs” still make it a useful service for some buyers. “I would get optimization for my parents,” he said.

The New Service Economy

Best Buy takes the position that optimization is simply a choice available to consumers, and that it’s not for everyone, but looking at the larger picture it becomes clear that the company is betting heavily on services like optimization to take them through the recession and beyond.

Is Best Buy Mobile, with its emphasis on “specially trained,
impartial mobile phone specialists” the shape of things to come? .

In a recent Fortune magazine article, Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn cited “connectivity” (such as Geek Squad services designed to help consumers use their electronics together more effectively) as a potential $250 billion business that his company is going to aggressively pursue to remain competitive with more diverse big box threats like Walmart.

The company is experimenting with a new store layout that eliminates the many racks of DVDs and CDs and instead has stations for MP3 players, laptops, and such, according to Fortune. Each station will be manned by Best Buy employees who might turn your tech questions into sales opportunities for Geek Squad. A difference between Best Buy and Walmart (which recently started to offer a support service for electronics), says Dunn, will be that they own their own service company – Geek Squad.

“The operative word here is ‘owned,'” Dunn told Fortune. “Outsourcing works for back-office operations, but we believe that when an experience touches a customer, you must own it.”

Geek Squad’s services still represent a tiny percentage of Best Buy’s income, but that number is growing. According to a presentation delivered by Best Buy (PDF) at a conference in 2008, in the company’s fiscal 2006, Geek Squad services and Best Buy’s appliances installation business accounted for about 2.5% of domestic revenue, the same percentage that was brought in by extended warranties and other service plans. By 2008, the Geek Squad and appliance installation revenue share was up to 4%, while other service plans had declined to 2%.

At a 2008 conference associated with the W.P. Carey School of Business of Arizona State University, Sean Skelley, then Best Buy’s senior vice president for services (he’s currently president of international retail operations), said that Geek Squad – which Best Buy purchased in 2002 – gave the company a “relatable mythology” to connect to its customers, according to a W.P. Carey online article. Skelley was impressed by Geek Squad’s use of terms like “special agents” to refer to its staff. “We were interested in Geek Squad for these stories,” Skelley said, “and the brand elements that could help Best Buy get its ducks in a row.”

Skelley also waxed rhapsodically over another company’s creation of a service that kept customers coming back for more, as described in the W.P. Carey article: “Everyone knows you’re supposed to get your oil changed every 3,000 miles. But that was a Jiffy Lube marketing creation rather than an automotive standard, Skelley said. It is the way the company pulled customers back into their stores on a frequent, regular basis.”

Ultimately, it’s not Best Buy’s official policy to press customers into buying anything they don’t want, and they suggest you report any such indiscretions. However, it’s clear that Best Buy’s new post-Circuit City business strategy is to concentrate more on “services.” It might be helpful to keep that in mind when you head into the store with the circular in hand.


Optimize Yourself!

You can optimize your computer on your own with free software and a little patience. You’ll have to learn a little about your PC in the process, but since when is that a bad thing? In addition to using some of these tools, you should also keep your web browser up-to-date – and stop downloading cursors and toolbars!

Task Program Comment
Overall optimization CCleaner This Swiss army knife of optimization can change your startup options, remove files left behind by web browsers, clean up your system registry and delete unnecessary programs. Settings can be complicated, but extensive online help provides answers for most questions.
Remove trialware PC Decrapifier This program includes a frequently updated database of trial programs bundled with PCs, making it easier to identify those that you don’t want. One click deletes multiple “craplets.”
Change startup options msconfig This system utility comes with every copy of Windows. It’s not for the faint-of-heart, but it will let you change almost all of your system’s startup settings, including which programs load automatically
Remove unnecessary software Programs and Features (Add/Remove Programs in Windows XP) This Windows Control Panel lets you remove both third-party software and unneeded Windows components.
Block spyware Windows Defender
Spybot Search and Destroy
Free programs that are automatically updated with new threats on regular basis.
Protect against viruses Avira Antivir Personal
AVG Free
Free antivirus programs rated as highly as commercial applications by Consumer Reports.

Phil Villarreal and Marc Perton contributed additional reporting.

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. blogger X says:

    Best Buy needs to be sued for deceitful business practices. Somebody get Andrew Cuomo!

    • Scrutinizer says:

      Some where there is a headline to be made, some where a sound bite cries out and some where there is a soap box unstood on, but fear not good readers Dick Blumenthal is there.

  2. ecvogel says:

    For spyware Windows Defender is not that great. They are the same people who make Windows. Go for EMSISoft a-quard anti-maleware http://www.emsisoft.com, SuperAntiSpyWare http://www.superantispyware.com, Malware-Bytes and Spybot is pretty good. A program better for msconfig is WinPatrol. http://www.winpatrol.com The free version alows you to disable startup stuff and more. Most cases the paid gives you info about the program you may want to disable. AntiVir is supposed to be the best, I hear mixed reviews about AVG in being bloated and getting the job done.

    • Aesteval says:

      I’ll second the comments about AVG. I was running it for a while and it eventually became useless – it missed a virus that other programs were already detecting and that I had been able to pick out on my own, and the update process became very unreliable with many updates timing out whle attempting to download. It used to be good, but lost something over time.

      • Cyberxion says:

        No doubt. I somehow got hit with the vundo virus thingamabobber when using it. I have not had a reoccurance since using McAfee, though I don’t really appreciate how intrusive the program can sometimes be. However, at least it actually appears to be protecting me.

        As you can tell, I’m a complete arse when it comes to computers. I don’t know a bit from my elbow.

    • charrr says:

      Avast is really good as well.

    • wardawg says:

      “For spyware Windows Defender is not that great. They are the same people who make Windows.”

      And I suppose you’d never take your car to the dealer for maintenance because they obviously have no idea how it works, right?

      • ecvogel says:

        Microsoft Made a OS that was un-secure, there are no gaurntees that the security program will watch everything, because they are the original people who made the errors. I am not saying there is a secure OS or a better OS than Windows… I use Norton Internet Security 2010. Runs just fine on my pc.

        • Anonymously says:

          I can understand the sentiment, “why would need antivirus if MS did their job properly in the first place”, but Vista/7 are configured fairly well out of the box, showing that MS has improved in the security front.

          I really think Microsoft has pushed past the huge security problems they’ve had in the past and they’ve made security their priority. A strong anti-malware platform is good for their public image and they have every incentive to make it as good as possible.

    • Laffy Daffy says:

      I also dumped AVG last year and have been using the free version of AVIRA for our home and school PCs. So far everything’s Jake!

      • Brunette Bookworm says:

        I kept getting an error when I tried to install AVIRA so I went with AVG instead. So far, it’s worked well and doesn’t seem to slow anything down. I don’t tend to download stuff from untrusted sources so I don’t really get viruses. I think I’ve had one on my computer once in the, I don’t know, 17 years I’ve had one.

    • pot_roast says:

      Actually, Windows Defender has gotten pretty good reviews, and for free AV software, Windows Security Essentials has beaten out AVG in many tests. We’ve been scrapping AVG in favor of WSE recently, mainly becase AVG *has* gotten bloated and its constant banner saying we need to upgrade has done nothing but confuse users.

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      Jumping on the Give AVG the Heave Ho! bandwagon here…

      I used AVG happily for years and recommended it, until one person I recommended it to had no end of problems with a known bug that caused BSoDs. Reading the AVG forums was an eye opening experience.

      On my main computer, I use Kaspersky. On the others, I use Avast! AVG is kind of like Adobe Reader to me now – It was once beautifully efficient at what it was designed to do – now it’s become bloated by it’s own hubris, and is no longer the preferred software it used to be.

    • LatherRinseRepeat says:

      “They are the same people who make Windows.”

      This is a pretty dumb comment.

    • xredgambit says:

      Malwarebytes is amazing. I got the “windows antivirus software” virus. It was the only thing I could use to get rid of it. And worked great the 1st time.

    • daveinva says:

      Microsoft Security Essentials is excellent. Perhaps surprisingly so, but for it does the job very well, and for free.

      – Former Norton and AVG user (man, did AVG implode or what? Great software with a great reputation declines into bloated adware… huh??)

    • tinky XIII says:

      For me, it’s Microsoft Security Essentials for weekly scans, Malwarebytes for “O SHI-!” emergencies, my router for a firewall, and Common Sense 2007 to help prevent viral infections in the first place.

  3. SanDiegoDude says:

    My fiancee and I just purchased a laptop from Best Buy last week. We found the model we wanted, then I immediately asked for a “non-pre-optimized” one from the back.

    The employee started to spin on about how I should take the optimized one because of how important it is… I cut him short, told him I know what I would like, and I’ve read all about their optimizations and no thanks I’ll take what I’ve asked for.

    It took the employee about 20 minutes, but they did find one for me in back.

    Thank goodness we got lucky! I refuse to pay extra for somebody to open up a computer and run windows update for me… I can do that myself!

    • katstermonster says:

      Agreed, especially since it sounds like they didn’t even run it completely on one or more of the computers…

    • Geekybiker says:

      I don’t care so much about the extra cost (that can be waived by buying online pretty easy) I care about the programs and changes that they may made. Geeky squad doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation. I’m worried about them installing root kits, keyloggers, zombie software, etc on the PC intentionally or unintentionally.

      • jayphat says:

        Ever watch the video on youtube of them surfing through a customers computer looking for porn? Great stuff, especially when the program they were running to record the whole thing catches them copying it all to a flash drive.

    • TheMonkeyKing says:

      Easy peesey! If you must buy from the Beast, then buy on-line and select in-store pickup. There is no hidden charge for Optimization and all you do is walk in and pick it up.

  4. pop top says:

    This is an excellent article. I’m glad to see this site put so much effort into an investigation, especially one into Best Buy and this very shady practice of theirs.

    I wonder if they could get in trouble for some of the outright lies they told customers, especially the ones w/r/t the vendor or manufacturer’s warranties being affected or expired…

    • Trai_Dep says:

      Hear hear.
      AMAZING article, Consumerist Crew. A tremendous effort spanning literally our continent.
      Thanks so much!

  5. lestergazer says:

    Hold up a sec, for please. I’m pretty sure that “secret shoppers” are based on a methodology and not just anecdotal reports. Betty and Nelson do not a study make. (BTW, I’m scientist and have absolutely no connection to Best Buy or Geek Squad (in fact, never been to either of them)).

    My guess is that you’ll get more sensationalistic and embellished stories out of your readers. STICK IT TO, umm, whatever.

    • DoubleBaconVeggieBurger says:

      RTA. I know it’s long, but they do explain that they decided to send out secret shoppers based on Betty’s and Nelson’s experiences.

      “With that in mind, we set out to see if Betty and Nelson’s experience could be replicated…To help us find out, we dispatched the Consumer Reports secret shoppers to 18 Best Buy branches in 11 states”

    • Smashville says:

      Hold up a sec, why don’t you RTFA?

    • veg-o-matic says:

      Did they not teach you to skim articles for pertinent information in scientist school?

      As a “scientist,” you should know how to do that.

      • lestergazer says:

        as a scientist, i expect succinct information. irregardless [sic], i do expect to see the methodology used in this study, other than unleashing incompetent and biased “researchers” out to their nearest Best Buy.

        Crap studies lead to what kind of results?

        • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

          Do you know anything about Consumer Reports, Mr. Scientist?

        • Chmeeee says:

          You said “Betty and Nelson do not a study make.” Betty and Nelson weren’t the source of the study, they were the case that triggered the study. Consumer Reports did the study, and seemed to have a pretty good methodology from what I read in there. It is clear that you still have not read the article.

        • Smashville says:

          Based on your two responses, I feel I should be the one to tell you that wearing your underwear on the outside and running around with a grappling hook does not make you a scientist.

        • craptastico says:

          if you read the article, y ou’d see Nelson and Betty had nothing do with their research, it was the secret shoppers that you just said use objective methodology. sooo your point is what, that you can’t read?

        • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

          Then do some science and read the farking article.

        • pop top says:

          I can see why you went into science instead of anything that would require a basic grasp of the English language and how to properly use it…

        • Dunkelzahn says:

          Let’s make it simple for Mr. Wizard here…

          You left out a very important variable when making your hypothesis.

        • veg-o-matic says:

          But the “secret shopper” methodology was explained as much as it needed to be. At any rate, no claim to statistical significance was made with respect to the CR shoppers’ experiences – they were just looking to see if it was possible to replicate Betty/Nelson’s experiences. Surely, as a self-described scientist, you understand the role and importance of replication, yes?

          Only one section invoked science: the one called “In which there is science,” in which the methodology was also explained.

          Just because it’s not presented in the exact format that you require does not mean the information is not there or is otherwise invalid.

