Consumer Writes, Consumerist Criticizes

We definitely love you guys, but it’s not all snuggles all the time here at The Consumerist. If you send us something, we’re not afraid to post it and say when you’re being a jerk. We don’t want to lose you as a reader… and as much of a jerk as you may or may not have been, we can nine times out of ten understand your frustration. But we also want you guys to be reasonable, polite, responsible consumers, and that means the occasional light slap.

We got this email from Matthew X. about a purchase he made at Circuit City. When his Powerbook got fried, he decided he would purchase a laptop at Circuit City, then return it as soon as his Mac was fixed. That’s point one when we start clucking our tongues, but Circuit City charges a restocking fee, so we”ll only lightly pass over that middling sleaziness.

But when an employee of Circuit City just did their job and tried to push the service plan by making Matt aware of possible issues that could arise over the next couple years in his new investment, Matt really poured on the jerk, berating the employee and flinging his +3 booster card of tecnhosavvy superiority on the table.

Please don’t treat employees like this. Matt’s email after the jump.

I went in a few days ago to the Union Square Circuit City to pick up a laptop. My Powerbook’s logic bored had fried, so I needed something to create a few web pages while I waited to get the Mac back from the Genius Bar.

I first asked the rep about their laptop return policy, since I had no intent on actually keeping whatever I bought. I just wanted to make the webpages. He told me 14 days, minus a 15% “restocking” fee. By the way, are those even legal?

I decided to swallow the fee, since it would have cost me a lot more to rent something.

Anyway, I finally found what I wanted, showed the display model to the rep, and asked him to ring it up for me. That’s when things started to go downhill:
Rep: “What are you using this for?”
Me: “Flash”
Rep: “Will 64 megs of video RAM be enough? Do you want maybe one with more?”
Me: “It will be fine. I just need to check PC compatibility with stuff done on a Mac.”
Rep: “You sure you don’t want something better?”
Me: “yes, I’m sure.”

Circuit City has that ‘pick up the item when you leave’ thing, so he started ringing it up right there. That’s when things went bad. He asked me if I wanted the service plan for however much it was (I think it was 200. Mind you, this is an $800 laptop).

Me: “No thanks, if anything goes wrong I’ll fix it myself.” Mind you, I was polite when I said this.
Rep: “What if the hard drive goes?”
Me: “I’ll put in a new one”
Rep: “You can do that? You know how??”
Me: “Yes.”
Rep: “Do you know how much a laptop drive costs?”
Me: “Yep, about 200” (at this point I’m starting to get annoyed)
Rep: “Well what about the data you would lose?”
Me: “I’m not really worried about that. I have four Firewire drives. Backups aren’t really an issue.”
Rep: “What if the display goes?”
Me: “Then it goes. This thing will be outdated by then, whether its 3 months or 3 years from now.”
Rep: “Well what about…” I don’t hear him and he’s trying to sell me something else. At this point I’m pissed.
Me: “Look. I just want the laptop. Now why don’t you do your job, and ring it up for me. I’m not going to buy anything else from you. I know more about these then you do. That is why I am buying it, and you are here selling it. If you’re not going to sell it to me, I’ll just find someone else to do it. The answer is no, no, and more no to anything else you are going to ask me if I want.”

Finally the a-hole rings it up. But I wonder, how many people get suckered in by these people? I know my Mom would totally fall for something like this, because she knows nothing about computers and he would just spit a bunch of terms she couldn’t translate, like the video RAM. And should I really have to go through that big of a hassle just to get a laptop that is already outdated?

Give us a break, Matt. Although those service plans can sometimes be scams, it sounds to us like the employee in question was very thoughtfully trying to inform you of things that could go wrong that would be covered by an extra investment.

You mention your Mom would have “fallen” for something like this, but we’ve got news for you: for those who are less tech savvy than you, a two year extended warranty on an expensive purchase for a couple hundred bucks isn’t totally without merit. And although these service plans are profitable simply because most people never have an issue, it’s a simple issue of measuring pros-and-cons that the average consumer can make for themselves.

