Welcome to Best Buy! How Can We Steal Your Computer Today?

Needless to say, you should do regular file backups. Needless to say, very few of us ever do them. And while that certainly leaves us open to catastrophic file loss, it also allows Best Buy to tell us “it’s all your own fault!” when they physically steal our hard drives.

Caroline K. wrote to tell us about her experience getting a computer repaired from Best Buy. She’s not much up on the technojiggery of it all, but basically, it busted. With great trepidation, she brought it in for the Geek Squad to repair. Instead, after a couple weeks, they congratulated her on having earned a brand new laptop!

Except she didn’t want a new laptop: she wanted her old laptop fixed, with all of Mom’s Apple Pie recipes, and 9/10ths of her great American novel, and old emails from ex-lovers still on it. How is she supposed to get her hard drive back?

“Tough tits,” says Best Buy. “You should have backed all that stuff up.”

It’s like when a magpie swoops down from the sky to steal your wedding ring off your finger, then craps on your head as it cacklingly spirals upwards. Caroline’s email after the jump. Hey, Best Buy PR! We know you’re reading. How about helping Caroline get her fucking hard drive back?

Sorry this is so long. I am kind of verbose… and it was a good six weeks worth of crappy behavior by Best Buy’s employees.

My tale of woe began almost 3 years ago when I received my Toshiba laptop as a Christmas gift from my father. It also came with a lovely 3 year Service Plan from Best Buy, which I have used to the fullest. This latest chapter in my tale started August 22 when I broke down and took my computer back to Geek Squad to fix the AC adapter plug in the back and speakers that Geek Squad themselves broke the last time they had my computer in June. Off it went with the assurance of the Geek Squad member that it would be back soon and if I wanted to check on it, I could call their direct line.

I head off for Labor Day vacation the following week hoping that when I return home, my computer will welcome me. It of course does not, so I call the Geek Squad direct number at my local Best Buy. I speak with someone who lets me know that my computer should be done any day now. The hold up had been in ordering the parts, but they were available now and it should be finished by Wednesday September 6th. I wait a little more. I call again on Friday and get the same story. I call again on Tuesday and they ask me to call again tomorrow. When I finally get someone on the phone they tell me “Great news! Your computer has been junked out! You get to pick out a new one!” My excitement is less then audible over my immediate questions about where my computer was and how I get my hard drive back. The one filled with documents, music and every picture I had taken over the past year.

The man on the other line quickly informs me that is gone and that I should have backed it up before I gave it to them. Well, that was my bad… I expected to get the computer back. I have learned my lesson for next time, how do I get computer back now? This is when it starts to get good.

The man at Best Buy says he can probably get the service center in Louisville to backup my files for me and have them sent to the store. Then, I could purchase it from the store for $160. Wow, really? I can purchase my files back from you for a crap ton of money. No thanks, may I speak with your manager? Apparently, Tony was out. He would be back in 3 days, but he will tell you the same thing.

I argue with them for about 20 more minutes in a conversation in which they imply that this whole situation is my fault and that they will do nothing to help me. Ever. So, I, a 25 year old adult who has a job and a college degree, call my father who is not for being unrelenting with CSRs. Three hours later he calls me with the good news. He has spent the last few hours on the phone with customer service, my local Best Buy and a woman named Teresa at “Geek Squad City” in Louisville. Teresa has just left him a voice mail that she personally shipped my hard drive to the local store and it should be there in a few days where I will be able to pick it up for free. I am also free to go pick out whatever computer I want.

It is now three weeks later. I have called every few days about my hard drive with no results. Finally, the store got sick of dealing with me and had me call the Louisville place for a tracking number. By the way, isn’t that your job? Anyway, I leave a message for Teresa to call me back so I can confirm that she sent the hard drive after speaking with my father and to secure the tracking number at the request of the store. She calls me back 3 days later. She at first claims that she has never spoken with anyone about my hard drive and while she may have sent it off, she did not ever leave a message for my father. She changed her story after I told her I could email her the .wav of the message she left. She suddenly remembered sending the hard drive, but let me know that unfortunately Geek Squad City does not use tracking numbers when shipping to stores. I counter with the fact that every package shipped UPS has a tracking number. She says she will look into it and call me back later. When she leaves me a message later that day, she assures me there is no tracking number and encourages me to call UPS myself to see if they have any record of it. What? How exactly do I track a package where I am neither the sender or recipient? I don’t know where it is coming from or on what day it was actually shipped. I left a message to this effect and instructions on how to call me back and have never received a response. And who doesn’t keep tracking numbers? That is just a plain lie.