    • Skankingmike says:

      Dr. Troll

      • gparlett says:

        Call me Dr. Troll.. I’m not a real Doctor, but I am a real Troll, I am an actual Troll…

        • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

          I like to play the drums. I think I’m getting good but I can handle criticism.

    • PsiCop says:

      Actually, yes, Consumer Reports’ secret shoppers DO work based on a methodology. It’s something they’ve been doing for many years and they do it in conjunction with many different kinds of products, not just electronics. If you’ve read CR long enough, then you may have collected some information about that methodology. Not enough to be able to detect it if you’re the one being secret-shopped, but they have discussed it tangentially over the years.

      At any rate, they did not write this report based solely on the accounts of Betty and Nelson. Those accounts would, of course, be merely anecdotal, and of little value. Their accounts were merely what caused CR to investigate. The actual investigation was done by their secret-shopping team and included … as reported in the article … 18 locations in 11 states.

      Of course, one could argue that even this much-larger sampling is still anecdotal. However, even if that’s true (and I’m not saying it is), the fact is that the report was NOT based on merely what Betty and Nelson said about their experiences. One could view it another way: CR distrusted Betty and Nelson’s accounts just enough to check them out more rigorously and in many more locations.

    • SkuldChan says:

      I’m shocked (no not really) as a scientist you should have read the entire article – and maybe then you’d realize that then two people were the stories they based their investigation on – not the secret shoppers.

      I’d say for a blog its pretty good.

  6. CaptZ says:

    I highly recommend Microsoft Security Essentials over any of the free antivirus/maleware programs on the market right now. It’s free and the updates are free forever. I have been doing a ton of spyware removals for $50 a pop lately and always install MS Security Essentials after and never have a return customer. No….I don’t work for Microsoft, just another IT guy giving advice.

    • kellkell says:

      I second this. I have also noticed that MS Security Essentials has had far less, as in none, false positives. I installed Avira, Avast and Panda and all 3 showed Dell files on a clients machine as viruses. Avira has continually harassed another client about rebit, which is her backup software. None of these issues with MS. All that said, I am choking on the fact that I am giving a glowing recommendation for anything MS.

    • vesper says:

      I tend to purchase my anti-? software because from my experience, the freebies only cause more harm than good although I can say that the free version of AVG is quite impressive and was recommended by a tech friend. As of the first week of November 2009, I’ve been getting the “Ads served by DCADS” pop-ups and I cannot stop this from happening on my laptop however my desktop’s are fine and I have no problem. I have Stopzilla, McAfee, and Spybot on all my pc’s but for some reason, these DCADS pop-ups are an issue in my laptop only. So last night I purchase Spyware Doctor and I hope that this helps.

    • Jerkamie says:

      I live ms security essentials. I uninstalled my pirate copy of SAV and love it. I even installed it on all the family’s computers.

  7. dvdchris says:

    Lesson: don’t buy a computer from Best Buy, ever.
    And obviously don’t ever use Greed Squad.
    I feel like printing copies of this and handing them out at Best Buy…

  8. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I might suggest Revo Uninstaller instead of add/remove programs. It not only will do the same thing add/remove software will, it will also go a few steps further, if you choose, and do things like search the registry for any hidden files the program may have “forgotten” to uninstall.

    • Tied To The Whippin' Post says:

      I agree with the Revo Uninstaller recommendation. I usually install software on my laptop for my fiance’s band (drivers for keyboard/midi devices, recording software to review and get familiar with, etc.) and then uninstall them after a period of time after they have the stuff installed on the band’s laptop and it’s taken out for gigging. The Revo program not only uninstalls all the programs but it also does a great job of cleaning everything up and getting all those little left over bits that always seem to inevetably stay behind. The free version is really great and I’m thinking of purchasing the upgraded “paid” version for the value of the extra tweeks it offers.

    • JonM33 says:

      I highly discourage anything that goes the extra mile by tinkering in the registry. Empty registry entries point to nothing and do no harm by just staying there where as deleting the wrong registry keys can make your computer unusable. Just use Add/Remove Programs.

  9. sakanagai says:

    I don’t generally buy computers from the likes of Best Buy, but I’d be skeptical of ANY maintenance or service performed on ANY product before a sale. As far as I am concerned, I’d rather buy a fresh (read: unserviced/unoptimized) system and wait around for an hour or two while Geek Squad did their thing. I think that if they let the customer actually watch them perform the optimization, an impossibility I’m sure, it would allay suspicion and perhaps even demonstrate value of the service. Let the tech explain the steps, not necessarily in full detail but “removing some Asus trialware” should be reasonable.

    I wouldn’t say that it is worth spending money on optimization, but giving the customer an active role in it can benefit the consumer and, through satisfaction and word of mouth, the store.

    • fantomesq says:

      The techs can’t explain the service they are performing. they can’t even explain what optimization does. The ‘techs’ run a preset automated program on each ‘pre-optimized’ system. When its finished, they close up the box and place the sticker claiming pre-optimized.

  10. Pixel says:

    So of the THREE test computers:

    “some” had been left in standby mode
    2 had not finished installing Windows updates
    1 had the quick start guide for one laptop mixed in with the papers in another laptop’s box
    1 had the power cable missing

    So a MINIMUM of five screwups out of three samples. That is insane, and means odds are you will have 1-2 screwups if you pay $40 for an optimized laptop.

    • Slave For Turtles says:

      Indeed. The software is easily dealt with, but getting home and finding you have the wrong paperwork or missing hardware is not. These are things I might not be looking for when I open my computer’s box at Customer Service and am looking for floor tiles or bricks. That’s 2 out of 3. Terrible, terrible odds.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      Obviously, Best Buy/Geek Squad is not interested in being Six Sigma. :)

  11. kwm7c says:

    Anyone else think one article a week on how BB sucks gets a little old? Isnt there some other corporate scandal (or government scandal) we can hear about?

    • Smashville says:

      Nope. This seems pretty important.

      Don’t like it, go read something else.

    • dolemite says:

      I dunno, I like being informed of sneaky corporate tactics. If K-Mart was offering a similar deal, I’m sure CR would out them too. It just so happens BB comes up with these types of scams far more often than most other retailers.

    • Buckus says:

      Agreed on it not being enough. Best Buy is one of the only “Big Box” consumer electronics store around, and without Circuit City, CompUSA, etc, to compete with, and WalMart, Target, the Interwebs, etc, starting to compete with them, they have been using tactics like the “Optimization” service to attempt to boost revenue and differentiation. I bought my only laptop at Best Buy a few years ago and it was painless. Got the advertised price, no problems. Have been sort of in the market recently, and Best Buy has some nice pricing, but they never have an “Unoptimized” laptops so I always leave empty-handed.

      It would be the same uproar if car dealers all of a sudden started “optimizing” all their cars with pinstripes, fabric protection, etc, and charging another grand on top because the service has already been done.

    • madanthony says:

      This is exactly the kind of story that SHOULD be on the consumerist – it involves actual investigative work, and multiple samples, and useful information. It’s way more useful than someone’s thirdhand experience from their blog or another debate on the merits of showing your receipt.

      • Brunette Bookworm says:

        I agree. I’d like to see MORE of this kind of article where experiences led to actual, quantifiable research on a company or business practice. Anecdotes are fine, but aren’t what people experience everywhere. Doing a study of multiple locations shows more of the type of service people are likely to get.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      No, becasue it keeps reinforcing the idea that BB is bad and that I shouldn’t shop there.

    • MrEvil says:

      Old….maybe, but absolutely neccessary. This is how a free market CAN regulate itself when you have freedom of the press. I mean Consumerist calling Best Buy out on their bullshit is the only way you’re going to get them to improve their shady business practices. It’s all about public shame when it comes to REALLY punishing companies that are in the retail business.

    • dragonfire81 says:

      Articles like this are a big part of the reason I love this site so much. Companies don’t like bad PR. The more you keep the site focused on specific companies, the more damage it can potentially do to their reputation.

      You have to understand, Best Buy and Geek Squad have done this to themselves. If you provide your customers shitty service, upsell crap constantly, try to force customers to buy products and services they don’t want and/or need, you can expect to see yourself on this site pretty often.

      I’m glad they are frequent with it because it means fewer people will shop at Best Buy.

    • Anonymously says:

      Would it make you happier if the report somehow included Tiger Woods? (Insert your own “hard drive”, or “floppy disk”, or “port scan” joke here.)

  12. Bargaineering.com says:

    Eventually, probably in about two years, Congress will spend weeks debating about new laws that will ban this type of bait and switch sales tactic. Airlines will have to stop finding new surcharges, stores will have to disclose an “out the door” price, and then stores will have to figure out new ways around them… All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      Connecticut has already required retailers which advertise $XX after rebate to offer the rebate in store at the register. What’s happened is that many places have disclaimers in the ads now saying “item not available in Connecticut”. Looks like a win for consumers there.

    • fantomesq says:

      Actual bait-and-switch tactics are already illegal… what more needed to be banned?

    • thinkbliss says:

      Of course it happens but it’s not like people have to constantly put up with illegal and immoral advertising all the time. This isn’t about them just over-charging for a service, but about them overcharging for a service not rendered properly or at all. And yes it is not very bright to buy a pre-optimized machine. If you are going to pay to have it done, pay a real professional and not just some sales tech who works for a retail chain. Better yet, buy from a real computer store.

    • alstein says:

      It’s like terrorism. The point of security measures is not to stop the BS, but to make it so hard that it’s impractical. Seeing how corporations aren’t as fanatical as terrorists, they’ll quit doing it once the cost becomes too great.

  13. FDCPAGuy says:

    Isn’t 3D Mark 2003 (the test used in this article) mainly a GPU test? I also like how they didn’t purchase any HPs which by far have the most annoying crapware like Total Care Advisor!

    • mstnggt500kr says:

      Yes, 3dMark will usually only test the GPU, and some CPU. A better test would have been PC-Mark or SiSoftware Sandra. But honestly, after working with GS before, and running tests on my own, I know that if they optimization isn’t done right, the performance boost isn’t honestly going to be that great. Plus it will vary greatly between every different make and model.

    • mstnggt500kr says:

      Yes, 3dMark will usually only test the GPU, and some CPU. A better test would have been PC-Mark or SiSoftware Sandra. But honestly, after working with GS before, and running tests on my own, I know that if they optimization isn’t done right, the performance boost isn’t honestly going to be that great. Plus it will vary greatly between every different make and model.

      • ludwigk says:

        It’s not a performance boost, rather, its just freeing up resources that were tied up running trialware, etc, on the computer. The difference should depend on the amount and kind of trialware more than anything else.

        Under NO circumstances can their “optimization” actually make a noticeable difference in benchmarks, however, because all modern OSes have sophisticated multitasking, and during the benchmarking, everything else is essentially idle or closed out, unless the benchmark was run incorrectly. I’m somewhat disappointed that the CR crew could not determine why the benches ran ~30% slower on the Asus. E.g. if the difference was noticed during a CPU test, peeking at the task manager and seeing what is running/using CPU time should have identified the anomaly.

    • Iresire says:

      3D Mark 2003 has a CPU test. http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark03/

    • TacoChuck says:

      I was thinking the same thing. Further, if it wasn’t the Corporate edition it wasn’t licensed to be use for any commercial purpose. Any bets on if it was the free version or not?

  14. Blueskylaw says:

    If ‘optimized was better’ then why are all the stores sold out of the un-optimized ones?

  15. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Three words:
    Class
    Action
    Lawsuit
    This has been a long time coming based on the continued stories we hear. It seems to me that Best Buy is purposely optimizing a majority of their products to “force” shoppers to purchase
    them at inflated prices. Worse, for a price higher than their advertised price. What I see here is that they are trying to find a way to lure customers in with an advertised price, and then add more to the cost at the store. They say all the stock is optimized, but my guess nearly all of the in-store inventory was optimized making it impossible to get one that was not.

    This is, hands down, a bait and switch tactic which constitues false advertising on a nation-wide scale. Not to mention the misleading and inconsistent statements by personnel on what, exactly, optimization does for the consumer. I fully expect this to hit national news eventually as lawsuits start to be files and/or federal oversight organizations starts pushing Best Buy to shape up.

    • EatSleepJeep says:

      And if they’re not purposely optimizing the entire inventory in a clever way to Bait & Switch on their low advertised prices, then it means the non-optimized versions all sold out faster. The market is demanding non-optimized laptops and Best Buy ought to adjust their product mix to respond to the demands. However, I fully agree that this is just deceptive marketing. They advertise the Asus eeWhatever for a loss at $379 while everybody else(Walmart, etc) has it at $399. However, the Best Buy customer gets stuck with a $40 fee for what is essentially nothing. Now, the price is really $419 and Best Buy has turned a loss-leader into a profit center.