Nothing about the one minute exchange you quoted here justifies treating someone like this, especially when they are getting directives to sell service plans straight from the top. And you lost all claims towards indignation when you started off the email saying you were basically buying something you had no intention of keeping. In our book, that’s pretty dishonest.

Overall lesson here? Don’t be such a jerk. And we can’t help but notice you didn’t try this stunt at your local Apple Store.


Edit Your Comment

  1. LTS! says:

    Asshole, pure and simple.

    First the Mac has always been marketed as being simple to use. Since it’s simple it’s reasonable to assume that people purchasing them might not know much about them in case something does happen. Next time you can politely inform the sales person (who is doing their job) that you are very capable of repairing a computer and that you do not want the warranty.

    As for restocking fees, you *ARE* the reason they exist you shortsighted moron. Circuit City is not Rent-A-Center. They exist to sell product and not be a loaner service for some self-absorbed prick who managed to fry his precious computer. They are legal too.

    Next time order something from the Internet, or do the sales force a favor, order it from and pick it up in 24 minutes. Walk into the store, pick it up, walk out, and return promptly to your anti-social lifestyle that seems to suit you so well.

  2. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    While I agree that Matt may have been a bit harsh with the employee, and I don’t condone buying a laptop you plan on not keeping as that’s pretty scummy. But I too get extremely annoyed by these service plan offers. It’s one thing on a computer, there are lots of parts that can fail, but it’s getting out of hand lately. They even try to push extended warranties on software now, in case you scratch the cd. How many people even use the cd again after installing anything that’s not a game?

    Also keep in mind these people are getting commission for every warranty they sell. So I have to disagree that they are just trying to keep the consumer informed and help them. They are trying to scare them into purchasing expensive unnecessary warranties so they can make more money this week.

    This sometimes comes down to them outright lying. About 3 years ago I bought an air conditioner at Best Buy. The cashier tried to sell me the extended warranty and I refused as I always do. Then he told me that I should really buy it because the coolant will run out after a year and with their warranty a guy will come out and refill it. Otherwise I’ll end up paying more than the warranty cost to have someone come out and refill it. I told him that if I didn’t know he was completely full of shit I simply wouldn’t buy this air conditioner. Why would I buy something you are telling me isn’t going to not work next year. I bought it anyways because I needed it and I knew this wasn’t going to happen. Sure enough 3 years later it’s still blowing strong as the day I bought it.

    I though this was an isolated incident, just one over zealous employee, however, in a casual conversation with a co-worker the other day I brought this up. He mentioned that he was told the exact same thing, word for word, when he bought his air conditioner at Best Buy. Apparently this behavior is not only condoned, but encouraged by the management as they offer incentives for selling warranties.

    I almost blew up at a Best Buy employee a few weeks ago. I was buying a Nintendo DS lite and he kept trying to push the warranty on me. I refused about 5 times as he tried telling me about 20 differend things that “will” break, not just “could” break. He tried telling me that the touch screen will break which is somewhat reasonable, but I still refused. After that didn’t work he actually told me that the speakers could fall out. I mean come on, the speakers are not going to fall out of a DS, what the hell.

    It’s getting out of hand. How many consumers do you think get scared into buying a completley unnecessary warranty on their AC because Best Buy scared them into thinking it won’t blow cold air next year?

  3. etinterrapax says:

    I agree with Hooray4Zoidberg…Matt was a jerk to the guy, and I definitely don’t condone buying something you don’t plan to keep (especially when it’s a laptop), but I’ve also about had it with Best Buy and Circuit City employees pushing the extended warranty on everything they sell. I’m also not crazy about how they tend to treat me like I’m a moron because I’m a girl, but whatever. I once had a Best Buy dork lie to my face about whether ink was included in a new Canon printer I was buying (it was; he claimed that it was only “starter ink” that would run out after a few pages; I asked why they’d say on the box that there were cartridges if it weren’t so; he said the box lied) just to pump up my total purchase. I’d prefer to be wrong and come back than buy something because their staff said I should. And if they were interested in true customer service, they’d be willing to be wrong to retain me as a customer. Instead, they choose to bully people when they’re vulnerable. Charming.

