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.