Best Buy Minimum Wage Monkeys Can’t Compete With Fry’s

What do you get when you staff your electronics superstore with pimply and gangly minimum wage monkeys? The sort of apathetic customer service that causes even those with monk-like patience to snap the rigid palm of their hand into the base of a Best Buy’s employee’s nose over and over and over again until blood starts ejaculating from their ears.

Reader Morgan W. didn’t quite go that far, but he offers an interesting comparison between the helpful, enthusiastic and informed service he received at Fry’s and what he got when he asked a dazed zit on the Best Buy floors for the exact same service.

Morgan’s email is after the jump:

I thought I might interest you in a tale of the bad customer service I received at a Best Buy this weekend. I’d decided to get a new graphics card and an extra gig of ram so that I could actually keep playing new games on my four year old computer. Normally I like to buy electronics online, but I’d been given a gift certificate to Frys and another to Best Buy for Christmas and it seemed about time to use them; I could get the graphics card at one, the ram at the other, use up both my gift certificates, and since the two stores are located about a quarter mile from each other, it’d be one convenient trip. I educated myself on what was compatible with my computer and set out. Should be simple, right?

Frys was easy; I asked one person where the graphics cards were, got told exactly where they were, found them, and went on my way. One to Best Buy!

Heartened by my easy victory at Frys, I went towards the computer section and asked the first employee I ran across where to find ram.

I was pointed in a vague direction before he turned around and started typing into a computer terminal. Ok, he was probably already dealing with another customer, I can deal with that. I walked where he pointed, looked around, discovered no ram. Found another employee, got pointed in another direction- different from where I was first pointed- and then the employee took off in the direction he’d been walking when I flagged him down. Clearly he, too, was too busy for me. I wander in my new direction and still have no luck. I wander back and ask a new employee; he takes me to an aisle I’ve been down, points along it and says that all computer internals were there. I double check to see if I missed it last time, but find no ram; hard drives and graphics cards, yes, ram, no.

Finally, I stop a four employee, explain that I’ve been pointed in vague directions several times and had no luck, and ask that he please TAKE ME to the ram and point directly to it so I can make sure it’s not somehow me overlooking it every time. He takes me to the ram which, to be fair, was in the vague direction the first employee pointed me in (but not the second or third) and I discover why I haven’t noticed it- it’s not on an aisle, it’s in an orange cage that’s kind of hidden by the customer service desk. A locked orange cage. An orange cage that I would have needed the assistance of an employee to open and retrieve my ram-to-be.

I still can’t decide what bugs me more about this- that half the employees I asked, all of which seemed to be working in the computer electronics section of the store, didn’t actually know where the ram was, or that none, including the ones that did know where it was, thought to inform me that I’d need an employee’s assistance to get what I was looking for; the first three employees were apparently hoping not to be the nearest when I finally found the cage so that they would not have to go fetch keys so that I could finally give their company some money.

Thanks for the opportunity to rant; keep up the great work on your site.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Plaid Rabbit says:

    Frys was easy; I asked one person where the graphics cards were, got told exactly where they were, found them, and went on my way. One to Best Buy!

    Shouldn’t that read “One to Fry’s!”?

    Other than that, I have to second the no Best Buy love. I used to avoid Circuit City like the plague, but once I had to go there in a fit of panic over something the Best Buy always had, and the apathetic service guys told me they had never stocked (and why did I need it, because I was OBVIOUSLY WRONG) – they’ve become my place to do buisness when I can’t order online.

    Speaking of ordering online, any idea where the Morning Deal Roundups have gone? Is Joel dead or something? Someone owes us skinflints answers!

  2. I think the “e” was the typo, as in he meant to say “Fry’s was easy… ON to Best Buy.”

  3. pete says:

    Dammit, why can’t we get some Fry love on the east coast?

  4. Danilo says:

    I’m guessing the reason that this poor fellow didn’t get much attention is that the RAM had no potential for the attachment of high margin service plans or accessories. Like Pavlov’s dogs, Best Buy employees are conditioned to salivate expectantly at any opportunity to sell such things, despite the fact that they receive no actual beefy reward themselves (beyond not having their managers nag them all day, anyway).

    It’s pretty funny. Best Buy has always sort of prided itself on its non-commision sales staff, but the atmosphere of expectation, scolding and even outright intimidation that replaces cash incentives to encourage solid sales makes the overally experience for the customer even worse. Despite all my familiarity with all the internals of BBY operations, I still prefer not to shop there because the company culture is completely broken and bankrupt.

  5. Juancho says:

    I actually had a positive experience at Best Buy the last time I was there.

    I needed a DVI cable to connect my new MacMini and Widescreen LCD. I had a been to a CompUSA that didn’t have any (!) DVI cables at all, and an OfficeMax that wanted almost $70 for the thing. I finally hit up a Best Buy. I was vaguely wandering in the store, because past experience has told me that I’ll have better luck finding something on my own than with help from a blue-shirt.

    I was shocked when I was:

    a)Stopped by an employee and offered help
    b)walked over to the cable/accessories section
    c)told what was in stock
    d)offered the connection I needed (15 pin male to male)
    e)even referred to the better quality cable at a lower price, albeit by about 4 bucks

    This may have been the lone ethical Best Buy employee on the planet. Yes, I thanked him profusely.

    I should note that I shop at Best Buy primarily for CDs and DVDs, when I have gift cards. Giant Eagle, a grocery chain that dominates our area, also sells gas with a program called FuelPerks. For every fifty dollars you spend, you get $.10 off the gallon cost of gas. And gift cards count towards your FuelPerks. Giant Eagle has gift cards from Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, Home Depot, Sears, Kohls, and a ton of other national retailers.

