This is the ultimate Geek Squad insider confession. It’s 10 pages long.
• Wave a magic erase and reinstall wand over a used PC. SHAZAM! Now it’s a new PC!
• Geek Squad agents scour your computer for those porn pics you and your girlfriend(s) took, and load it onto their thumb drives. Even the ones you thought you deleted.
• GS used to be great, until they replaced most of the actual techs with salesmen.
Raw, uncut and uncorroborated, you’ll think twice about bringing your computer to Geek Squad after reading this one…
Introduction – What’s all this, then?
I am writing this for various reasons. One reason is in hopes that I might shine some light on the reality of Geek Squad and Best Buy; both correcting false rumors, as well as confirming others. Another reason that I have chosen to write this is out of retribution. No, not “revenge”, or the stereotypical “payback” you may think of a former employee wanting. And no, not the “vengeance” of a “disgruntled employee”, which I surely am not, and still recommend Best Buy services as much as I had before. The retribution I speak of is simply the need for closure. Geek Squad was a wonderful and amazing company, and I indeed loved–and now miss–my job, as well as my friends I made while there (both co-workers as well as customers). Sadly, due to certain events, and by no fault of Geek Squad itself, the company changed, corrupted, and slowly reduced itself to what it currently is. I spent every ounce of myself to make Geek Squad as great as possible, and in the end, due to corporate bureaucracy, bad decisions, and greed, my job that I had taken with so much pride, had turned into something that now brings me shame for even being a part of. Despite all of this, the main reason, however, is essentially so I do not forget the details of my experiences. As you start digesting my story, do so not in the mindset of reading an expos
of a company, rather, do so in the mindset of reading a tragic novel.
I Thought Best Buy was Evil – And I was wrong.
Like many people, I have an interesting history with Best Buy. From return issues, to fictitious warranty information, I had experienced just about all I wanted to in regards to the Best Buy brand. But why did I work for them? Did I need the money? No. Was it some sort of sick joke? No. I applied because it was the summer, and my friend worked for Best Buy and guaranteed me I was wrong about them. He was right, and I was definitely wrong.
Best Buy was an amazing company! I remember distinctly telling my friends and family (some who didn’t believe me) how wrong I had been about Best Buy. I remember laughing with my fellow Geek Squad agents. I remember smiling and helping customers. I remember wanting to come to work and not wanting to leave. I remember wearing my Geek Squad uniform with pride, even when I could feel the glares of people and hear their giggles. But why should I care? I love working with computers, I love helping people, and I loved my job that allowed me to do both.
I Thought Best Buy was Amazing – And I was wrong.
I loved my job, and I kid you not, it breaks my heart to think back as I watched Geek Squad–almost a member of my family–become beaten and ravaged by Best Buy. It was a shock to me as it happened, but not to everyone. One agent commented to me how Geek Squad replaced Best Buy’s old support service. And indeed, he was correct. Though, the marriage of Best Buy and Geek Squad was the most advertised, Geek Squad was surely not Best Buy’s first tech-support companion. Best Buy use to have its own tech support service, which it corrupted, ruined, and then replaced with Geek Squad… and is now repeating the process with this new acquisition.
Some of you must be wondering how, exactly, I could have been wrong about Best Buy on both sides of the spectrum. I’ll do my best to explain as we continue on.
Customer Centricity – Common Sense Comes at a Price.
It wasn’t long after I was hired into the company when I learned why I was so wrong about it: “Customer Centricity”. You see, the current Vice Chairman and CEO of Best Buy is a wonderful and kind man by the name of Brad Anderson. I had the privilege of meeting, working, and even eating with Anderson on numerous occasions while working at Best Buy. Anderson has one of those “kind faces” that you do not forget; the kind of face that has a smile even when he is not smiling, and the kind of eyes that do not judge you, and make you realize that the difference between you and him does not rest in the amount of zero’s in his bank account, but rather how much of yourself you put into your job. He is a great man, and I cannot stress how much I respect him. Sadly, though, it was his kindness that, I believe, would contribute to the downfall of Best Buy’s Geek Squad.