      • wardawg says:

        Except they eventually sell most of their optimized laptops. People who don’t want them shop somewhere else, so the optimized laptops are sold to other people who don’t know what they’re actually getting. Their sales numbers show they’re eventually selling every laptop they’ve optimized, so why should they optimize less?

        Not saying it’s a good reason…

    • Outrun1986 says:

      This is definitely illegal in the state of NY, from my understanding if you advertise an item in an ad here, you have to have one in stock at the advertised price regardless of item. We have some pretty strict pricing laws here. If the people were going into best buy as the store opened on Sunday right after the ad came out and asking for an un-optimized laptop and not finding one in stock but being told they only had optimized ones in stock and they could be purchased for $40 more then that is classic bait and switch. I think NY’s attorney general would really like to hear about this.

      This is just like claiming they are “sold out” of a GPS unit (or any other product) that is advertised in the ad but oh look we have a whole cabinet of these, pointing to a comparable model, and they only cost $40 more and have more features, would you like to buy one of them?

      • elangomatt says:

        I am sure they probably have some non-optimized models when they open on Sunday morning, or one anyway. Previous stories on consumerist have had employees say that the store optimizes half of the inventory, but that non-optimized have usually seems to be sold out. Are you really surprised that the non-optimized models really sell out first seeing as how they are $40 cheaper.

    • Hogan1 says:

      Stupid Idea. Everyone get’s a gung-ho “Yeah! Class Action Lawsuit!” attitude and then expects change or compensation. Usually these either get settled or thrown out; and IF the consumers get anything it’s trivial while the lawyers walk away with loaded pockets. It’s sickening how often people scream for this on nearly all stories here.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        Yup.
        It’s FAR better to carve out a fraud exemption for companies that scam just under the couple grand that it takes for everyone to individually file thousands of lawsuits. Better to clog the courts with legions of duplicate cases, too!

        …You’re really what Consumerist is all about: enabling corporate fraud on consumers, cheerfully waving them goodbye as they steal your wallet. Good post!

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        If the practice is wrong and deceptive, then the only way to get them to stop is for someone to point out the illegality. There are really only two choices in that facet: government action or a class action lawsuit. There might indeed be some negatives to class action lawsuit – and surely there must be – but I find it unfathomable to allow this awful practice to continue just because the justice system isn’t perfect.

        Surely, Hogan1, you do not believe Best Buy should continue falsely advertising it’s merchandise and bilking thousands of consumers out of their hard-earned money out of principle?

        Even if not one single consumer who had been wronged received even one red cent from that class action lawsuit, Best Buy’s illegal practice would be stopped. And that, sir, is a win.

  16. Colonel Jack O'neill says:

    This kind of stuff should me made illegal. How can they perform a service before you buy it, and you never evened asked for it in the first place.

    • mstnggt500kr says:

      I hate to say it Colonel, but it all started with greedy managers, who’ve trained their staff to either flat out lie, or came up with BS training and the staff didn’t know any better. There are still a lot of employees out there who try to give push-back on the pre-optimizing of 100% of the stock, but this usually gets shot down by the greedy management, who only sees the bottom line.

      Remember though, if they ONLY offer advertised units that are pre-optimized, and you decline the service, they are REQUIRED to sell you the unit, sans optimization fees, at the advertised price. Anyone who is forced to pay, or told that they can only get the unit by paying the fee, needs to report the offending store to the corporate offices (and Consumerist and the BBB and so on).

      • EatSleepJeep says:

        I thinks state Attorneys General need to be notified, as well. This reeks of deceptive practices (bait and switch) if the entire inventory of advertised items is pre-“optimized.”

    • bdgbill says:

      This kind of thing has been going on at car dealerships for generations. You didn’t think that anyone ever wanted padded vinyl roofs and fake spare tires on their cars did you?

      • AstroPig7 says:

        I’ve visited two dealerships that tinted all of their automobiles’ windows and wormed the cost into the price. If I want my windows tinted, I’ll take my car to a place that I know has competent technicians.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Just remember, no one has ever been court martialed for obeying a commanding officer….

      Agent Utah, optimize those laptops.
      Yes sir!

  17. mstnggt500kr says:

    Some of the changes done by the optimization are actually registry tweaks (which I wouldn’t recommend be touched by a beginner). If you want to really tweak your windows experience (for free), check out Ultimate Windows Tweaker (http://www.lostintechnology.com/windows/use-ultimate-windows-tweaker-to-tweak-windows-7 or http://www.winvistaclub.com/uwtf.html). The program has been listed on Gizmodo, and in my tests is pretty user friendly (much friendlier than CCleaner and MSConfig for tweaking everything).

    Also, a very good free anti-virus/anti-spyware solution is actually offered by M$ themselves (http://www.microsoft.com/Security_Essentials). AVG has proven to be more bloatware than anything else lately. Avira is still one of the best, but it will constantly pester you with ads to upgrade (these can be stopped), and lots of false positives (these usually CAN’T be stopped).

    Lastly, if you want the added protection of a firewall on your system, check out Comodo’s free firewall software. It can be found @ http://personalfirewall.comodo.com/ . I do HIGHLY recommend only installing the firewall, as the MS-SE or Avira offer better Anti Virus protection. Hope this helps someone out there save $30 or more.

  18. Geekybiker says:

    Several of the new Asus laptops have a dual gpu setup. It the discrete gpu is enabled by default, and the “optimization” turns it off in favor of the integrated GPU, that could easily account for the 32% performance drop.

    • cwsterling says:

      any idea how to re enable that? (if that is the case) I have tried to search google with out much luck, so I am not even sure if it has been disabled

  19. PTB315 says:

    The comment about “I would get it for my parents” has a small amount of merit. Most computer users I know have no clue how to take care of these seemingly minor hassles like uninstalling trial programs and setting up useful shortcuts. That being said, its hard to overlook the inconsistent claims they make regarding “optimization” and even their inconsistent labor that they’re charging for.

    There could be a time and a place for Best Buy or any computer vendor to offer this service, but its ridiculous to stock these units as “pre-optimized”. All stock units should be un-optimized and they should explain the benefits clearly and concisely at the time of purchase, while offering a guaranteed 24-hour turnover time from the point of purchase to the unit being set up in the manner prescribed.

    If they did it right and explained it correctly, I have to admit I’d be tempted to pay them to take care of uninstalling the garbage and getting all the updates done. 3 hours of work is not an unreasonable estimate of time for a person to spend doing all that. At the least its probably true of me, I set the computer to do a bunch of updates at once then find something else to kill the time while I’m waiting like TV or reading. There is lag time based on when the computer finishes something but I’m not paying attention to move on to my next task in setting up a new computer because I’m watching Arrested Development.

    • dwasifar says:

      “All stock units should be un-optimized and they should explain the benefits clearly and concisely at the time of purchase, while offering a guaranteed 24-hour turnover time from the point of purchase to the unit being set up in the manner prescribed.”

      You know, that could almost serve as a quasi-legitimate justification for “pre-optimization.” If people have to wait for the service, they’re less likely to buy it, so this provides a more defensible reason for the store to do it in advance.

      Of course, I’m sure there is a large component of “let’s make sure EVERYONE pays this fee,” too, but if there are really customers that actually want the service, it does make sense for BB to have a few “pre-optimized” units ready to go.

      Ewwww, even mildly defending this practice makes me feel all dirty.

      • PTB315 says:

        I don’t disagree with the fact that if the units didn’t come optimized and instead required a turn-around time that sales would plummet. Yet I would tie that in to other practices that strike me as consumer-unfriendly that result in people like myself who are not great at following deadlines to cancel trial periods being hit with nonrefundable charges. Two personal examples: Netflix and Final Fantasy XI (the MMORPG one). For both of these I signed up for the Trial periods where they require you to input credit card information.

        For Final Fantasy, I played the game once and didn’t like it, so I put it away and promptly forgot about it for about 6 months until I finally read a credit card statement in detail and noticed 6 months of charges for the online service. My own fault, obviously, but it annoyed me that when I wanted to cancel (Which was a HUGE hassle to even figure out where to start), I requested a refund as I had not once signed in other than the day I started my free trial. That request was promptly shot down, but my service was canceled immediately.

        I’m going off on a tangent I just realized. The point I’m trying to make is that in my mind, I lump these practices together and they really rub me the wrong way. For this optimization thing specifically, the only real reasoning for “pre” optimizing is to force people to buy the service if they want that specific laptop. I see all these practices as methods to try to catch lazy or disorganized people to pay for something they don’t want to.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      The problem here is that some of this software is really aggressive. I just bought a lenovo laptop and as soon as I started it up it came with this face recognition software that starts up with the PC that makes it so the PC does not start up without it. This particular piece of software does not even allow you to get to the desktop before you give them all your information. This particular piece of software also makes it seem like you NEED it to start your machine, and it constantly prompts you to pay 49.99 after the trial expires. So it makes it seem like you need to pay 49.99 to use this software in order to just use your PC. A new user would never be able to see through this and know what to do to remove this annoying piece of software, it really does seem like this piece of software is needed to run your PC. I have no doubt that this software maker is raking in loads from the fact that it is pre-installed on a lot of computers.

      Your average user that is using a laptop to do things like email and facebook does not need face recognition software in order to use their PC. I bought the laptop for my mom and if she didn’t have me around she would never be able to own a PC just to use it for email and facebook.

      Now if geek squad provided a useful service in actually removing the software that you don’t need, instead of just removing the shortcuts as this report states then it might be worth 39.99 to some people, but this is clearly not what they are doing. In fact I wouldn’t want an optimized computer because who knows what they have done to it, and if they don’t provide a recovery disk and leave a download or something incomplete, it could screw up your brand new PC. Its clear that optimization is not the same across the board here.

      • PTB315 says:

        I’ve never used a laptop with the facial recognition software, the way you describe it sounds absolutely horrendous.

  20. d0x360 says:

    Everytime I hear someone I know tell me about how they have to wait for their purchased laptop or pc so Geeksquad can tweak it I want to punch them. I also cant stand it when they bring their computers in for service and spend $100 or more for nothing.

    Id do these repairs for 1/3 the price, id do it faster and id do it better. Stupid Geeksquad!

  21. katstermonster says:

    Just as an FYI, in regards to virus protection, you should only have ONE antivirus on your computer. That means Norton OR McAffee OR Avira, OR AVG….but you can pair any one of those with Defender and/or Spybot. Multiple antivirus programs will conflict and cause you all kinds of problems.

  22. bdgbill says:

    If retailers were not making money from all the suckers who pay for “optimization”, extended warranties and $100.00 HDMI cables they would almost certainly have to raise prices on everything across the board.

    Next time you see a 50 inch plasma on sale for under $1000.00, thank your grandma.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      I’d pay $100 more for a TV if it meant Geek Squad and its ilk ($100 HDMI cables, extended ‘warranties’, bullshit ‘optimizations’, etc) would disappear from the face of the earth.

      Of course, this is moot, since I’d never buy a big ticket (or small ticket, for that matter) item from BB unless I had absolutely no choice. If they advertised the change in policy, and stopped trying to sell me all kinds of shit I don’t need at checkout etc, I might shop there again.

    • Anim8me2 says:

      I’m sorry but that is just bullshit.
      Big box retailers make enormous amounts of profit on almost everything they sell. They do this out of greed, nothing more. There is no impending price hike in the offing if they cut the price of their ridiculously priced cables.
      I can buy a $80 HDMI cable from Best Buy and support their greedy ways or I can get a $20 cable from ExtremeMac, a reputable local company that also sells via the web.
      You make your choices but don’t try and defend ridiculous business practices with nonsense.

    • anduin says:

      I agree with this, ultimately I’m informed enough and I make sure every single one of my family members consult with me before putting down money on ANY electronics item over $100 to ensure they’re 1) not getting scammed with bs offers like these 2) theyre buying it for the best possible price. Its the same way with cars which I know little to nothing about technically, I get someone who knows something about cars to help me shop for one so that I know I’m not getting jipped. I really don’t feel bad for the people out there getting taken advantage of by these kinds of practices because in a tech driven world, everyone should know enough to at least ask someone (ie not a salesman) to double check.

  23. axiomatic says:

    Not to mention that were your PC manufacturer to know that the system was not actually “new” when you bought it should invalidate your warranty.

    Good luck with your “used” and “unwarrantable” system.

  24. Eldritch says:

    I’m the worst Consumerist reader ever, apparently.

