Consumers Speak: Best Buy vs Circuit City

Rick B writes:

It may be a bit late for tales of Christmas shopping woe, but what the heck–its slow at work today. [No joke. -Ed.]

I relate here my experiences at Circuit City and Best Buy on December 22 and 23. I think they are archetypical…

On December 22nd, I went into a Circuit City to purchase a couple of DVDs as presents. I found the first one pretty quickly, but was having a hard time locating the second. I asked the reasonable handy clerk if they had the missing DVD in stock. He looked at the shelf where it should have been (in pseudo alphabetical order) and told me that it appeared to be out. I asked if he could check their system. He opened up a three ring binder full of heavily abused paper and told me “Yeah, we stock it, so it must have sold out.” Fascinating–paper binders, and no real-time stock checking.

The whole poop after the jump.

So I got in line to purchase the one DVD I had located. There were 2 registers open, and 8 or 9 people in line at each. My first thoguht was “They need to open more registers” because I had seen plenty of sales people milling around the sales floor. But, they only had two possible registers to open. So I resigned my self to waiting patiently, since I had, after all, come in just 3 days before Christmas. In the 14 minutes I stood in line, only one customer had been helped in my line, the cashier for my line had been absent for 5 minutes, and was now asking the other cashier for help with a transaction. The entire time I stood there, the other cashier was constantly whining about their computer system, making statements like “The computer’s really old and slow” and “If we go too fast it might crash” and “Our system can’t handle the load.” I put the DVD down and left. I spent 25 minutes in the store, and left empty handed.

On December 23, I went to the local Best Buy, and picked up the same DVD that I tried to purchase from Circuit City (the second had already been ordered from Amazon for cheaper, including overnight shipping, than Best Buy had it). I went to the line that wrapped back through the appliance section. I’m guessing there there 30+ people in line. In 5 minutes, I was standing in front of a cashier. In another 2 minutes, my transaction was complete and I was walking to my car, gift in hand.

I’m no fanboy of Best Buy. I think they try to scam their customers way too frequently. But Circuit City couldn’t even take my money when I was there, willing to give it to them. Circuit City has lost the battle. If a business can’t execute a simple purchase transaction, there is no way it can last in this hyper-competitive market.

For what it’s worth, we’ve always found Best Buy to be a more pleasant retail experience, simply because their floor walkers don’t work on commission.


Edit Your Comment

  1. godmstr says:

    circuit city hasnt worked on commission for over 2 years. they got rid of it one day and coverted everyone to hourly. fired anyone who was making to much and hired new people that wouldnt complain about the poor salery and crappy managers.

    -former circuitcity employee

    also: they can check realtime but no one every knows where they are if their not on the floor in fact during the busy times we were told NOT to check realtime as people may have it in carts or with them while looking around the store

    • Heather Lynn Bird says:

      I am a current employee of Circuit City, and to be honest everythign that godmstr has said is true. I’ve worked there 15 months now, never worked on commission and only after 11 months given a raise. During busy times ie black friday they tell us that if we use our inquiry lookup that it will freeze the system.

  2. DeeJayQueue says:

    I’ve never been a fan of Circuit Shitty (They organize the games by genre? wtf? there are still genres?) I still go in there on occasion but it’s certainly not to deal with the staff. In fact, I make it a point to deal with as few employees as possible wherever I go, because for the most part they don’t know any more than I do about whatever question I have.

    That said, While Best Buy has a far superior checkout system for the holiday traffic, It could still use some tweaking. I had to stand in line for 20 minutes because even though there was only 1 customer in front of me, he had a huge problem with his order. The “Ringleader” wouldn’t let me switch lanes, and kept moving people ahead of me in other lines. I saw people who were 15 or 20 people back in line leave before me, and I only had 1 DVD to buy. Atypical, I know, but they could have anticipated this or made a concession.

  3. Rick says:

    Why are technology stores just a crappy experience in general? Is it because of the low margins on the stuff?

    I think the people that like Best Buy only like it because we now have such low standards when it comes to these types of stores that people are just glad to actually talk to someone, even if it’s the guy in computers who tried to convince me that 512mb video cards were the standard and they were just out of them at the moment.

    Don’t even get me started on Fry’s.

    I call this AOL Economics. They’d rather have a bunch of customers with most of them unhappy rather than a few customers with most of them happy.

    I don’t know that a store that spent more time on customer service and worked on having happy customers would do well (It certainly didn’t work for Good Guys who’s service was legendary), but it sure would be nice to see someone make it work.

  4. Kat2 says:

    Re seeing plenty of people on the floor and only having 2 registers open – salespeople may not actually know HOW to run the register. And generally the manager would probably rather have salespeople on the floor than on a register anyways.

    /ex Best-Buy tech who had to act as a salesperson during the holiday crunch