  4. DeeJayQueue says:

    Some printers DO come with starter cartridges in them, some don’t. Sounds like your guy didn’t know the difference.

    Yes, this guy was the douchiest of the douches. There’s no excuse for going into a tirade about how the cashier is a moron for reading a script, or doing what he’s told to do. However, that doesn’t mean that the script and the orders are pure bullshit as well. Most times the people selling you the plan will lie to you because they don’t know what the plan covers, only that they must sell it, and that they get like $2 for every one they push. I’ve had people try to tell me that they would cover the screens on a PDA (they won’t) or replace a blown speaker even if it’s my fault (they won’t)… hell, as previous stories have shown, it’s tough to get them to honor even the terms that ARE covered in those things.

    What I’ve found that works pretty reliably for me, to stop the cashiers and floor associates dead in their tracks, is to just look them dead in the eye and say “I’m not interested, thank you.” The eye contact is important. If you look flippant or preoccupied they’ll think you just aren’t paying attention or are dumb and continue the spiel. You have to look them dead in the eye. Most people get intimidated, especially if they’re younger than you.

  5. Ishmael says:

    DeeJayQueue’s got the answer right there. Every time I go into Best Buy or Circuit City, they start pushing those plans on me. Like etinterrapax says, I wonder how much of it is because I’m female. Give them the thousand-yard stare, tell them, ‘Thank you, but no,” and they will usually back off pretty fast.

    Which gives me a thought – think it would work on the pimple-faced jerk behind the concession stand at the movies, who always wants me to upgrade the size of my popcorn and coke?

  6. billhelm says:

    simply saying no works pretty good with the extended warrenty offers.

  7. billpendry says:

    If you read sites like bestbuysucks, you’ll find that it’s drilled into the employees that their primary objective is to sell warranties and accessories. Much more important than being knowledgeable about the products. The employees don’t get commission on these up-sells, just pats on the back for high attach rates or harassment for low attach rates. The store managers are the ones who get bonuses based on their store’s attach rate. So the store managers are the ones who put pressure on the floor employees to up-sell, and probably make up the lies that help the up-sell.

    So I’m very patient and courteous to most employees who are trying (unsuccessfully) to attach warranties and accessories to my purchases. It’s not their fault, they’re just trying to avoid getting a “talking-to” from their manager. They’re probably embarrassed do be doing it.

    If you have a really bad experience (e.g. outright lies), complain to the store manager, and make it clear that you are complaining about THEM, and not the kid who is just trying to make it another shift without getting a bunch of static from his/her boss because he/she is not being enough of a pushy asshole.

    If that doesn’t satisfy, call corporate and complain about the store.

    Or you could just lighten up, get over it, and get on with your fucking day.

  8. something_amazing says:

    Sometimes I wonder what kind of parallel universe you guys come from. I’ve never had an issue with the ol’ “Nah, that’s alright” shtick on the warranty. After you say it, follow it up with a knowing “Come on, man! I know what you’re trying to do!” laugh.

    He’ll either think you’re gay or think you’re really smart. Either way no warranty shtick.

  9. I swear to god, I bought my computer last fall from the exact same NYC Union Square CC rep. What Matt is not really conveying is the smug “I know better than you” tone to the employee’s voice.

    “So, say six months from now, your computer just stops working? What are you going to do, huh? What are you going to do?”

  10. ModerateSnark says:

    Matt’s a jerk; maybe there was a smug tone used (as Hartford said) that set him off, but his “buy to rent” plan is inexcusable. That’s been covered.