From what other executives in the company told me, the reason my beloved Best Buy was so amazing had to do a lot with the fact that Anderson was getting old, and hoped to leave a legacy behind him of making Best Buy “Customer Centristic”. And there I go again, using that term, “Customer Centristic”… Let me explain what I mean: In 2003, a man named Larry Selden published a book, Angel Customers and Demon Customers, and I am not quite sure who read it, but it caught someone’s eye in Best Buy. Selden worked with Best Buy to develop Customer Centricity, which basically is a fancy term for, “If you treat customers right, they will trust you and buy more from you.” That’s it. It boggled my mind how something so simple could be so hard to comprehend, and would require a man like Selden to be paid large amounts of money to consult Best Buy on their customer centricity goals. But this was reality.
Selden became a man of folklore within the realm of Best Buy. I heard rumors that he was chauffeured from Best Buy to Best Buy in a stretch limo. The very mention of Selden visiting your Best Buy caused managers to swiftly move through the stores, snapping their fingers at employees, yelling at them to be on their best behavior.
Selden’s customer centricity was just what Anderson was looking for to help path the way for his legacy of patching Best Buy’s reputation. And it would have worked, if not for the kindness of a CEO.
The Death of Customer Centricity – All Good Things Must Come to an End.
In the Bahamas, on August 23rd, 2005, a moderate storm formed and moved across southern Florida. Suddenly, the warm waters of the Gulf magnified it, then, on August 29th, 2005, she slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi. Her name was Katrina. Inside all of the statistics of death, injury, and destruction, there were fifteen Best Buy stores affected by Katrina, and out of that fifteen, six stores were completely ruined; I remember at least one of these six was reportedly looted, and another was under water.
This was, indeed, a trying time for any CEO, but Anderson pushed forward, and declared that all the employees, from the stores which were destroyed, would remain on payroll, despite them having no store in which to work. I distinctly remember having mixed emotions about this decision. On the one hand, it was a beautiful and enormous act of generosity to help the “members of the Best Buy family”, however, the business side of me began to crunch the numbers and, in my head, I watched Best Buy dig itself into the red through generosity. And surely, they did.
Best Buy’s stock was already not doing too well, and soon, it began to dip further. Was this completely due to Best Buy’s pledge to pay hundreds of employees from stores that were bringing in no revenue? I cannot say for certain. What I do know for sure, however, is that as the company’s belt began to tighten, the backlash was felt throughout the country. From coast to coast, hours began to be cut, and lives became disrupted. I am not saying it was not noble to help the victims of Katrina, nor am I saying it was wrong to do so. I am simply pointing out a fact that we all learned early in school, which is for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When Anderson decided to help a concentration of employees in Louisiana and Mississippi, he, in turn, decided to economically hurt hundreds more employees spread throughout the United States.
I remember coming to work, and seeing that I had no hours to work. I did not mind, though, because, again… I was not there for the money to begin with, and I only stayed for the friendship and love of my job. Many times I gave my hours up completely to my friends who were desperately trying to pay their rent, insurance, and other bills that had previously never been a weight on their minds.
The thought of what happened in Katrina didn’t really faze me as much as it did to people who lost loved ones in the storm. I am not saying I did not care, because I did. I watched the news every day, just like everyone else. I donated from my paycheck every two weeks, as much as I could, to hope that it would find its way to helping those in need. And I prayed that they would keep finding survivors, even when it was clear they would not. But I did not lose anyone… so I thought.
It was only as the weeks began to pass that I realized I had indeed lost someone–a loved one: Geek Squad. In late 2005, Geek Squad’s integrity, along with Customer Centricty, had drowned in the turbulent floodwaters of economic tragedy, caused, in part, by Hurricane Katrina and the kindness of an old man. Simply put, Best Buy needed to increase profits… and while customer centricty filled the stores with happy customers, ripping customers off filled the store’s pockets with money.
From Geek Squad to Geek $quad – The Death of Technicians, and the Rise of Salesmen.
