Best Buy Canada: Still A Bunch Of Bozos

Up in Canuckville, Best Buy is an amazing institution. No, we’re just kidding: crossing the border does not actually take you to another dimension. It’s still one of the worst companies in the world.

Gavin S. wrote us in illustrating the international truth of Best Buy incompetence quite eloquently. 43 days ago, Gavin’s laptop screen futzed out. He brought it into Best Buy to be repaired. They have it back to him, claiming it was fixed, but of course nothing had been done.

When he brought it back in, Gavin was told that his warranty had been canceled. Then he was told that smudges on his laptop screen and slight nicks to the casing invalidated his warranty.

To quote Art Spiegelman, this is merely where his troubles began. Gavin’s full email after the jump.

The screen on my laptop was slowly deteriorating, but I was holding back on taking it in for service (still under warranty for another 2.5 years) as I was working on a pretty important project at the time. What made me take it in was another problem that arose, when the backlight suddenly refused to turn on due to an issue with the trigger that is normally released when the lid of the laptop is opened.

On September 8th, 2006, I took it in for repairs at Best Buy Surrey, British Columbia, the King George location. They looked it over and I explained the problem. They readily accepted it and took it in. In the middle of the month I received a call from the service depot asking for permission to wipe the hard drives, which doesn’t make much sense for a problem with the screen, but whatever gets my laptop back to me faster.

On September 29th, 2006, I was phoned by the store telling me my laptop was fixed and ready for pickup. I went into the store and waited for 45 minutes while a “Geek Squad” member tried to find someone with the keys to the cage where they keep the repairs. I got my laptop, signed for it, and took it hope, jubilant. I plugged it in to find that the backlight was still not working, and when I looked closely the screen had fallen into even worse disarray. I called the store and spoke to a manager who promised to call me back within 30 minutes. 3 hours later, I called again and spoke to an employee, who said I would have to come into the store.

A 45-minute drive over the Patullo Bridge in rush hour traffic later I was back in the store. I waited for 30-40 minutes at the service counter while they scrambled to find someone capable of helping me with my problem. I was taken to the front where it was declared that my warranty had been canceled. The clerk informed me that I would have to go to the store where I bought the laptop, an hour and a half drive away, sort out the warranty issue, then come back to the store. No way, I said. I pointed out to her that the computer had already been taken in under warranty and pointed out the work order. She reluctantly and bitterly accepted this, and started a “damage assessment.” She noted scratches on the screen that were just smudges. When I asked her to get a cloth to wipe the screen so I could show her there were no scratches, she obstinantly refused. At this point I just wanted to get out of the store, as I had spent 5 hours of my day dealing with the problem thus far and had to study. She also noted a “dent on the casing” which I had never noticed before. At this point, she accused me of dropping the laptop (who drops a laptop?). I stated firmly that there was no way I had done this. She took the computer in for servicing.

On October 10th I received a call from the service depot informing me of a required payment of $530 for fixing my computer. I reminded the individual that the computer was under warranty for another two and a half years. He put me on hold and spoke to a “technician.” When he returned, he told me that my computer was damaged goods and was thus not covered under warranty. When asked about the damage, he said there was damage to the casing. I told him to get his manager in touch with me, and he agreed to contact her right away. I have still not received a reply from this manager, the second unreturned phonecall.

At this point I tried Best Buy customer service, and opened a complaint against them. They had had my laptop for over a month and had yet to do anything about it. A grueling hour and a half later, my complaint was in the system, whatever that meant.

I got a call the next day from a manager at the supply depot. She stated that she had no idea who the person I talked to the day before was, and that she had never been contacted about my computer. She promised to call me back as soon as she figured out what was going on. I have still not received a call from this manager a week later, the third unreturned phonecall.

Two days later, I got a call from Best Buy Surrey reminding me that I owed them $530 for the repairs. I told the employee about the situation and he said he would call me back after speaking with his manager. This would become the fourth unreturned phonecall. At this point I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau of Mainland British Columbia, who said they would get in touch with me within 48 hours at the latest. They never did. I swear, this is totally Kafkaesque, but it gets even worse.

On October 17th, I had still not received a response from anyone who promised they would call me. I called Best Buy’s main office again, and the kind operator reopened my case. I told her about the BBB complaint to speed things up, it seemed to work a little.

Yesterday, I got a call from the manager at Best Buy Surrey, informing me that the repair could not be completed because of the damage to the computer. I told her the following:
– The damage you describe could not have caused the problems with my computer
– I did not damage my computer
– I bought a floor model (yes, I’m an idiot – but I thought the warranty would cover me), and you did not perform a damage assessment when I bought it
– Dealing with your organization is like drowning in a sea of angry, angry vipers. Well, in not so many words.
She said she would call her office at 7:30 AM the next morning as soon as they opened and sort it out, calling me back right away.

