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.

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