  6. Morgan says:

    That was indeed a typo on my part; I meant “on to Best Buy!”

  7. Kat2 says:

    As an ex-BB employee (tech support, pre-Geek Squad), knock off the sweeping generalizations. There are good employees and bad employees and I be Fry’s has them too.

  8. GenXCub says:

    Well, let me posit something about BOTH stores… When you go into Fry’s (and Best Buy), you MUST MUST MUST make sure you know exactly what you want. Even if Fry’s has good customer service, they’re still minimum wage monkeys and should not be asked actual technical questions about silly things like compatibility.

    If you feel like giving the guys at Fry’s a boost, when you purchase something that’s in a specific department (memory, Hard Drive, Monitor, TV, etc.) Get one of the floor people to punch up the purchase on their computer. It costs you nothing, but gets the sales person a commission.

    From what I heard at the Vegas Fry’s, the 2 newest stores will be in Dallas and Orlando.

  9. TedSez says:

    Frankly, I’m amazed to hear someone positively compare Fry’s to any other store. The last time I shopped there — which admittedly was a few years ago — I was amazed at the employees’ incompetence and indifference, and the fact that none of the advertised bargains I had come for were either findable or in stock. In fact, they were famous for bad service, even warranting an article about it on (still readable at… If they’re the good choice now, either they’ve gotten a whole lot better or everybody else has gotten a whole lot worse.

  10. TedSez says:
  11. glitterpig says:

    That was weird – it took me a minute to realize that I hadn’t actually written this post. The exact same thing happened to me when I was looking for RAM at Best Buy, except for the cage part (my local store keeps it in this weird warehouse-looking nook, but it’s accessible to customers). And when I was looking for DVD+Rs. Also recordable CDs, although I only asked about them to see if anyone’d actually be able to point out where they were (they couldn’t). Wish we had Fry’s here, but only because of the deals – the service I’ve gotten there hasn’t been noticibly better, but I got my new digital camera there for more than 50% off list, and I can live with bad service for that kind of discount.

  12. Danilo says:

    Kat2, I wore the blue shirt for a couple of years, myself, and while I agree that every retailer has the potential for indifferent staffing, you have to admit Best Buy doesn’t exactly line up the incentives for its employees to go out of their way for the customer. It’s all about numbers, numbers, numbers and damn the customer if they get in the way, more often than not. Managers want their bonuses, after all. All of the incentives at Best Buy align in such a way as to make sales goals more crucial than pleasing the customer.

  13. Jillsy says:

    OK, you know what? “Blood…ejaculating from their ears” is exactly the kind of disgusting talk that made me stop reading Consumerist for a month. I don’t want to be the village censor here, but it’s gross, and not appealing to women, who could have a significant contribution to a blog about shopping. I suspect this is all due to Ben Popken, because I never noticed it before he came on board. I don’t ever see it on any other Gawker Media blogs, even Kotaku. Please, can we keep the blood/semen/toilet imagery to a minimum on Consumerist?

  14. Ben Popken says:

    If only I could take credit for that delicate turn of phrase, alas, I cannot.

  15. billhelm says:

    I suspect this varies across the Best Buy chain. I live in Minneapolis and often go to the store right near BB HQ. Amazing service there, obviously (similar to the Target a block from their HQ). I’ve had good experiences at other BB’s around here. YMMV

  16. GenXCub says:

    I’m amused that “Blood…ejaculating from their ears” is not appealing to women, but by its absence implies that dudes are a-okay with it.

    The language here may be vivid and off-putting to some, but, in my opinion, it helps keep this site interesting, as opposed to just being a repository for CSR horror stories.

  17. Kat2 says:

    I grant you that Danilo, but with a degree in PC Support & Admin, I was not a “monkey.” You could come to me without knowing exactly what you want (e.g. “is there something that will let me do this”) and I would be able to tell you. And I know there have to be others like me out there!

    Put me in a garage or something, and then I’d be a “monkey.” I wouldn’t have a clue.

    And I wholeheartedly agree with Jillsy – that line was disgusting.

  18. Yeah, Ben doesn’t get credit for that one… and I was writing here long before Ben came on board, so you can’t really claim the tone has changed because of him either.

    “I don’t want to be the village censor here, but it’s gross, and not appealing to women, who could have a significant contribution to a blog about shopping.”

    I have absolutely no idea what this means. This isn’t a blog about shopping and that sentence wasn’t offensive towards women. I’m as loathe as any man to offend the delicate sensibilities of the fairer sense, but that imagery has nothing to do with women. If it’s offensive, it is at least pan-offensive.

    Anyway, I’m sorry if that sentence didn’t do it for you, but you will continue to see posts like this (including ones which use the word ejaculate in a perfectly correct and non-sexual manner!) from time to time.

  19. Jillsy says:

    OK John, I will grant you two of your points. First of all, I believe you and Ben that you are responsible for this post, not he.

    Also, you are right that this is not a blog about shopping, but one about sharing the experiences we have while shopping for electronics, sandwiches, phone & cable service, etc. as well as tips for good deals on said products and services.

    However, I stand by my contention that women -on average- are less amused by gore and toilet imagery than men are. I accused nobody of misogyny, nor did I use the word “offensive” – I called it “unappealing.”

    But it’s your blog, and you’ll write how you want, and I’ll make the decision whether to read. Thanks for responding.