Where once store meetings were a rarity, they had now become ritualistic. Stores kept missing their numbers, and in the land of Best Buy, a worker who doesn’t meet his numbers means a manager who doesn’t keep their job. It may sound intriguing that it may work this way… punishing managers for the shortcomings of employees, but it is this military-like strategy that helps keep non-commissioned employees motivated by their managers.
Ah yes… the old, “We don’t get paid on commission here!” Line. It is definitely true… Best Buy employees do not get paid on commission; however, I find this even worse than if they were. You see, when you go into a store where you know the employees work on commission, you instinctively keep your guard up. However, when you know the employees receive no commission, you are inclined to believe you are hearing the truth rather than lies from a salesperson hoping to get another “sale”. It’s a psychological tactic that relies on the ability for Best Buy to motivate their employees with charts, graphs, and the occasional reprimand from a superior. It works, though. Oh, it does work! To some, it may be in hopes of “moving up the ladder”, or receiving applause from the entire store at a meeting, or even, possibly, the sheer fact that some employees are so egotistical that they actually believe their own bogus information while selling a customer on a product.
Before you go hating all the employees, though, in my opinion, it is not entirely their fault. While Geek Squad use to be a condensed army of the most computer savvy men and women the world has ever known, it has been diluted and infected by swarms of salesmen and saleswomen. The Geek Squad uniform use to emboss the separation of class between the interchangeable and recyclable blue-shirted salespeople and the geek-sheik computer gurus who were nothing less than company assets. While it use to imply knowledge, it now implies assumption… and that is what you might get. You see, when an employee is entrusted with the job of a Geek Squad agent, they now only need to believe they know what they are talking about–as if their clip-on-tie gives them automatic right-of-passage into the nerd world. This belief leads many of them to suggest products and answer questions regardless of whether they know what they are talking about… because they must know what they are talking about… they are wearing the clip on tie, Geek Squad button, and badge… therefore whatever dribble comes out of their mouth, which leads to money coming out of your wallet, must be correct.
I am sincerely sorry if I have eroded your view of the men and women who drive those fancy VW Beetles, but it is a reality that you must remember and keep with you always. If you, for any reason doubt me, by all means, apply to Geek Squad yourself, just remember that it is easier to become Geek Squad by transferring into the department from being a salesperson than it is to apply directly to Geek Squad and actually know what you are doing.
The fact is that you are no more likely to see a real technician at a Geek Squad today than you would be to see a real 5’10” mouse, wearing red suspenders at Disneyland. It is all an act… a show to provide what the customer assumes they need to see. The shoes, the ties, the badges, the pants, the socks, and the shirts do not increase the persons ability to fix your computer, they merely fulfill the customer’s subconscious expectation of what a competent computer technician looks like.
Used PC + Deleting Evidence = New PC – My First Deal with the Devil
I clocked in and began working like I had all the other days, but it would not be like all the other days. On this day, I would favor the respect of my superior, rather than that of my integrity.
Towards the end of my shift, I was called over to help install a security and customization package on a newly purchased computer. For those who do not understand, a security package is the ability for a customer to wait an extra 30 to 45 minutes for their computer, plus pay an additional fee on top of the cost of software they could have installed themselves. Customization is the word we used rather than, “We are going to uninstall all of the useless garbage that computer manufacturers pre-install on your computer.” This includes the running of a couple of programs at the end to “tweak” settings (I compare it to a “protein boost” in a smoothie… you know you are paying extra for something you don’t understand… you can’t really tell the difference between having it and not… but it just sounds so great, how can you refuse to get it?!). I greeted the customer, like I always had done, and I told them how long it would take, then sent them on their way. I proceeded to open the box and take the computer out, then boot it up.