    I went to Best Buy this week to get a new laptop to replace my seven year old HP desktop. I got an HP laptop (oh noes!) and paid the Geek Squad to install Microsoft Office and anti-virus for me.

    It all comes down to convenience. I don’t have the time to go through my system, uninstall trial crap, install Word, etc. I wanted my laptop to come out of the box and be like “:D Hello new friend!”. As it is, it will take me days to transfer all my old stuff to the new system.

    I think part of the blame lies on computer manufacturers. If they didn’t load up computers with so much crap when they sell it, there would be no business for people to go in and remove it. Do we REALLY need laptops to still come pre-loaded with AOL?

    • dwasifar says:

      The crapware helps subsidize the price you pay. Each piece of junk software pre-installed on your system represents a tiny chunk of revenue for the system manufacturer; the software company paid to have it put there, in hopes you’ll shell out for the full version.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      You’re right. It would be ok if it was done correctly, consistently, and did what the sales staff promised (200% increase in performance? If this was possible with a few software tweaks, don’t you think the manufacturer would have done it?).

      However, that’s not what best buy is doing here. They’re not finishing optimizing, they’re losing cables and documentation, and in once case they dropped the performance 32%.

    • squirrel says:

      That’s not a bad consumer. That’s evaluating what your time is worth to yourself and that you might have better things to do than shuffle disks.

      There’s nothing wrong with asking and paying BB to install some software packages for you. The main point of this article and most of the comments is that BB is making it where you have no choice but to take their “service”.

      This is no different than buying an automobile and all the models on the lot have the optional undercoating and stain protection already applied and added to the price.

    • DrRonster says:

      Did they actually install office or just the default install. I always do a custom install and select run all from computer. Then I install. Any other installation is worthless because it will eventually ask for the Office disk and you wont have it. As I said when I first read this article.
      Class Action Lawsuit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and Im a Dr. not a Lawyer.

  25. dwasifar says:

    I would never pay for this service, or for an extended warranty, because every computer I get has Windows removed from it immediately and Linux installed. (Yes, I’ll be the first annoying Linux geek in the thread today.) I do not have to deal with annoying crapware or performance-sucking virus scanners. My computer works for me, not for someone who hid something inside the “black box” of Windows.

    I’m not saying Linux is for everyone (though I think more people could use it than are aware they could). But it is one way of taking control of your computer-ownership experience, and not being manipulated by hucksters playing on people’s ignorance. In this regard Best Buy is no different from the classic fast-Eddie used car dealer or sleazy mechanic, and is only a hop, skip, and jump from the social-engineering sleazeballs who trick you into installing malware on your system for them.

    You can still run Windows and be in control of your own computer, mostly, but it does take effort and attention. Computers are complex things, and someone who offers to take your money in exchange for making them simple is a lot more likely to follow through on the first part of the transaction than the second.

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      I have Linux on one of my laptops, and while I like it, it’s in no danger of taking over the market anytime soon.

      You’re comparing oranges to pomegranates. Most people recognize oranges. They like them. Sure the rind is a little bitter, so be careful to remove it all before eating. Best Buy offers to peel it for you for people who are unwilling to use a knife on their own.

      People who can’t reason that knife + orange = great and want someone to cut up their food for them are going to have difficulty with the pomegranate. Sure it’s tasty, but it’s a little funny and alien looking and you gotta spit out a lot more seeds.

      Then there is the apple, for people who think only cavemen use knives and they just want to eat their fruit whole. Of course when there is a problem with their fruit they seem to be unprepared for having to use a knife to cut out the occasional bad part.

    • PsiCop says:

      Linux is great for some folks. But it’s not for everyone, especially not for a lot of home users. You cannot, for example, run many games on it. Yes, I know, there are Windows emulators out there, such as Wine, but not all of them will handle games very well.

      I suppose one could say, “I’ll never run a Windows game on my system,” and maybe actually follow through on it. But a lot of home users DO run games on their computers. On the other hand, I do know guys who had Linux PCs at home, who did buy a Windows game, then called me to help them get it running when it couldn’t easily be done.

      Also, you can’t always be sure that any particular piece of hardware you buy, will work with Linux. I’ve had more than my share of experience with that particular headache, including having to compile my own drivers once, from source code, for a NIC that would not work with a Linux installation I was using. This is exactly the sort of headache most home users do not need to put up with, and aren’t always competent to deal with. The nerds who wrote and promote Linux don’t bat an eye at having to compile their own drivers … but not all home users are able to do so, much less understand the need for it in the first place.

      Finally, there are always people whose employers require them … for one reason or another … to use Windows for something. For example, one employer I had, had a Web site where some of the functionality only worked with Internet Explorer. Of course, one can say they shouldn’t have set it up that way … but I’m in no position to tell a Fortune 500 company how to develop all their Web functionality, and I cannot force them to work any differently. And I was in no position to resign in protest over their decision. (Yes, I was actually told I should have done that, by a Linux fanboi.) All I could do is work with that they gave me. As a Mac owner myself, that meant firing up Parellels Desktop (an emulator) and going in that way. This worked fine, but the fact is that emulators are not perfect and there are always things that don’t work correctly on them. And the average home user may not know how to deal with that.

      The cold hard reality is that Linux is NOT yet a comfortable alternative OS for every home user. It COULD be, if its developers and proponents wanted it to be. But it’s not.

      • dwasifar says:

        Oh, granted. Linux is not for everyone. I’m just using it as an example of taking charge of one’s own computer environment, rather than getting pushed around and taken advantage of because one doesn’t want to take the time to learn any better.

        I will say that that’s harder to do on a Windows machine, due to Windows’ closed-source black-box ecosystem and its tendency to do things (like report to Microsoft or other software vendors) without your knowledge. But it’s not impossible, and as you mention, sometimes there are pressing reasons to use Windows, in which case one should.

        If I were compelled to use Internet Explorer for compatibility with some work-related thing, I’d install IE under Linux using IEs4Linux or some similar tool. Thankfully that sort of requirement is going the way of the dinosaur, kind of like places that require you to submit documents on a 3.5″ diskette.

        As far as hardware support, I’ve rarely had a problem. Broadcom wireless cards, and that’s about it. Windows is not immune to this problem either; remember all the orphaned driverless hardware when Vista first came out?

        • PsiCop says:

          I absolutely agree that MS screwed the pooch when it came to Vista driver support. I generally recommended that people not upgrade to Vista, and avoid buying it if they possibly could do so. And drivers are one reason I said that.

          Of course, it wasn’t entirely MS’s fault. Lots of hardware vendors used the driver compatibility cliff to try to coerce people into buying new hardware. This backfired, of course, in many cases; for example, a friend who got a Lexmark printer in 08 and then a (Vista) laptop in 09 found she couldn’t get drivers for it. She had to buy a new printer, and it definitely was NOT a Lexmark. One can only hope vendors have learned the lesson from this and have stopped using drivers this way. (FWIW the Vista laptop she bought was to replace a WinME system … so even if Vista wasn’t the greatest thing, it was superior to what she already had.)

          This tactic, if a vendor chooses to follow it, is largely out of MS’s hands. That said, MS could have done a better job of helping users employ MS’s own “generic” drivers in conjunction with devices that don’t have native support or custom drivers. My experience with Win 7 is that it’s much better with this than Vista had been; lots of things work just great, using the generic drivers. It may not be the very-best way to go, but it works, and most people don’t really see much difference. In fact, using generic drivers rather than the bloated driver-&-software combinations many vendors include with things like printers, is in most cases beneficial to users.

  26. Hogan1 says:

    My in laws almost paid Best Buy for this optimization crap but luckily they decided to decline and got the PC back before they did it. Interestingly enough Geek Squad LEFT the optimizer DVD in the drive. It’s nothing but a DVD of windows updates and a few tweaks run from a executable.

    • fantomesq says:

      Get the DVD to Consumer Reports so they can finish their investigation! :)

    • SacraBos says:

      Bittorrent seed!

    • GrymOne says:

      You can find that geek squad disk a few BT Sites.
      Just a Bunch of Win Updates,Reg Tweaks & Some Freeware Apps.

      As a matter of fact, They have sucked up a lawsuit or two over that disk.

      Thursday, April 13, 2006
      AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas software company sued Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY) in federal court on Tuesday, alleging that the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer was using unlicensed versions of its diagnostic equipment.
      http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,191593,00.html

      Using Winternals on Geek Squads MRI Disk and not paying for it.. Tisk Tisk

  27. H3ion says:

    OK, so maybe I sound like a newbie but I swear by Norton Antivirus. The latest commercial version allows installation on three computers so I’ve covered my desktop, laptop, and my wife’s computer. Updates are very frequent and they let you know when they’ve done an update. I’ve just found the program to be easier to use than McAfee or Trend Micro and I’ve had nothing but good results with Symantec’s chat tech support.

    Best Buy sounds like the sleaze is coming down from management rather than from the frontline employees.

    • tsume says:

      I work in remote technical support, and find that the Norton software causes a disproportionate amount of problems when compared to other antivirus software. Specifically, updates to Norton or Windows cause conflicts with Norton which disables internet access outside of safe mode. I see this problem a lot, and the fix is the norton removal tool.

      As far as those antivirus recommendations, Microsoft Security Essentials is free and detects more while consuming less resources according to AV Comparatives. AVG is bloated and slow, and Avira has too many nag screens.

    • AtariBaby says:

      You could have installed “Microsoft Security Essentials” on all 3 for free.

    • sljepi says:

      Lol, yes you do sound like a newbie ;). I really like AVG very much as it does what it is supposed to do: Has small memory footprint, scans are barely noticeable and complete withing reasonable timeframe, it is free, and it actually catches viruses. I had instances where McAfee and Norton were both disabled by the viruses therefore, rendered useless. Give it a shot, you might like it :).

  28. H3ion says:

    One last thing. For files that are impossible to get rid of, there’s a company called JR Twine (online) that makes a program that will delete anything. It’s little tricky to use but it really gets rid of whatever you tell it to get rid of.

  29. PHRoG says:

    Very NICE Consumerist! You’ve earned another donation from me with this one. ;) Really hope to see more of these types of investigations!

  30. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    Cease & Desist letter from Best Buy’s lawyers in 3, 2, 1…

  31. NotEd says:

    And how does one become a Consumer Reports secret shopper?
    I would have loved to have been part of this report.

  32. quail says:

    The classic, ‘Bait & Switch’ scam in action. Did any of these ads say something like ‘limited quantities’ or ‘while supplies last’? Something like they do for the Black Friday ads?

    Best Buy is probably looking at a good class action lawsuit along with several inquiries by many state attorney generals.

  33. Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

    I wanna be a secret shopper now!!

  34. Outrun1986 says:

    This sounds like bait and switch, they don’t have any in stock and available at the advertised price, pricing laws say that you have to have some in stock if the item is in your ad. These ads are NOT to draw people to the store to purchase a laptop with optimization that is not optional. I smell a class action lawsuit coming on. I don’t care the reasons why they are doing this, it is deceitful and extremely scammy.

    For the record I just bought a laptop and it took me about 30 min to set it up, including removing all the crapware manually through add/delete programs. There are programs you can download that will do this stuff for you, and it would probably take even less time if you used one of those. It probably only takes another 15 min if that to install free virus software and download essentials like adobe flash.

  35. summerbee says:

    “The operative word here is ‘owned,'” Dunn told Fortune.

    And how.

  36. AstroPig7 says:

    So installing software yourself invalidates the manufacturer’s warranty? That sales representative is either a liar or an idiot.

  37. u1itn0w2day says:

    I purchased a computer bundle from Best Buy with no problem or very litttle hassle. The salesman told me about the extended warranty and set-up.

    I’ve used a local repair shop for one quick problem for a total of 20$ in 18 months. I’ve even had to use a reboot disk onetime on my own no problems. I got internet securtiy and loaded myself which was the most time consuming thing I did.

    Morale of the story is find a local repair shop and you’ll probably spend less on repairs and the occassional problem than you will with an extended warranty or any set-up/”optimization” service.

  38. libwitch says:

    My financee bought a desktop from Best Buy last year; and in December I bought a laptop. Two different stores. Neither of us got them optimized, and it wasn’t a big deal. We just said “no, thanks.” The salespeople were fine with it, and not the least bit pushy.

    They have a series of questions they have to ask – I have been in retail, thats fine, I understand that. We just said no to them all, and walked out with the computers at the advertised price.

    I really don’t understand the heap of problems people have had with Best Buy – I can take them or leave them, but we have never had any major problems shopping there.

  39. kokopelli says:

    Boy, I’m glad I switched to Macs years ago. Does anyone know if Best Buy tries to sell optimized Macs?