I am so frustrated with being lied to by the employees of Best Buy. The annoying part is that I really like Best Buy and have a number of products with their Service Plans. They asked me if I wanted to purchase a new service plan when I went to buy my new computer, which was a fiasco in itself (I had to pay full price for the computer online and then bring it back to the store and repurchase it with the store credit. It was a big giant waste of time and money). I laughed at the CSR and told him no way, that the computer I purchased was bought mostly specifically so I could buy a service plan directly from the company. I am at a loss at who to contact next about not only my displeasure with the service I have had over the past three years, but also about my hard drive. I just want it back. Any ideas from the Consumerist universe?

Oh, I forgot the funniest part of the story. At one point during this fiasco, someone at the store gave me a bunch of papers so I could get my new computer. One of the sheets they gave me was my internal file with all the notes in the computer in my account. They are not such bigs fans of me at the local store. One of my favorite lines is “Due to Vinny leaving, I had the great pleasure of dealing with these people…” I feel bad that I bothered Katrina with dealing with me. What is her job exactly?


Edit Your Comment

  1. ChazB says:

    This is an excellent example of a problem that should be taken to corporate with threats of media coverage both online and via traditional outlets if you don’t get what you were promised. There are consumer advocate reporters out there that would have a field day with this.

  2. HawkWolf says:

    devil’s advocate: You should have backed all that shit up. If not for Worst Ripoff’s sake, for YOUR OWN SAKE. If you WANT to delete the naked pictures of yourself that you took and put on the internet, tough cookies because you can’t. If you WANT to preserve that super important data on your computer, of course you’ll NEVER ever back it up and then cry when it’s deleted forever.

  3. d0x says:

    Hawk we all know you should back up your important data but that isnt the point here. They should never have taken her hard drive hostage or sent it anywhere without her permission.

    They should also never delete any data or format without your permision.

    I have dealt with the geek squad in the past, not for repairs mind you but I can still understand the absolute frustration this is causing.

    I went into a best buy to pick up some ram for my girlfriends computer. I went to the geek squad counter and asked if they carried the type of ram she needed. The guy didnt know so I peer behind him and saw the ram on a peg. Then I asked him how much the ram cost (i pointed to it).

    He replied “I dont think it goes on sale Sunday”.

    To which I said that I didnt care if it was going on sale or not I just wanted to know the current price. We went back and forth for a couple min with him explaining its not on Sale(but is for sale). I ended up not buying the ram and I will never buy anything for a PC there again.

    Good luck!

  4. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    Yes, let’s separate issues here. The fact that it would have been smarter for someone to have backed up their data has NO bearing on the horrifyingly incompetant, if not outright criminal, behavior by this sad excuse for a tech company.

    If “always back up your data” is Rule #1 of Good Computer Ownership, then “Don’t take your computer to Best Buy for ANYTHING” ought to be Rule #2! I honestly don’t think I know of anybody who’s has a positive experience with their service department, but I do know three people who went home with new computers after BB fucked theirs up irrevocably. I was a sysadmin for six years, and I think I screwed up a computer to the point of needing replacement once, maybe twice. These guys have a worse track record as techies than my mom would.

  5. acambras says:

    Best Buy sounds like the U-Haul of computer and electronics stores.

  6. viriiman says:

    Having worked for Geek Squad before, I do feel bad for this woman. However, when she brought her computer in, there should’ve been a sheet of paper that she signed before they shipped her machine out, explaining to her that she was responsible for backing her data up. I don’t have the sheet in front of me, but I want to remember that the section about your data is ALL IN CAPS (like that).

    The store I worked for, we would let EVERYONE know before we shipped out their machine that they may not get it back because it was more expensive to fix the machine then to replace it (which, in Best Buy terms, is a Junkout).

    Is it sad? Yes. But sometimes if people read what was given to them in full, things like this wouldn’t have to happen.

  7. Magister says:

    Viriiman is unfortunately right. Since the actual Geek Squad employees at your store can perform no function more complicated than installing a modem, they have to send off your computer. It is on the invoice/contract. I have one at home.

    Then, when it is at the real tech center, they try to fix it for cheap. If they can’t, they go ahead and send you a new one. Personally, I keep 2-3 backups of all my photos. I have gotten back and only have 1 backup now. I have an external HD that has everything. I recommend that for everyone.

    Good luck.