Chinese? Japanese? I don’t read either, so I am unable to tell you what it was exactly… but whatever it said, they were user accounts–on the new computer. The new computer… the one I had just opened. I was new at the job, but the idea that a “new” computer referred to one that was unused seemed to not match up with the reality of the situation. I quickly scampered around the store, looking for my manager. “Hey! You have to come look at this!” I said. He followed me back to my station and looked at the computer. “What’s wrong?” He asked as he stared at the monitor. “This is the new computer that couple just bought… but its not new… it has user accounts on it already”, I said, almost feeling proud that I had caught something as confusing and random as this. He then looked at me, and in a tone that you would expect a man to ask had he just found a million dollars under a park bench, he lifted his eyebrow, and mumbled, “Well… what do you think we should do?” I paused, thought, and replied; “Well… they bought a new one… and it’s not new.” He quickly corrected my judgment, and told me that I should just “clean it, and it will be ok.” I knew it was not ok, though, but I went ahead and started uninstalling any programs, and deleting any proof that the computer had been previously owned by anyone. It was when I found a virus on the computer, that I begged the attention of my manager again. I was met with the same suave explanation of it being ok… which is all I needed to hear to continue. So I cleaned the computer, removed the virus, and had it as good as new for the customers.
Now, to some people, this may seem like no big deal… after all, I did clean it, and it was as good as a fresh install of Windows. But the fact remains that it was not a new computer, and should not have cost full price. And before anyone completely blames Best Buy, you must remember that while my manager and I were employees of Best Buy, it was ultimately my inability and intimidation that resulted in my actions. This is the same process that causes so many other seemingly good technicians to do stupid things. I value my integrity highly, so something like this weighs very heavily on me, which is why I made sure to not allow myself to be pressured into questioning my integrity again… if only more employees had followed suit.
Geek Squad’s Lord and Savior: #10 – Buckle Up as We Descend.
In Christianity, the most sacred text would be the Bible. Scientists may hold their most sacred text as Darwin’s Origin of Species. For Geek Squad, it is #10. What is #10? It is the 10th section on the contract that any Geek Squad customer agrees to, as well as signs in acknowledgment of their understanding. The sacred text of #10 reads as follows:
10. I AGREE THAT I MUST BACKUP MY DATA, SOFTWARE, INFORMATION AND/OR FILES, Best Buy will NOT backup any data, software, information and/or files on my computer or other product unless I specifically request Best Buy to do so for an applicable fee prior to the performance for any repair or service.
I, THE UNDERSIGNED, AGREE THAT PRIOR TO DELIVERING MY PRODUCT TO BEST BUY FOR REPAIRS OR SERVICING IT IS MY RESPONSIBILITY: (1) TO BACKUP THE DATA, SOFTWARE, INFORMATION OR OHER FILES STORED ON MY PRODUCT; AND (2) TO REMOVE ALL VIDEOTAPES, COMPACT DISCS, CASSETTES, DVDS, FILM OR OTHER MEDIA FROM MY PRODUCT. FURTHER, I AGREE THAT WHETHER OR NOT I REQUEST BEST BUY TO BACKUP ANY DATA, SOFTWARE, INFORMATION AND/OR FILES, IN NO EVENT SHALL BEST BUY AND/OR ITS THIRD PARTY SERVICE PROVIDER BE LIABLE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES FOR ANY LOSS, ALTERATION, OR CORRUPTION OF ANY DATA, SOFTWARE, INFORMATION, FILES, OR LOSS OF ANY OTHER MEDIA FROM MY PRODUCT.
There are 11 sections total to the contract, and, as you can see, this one is placed at the bottom for good reason. Again, I will defend Best Buy’s choice to want to use this protection. If you have ever worked on a computer, you know that no matter how careful, prepared, skilled, or knowledgeable you are… crazy stuff can happen. Crazy, unexpected stuff… stuff that can get you sued by people who don’t accept the cruelty of life… if you aren’t protected under a #10, that is. But what I do not defend is the misuse of this most sacred and precious text.
The reason I am giving this it’s own section is because I feel it is the most important factor one should know about Geek Squad. I mean, you seriously have to wonder why someone would choose to use a service, such as Geek Squad, which costs double or more what your neighborhood nerd may charge. I honestly think it comes down to the false assumption of trust and dependability. Some kid on the corner… how could you trust him? What if he breaks your computer?! What if he searches your computer for those pictures you took of yourself on vacation, but thought you deleted?! What if he steals your username and passwords?! But… what if he already works for Geek Squad?