    • Mephron says:

      Right in the article:

      “There are also several different types of “new computer” services being sold to prospective buyers. They include, but are not limited to, anti-virus installation and recovery-disc creation. The services range in price from $29.99 to $219.99, and include offerings for both Windows PCs and Macs.”

    • fantomesq says:

      Yes they do… can’t get a straight answer as to what optimization does for Macs either.

    • LESSTHANKIND says:

      Yeah, I couldn’t imagine going through all this crap.

    • G.O.B.: Come on! says:

      Nothing is safe from their “optimization.” I wouldn’t be surprised if they started optimizing cables.

  40. Conspirator says:

    This makes me think of the furniture store Rooms-To-Go. The name is not quite accurate because nothing is actually sold “to go”. They have a required delivery fee that amounts to at least $100 over any price they advertise. It is a hidden surcharge that absolutely no one can avoid.

  41. scoosdad says:

    The thing that would have given this effort an additional “bite” would be if Consumer Reports would interview a few manufacturers to see what their take on the optimization was:

    1. Microsoft, for the fact that the EULA was approved by Best Buy, and not the end user.

    2. The laptop manufacturers, for the fact that the laptops were sold in not the condition they were shipped in and are technically “open box”, used, etc.

    3. The third party software providers, such as Norton who was specifically mentioned by a Best Buy sales associate, who are having their free trials and freeware removed from the laptops before the customer can decide on his own whether or not they want them or not. These software providers are actually paying the manufacturers in (2) above, so by Best Buy taking these out (or deleting the install shortcuts from the desktop where they were supposed to be discovered by the consumer), this screws with those contractural agreements.

    This is akin to a car dealer removing the free six month subscription to Sirius/XM from your new car radio without your knowledge or permission. Sirius/XM pays the car manufacturers a lot of money to be there in the first place.

    I would think a thumbs down on this deal by any of the three above would be enough to put a stop to this. Class action lawsuits by end users may not be necessary if any of these guys step in and say, “contracturally, you can’t do that”.

    • DoubleEcho says:

      Exactly the questions I would like answered too. I don’t see how they can legally accept the EULA if they are not the End User.

    • united says:

      Amazingly poignant points sir! Agreed that none of those three entities would be overjoyed about Best Buys approach. This shows us that they went about this the wrong way on more than one front. They used a shady advertising approach where stock of their advertised sale item(s) was obviously not adequate which they followed with a strong arm approach to the customer to shell out more cash and topped it off by operated against one or more EULAs to change a product in a fashion that did not improve performance as advertised. Shameful.

  42. Red Cat Linux says:

    Forgive the meme, but I build my own PCs at home to avoid the BestBuy bullshit shuffle.

    Laptops, well, I just go direct to the manufacturer for those.

  43. HogwartsProfessor says:

    “Best Buy takes the position that optimization is simply a choice available to consumers…”

    But it’s NOT a choice if there are no un-optimized computers in the store. It’s bait-and-switch, pure and simple.

  44. elpea says:

    I went to buy a laptop at Best Buy. I found the one I wanted, but they couldn’t find any units in the store. They finally found one, but it was optimized, and they said it would be $100 more. I said no. They said they could de-optimize it for me, but it wouldn’t be ready until the next afternoon. I refused, and the Best By employees spent 30 minutes looking for a unit and checking on de-optimization and all that just to not make a sale. Good work, Best Buy decision-makers. I bought a laptop on Amazon instead and got a way better deal.

  45. ifriit says:

    One thing that wasn’t addressed that may be relevant: doesn’t a “pre-optimized” product also count as “opened” for return purposes? I’m fairly sure such an item would incur a restocking fee you wouldn’t otherwise get in the event you try to return it, giving BB an extra bonus.

  46. PsiCop says:

    Anyone interested in cleaning useless programs on a new PC can use A href=”http://www.pcdecrapifier.com/”>DeCrapifier. Worked well for me.

  47. outlulz says:

    Who knows if the Geek Squad employees are installing rootkits or keyloggers as they “optimize” your computer too. Not every employee has integrity.

  48. BeerManMike says:

    And the sheep still go shopping there. Even people here, its amazing.

  49. LESSTHANKIND says:

    If this “service” was so great, they’d feel confident enough to only perform it on request, instead of forcing people to pay for it whether they want it or not. Offer it for $39.99 and convince people to want it. If you can’t, they walk out with what they walked in for… at the price you advertised. Gee, what a concept.

    If they were an honest company, they’d advertise “optimized” computers at $39.99 higher, “unoptimized” computers at the sale price, and keep an equal number of both on hand. After a few months, compare the sales numbers and see which one their customers really want. But of course they’re *not* honest.

  50. badhatharry says:

    My favorite part: “When she asked if she could install anti-virus software herself instead of paying Geek Squad to do it, she was told installing software yourself, ‘negates the vendor’s warranty.'”

    So, if I’m reading this right, if I take this PC home, and install Firefox, my warranty is void?

    • dwasifar says:

      No, obviously; but, as established in other Consumerist articles, BB can (and will) use just that dodge to avoid honoring their own extended warranties.

  51. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Wait.. In order to “optimize” these computers, Best Buy has to open them up, launch Windows, and presumably mess around with the registry and uninstall some software.

    I see two things wrong here.. For one, once they open up the packaging, it’s no longer a “new” computer. And yet they want to charge you more for a used computer? And another, I’m sure this violates the Microsoft EULA and/or the hardware warranty somehow.

    If the optimization causes problems somehow, who’s gonna fix it? Best Buy or the computer manufacturer. I’m guessing Best Buy will deny responsibility and tell you to send it to the manufacturer.

  52. bitslammer says:

    This is why I will never EVER recommend purchasing a PC/Laptop or anything from Best Buy. As the “tech guy” in a large family and social circles I figured I’ve personally steered a couple dozen or so people from wasting money at BB. I know feel all the better for having done so.

    • damageddude says:

      Its getting harder and harder to find stores that sell simple computers for cheap. My needs are simple — internet access, word processing etc, pictures and music. In my immediate area, with the closing of CompUsa and Circuit City, among other stores, my options are limited to WalMart, BestBuy and Sears. I live in the NYC suburbs so, If I’m willing to drive a bit I can find a few more electronics stores, but there aren’t as many options anymore.

  53. TouchMyMonkey says:

    HP is full of win in my book. They’ll build you just about any computer you require from a checklist on their website, and the prices are probably better than Best Buy. The HP-specific software that arrived with my box appears to be useful, at least. I didn’t have to weed out all that much crapware compared to some machines I’ve seen other people get. My biggest gripe was that I didn’t get any disks with my machine – I had to create those myself, and apparently the recovery software that does this is finicky when it comes to the brand of DVDs you’re using. Nice, fresh DVD-R’s from Sony did the trick.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      Ever since I worked in a computer repair place and saw all the weird problems HPs would come in with, I’ve been leery of them. We use them at work and they aren’t bad, but I’m still not sure of them.

  54. Skankingmike says:

    I think the biggest issue here is: These computers were opened by the store played with (optimized) and then re-boxed and sold “as new” when they are in fact used merchandise.

    It’s one thing to buy a computer then have the service, it’s quite another to buy it already “serviced”

    I’m pretty sure this is all very illegal.

    • fantomesq says:

      How do you figure? There is nothing illegal in a retailer providing additional services on computers offered for sale.

      • Skankingmike says:

        Sure there isn’t anything illegal in your scenario however, this isn’t a computer that has already been purchased. It’s a computer they opened up played with than closed and are trying to sell as new. Sorry charlie this item is used.

  55. ElizabethD says:

    OT: Am I the only one who hasn’t seen any new Consumerist posts since early this morning?

    • dwasifar says:

      Yes, you are. I think you may be being misled by this article staying at the top of the stack today, while the newer articles are accumulating below it.

      Consumerist must be very proud of this one (justifiably).

  56. garykung says:

    First of all, I want everyone know that I don’t work for Bestbuy (BB) or Geek Squad.

    I think everyone is jumping too fast to the conclusion by reading this article.

    Of course, personally, I don’t believe BB’s Optimization service can really optimizating performance. But neither the Consumerist’s/Consumer Reports’ (CR) testing is conclusive.

    Here are my reasons:

    1. In all 3 models tested, are the CR using the same laptop or not? It does not mention in the article (as I don’t believe it is the case). As a lot of people may not aware that, even the same model of a computer (desktop/laptop), the parts used may be different. For instance, memory. In such case, CR fails to address the possible variation the computers. Such configuration issue may lead to difference in performance.

    2. CR fails to address if pre-optimizated laptops and after-optimizated laptops have the same settings (not only Windows, but also pre-boot BIOS), as Windows Aero Interface may significantly reduce performace due to wrong settings in BIOS (as BIOS can control shared memory allocated to onboard video chipset, which all 3 models have).

    3. BB fails to address what have they done (and apparently working on a computer without a standardized procedure).

    4. CR fails to address if an power adapter is used (as many may know the power source of a laptop is also a kep issue in performance).

    Without no doubt, that BB may be unethnical in providing pre-optimizated laptops only, but not necessary cheating its customers. Simply put, BB never proves its after-optimizated laptops for its performance.

    I hope everyone can understand that

    (A cc of the message has sent to Ben Popken for response.)

    • dwasifar says:

      “Optimizated”? What is that, the Popeye version? “We’re goin’ ta’s get yer computerator optimizated, Olive! Gyuk-guk-guk-guk-guk!”

      Sorry, I know that’s uncalled for, but it just gave me a funny image. :)

  57. agua says:

    Little Registry Cleaner is also a great open source program that should be on the list, as is TCP optimizer.

  58. agua says:

    Little Registry Cleaner is also a great open source program that should be on the list, as is TCP optimizer.

  59. dg says:

    First and foremost – DO NOT BUY ANYTHING AT WorstBuy! They will lie, cheat, inveigle, and obfuscate as much as humanly possible in order to achieve a sale. There’s lots of other places to shop which will get you the item at the same price, and indeed, cheaper when you take into account sales tax and shipping differences. Plus, it comes to your door – no need to hit “the mall” and “the parking lots”… No traffic.

    But I digress – quite possibly the worst part of this ‘optimization’ is that WorstBuy is double-dipping. They already contracted with the computer mfr. to INSTALL the trialware that they are now charging you to REMOVE. The only reason they remove the shortcuts and not the whole package is so they don’t piss off the mfr. too much.

    Just refuse to pay the charge. Get the computer, and tell them you don’t want the optimization. If they only have PC’s with the optimization, then buy it. Get in the parking lot, call the credit card company and charge back the amount of the optimization. Tell the CC company that the amount of the optimization wasn’t authorized. Fill out the paperwork, tell them you though the extra amount on the bill was due to sales tax but upon a more in-depth review it turns out they added stuff you didn’t want and didn’t authorize and specifically refused and you’ll get your money back. Enough charge backs and WorstBuy will have their ass in a sling by the CC companies… RETURN THE FAVOR to WorstBuy…

  60. masterasia says:

    Very good article.
    I can’t remember the last time I bought something from Best Buy.
    They need to change their business practice otherwise they will end up like Circuit City.

    I hear Systemax is doing good things now that it has acquired the CompUSA and Circuit City online names. There might even be more re-openings of CompUSA around the country.

  61. DrRonster says:

    Class Action Lawsuit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  62. TonyK says:

    I see some media attention by any number of State Attorney Generals for bait and switch, mis-leading advertising and possibly fraud. Where is 60 Minutes and other “investigative” news shows when you need them.

  63. Andrew360 says:

    Comodo is a good anti-virus and 2-way firewall software company. They recently began offering unlimited online technical support, via remote control, with their security suite for only $50/yr. I like the software, and if I had a choice between unlimited tech support and a one-time half-ass optimization I’d choose the former.

    *I’ve used the free versions of their software, not the subscription. They offer a free trial.

  64. DrRonster says:

    Great Investigation
    I would consider any unit that one buys as new from Worst Buy and is “optimized” as used. That is why I build my own desktops and reload notebooks directly from Microsoft’s discs. Rather than charging for optimization, a discount should apply. These idiots (Geek Squad) dont know WTF they are doing. Charging for RAM installation is a scam as are most “upgrades”. I believe the FTC should investigate and indict Best Buy for under the provisions of the RICOH act. Please send your investigative report to the FTC and possibly the FCC since notebooks do transmit radio signals.
    What else could be said? Do we now start a Best Buy Death Watch as we did in 2008 with Circuit City.
    BTW While down in Pembroke Pines Florida I visited “Comp USA” for chipset retention pins. Could easily tell it was a duplicate of a Tiger Direct such as the one in Toronto Ontario. Except in Toronto there is a real computer store with anything you need just around the corner. Tiger Direct, “Comp USA”, “Circuit City” are owed by the same entity. They must be licking their chops waiting to grab Best Buy name.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      Charging for RAM installation is a scam as are most “upgrades”.