  8. CarolineK says:

    I’m the Caroline K. in question and I completely agree with you. I should have backed up my files. I know better then to take things to Best Buy. My tech savvy friends yelled at me every time I would take the computer into the stores. After three years of a service plan where they replaced basically every part of my computer… I now know better then to trust Best Buy. On a side note, when I took the computer in, they asked if I wanted to pay $160 to backup my files. I asked if I needed to take it home and do that before I gave it to them and the guy said “We ask everyone that. They shouldn’t be working near your hard drive. I don’t think it will be a problem.”

    My biggest problem is the service I have received after they said they were sending me my hard drive back. Who says call UPS yourself? Who doesn’t keep tracking numbers? And, who gives you the papers with all the comments they have written about you and your computer stupidity over the years? That is really just a poor idea, I think.

    They have lied to me every step of the way on this thing and that annoys me more then anything.

  9. Sheik says:

    Caroline, you should scan that paper with the comments on it.
    This makes me not want to shop at BB anymore. Luckily, up to this point my only personal complaint is that they have these friggin annoying reps walking around the store, “can I help you?” I usually have to shoo them away about 15 times before I leave the store. And alot of times its by the same rep over and over again. I wish they had pins opr stickers they could give you at the front of the store if you dont want these people hassling you, they are never of any help to me, having researched most of my perchases before even entering the store.

  10. AcilletaM says:

    Hey, the calls to back the computer up are all well and good but let’s not forget that Best Buy may deem a computer too expensive to repair but Best Buy will still try recovering some of the cost of replacement by selling off the parts of the old computer, which they may or may not wipe the hard drive first. Best Buy should be returning the hard drives, no matter what the issue with the computer is.

  11. Triteon says:

    With service like this I would like to see BB open a chain of auto repair shops. Sorry, your engine is fried, you’ve earned a brand new truck!
    I’d even let them keep the stuff in glove compartment.

  12. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    Wait was “tough tits” quoted above an actual Best Buy quote, because that might actually make me shop there more.

  13. tjrchicago says:

    Okay, maybe overly simplistic here, but since the computer was dropped off for speaker and power repair, would it be too difficult to just pull the HD before ever leaving it there?

    I run a smallish Help Desk (around 400 machines) and we NEVER send machines out for repair with their hard drives in them. We’ve never had a problem with either HP/Compaq or IBM.

    I’d love to see the geek squad guys soil themselves when dropping off a computer and requesting your hard drive before you leave…

  14. omicronpersei8 says:

    You should call corporate consumer affairs, and casually mention the shitstorm this is going to cause with your boss at the IRS. Then mutter, “I can see it now, IRS loses 500,000 social security numbers at Best Buy store.”

  15. J DTZR says:

    I’m curious as to which Best Buy in Louisville they sent Caroline K’s computer to, because I live in Louisville and if it’s the one I think it is… she’s screwed.

    (Fun fact: A few months ago, one of this particular Best Buy’s Geek Squad geeks was discovered to have thousands of terabytes of kiddie porn stored on multiple computers and external hard drives in his home. Turns out the guy was wanted in another state for kiddie porn. This is not meant to imply that all Geek Squad employees are felons or child molesters or anything, but what does it say about their capabilities if they can’t conduct a simple background check?)

  16. emax4 says:

    Viriiman is right, as is tjrchicago. Forget about the delays that Best Buy is causing, this is about a lost hard drive. What if it were the hard drive that was causing the computer to fail in the first place, and the only thing to do was replace it? It’s apparent that you would still want the hard drive, but you’d have the same computer anyway, and now you’d be stuck with a bench fee as well as a brand new hard drive. Since you don’t know that much about computers (nothing wrong with that) how would you know to remove the hard drive in the first place and even how to do it? The old hard drive might still be salvagable for parts (board, jumpers, etc even though the easiest and most taken route is a replacement) so that being the case it would make sense for them to charge you for your old hard drive back. There are data recovery business that charge by the thousands to retrieve lost data, so the offer they presented you with was a bargain. If the problem was not caused by the hard drive but rather a different part, they should have saved the old drive, no questions asked. They might charge a fee to install it.

    When you get your car fixed, and it’s the engine that needs replaced, do they let you keep the old engine after they get done installing the new one? I think the lesson learned here was to backup your data. I thought that it might have been good to remove the hard drive in the first place, but I think BB might have wanted it in there originally to see if in fact it was your hard drive that was causing the problem. I’m sure they have test hard drives with functioning operating systems on them, but I could be wrong.