    As far as the pressure to sign up for a service plan, I usually avoid the strain on both the salesperson and myself by ordering online. Even when I want to see an item before I buy it, I might go see it in the store, then order online. If shipping cost or something else is an issue so that I do buy it in the store, I’m willing to say “No, thanks” politely twice, which should do the trick. (“Can I interest you in…” [I let them finish unless they go on and on] “No,thanks.” “But you should consider it because…” [again, I usually let them finish] “No, thanks.”) Beyond that, I don’t usually lose my temper, but I tend to just stand there silent with a blank stare and let them run out of breath. Then, if necessary, I’ll say “No, thanks” again. It’s partly that I can get kind of stubborn, but often I really can’t think of much else to say. Really.

    Also, if you think you might want an extended warranty, you can wait and buy it just before the manufacturer’s warranty runs out – just set up some kind of reminder for yourself; by then you usually know if you’ve got a reliable product or one that could make the extension worthwhile. Then when you decide you need one, walk into the store and exclaim loudly “I’m here to buy an extended warranty!” and let the whole staff fight over who gets to help you.

  11. Lesley says:

    I’ve never had that kind of pressure to purchase a service plan.

    Recently, I bought an iPod Nano at CC and when it turned out to be a huge piece of crap, I took it back to CC and got a full refund with no hassle. It was great.

  12. MrBartokomous says:

    I had a decent amount of annoyance laid on me to buy an upgraded service plan for the new video card I picked up a few weeks ago. The guy said that when it breaks, it’ll get upgraded to the latest and greatest card at that price level(400-ish dollars, fairly high end). Of course, I have an AGP slot, and getting the latest and greatest(which will no doubt be PCI-Express, useless in my mobo) is a waste of time. I told the desk jockey this and he proceeded to ask me three more times if I was sure about it. Yes, I was… jackoff.

    Anyway, as for the story… the writer was being an asshole. I don’t see any problems with returning the laptop… they get their restocking fee, no harm no foul. That said, they weren’t being that unreasonable… they just follow SOP and you rip ’em to shreds on it. That’s what makes you an asshole.

  13. LLH says:

    yes, it sounds like both boys were having a pissing contest. here’s the thing, here in LA (and i’m sure other larger cities) have places such as Macenthusiast that were fixing computer way before the apple store taking in broken macs through apple care plans. they are auth. apple repair and resale. and here’s another thing, they will RENT you a laptop, tower etc…while you’re is being fixed for a very resonable rate. no apple care (didn’t bother to follow BB/CC hounding huh?) ? the rates a place like this charges for in house repair is WAY WAY quicker than the apple service can provide. i suggest mac owners find local repair peeps that are auth. & cert. mac tech and use them! saves time, money, and trips to bitch out cocky 17 year old boys who play mostly video games in spare time.

  14. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    I hate it when they push an extended warranty on you. I bought a pedometer ($14.99) at Dicks Sporting Goods and the cashier, with a straight face, tried to sell me a one year extended warranty for $5.99.

    I’m waiting for them to start pushing $1.99 warranties on the bottled water you pick up before you leave.

  15. Ben Popken says:

    Dan writes:

    “I work at Best Buy, and I can tell you that there is pressure to sell these things, but it all depends on the manager, and I’ve worked under all types. Since I don’t get commission, I couldn’t really care less if you take the service plan or not on some things, but on others, the value is well worth it. Example: Projection TV service plans cover 4 years of in-home service, including preventative maintenance checks and bulb replacement, as well as all other warranty stuff. It’s worth the money.
    Also, DeeJayQueue said that he’s been told that the service plans “would cover the screens on a PDA (they won’t) or replace a blown speaker even if it’s my fault (they won’t)…” Actually, you were told these things because their true. While the plans don’t cover cracked LCDs or dropped PDAs, they do cover hardware failure (including the screen), and the DO cover blown speakers, even if it’s your fault.

    As to the person who sent the original message, he is absolutely an ass to expect a retail store to be his personal rental service, and he’s the reason the restocking fee exists in the first place. I wish him luck in protecting his identity, though, as neither Circuit nor Best Buy is very good about wiping returned laptops’ hard drives when they come back before reselling them. Hope he’s careful about what he does on his loaner laptop… “