Today (October 18th), I received no response from the manager – bringing the grand total of calls not returned to 5 so far. I called up the HQ again and made them update the file, they promised they would look into it…again. About half an hour ago I got a call from the store telling me that my laptop was ready for pickup. When I asked whether it had been fixed, the employee sarcastically responded that it had not been, as I did not pay for the repairs as requested. I told him that this was supposed to be handled by management, and he bitterly responded that he would speak to his manager – the same woman who did not return my call today.

It has been 42 days now. Consumer legislation in BC (Canada, maybe?) requires that if the store has not fixed the product within 60 days, I’m required to get a reimbursement or a replacement product of comparable quality. I do not believe Best Buy at this point will honour that committment, as they will likely stick by the fallacy that my computer was damaged by me. So, I’m sending this to you as a bit of a last resort, maybe to spread the word so people don’t make the same mistake I did of trying to save a few bucks by shopping at Best Buy. They’ve lost me as a customer for life, and I will never refer anyone to them ever again.

I do appreciate the complaint letter template on your website, and I will definitely use it as soon as I get a chance (midterms and projects have been getting in the way of me dealing with this as much as I could have thus far).


Edit Your Comment

  1. weave says:

    Was this a manufacturer’s warranty issue, or one of those Best Buy extended warranties? Not that their behavior dismisses them no matter which one it is, but I’m curious because I’ve been told that the Best Buy warranty will cover stuff no matter what happens to the device.

    I remember a day when there used to be these full-service computer stores like Computerland that charged retail price for everything, but at least had competent staff and did provide service. Then the Best Buy and CompUSA stores opened up, undercut them all, drove them out of business, and now what do we have? All that is left are these large box stores with incompetent staff, horrible service, and except for a sale item here and there (that almost always requires a rebate), they now charge retail price for everything.

  2. TedOnion says:

    I like the 60 day law. Anyone know if there is such a thing anywhere in the US?

  3. E-Bell says:

    I, too, like the 60-day law. It sounds reasonable.

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone would EVER go to Best Buy for anything but a low-cost item like a CD or DVD.

    Their customer service is awful, and as this submission illustrates, their warranty service is useless.

    Most big-box stores have their problems with customer service, so I am loathe to recommend any of them, but Best Buy is the bottom of the barrel.

  4. Magister says:

    That is pretty bad. I tend to show up at the store and get loud. Remind other customers in the area what is going on. At the very least you could discourage other sales while you are there.

    Can someone clarify the 60 Day law? And not just uninformed guesses… Maybe an actual link.

  5. jacques says:

    I can’t understand why Best Buy inter-store communication is so poor.
    I purchased a record player floor model (with warrantee) a number of years ago in Illinois, as I was moving to Connecticut for college. The record player didn’t work from the day I hooked it up. The closest store at that time was 40 miles away, and refused to even look at it, as I didn’t purchase it at the store, and they couldn’t pull up the information on their computers. I asked them to call up the IL store, and they told me they couldn’t do it. I finally found the paperwork, bought it in, and the manager told me they’d do me the favour of sending it in, even though normally they wouldn’t.

  6. ElizabethD says:

    Well, good luck with that, Gavin, eh? (ha)

    Mainly I just wanted to say to Consumerist that I love any post that quotes Art Spiegelman — or, in this case, his father via Art.

  7. I used to work at Future Shop (Best Buy bought them, so they’re the same store with a different name at this point), this kind of thing is not as unusual as you might think.

    The key, as with most customer interactions, is determination. Management operates on a ‘rebate’ process, where they seem to think if they make things frustrating enough then people will give up and bam, their bottom line is improved.

    This is the problem posed by sales goals that cannot be met without screwing a lot of people. Sales goals that bonuses for managers are dependant on.

    And jacques? There is no real inter-store communication. Nothing monitored anyways, most employees don’t have access to company email and most management won’t use it because it leaves a paper trail. Therefore you’ve got phoning back and forth between people who may or may not be there the next day and already have dozens of other things to deal with.

    I live in the Vancouver area and have 3 years of experience working sales and customer service for these fuckers, so if Gavin needs advice or help, I’d be happy to. Pass him my email, cabbit {}AT{} goldengod {}DOT{} net.



  8. MonsieurBon says:

    “Who drops a laptop?”

    A lot of people. I do computer hardware work and I’ve had people bring in laptops with screens cracked in the shape of a footprint, or the case seriously banged up, and they want it fixed under warranty because “the screen just cracked on its own!”

  9. In times like these, I am reminded of a comment that was posted here that I’ve come to use.

    Call up the HQ again and say, “You are not following the legal requirements of the warrenty. I thought it would be prudent to contact you before talking to the press about this issue”.

  10. Stupid warranties are a bunch of scams. If they can ever, EVER claim that it was caused by damage or accident by the end user, they will. Why? Because it invalidates the warranty.