  17. InsaneNewman says:

    J DTZR – THey wouldn’t have sent her computer to a store; they sent it to a service center (and from the sounds of it, probably the new “state-of-the-art” Geek Squad City that just opened.

    Aw, look, Best Buy thinks they’re funny: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-21057682581956515

  18. Jess A. says:

    I recently had a problem with poor service from a “Geek Squad” employee at my local Best Buy — the core of my service problem was that the guy was extremely rude & condescending. I wrote a lengthy, very detailed letter (snail mail) addressed to the Best Buy CEO and cc’d it to the store and to “Geek Squad Mission Control”. Literally within 24 hours of my mailing the letter (it got to the store the next day!) I had the Geek Squad supervisors calling me with their personal cell numbers to work to fix my issue. It never hurts to go straight to the top, and to let all involved parties know that that’s where you’re heading.

  19. Two words: external hard drive

    I don’t save anything I would hate to lose on the computer’s internal drive.

  20. Triteon says:

    external hard drive …I can’t agree more.
    threadjack: to Hooray4Zoidberg– Billy West is speaking at a con I’m attending this weekend.

  21. craigme says:

    The way to get some action is to file a complaint with you state attorney generals office and tell them that you had confidential information on your hard drive. The letter will be sent to Best Buy corporate HQ by the AGs office with a form for them to complete. The AGs track issues to see if there was any resolution (they can’t force any resoltion).. It’s amazing how quickly things get resolved when Corp HQ gets a letter from the AGs office… That’s the way it works in WA at least…

  22. Thain says:

    As a computer technician, I have to say caveat emptor for any warranty service on a laptop. Every laptop manufacturer I’ve ever worked with explicitly states that the hard drive may be formatted or replaced.

    A couple of the factories I work with will occasionally offer to send the hard drive back if they replace it so that the customer can attempt data recovery, but, technically, they are completely covered by the clause which states that the hard drive may be formatted or replaced.

    I realize how much it sucks to lose data, but I have no sympathy in this situation unless it can be proven that there was no warning that the hard drive might be lost.

  23. finalascent says:

    >As a computer technician, I have to say caveat >emptor for any warranty service on a laptop. >Every laptop manufacturer I’ve ever worked with >explicitly states that the hard drive may be >formatted or replaced.

    What the frig is so difficult about having a blanket policy of backing up every client’s PC before removing viruses, spyware, etc or installing a new hard drive?

    I do it as a matter of course, and that alone earns me a ton of gratitude and referrals.
    Get a clue techs, the DATA is the most valuable thing, not the hardware itself.

    I’m so sick of seeing signs at computer shops, “not responsible for your data.” Why do techs treat others’ information so blithely?

    What kind of crap attitude is this, “Well, backups were your responsibility – if you lost data, well then too bad…”

  24. acambras says:

    Finalascent — The crap attitude is just poor customer service, plain and simple. Berating customers, implying that they’re stupid for not backing up their files (even if they are) is not nice, and it’s not good customer service.

    I take my computer to a mom & pop repair place. Even though I’m an idiot when it come to computers, the owner/operator never scolds, berates, or condescends to me. She talks to me about what I need to do to keep my computer safe and sound (backups, for example), but she talks to me in a manner that’s appropriate and respectful. That’s why I will continue to be one of her customers, even if I pay a little more than at Best Buy.

    When you GIVE A COMPANY MONEY for goods or services, you should be treated professionally and respectfully (even if you’ve done something stupid).

    Between Best Buy, B of A, U-Haul, Wal-Mart — (am I leaving anyone out?) I am really pissed this week!

  25. AskCars says:

    I have one of those one-button back-up hard drives and it automatically updates 3x a week after midnight along with the button itself. It is the simplest piece of computer tech I’ve ever used outside a keyboard and mouse. the only thing that kills me is you can get one twice as big for half the price a year later! DOh.
    But that should mean anyone that can afford a computer can afford one for backup purposes these days. I also store music etc on it.

  26. vyrtue77 says:

    HA HA!!! I am laughing only because I used to WORK FOR the Geek Squad, and I understand YOUR frustration as a customer to have to go through that.. It’s crazy the things I had to TELL the customers when I knew we had goofed in the first place. It was very interesting to have to go through all of that even on the problem side. I quit, not only because of abuse i was getting on the job, but because I just couldn’t stand to take advantage of the customers any longer. We charge horrendous prices as well as never owning up to problems that we caused at times. While I don’t work there anymore, I do apologize on behalf of their incompetence…

  27. Tiamat says:

    Personally I think this lady is making a big deal of something that is partially her own fault. If these files are truly so important, then you should have had them copied somewhere besides the pc, even written down on paper if need be.

