UPDATE The Wall Street Journal has confirmed some of what our tipsters have already told us, and adds that 1,800 Best Buy retail employees are also set to be dismissed in the near future.
In the big media push that started with its most recent Super Bowl ads, Best Buy had been trying to position itself as a store that provided the one thing its online competitors couldn’t — knowledgeable, tech-savvy employees that can deal with customers on a face-to-face basis. Well, forget all about that hogwash, because the company has told its employees that it is laying off at least 650 Geek Squad staffers in the coming weeks.
A Consumerist reader tipped us off to the news over the holiday that several thousand Best Buy employees took part in a conference call, during which the company detailed its plans to lay off hundreds of Geek Squad’s techs who handle in-home installation and repairs.
“They were read a two-minute canned script about how they needed to wait for a phone call in the
next eight hours from a supervisor to find out if they still had a job,” wrote the Consumerist tipster.
KARE-TV in Minneapolis confirmed the news and the approximate number of layoffs with Best Buy, which said it was working out severance and work-placement assistance for dismissed employees.
Our tipster says they hear the package has employees working through August 1, though they will not be making deliveries or repairs during that time, followed by six to eight weeks of severance pay.
“At least they did one things smart not sending freshly laid off employees into customer homes to wreak havoc!” writes the tipster.
A second tipster who claims to currently work at Best Buy says that these layoffs — and the decision to keep these employees from visiting customers’ homes during the coming weeks — actually is wreaking havoc:
I don’t know exactly how many people they laid off, but I do know that once they took the people out of the scheduling system, hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs fell off of the schedule nearly instantaneously. And since Best Buy is Best Buy, they had no plan in place to take care of this mess than to have we, the lowly wage slaves, pull up each appointment, one by one, and call the customers to tell them that they had to reschedule their appointments because of “unforeseen circumstances.”
But because they laid off so many people, an appointment that was supposed to happen on, say, July 5, might not be able to be rescheduled until sometime in September. So we’ve had to contact pissed off customer after pissed off customer and apologize profusely for the asinine actions of upper management with nothing to offer as compensation but another appointment that the customer has no reason to believe will be actually take place and a Best Buy gift card worth anywhere from $25 to $50, depending on how much the customer complains.
Best Buy tells KARE that it is not getting rid of home delivery and installation altogether. “We know that clients will always need us to come to their homes, and increasingly their needs are more complex,” reads a statement from Best Buy HQ. “That’s why we’re evolving in-home support for a more specific customer segment.”
The second tipster also forwarded what appears to be a legitimate e-mail from Best Buy HQ detailing how these changes are all about helping the retailer to “accelerate change, improve operating performance, and dramatically improve the customer experience.”
The tipster questions how one intends to improve performance and the customer experience by “cutting down [Best Buy's] workforce without warning and spreading the people that are left even thinner… allowing customers to wait even longer for poorly done services that may or may not actually happen, I guess.”
Adds the tipster, “I’d advise the customers to that time to come to their senses, get their money back, and pay someone else to do the job right.”
We’re sending this story to Best Buy HQ for comment and will update if/when they respond.