      Many people don’t know how to do simply upgrades. How is it a scam anymore than charging for an oil change or a tire rotation for those of us who don’t have the know-how, equipment or it?

    • Outrun1986 says:

      If your providing a legitimate service such as charging for changing ram, then there is nothing wrong with it. You have to figure out what type of ram to use, open the computer, probably clean it out, change the ram, then test the PC. This all takes time. Some of us don’t want to open a PC because we don’t know what we are doing in there and if we tried we could make things worse, so we pay someone to do it for us. I will pay someone to change the ram and clean out my PC but for sure I am not taking my business to geek squad.

  65. mike says:

    I have never purchased a computer from a Brick & Mortar store and I never plan to but I wonder how they would respond to, “Yeah, I’m going to install linux as soon as I get home.”

  66. mike says:

    I’ve asked BB employees if they have a TV that uses regular cables and one that used Monster cables. Surprisingly, all of their TVs use regular cables.

  67. erratic_behavior says:

    The article should recommend a defragging tool as well. When I help out people’s computers, one of the first things I notice is how fragmented the hard drives are. I would recommend using either Auslogics Disk Defrag ( http://auslogics.com/en/software/disk-defrag ) or Defraggler ( http://defraggler.com/ ). This helps sometimes, but I would do a defrag at least once a month…

  68. COBBCITY says:

    First, I would NEVER want to buy any computer that had already been opened, even by a store’s staff. Never.

    Wow, this story is stunning. I would hope major media outlets grab it and the Attorney Generals of several states get in touch with Best Buy. How many customers who don’t know better are paying $39.99 for this service?

  69. Bkhuna says:

    Look, if you buy a computer from some pimply faced kid who was selling toasters on the other side of the store the week before, then you get what you pay for.

    But as a consumer, you have legal rights. Best buy is pulling a bait-and-switch on people answering their ads. It’s the responsibility of the consumer to contact the appropriate legal authority and file complaints. It’s the only way to deal with Best Buy. Always carry a notepad and let the “salesperson” and manager see you writing down names, dates, etc.

  70. TheDude06 says:

    I hate your “sticky” posts. I have to read at least the first two articles to see if any new content was posted. yeah yeah minor complaint i know, but its a confusing design element. something more should offset it from the rest of the site

  71. dragonfire81 says:

    “Each station will be manned by Best Buy employees who might turn your tech questions into sales opportunities for Geek Squad.”

    Do you know how hard it is these days to ask an employee any kind of technical question and get a decent answer WITHOUT an attempted upsell? It’s damned near impossible.

    When I got hired on at my current job, I was already highly familiar with the products because they were a hobby of mine. I nor any of the other new hires were given any product training whatsoever. We were however, given extensive training on upselling, extended warranties and product protection services.

  72. WeAre138 says:

    Swung by my local BB after reading this for lunch as I had to pick up an alarm clock and wii controller and decided to test this myself. Of course they tried to sell me the optimized package first. I told them I was proficient with computers and would like the non-optimized. They said “no problem” and were about to give it to me before I told them I wanted to shop around a bit.

    This was the BB on N Rainbow in Vegas.

  73. Ixnayer says:

    Ive used AVG free for the last 3 years and love it.

  74. ITDEFX says:

    If best buy tried to sell me a laptop that was opened , “Optimized” and resealed I would demand a 15% open box fee be taken OFF the sales price since technically it was “Opened” and now “Used”. This is without a doubt a bait and switch tactic and believe me someone is gonna be looking into this real soon.

  75. Crutnacker says:

    So I’m paying more for Best Buy to sell me an open box PC? Which begs the question, what keeps them from reselling returns as “optimized”? Don’t companies have some expectation that companies are selling their computers in sealed boxes and not doing something to mess them up? What happens when Best Buy screws up one of these “optimizations” and does something that voids a warranty?

    I think this does call for an investigation

  76. CyberSkull says:

    His quote is wrong. I corrected it.

    “The operative word here is ‘pwnd,'” Dunn told Fortune. “Outsourcing works for back-office operations, but we believe that when an experience touches a customer, it must pwn you.”

  77. BoredOOMM says:

    I love the troll on the video. “I work at Best Buy…” Yeah, right.

  78. legwork says:

    Anybody notice BB is today’s front and center sponsor over at Gawker? Charming company they keep over there.

  79. Raeth says:

    I used to love it, but I have run into a number of problems with AVG. On my current desktop, it has dug itself so deeply into the OS that I am unable to reinstall it even after running a few programs designed to get rid of it (all after the regular install package failed), manually removing many registry entries, deleting any known directory of it that I could find and overwriting a few modified windows system files. Any program that won’t properly uninstall itself is another AOL in my opinion. I have had spectacular success with Kaspersky in the past after getting it free after rebate, but have been loving Microsoft Security Essentials as it’s clean, quick, efficient and best of all, quiet! (And free.) It’s unobtrusive after only a couple changes in the settings. It has already caught and blocked two viruses and at no point has it pestered me with any popups or upgrade ads.

  80. bkdlays says:

    I think its funny if you head over to Lifehacker there is no less than 3 Geek Squad ads on there.

  81. zymurgy says:

    As the person who sent in the first story about this on 9/28/9 I feel awesome. Thanks Consumerist for making the magic happen.

  82. SnoopyFish says:

    I wonder how the laptop manufacturers feel about Best Buy doing this. Especially about all the trial programs installed on the system that Geek Squad removes. Isn’t there a reason they include this software on the computers (partnerships with other companies and promotion)?

  83. Bog says:

    I’ve never had too much trouble bringing out the two magic words…”Charge Back.” Yeah Best buy (Incident #4) charged me $35 for extra “Service”. I called AmEx and they said Bahhhh!…. Best Buy ain’t no problem.. Fill out this form and wait a week or two. Low an behold… I got my charge-back check.

  84. Lear100 says:

    ….and all of this BS can be avoided by not shopping at Best Buy.

  85. alstein says:

    I’d recommend putting CCleaner under remove unnecessary software as well, as it is often more robust then what you listed.

    In fact, it’s useful for all of the first 4, though that PC Decrapifier may be better.

  86. TheMonkeyKing says:

    Easy peesey! If you must buy from the Beast, then buy on-line and select in-store pickup. There is no hidden charge for Optimization and all you do is walk in and pick it up.

  87. vastrightwing says:

    Lesson: Don’t buy stuff from Best Buy. Everything else assumes you did something wrong by ignoring point #1 and bought some thing from Best Buy. Don’t buy any warranty from Best Buy. Check your box before leaving Best Buy. Check your receipt and make sure they didn’t add items you didn’t want. Especially make sure you didn’t agree to any “free” service you’ll have to cancel later. Check receipt and make sure you got any discounts as advertised.

  88. trifecor says:

    I work for Best Buy and I can tell you this, assuming this article is 100% true, than the person who sold these lied flat out.

    Best Buy can under no legal way FORCE a customer to pay for the extra service. If they only have pre-set up computers (optimized, restore, whatever) left and the customer wants that model, but not the optimization, Best Buy MUST sell that computer to that customer with the service fee WAIVED.

    In fact, barely 2 weeks ago Best Buy Corporate reminded all retail employees of this very fact.

    Secondly, Geek Squad can NOT remove any trial software for a pre-set up, which means, Norton should NOT have been uninstalled. Geek Squad can only uninstall free trials when the customer directly requests it, which means, it should NEVER be done before a computer is sold.

    • trifecor says:

      Oh how I wish I could edit my grammatical errors.

    • axiomatic says:

      Isn’t that worse though? $30 to $40 bucks just to delete a few icons and run windows update which is going to happen automatically when the machine gets connected to the internet for the first time?

      Ummmmmm no. Where exactly is the service they provided?

      Look I’m not trying to attack you personally, seriously. But this “service” is not defensible in any way.

  89. Thorzdad says:

    I would like to see Consumerist follow-up with the computer vendors and see what their take is on having their products opened and tinkered-with by a retailer, pre-sale to a consumer. How might this affect the warranty to the consumer? Does that render the hardware “used”, in terms of warranty coverage? How does BB’s “optimization” (especially the removal of trial software (or shortcuts to the software) affect the manufacturer’s contracts with the 3rd-party software vendors?

    I would also be interested in hearing what State AG’s might say about a retailer selling opened and used product as “new”. The obvious bait-and-switch of somehow only having “optimized” units available would be an interesting point to bring up, too.

  90. tubedogg says:

    What’s really hilarious is that quote from CEO Brian Dunn stating that they don’t outsource “experiences” that “touch the customer.” Their RewardZone customer service is outsourced to TeleTech (a global call center operator), their branded credit card is outsourced to HSBC (which in turn outsources customer service to India or some similar locale)…I could go on.

    • united says:

      I was thinking the same thing about that comment. We should also remember that Geek Squad was purchased and did at one time operated at a much higher tech level than it does today. My guess would be that they were too fearful of liabilities and were unwilling to fork out the cost of proper technical staff when they could train highschool students on running a register and how to do an RMA for less. There is very little concern for the customer in the today’s Geek Squad contrary to the CEO’s gushing. The only lasting component is the mentioned mythology and corporate image of the original. Robert Stephens, original creator of Geek Squad does a number of marketing/business speeches these days. A quick search on google video returns some of them and they are worth checking out. He explains why branding was so important when they started out along with some other interesting facts about the partnership and then acquisition by Best Buy. http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=Robert Stephens

  91. GeekSquader says:

    I work part time in the Geek Squad, so I thought I would weigh in with my two cents.

    First, most of the “Agent Tweaks” as they are called were originally developed for XP, and to a greater extent, Windows Vista. For vista, they really did help (it’s sorta a system hog). With windows 7, most of these tweaks are already incorporated into the operating system, so yes, its a little useless. The upside are more simple things: when you get home, the battery is charged, and the computer is set up and ready to go. You don’t have to wait during the initial startup, press next a whole bunch, and download windows updates. For some, it’s not worth it, for others (mainly people who don’t have much experience with computers), it saves them a lot more time than it takes us to do it.

    That being said, we have been told (especially when it was close to Black Friday) that if we force optimizations on people we can be fired. That wasn’t a word of mouth thing, that was official communication sent out.

    The problem is a lack of communication between the people in the Geek Squad performing the optimizations and the people on the sales floor. Geek Squad knows the policy, and what an optimization includes (at my store at least…), the people on the floor don’t.

    We basically have two options if we only have pre optimized computers – do a system restore and set it back to factory settings, or give it to the customer and don’t charge for the optimization. The only thing unavoidable is that the computer has been taken out of the box at some point – no real way to undo that.

    If you are in a situation being forced to buy the optimization – ask to talk to the store manager, or just call 1-888-BEST-BUY. They know policy, and they will make sure it’s enforced. Not the most convenient option, but it’s there.

    Let me know if you have any Geek Squad questions, I’d be happy to answer.

  92. kiwij7 says:

    For those that are suggesting you can bypass this ‘optimization’ by purchasing online and picking up in-store, that’s not necessarily true.

    I just purchased a laptop from them a few days ago, and chose store pickup. When I went to pick it up they told me that the only one left was an ‘optimized’ version. The clerk kept trying to tell me that it “basically doubled my processor speed” and when I asked for one without the optimization and found they didn’t have any, she kept remarking “how lucky” I was because I was going to get this $40 service for free!

    While I didn’t have to pay for it, I was still very unhappy that I didn’t have a choice in the matter (needed the laptop that day). I am not a computer whiz, but I am savvy enough to follow the onscreen instructions Windows provides, lol. I know enough to choose how I want things set up and what I want on my own computer. I don’t have a problem so much if BB would give customers the choice to pay for this (though I think it is somewhat of a rip-off), but forcing it on them is not in good form.

    Plus, just to echo what others have already commented on – what does this mean for things like Microsoft’s EULA? Also, I was under the assumption and paid for what I thought would be a brand new, factory sealed computer – it is wrong for them to be doing this. I had a friend who bought the exact same computer a few days before me so I knew exactly what was supposed to be on it and how it ran, and I have had more problems and issues already.

    Bad form, Best Buy. This, plus my prior annoyance/hatred against GeekSquad is likely to keep me outta there for quite awhile.

  93. itisthehulk says:

    I work for Geek Squad, and I think the Optimized computers are a joke. They make us do work that people do not want so they can up sale. They under pay us for the tech work we do. And over pay customers. I need a new job… anyone hiring?