    Giving all of these workers such a hard time is not needed, put yourself in their shoes. I am surprised they even offered to try and get the HDD back, technically they didn’t even have to offer that.

    It is true, that when the paperwork is signed there is a portion that says something along the lines of, if you want your data you need to back it up because there is always a chance that it may be lost.

    Don’t sign something that you don’t understand and haven’t read. If you do sign the sheet then you have given your consent to never seeing that data ever again, if thats what they deem is needed.

    Service agreements typically entitle you to the service of a working unit, and anything will be done to make your unit work again, even if that means losing your data. If the unit is not worth fixing, or unable to be fixed, then a new one will be given.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand this ladies problem with the whole situation. However, she is making a big deal over a company, that as far as I can see, has done nothing wrong because its all written out in black and white. Tough luck, I am going to have to side with the company on this issue, and say that the woman has no real claim.

  28. caspira says:

    The little piece of paper she signed released best buy from resposibility for the data on the machine. Its as simple as that. Read what you sign. I know its very small and uses big words but I think you can handle it. You have no one to blame but yourself.

  29. rickyw says:

    Yes! She should have backed up the data. Quite frankly I blame her for using Geek Squad in the first place. Especially after they had allegedly screwed up prior repairs. Miss, have you never heard “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.”
    Still nothing excuses all the lies she was told?

  30. Alexis2 says:

    MENTAL NOTE: Don’t ever purchase anything from BB.

  31. chacha9 says:

    Geek Squad recently transferred data from my old macintosh hard drive to a new computer. [i could have done the job myself, but i didn’t want to invest in data transfer cables.] Geek Squad successfully achieved that… but erased all the data from the old computer in the process.

    so they’re incompetent when it comes to macintosh, but i can’t find another Mac repair center nearby. the general public’s computer illiteracy allows them to get away with murder.

  32. 2manycars says:

    I think that many of you are missing the point. The problem with this laptop was a loose DC connector on the motherboard (I am referring to the connector for the AC Adapter to plug into. This connector coming loose is a very common ailment on laptops). The cure for this is to resolder / replace the connector or replace the motherboard. This does not involve the hard drive in any way. I have resoldered / replaced many of these connectors with no problems at all. As I said, it is a very common issue.

    On the speaker issue, the likeliest cause is that someone left the speaker cable unplugged inside the unit when servicing it on the previous visit. So plug it back in. No biggie. Even if the audio driver needed an update it should have been no big deal. The hard drive data should not have been corrupted or lost.

    My bet is that the facility lost the machine or some sort of accident occurred with it during service. GS is merely attempting to cover their tracks and make the customer pay for GS’ mistake.

  33. sle212 says:


    To those who are blaming the consumer here: She took the computer in to have the AC plug fixed and speakers. Who ever would have thought that this could implicate the hard drive? In fact, one has nothing to do with the other. Even the person at the counter told her she shouldn’t need to back up files.

    I took my computer in to have the jammed power button fixed for the 2nd time, and now I am getting calls from GS telling me they fixed the power button — AND had to replace the defective hard drive. I DID NOT TAKE THE LAPTOP IN FOR THE HD AND HAD NO PROBLEMS WITH THE HD. Now, they are kindly offering to restore my data onto a new hard drive for $280, which is not covered under the 3-yr service plan I bought.

    First, what business did they have going near the HD, much less replacing it without my consent when the repair order specified fix power button. And why should I have to worry about backing up data when my issue had nothing to do with the HD.

    Moreover, the “backing up your data is your responsibility BS” is printed on the service order that they give you AFTER taking the computer from you and writing up the order. They did not direct my attention to it and it was not on a form that I had to sign.

    The person I complained to at corporate, as well as the GS employee I spoke to today, said that they routinely run a diagnostic on it and anything that comes up as problematic will be fixed. However, I don’t care what the diagnostic said. I did not authorize any repair of the HD that worked perfectly fine. If I take my car in to have the AC fixed, the mechanic isn’t going to be replacing my brakes without my express authorization.

    Who else has had this type of experience? It is consumer fraud, nothing less.

  34. Paul Huskey says:

    “When you get your car fixed, and it’s the engine that needs replaced, do they let you keep the old engine after they get done installing the new one?”

    Legally, yes. At least in Wisconsin. I don’t know if it’s a state or federal law, but auto companies are required to give the customer the old “failed” part if they request it, and if a laptop is truly junked, the company should give it back.