    A friend of mine had a nice Toshiba laptop – or used to. One day when he had finished sending an email, he closed the lid (normally, not slamming it or anything), and hears a cracking noise. Opens it, and there’s a lovely crack down the middle of the LCD. There were even witnesses to this. Brings it in, and the store insists that because this should not be possible (no kidding, that’s why they’re supposed to fix it), it MUST have been something he did, and they weren’t going to honour the warranty on it.

  11. factotum says:

    I once dropped my IBM Thinkpad and, yep, the screen cracked. I looked up the part number for the screen, found a replacement unit that was less than $130 (about $200 less than what the repair depot wanted) and repaired it myself. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t terribly difficult, either. Instructions can be found with a bit of sleuthing. This is the source for the part.

  12. SpamFighterLoy says:

    I’m amazed at the number of people who won’t go face-to-face for a big ticket item. Describing damage over the phone is problematic, at best. When you’re talking about a three- our four-figure purchase, you can’t go to the store and speak with the manager personally? I find that being polite but persistent and quite loud is enough.

    ‘Course, you really lost my sympathy when you let them wipe the hard drive for a hardware problem. Idiocy should never be condoned, even for the sake of expediency.

  13. SpamFighterLoy says:

    I’m amazed at the number of people who won’t go face-to-face for a big ticket item. Describing damage over the phone is problematic, at best. When you’re talking about a three- our four-figure purchase, you can’t go to the store and speak with the manager personally? I find that being polite but persistent and occasionally loud is enough.

    ‘Course, you really lost my sympathy when you let them erase software for a hardware problem. Idiocy should never be condoned, even for the sake of expediency.

  14. dandmb50 says:

    I had shopped at Best Buy in the US for many years since my sister lives in Michigan. So when Best Buy announced they were coming to Canada I was excited and happy, until I started going there. I think it was the first time I went to their store (Sherway) at 427/Queensway in Toronto.
    It wasn’t even the first month they opened and when I went there I shopped for a few things and went to checkout. There’s about 7 checkout spots and about only two were open and yet all kinds I mean all kinds of employees standing around. I finally spoke up to the guy at the front door and he said over the PA system code 81 or something, and then it seemed people started to arrive at the checkout.
    I suspect this wouldn’t happen in the US because if 20 people are in line at checkout and only 2 cashiers the guy at the door would have been monitoring it and called out the “calling all cashiers” long before it happened. This is only one case of bad custeomer service at Best Buy Canada but there are many others.
    Employees suposedly are paid by the hour not commission but when I walk into their stores here in Canada all they do is bother me all the time. If I want help I will approach a sales person. Leave me alone and let me shop. The one good thing is they have a lot of employees, but get them to stop bothering the customers and put them on the bloody cash registers. If they have no customers checking out no problem, stay there and wait, but at least they will be there when they are needed.


  15. Ikki says:

    Now, THIS is exactly why I go to the smaller stores to buy anything at all. I regret buying my first comp at Best Buy.

    Basically, I bought a model of an HP computer (Intel 1.5GHz, 256MB of RAM if I remember correctly). It was covered under warranty for free, and it seemed like a good deal, so we bought it (I was 11 at the time, 6 years ago). We brought it home, and the motherboard fried. Like FRIED fried. Smoke puffing out of the fans fried. We took it back, and the technicians were astounded that _we_ managed to break the computer in less than 2 hours. We tried to explain that we just plugged it in and turned it on and it fried, but they accused my mom (who is more comp illiterate than the Amish) of OCing the computer way too much. After about a month and a half of fighting, we just got too pissed.

    Warranty voided, stuck with a $1200 brick. Luckily a small store near my house had good sales/technicians, and they liked to tweak some of the newer stuff (Keep in mind, 1.5GHz was a luxury back then). We traded in the busted mobo and the processor for a new mobo and a slightly slower processor. Total lost: $0.

    However, you should follow Phillip M. Vector’s advice. I find that works when I’m dealing with warranties on friends’ comps.

    Oh, and never use Best Buy again. EVER.

  16. Fiona Ferguson says:

    We bought a leather couch and loveseat from the Brick in Sudbury, Ontario two years ago. Within a few months, the middle of the couch began sagging due to no support legs in the middle. We contacted the store to have it repaired which took several months for an appointment but, in so doing, the repairman offered to restuff the cushions/arms as they had become quite flat – great! He also made a comment about overseas products that are substandard. Once it was returned to our home, we noticed that the loveseat looked horrible in comparison and requested the loveseat also be restuffed. By this time, we were now over the one-year mark so, yes, you guessed it, the store manager said he wouldn’t authorize this repair. When I requested to speak to his boss (everyone has a boss!) he said, “It ends with me.” How arrogant. I was able to contact Head Office and get this repair approved. Finally, we have lately noticed the ‘top-grain’ leather is wearing away and the seams are coming apart. I took pictures and threatened to pass out flyers to potential clients in my request to have the Brick take back their crap. Nothing!

    Furniture used to last years and years. Who can afford to spend $1500-$2000 every two years for a livingroom set? We will never ever shop at the Brick or BestBuy for that matter, but that’s another story!