  94. perchecreek says:

    Pay for software? It’s like paying for addition, subtraction, etc. It’s rather bizarre that people do it. Hey, I have a 500 Mhz machine that has been running 24/7 for nearly a decade now, acting as a web and sometime game server. Does it crash? Do any of my desktops ever crash, or have they ever had a virus? No! They only go down when the power goes out. Some of those same 500 Mhz machines served up desktops via Citrix (with Linux as the local OS). It’s amazing how capable and durable most computers are, and how well they function with non-broken (usually non-proprietary) software. (Oh, and the computers in question came from the CU WCRO office. Thanks, guys!)

  95. Alacrity says:

    My four cents. I have bought pre-op systems form Best buy, but was allowed to pay the un-op price when they did not have any un-op systems available. Since I wiped the system and started over it didn’t matter.

    I suspect Best Buy was looking for a way to stem the red ink on systems returned as “I don’t want this” open-box, get a discount because someone else has fingerprints on it now, systems.

    Running a scam, i mean process, that can get people to pay money for free tweeks to Windows makes sense to me, if I didn’t want to sleep at night.
    Best Buy sales people have always inflated the value of the service offerings, but 200% boost? Vendor warranty blow up due to installing your own software? Almost as bad as the extended warranty BS they shout for laptops.

    I bought a cheep DVD player, ($29.99) and they offered me an extended warranty for $29.99 to extend the warranty for an extra 2 years. When I asked them why I would pay for the system twice when I could just purchase a new one if this one died they really had no answer. The extended warranty question is the same as “you want fries with that?” at McDonalds or Burger King.
    The GEEK Squad used to be the Ultimate place to work, until the sale to BB, now they are the same hacks you could get at any large tech company – Warm bodies following a scripted check list with time spent and dollars paid the only measure of “work done”.

    Truelly sad to see how poor they actually perform in the real world.

  96. Honest Salesman says:

    I sell at Best Buy. This is not an official Best Buy statement, but I can tell you how I work, and how my store works.
    When a customer buys a computer, I explain the optimization service, as well as the other services. Most of my customers are not experienced users, and some have no idea how to even open the optical drive. We tell them the computer will start faster and run smoother. The speed increase we have been told is 12 to 18%, average 15%. Some of my customers live in rural areas with no high speed internet, and so installing the Windows updates can be valuable. We uninstall some software, but not the Office demo. I think it is mostly the pile of free games. Ask an agent. The last part is the adjustments. There are about 280 registry tweaks. They are done by a program. If the customer is an experienced user I drop the subject. If all I have is optimized units, I tell them, and if they don’t want the service, I have to give them that unit without charging for it, or we could use the recovery partition on the PC to restore the system. We sometimes pre-optimize up to 40% of a model. The service can take 90 minutes to do, so this saves the customer from waiting or coming back. The free antivirus is free for 6 months, but you have to sign up for auto-renewal with a credit card. We explain how that works, and it is explained on the pad when they sign, and it is explained on their receipt. If you don’t want it, don’t get it. Yes, there is free software that can do a pretty good job. Does you Mom know which one to download, and where to get it?
    We can also make restore disks, configure antivirus, and other things. Yes, we make a profit doing it. Yes, you can do it yourself. You can also change your oil, and even replace the alternator in your car. This is a service, and it is your choice. I won’t argue about it. I know a few will, but it is not Best Buy policy to push, but rather to explain the benefits.
    As for the pressure and botched work, I know some stores are breaking corporate rules to boost their numbers. Call 1888BestBuy. I don’t want them making me look bad, and getting better profits at the same time.

  97. masterasia says:

    If you have to buy from Best Buy, then you gotta know exactly what you want. Don’t go in there asking for help or suggestions. They’ll just end up ripping you off some way or another. They do have some decent deals once in a while.

  98. AtariBaby says:

    I have a couple of things to say here, both positive and negative.

    First of all, I applaud using a reliable party such as Consumer Reports to do some testing, and you are absolutely spot on in relaying the incompetent training of the Best Buy staff and you also clearly seem to have exposed some very shoddy “optimization” taking place.

    The “more than 100 tweaks” mentioned by Geek Squad above refers to their MRI (and possibly the Customization) disks. Used by a trained staff person, these collections of programs are outstanding and are the envy of people like me who do this sort of work. However, Geek Squad has a terribly trained staff, along the lines of the terribly uninformed Best Buy staff. If you get a good BB or GS employee, they do exist, but it’s rare. It appears likely that your purchases caught Best Buy in the act of selling computers that were MRI’d by poorly trained GS staff.

    However, I must chide you for then venturing into an area where you are not an expert, specifically the table at the end for “self” optimization. And if you got help with this section of the article, you got poor help.These instructions are at best vague and in most cases, most computer users shouldn’t just be jumping into Msconfig for example.

    Spybot S&D is no longer a preferred application. It has not kept up with the latest generation of malware and installed by a novice, often creates more headaches than it will prevent. Likewise CCleaner can often mess up a computer’s startup process, creating lots of issues. I urge anyone reading this article to pretty much not follow its advice.

    Here’s my advice on making your new PC run well:
    Install Microsoft Security Essentials (which includes Defender). It’s working very well, and it’s free. Most AV programs are just not keeping up with malware and so it makes little sense introducing a lot of 3rd party apps that slow down your system, especially if you’re not a computer geek. That being said, Avast isn’t bad. But it, too, has lost favor with the IT enthusiasts, just as AVG did some time ago.

    Do not install additional antivirus programs! if you run multiple av or firewall programs on your PC, you’re asking for trouble.

    Install Malwarebytes AND Super-Antispyware. These are your successors to Spybot and they both excel in different areas. They don’t interfere with AV scanning. You manually run these every couple of weeks.

    Install new programs very judiciously. There is a lot of badly written code out there and this affects your computer’s performance. Keep it lean and mean. Don’t just install every bit of software that catches your eye or is free.

    And if you’re a novice thinking of buying a new computer, consider the extra $ and get a Mac. You’ll have far fewer headaches (which adds up to time and money and aggravation saved) and the machine is designed to do what you’re most likely wanting to do with it. A big exception would be that it’s not a machine for a hardcore gamer.

  99. JulianP says:

    Sometimes little things speak volumes. Usually, these business practices are just the tip of the iceberg, and only more trouble can be expected down the line. Imagine wanting to make a warranty claim from Best Buy, or just asking a basic question after purchasing an item. When management is focusing only on “extracting value” from customers, rather than service, it is time to walk away. Management should label this practice as “Best Bye” to their customers.

  100. Scribe says:

    Best Buy walks a fine line. Several years ago, I found a TV advertised and called about it. I was told yes, we have it, but hurry because we only have one left. As I was pulling into the parking lot, I saw a family hauling the same TV to their car. When I got mine, another “last one,” I surreptitiously wrote my initials on the box. When it was delivered, the initials were not there – guess they had more than one after all.
    On another shopping trip, I was looking at digital cameras. I found the one I wanted in the case and asked to see one up close. The clerk said he couldn’t take it out of the box, that I would have to buy it virtually sight unseen. I walked out, went to Target and bought the camera. Target rules.

  101. ceez says:

    how is it that bestbuy can get away with such bs.

    optimization, oh please….I guess that’s what I should add to my annual review at work…”I optimize new workstations and laptops by 200% by…installing AV, removing bloatware, changing to classic start menu, list details of file in win explorer, enable statusbar in win explorer, enable file extension list and hidden folders, sort desktop icons automatically and arrange by type, perfom windows and office updates, insteal ccleaner and cleanup to remove temp files, delete unwanted shortcuts from startmenu and desktop, opening programs like adobe acrobat, photoshop and autocad and accepting the licensing agreements…..oh the list is endless.

    it makes the end users life more stress free….oh please.

    bestbuy and their sales tactics is disgusting, they give good tech people a bad name and bad reputation.

    • lasurfer says:

      What would you call your service? How long does it take you and how much do you make per hour? Do you charge a fee for your service, or do you earn a salary?

      I am not a pro-Best Buy person, but every company needs to make a profit on the goods/services that they provide. Most companies provide goods and services that won’t be valuable to every customer. Does any other company sell stuff that won’t be of value to every customer or that not every customer actually needs, or in quantities that not everyone needs?

      Does your company? Of course they do.

  102. yesman says:

    OK, my turn for the pile on. About 6 months ago, I went to a BB here in SA to get a laptop advertised for 350 (normally approx 500). They said sure, for 425. I looked the sales flunky like he had an extra head (without brain of course) and asked to repeat. 425. I told him, “No I want the one advertised for 350.” He said that was the 350, with 75 worth of “optimization”. I told him to go fornicate himself and shove the optimization. I then sent a complaint to BB, AG of Tx (which use to instill fear in companies, but now causes shrugs), and the BBB. Only the BBB complaint got a result, and I got a $50 gift card for my “inconvenience”. I did not get the laptop there BTW.

  103. nsides says:

    So I work at Best buy so I know that I’m a little biased. But the state and the store that I work in, if we only have pre-optimized computers and the customer doesn’t want the optimization, we waive the fee every single time. So either the “secret shoppers” are exaggerating for a good story, or some other stores have wrongful practices. Because I completely agree, that is BS that someone HAS to pay for opti if they don’t want it. As for offering the optimization, come on, what store doesn’t have something to promote. Get over it. No matter what retail store you go to, or how shitty the service or product they are offering, they are going to offer it. I’m sorry but it’s what they get paid to do.

  104. ryvek says:

    How exactly would a benchmark designed to test the performance of a graphics card tell you if a computer has been made to run faster inside an operating system?

  105. Polar says:

    As another person (or persons) have stated, BB & GS used to be a decent place to work. Yes, I was a CIA there for GS back in 2004/2005 or so & some of the others “techs” I worked with wouldnt know how to pull their heads out of the dark spot at the back end of their bodies.

    As was said, just refuse the “opti”, most stores only push it to make more money. I just got my laptop (only thing I would buy already made as I custom make my towers) from BB 6 months ago when I heard winsh….7 was coming out & I would have to do with Vista (as much as it sucks air its still better than 7 IMO for what I need to run), when the salesperson tried selling me on the opti I said no thanks, I’ll do my own. Same when it went down to GS so they could “check it”, nope, no thanks I am capable of that too.

    Walked out of the store with a unopened laptop & words of advice from the cashier that it can only be returned in 15 days now (which was the same as if they worked it over, so what difference?).

    And no, it doesnt violate any EULAs overall. Most of the work GS does/did is maybe removing shortcuts, we never ever removed progs unless asked too, or they purchased a different virus prog & we informed the client of it conflicting. Say Nortons & McAfee both being on the system.

    Now, can most people do that? Nope
    Can most folks older than me do that? I’m in my early 40’s, nope.
    Can a “geek/nerd/nowadays hacker” do that? YUP
    And in my area dial-up still rules as the way to connect (thats another story) so trying to download updates is a PITA but I just go to a nearby biz & shoulder surf their highspeed if I dont feel like going to my office.

    If it was Pushed then that was wrong, the opti used to be done by a registry program specially written for XP by a GS agent then it got made “official” so agents wouldnt get fired for using it I wouldnt trust most people know how to turn their computers on let alone how to do reg hacks.
    And yes, I used to work for Dell Tech Support before they outsourced it to India & I actullay got customers that asked how to turn their systems on when we needed to hard boot a system, a tower no less… duuuhhh

  106. RavenWarrior says:

    BB employee here, i wanted to let you know that the company is aware of this report. it landed on the employee news today and of course they’re trying to do damage control from the inside. Of course no employee just catching wind of this report wants to give The Consumerist page views (like it matters) and calls this a load.

    Now i’m a good company guy, i love my job and i love helping people, but i’m also a realistic smart consumer and knowledgeable about my product area. I don’t push the unnecessary stuff that everyday people don’t need (in my case for gaming, that’s superfluous accessories and our system setup services) and I really only urge Black Tie consideration on Xbox 360s as under normal wear and tear PS3’s and Wii’s hardly fail as much. And I get satisfied customers left and right. It’s all in the people who do the service. If the person doing these optimizations truly knows their stuff and does a good job of it, it’s worth it, and if they do a sloppy job they should be held accountable by the consumer and the company. Sounds like much more of the latter (the holding accountable, not the sloppy work) needs to happen and this could be the start. Just ignoring the problem doesn’t help for improvement, especially in this department where it’s one person doing a job without much interaction with others.

  107. raymacfla says:

    Here is a screw up for you! The Geek Squad left their Optimization disc in my Sony Vaio! Although I told them about it, they are ignoring the fact that I have it. I would appreciate it if the author of the article wishes to contact me for a copy of this because that seems to be the only bit of information that was missing from the article and now all of you can see exactly what you are not getting!

