Former Fry’s Employee Explains Why Store’s Commission-Based Pay System Fails Consumers

For people looking to shop for TVs and computers at someplace other than Best Buy or Walmart, California-based chain Fry’s Electronics might seem like a viable option. But one former Fry’s employee says the store’s commission-based pay system for salespeople is hurting both the workers and Fry’s customers.

As part of a thread on Reddit, the onetime Fry’s employee goes into great detail about the problems he has with the store.

He says that Fry’s sales staff is solely dependent on commission to make a living, but if an item is discounted, there is no commission. And when it comes to price-matching, he claims that the difference between Fry’s sticker price and the matched price will come out of the associate’s commission.

“[S]o it is their job and livelihood to say that sale item is either out of stock or that a higher priced crappier item is a much better deal, he explains.

He adds that the commissions are so small on most of the items at Fry’s that it’s often not worth the salesperson’s time to help a customer out.

“For a salesperson to receive credit on ANYTHING, they must take you and your items to a computer terminal to: get your name, last name, address, phone number, etc.,” he writes. “Imagine doing this for a simple USB cable. You can either say, “fk it I don’t have time for this” and leave, but doing so just prevented a worker from their precious $0.10.”

Similar to what we’ve heard from employees at other stores, he says that Fry’s sales associates are judged on the number of extended warranties they sell to customers.

According to the former employee, taking time to help a customer find an item to look at or simply answer a customer’s questions can have a negative impact on an associate’s pay. Like tipped employees, commission sales reps can start with a base pay below the minimum wage, so long as the added commission brings his pay up to at least that minimum level.

“Helping [customers] will put you at negative pay per hour, which means you will enter the draw system,” he alleges. “This is when an associate doesn’t make enough to get minimum wage, the store will give you a couple bucks to make up for it. HOWEVER, the next paycheck they will recoup it back and then fire you.”

Similarly, he says that Fry’s requires sales staff to take time off the floor for 1-3 hour meetings about which items are on sale and which items should be pushed to customers.

“During these conferences, associates are making $0,” he writes. “So when they get out, they must do shady practices to get in the positive. Like adding random services and fees to your purchase and label them as ‘California recycling fees, federal waste fee, etc.’”

I contacted Fry’s to see if the company had any comments or wanted to challenge this former employee’s allegations. However, I was told that the one person in the entire company who could respond to a media request was on vacation until next week. I asked if there was anyone else at all who I could speak to or e-mail but was told the best I could do was fax — yes, fax — a written request and that it would be given to the vacationing staffer when he returned. I was also offered the chance to mail — snail mail — my request. Because it is apparently 1993 at Fry’s HQ.

If anyone at Fry’s is reading this and wants to contact us about this former employee’s claims, you can write us at tips@consumerist.com, as our fax machine is still in the shop.