  108. againstme69 says:

    when I worked for Best Buy (Geek Squad) last year, we did the optimizations a lot. Here’s the deal…the company really focuses on this and they wanted us to optimize pretty much every PC/mac we sold – so on a Sunday morning when the new sales were out we would have 40 computers lined up to be optimized and the salespeople would promise the customer it would take 1-2 hrs to complete. This just wasn’t possible. It takes that long to download Windows updates!

    So basically what we would do is unbox and power up each computer sold…then go thru the start up process, set up the username, click thru all the license agreements, etc. Once the computer was fully booted we would pop in a CD that had a program on it and that program would basically put everything in one place… “uninstall programs”, “Msconfig”, etc. We would remove any junk trial software (even though the company says we cannot do this) we would get rid of the antivirus software (only if the customer agreed to it), I would take off any of the “hp software update” or crap like that…then i’d knock out any services/startup apps that were not needed. then the disc also had some of the bigger windows updates on it (the discs were updated every month or so) so we didn’t have to download them all. After that we would reboot the computer and make sure there’s no error messages in case we removed the wrong app. Then we’d connect it to the internet and run Windows updates, I would also run/install Microsoft update so it would update the drivers as well.

    Once the updates were done, another reboot and if it boots cleanly then its powered off and boxed up and ready for the customer.

    The problem was consistency. I would do a thourough job on all the computers I worked on, other agents would rush it and miss a lot of things, they would forget to put the AC adapter in the box, they would give the wrong computer to the customer…it was very unorganized!

    If we were out of the non-optimized computers we would try to convince the customer that it was a valueable service…if they didn’t want it, they were told the computer has been opened, it has been updated, etc but we would sell it at the full price (not an open box price) if they agreed, and they were never forced to pay for the optimization.

    The main benefits of the service that I would explain to customers…

    1. the computer has been tested for functionality. We know it boots up fine, it can get online, the screen has no defects (and we would find tons of new computers that were broken). etc. They won’t drive all the way home to find out that the computer is a defect.

    2. if they didn’t want us to install antivirus software, it was ready to be installed when they got home. Often with Norton Antivirus, its very hard to uninstall, so we would do it for them, only with their permission

    3. most people buying computers from Best Buy barely know how to turn them on. If they didn’t pay us to optimize it, it would never get done. They would forever be running Napster, HP Software Updater, Google Desktop and many other useless apps which really do slow down the computer.

    If a guy came in and said he was a computer geek and was buying a new laptop for gaming, we wouldn’t even offer these services. They are mainly for people who don’t know what they are doing.

  109. Cycledoc says:

    It’s enough to make you want to buy online and/or get a MAC.

    It’s cheaper emotionally to not have to deal with such BS.

  110. meepha12 says:

    Im not sure about all states, but I work for Best Buy & there is an internal document stating that if only optimized pc’s are left and the customers wants it without the optimization we have to give them the service for free as its state law. I could probably find this paper if anyone is interested

  111. fuphy says:

    As a Best Buy employee (Yeah I know, boo. But I have to pay rent somehow right?) I have always hated the scams the management tries to force me to do, like these “services”. During training I was lied to – i.e. optimization speeds up performance 20% or everyone needs an optimization done. I get in trouble all the time for recommending free software to take care of customers’ computers instead of trying to sell them on a $120 service, which consists of “optimization”, recovery Cd’s (free to make yourself), and anti-virus (microsoft security essentials works just as well).
    Now by no means am I computer genius but I know my fair share of knowledge and it kinda makes me feel bad inside that this is happening and I am thrown in the category of dirty salesman. Now I can vouch for the extended warranties especially on laptops because so many people come in with problems like batteries($$150) and AC power adapters($75-$120), and with the warranty you get those replaced for free.
    I agree that the pre-setups are complete bullshit and I can’t do anything about it in fear of losing my job or something.
    So good people – Best Buy isn’t totally evil!

  112. jande2 says:

    The only way to truly optimize all laptops or PC’s is to setup one as a base model and then image the rest based on the model. Consumer Reports is correct in that a lot of the tweaks can be done for free, and there are some others available for more advanced users that can be found on the Internet.

    Half truths and placing fear in the customer, all in the name of making sales should never be practiced anywhere. I say to all of you (stores with added services with pressure tactics and fear sales) just tell the truth, your customers will appreciate that even more.

  113. Sharon says:

    EXACTLY – it’s about choice, and no one is forcing you to come in on the last day of a sale and expect to get a limited item, that’s your choice! If you read those ads, the models (unoptimized) are restricted to a certain quantity. If you desperately wanted the unoptimized model, then you should have come in Sunday when the ad started.

  114. IntheKnow says:

    This “optimization” in the computer dept. is the equivalent of the “calibration” service in the TV dept at Best Buy. All that signage is designed for you, the gullible customer, to fall victim to the “black tie” protection plan nonsense. Best Buy will attempt to sell you, for $299 added to the regular extended warranty price, a slew of “services” for an additional 3 years for your computer or TV. In each case, the total Premium Black Tie “protection” plan will be $500 and up. What a crock! Do your own research, buy online, never listen to a saleperson there as their only motivation is to not be lambasted by the managers for not selling black tie protection.

  115. yorick328 says:

    relatable mythology …. what a crock. smoke & mirrors with smarmy self promotion. I’m glad these tests were done and show that caveat emptor is as relevant as always.

  116. Extractor says:

    Optimization is another word for open box which also means used. When I buy something, I want a factory sealed container. All OPTIMIZED systems deserve a refund of some sort since they were sold used equipment.

  117. webpioneer says:

    Good article…

    When trying to buy two toshiba laptops at the advertised price, I was being charged the same bs for EACH laptop! The cashier said the over $120 extra charges was because of the “optimization” since Geek Squad had placed their sticker on the laptops (you could only tell that the box was opened and the sticker in place of the manufacturer’s seal). When I requested un-optimized computers, they were out, of course. But then she proceeded to price modify the laptops, so I got the laptops at advertised price… BUT:

    After getting home and powering on the laptop: the laptops were being turned on for the first time, no optimization! All trial software still on desktop, no changes to windows whatsoever. I’m pretty sure this crosses the lines on a lot of laws…

  118. bryan says:

    Don’t ever buy a computer from Best Buy; they must be feeling the effects of their online competitors and stores like Walmart who are now selling computers and decided to deceive the public with false advertising. Not only is this a rip off, some of the software they install is not compatible with Windows 7 and you must go online and download the update yourself (Webroot is the software that had a screen that popped up and said it was not compatible).
    I did buy a laptop from Best Buy on Black Friday – to make a long story short it was the worst consumer experience I’ve had in a very long time. After many hours of dealing with their Geek Squad I was able to prove the computer had a power supply problem. Even after showing them this error, receiving a full refund (and not being charged a 15% restocking fee) was extremely difficult, they wanted to give me a Best Buy gift card when their return policy clearly states defective computers will not be charged a restocking fee and will result in a full refund. I finally got my refund but after this experience with Best Buy I will never deal with them again – my advice to all is get your computer somewhere else.

  119. Carlucci says:

    On Tuesday 3/16, I decided to buy the cheapy Presario laptop from BB’s Sunday ad.

    I walked into the store, found the laptop, and after a few minutes a young lad strolls up asking to help. I told him sure, I’d like to buy this laptop. I had already confirmed via the internet site that they were in stock at this particular store.

    He then informed me that the only stock he had of this laptop were already pre-bundled with the Norton anti-virus, and the price would be an extra $60 for this “service”.

    I told him directly that that was unacceptable, and asked again if he had any in stock for the advertised price.

    He said no, there were none in stock at that price. At no time did he offer to check the computer for stock-on-hand.

    I was now pissed, and kicking myself for not just buying it online with the in-store pickup option.

    So I stormed out, drove home, and immediately purchased the laptop online with for in-store pickup. Less than 10 minutes later, I had my email confirmation that the item was ready to go.

    I drove back, walked to customer service, and picked up my laptop. Now I’m boiling over mad, so I demand to speak to a manager.

    Manager comes up, and I tell her about the lad’s deceptive practice, asking why I was able to buy something online for a price that he was incapable of selling it at.

    I pointed him out to the manager, and she went to have a few words with the lad, then came back and said that he wasn’t aware that there was stock in different parts of the store and that the one he was trying to sell me was the “display” model that had the AV protection already installed.

    I politely called BS, because he never mentioned that it was a display model, and I said that obviously he is incompetent to have let a sale go because he had been too lazy to check the computer or backroom for stock.

    I think she was covering for him. I’m sure that these associates get tremendous pressure to bundle add-ons onto loss-leaders like this laptop, but to out-and-out lie about it has really got me steamed.

    • salesperson101 says:

      sales people are required to offer all of these services to every customer.
      now you ran to a person that obviously doesnt care about customer service and i have ran to those people as well, but sales people at best buy are not pressured to get sales at higher amounts because no body is on commission, they just simply do their job of offerings some services that some people are interested in.

  120. Shane Burgess says:

    I worked there for 10 years and I think you guys are being over critical of the service. I own my own computer repair company and still I need to defend them a bit.

    The service is a good one the tweaks that they have come up with are pretty amazing and none of your tools even come close to tweaking the system like they do. Sure you could do it yourself for free but they take the time and figure these registry tweaks out and apply them to the machine. Plus they decrapify the machine which you can do with PC Decrapifier but they are already in it so why not let them do it.

    This is also a chance for you to leave with a computer that is set up and working. If the pc was bad you would have to take it home and then bring it back, if they do the setup on it you will walk home with a working computer.

    Now if BBY presents this service in any kind of dishonest way then of course there is a problem but dont bash the service espically if you dont know about computers.I can see that the author of this article is not familiar with computers as they toss out some of the worst/outdated applications for spyware and virus protection there is.

  121. E-Jungle says:

    My first question to the salesperson would be: “why are you out of non-optimized models if they are clearly inferior to the optimized models” ? :P

  122. salesperson101 says:

    ok so, you say that “best buy optimization” is a waste of money and doesnt improve performance yet you say that the 100 tweaks they do does improve performance for some people. how is it that the same percedure works for some computers and doesnt for others???
    also you say that sales people lie about what is actually done and that it can all be done by yourself at home and it doesnt take that long.
    for some sales people that are computer illiterate, that may be so but when you list a bunch of system tools and softwares that do the optimization for the customer, most customers are also illiterate in that sence… so when you put “msconfig”, some customers have no idea how to access that… yet they never do it and they have programs running all the time when they arent needed. also it takes some time to do all of this and thats why best buy offers to do all of this for you for a fee because that fee pays for the people that are doing all of that for you. also, everybody can do the recovery disks. as a matter of fact theres a system tool that allows you to do that but making recovery disks take 2-3 hours and some people dont want to waste time on that… therefore they pay to have it done!

  123. NOXIUS says:

    I would refuse their so-called “optimization” or shop else where.

    Removing unwanted programs in Windows is quite easy, just go to the control panel and select programs – uninstall. This doesn’t take any special skill. You can go a little further and type msconfig at the run command. From there you can select programs and services that you don’t want to start at boot. Windows Defender, Security Essentials and Firewall are all free and come installed on Windows7 or can be easily downloaded. Avast anti-virus is a free alternative to Security Essentials. Make sure your computer is set to auto update and install. Once a month run a scan disk and defrag. A router will add an extra layer of security for your computer. Make sure you use a modern browser like Chrome or IE9. Don’t use file sharing software and always use a web-based email client rather than Outlook.

    That’s really it folks, very simple and very free.

  124. virtufortuna says:

    So if it’s not free then it must be evil? No one is holding a gun to anyone’s head making them buy anything. A lot of elderly and other technologically impaired would rather pay someone else to set up their laptop than to deal with the hassle themselves. Furthermore there was nothing deceitful about the ad. They were simply out of stock of the laptops that weren’t pre-setup. (Which they preset up less than half the stock so they’re not entrapping you to buy) Just like if they were out of anything else. That happens. Believe it or not, there actually is a finite amount of product that one store can hold at one time. And no one associate can make it materialize out of thin air. Don’t cry about it; Check Walmart or shop online. Upsets you? Hit them in their wallets instead of blogging about it!

  125. Beowulf_Cam says:

    I have found that if one just refuses to purchase the “optimised” computer and then start to leave the BestBuy store, the non-optimised price becomes available. If the non-optimised price is not available, do not buy – just leave the store. There is enough competition in computer stores that you should never buy what you do not want.

  126. Vector says:

    Thanks for this great article. It may take another decade or so, but I feel confident that if we maintain this persistence in investigation, we’ll eventually bring down the idiocracy that is BB.

  127. Kisses4Katie says:

    It sounds like a bait and switch, in some cases.