This is where it all comes back to the psychological game, costumes, and fancy catchphrases. It is to trick the customer into believing that they are in the presence of people who cannot–or even are less likely to–destroy their computer, steal their information, or do anything else that someone without a fancy uniform may be more inclined to do, despite the fact that customers sign off on the glorious #10, which allows Best Buy complete carte blanch. The only protection a customer has is the assumption that a company will be good. Sadly, I witnessed first hand just how not good a company, with such protection as #10, can be.
It was during the death of customer centricity and the shortage of hours that Geek Squad began to get backed up with computers. Apparently, computers began to build up faster than they could be repaired, which was causing problems with the management. Basically, the turn-around time on every computer is logged, so from the time a computer comes in until the time it goes out, the system monitors how long it takes. I’m not sure what this data is used for specifically, but it obviously put a lot of pressure on to the managers to rectify the situation. But what can you do when you have a wall full of computers with problems ranging from viruses to corrupted hard drives, no money to give more hours out to bring in more techs to work on them, and a ticking Big Brother-esque software program haunting you from the monitor? I am not sure what I would do, but I do know what was done. I plead the 10th!
The procedure taken to catch up on the computers was to take any computer currently in line to be fixed, or being dropped off to be fixed, and–if it had a software or operating system issue–wipe it, and reinstall Windows. Then, when the customer was given back his or her computer, an agent would inform them that due to an error, their data was lost. If they protested, the agent would be considerate, but in the end, if need be, point out #10 and their signature beneath it. For those that do not understand “wipe”, it refers to completely deleting all data off the hard drive, and re-installing a fresh version of the Windows operating system. One supportive comment given by a manager, after a obligatory chuckle, was, “Oh well, they should have bought a data backup!” I never took part in this strategy, thankfully, as I was forced onto the floor to help people with their purchases after I was caught by a manager informing customers it would be better if they went to the Geek Squad a few towns over until we catch up.
We Use to be Efficient… Then We Got Sued – Software Licenses Don’t Like Corporations.
Keeping with the theme of differences between Geek Squad and a hobo with a thumb drive, let me ask you… what can a Geek Squad agent do better that someone else cannot? If your answer is “charge more”, then you are correct, but you missed what I am fishing for. If your answer is “nothing”, then you win an all expenses paid trip for your hand to your back for a weekend of patting. Good job!
At first, Geek Squad was great. We were better than great… we were, like I said, a concentration of the most uber of computer savvy people you’ve ever seen. We didn’t care that we were called “Geeks” because we had no friends, and therefore no one to worry about laughing at us. We were stereotypes, and we were good at our jobs. But why were we good at our jobs? Because we used good software, and knew how to use it well. That’s all a technician is… just a person that memorizes what should be used for what problems, and then knows how to click or type some commands… similar to a doctor picking the right scalpel, just with less blood in our patients.
But, alas, most of us geeks were previously computer technicians before working for Geek Squad, and thus, we had our own various secret ingredients of software. Software that was completely legal to use… until we got hired by Geek Squad. You see, many software titles come with freeware licenses for personal use. Geek Squad was definitely not considered “personal use”. It didn’t take long for some of the more popular flavors of virus removers, scanners, and diagnostic tools to start recognizing the huge amounts of bandwidth being seeped away by Best Buys all around the country, and soon, the lawsuits would come.
Best Buy fought the lawsuits, and then sent down marching orders to managers to start reprimanding Geek Squad agents. At first, it was more of a “wink-wink”, “nudge-nudge” warning, however, soon it was a serious matter which could end with serious consequences. This is when Geek Squad got more stern with its “approved software” lists, as well as copies of their proprietary CDs containing various automated fixes. This is where Geek Squad stopped being a service, and started being strictly an entertainment segment of Best Buy that fiddled with computers.
Now, the difference between a Geek Squad agent and a hobo with a thumb drive is that the hobo with a thumb drive has the potential to efficiently fix your problem. If you don’t understand, then let me help you envision the reality of viruses and their removal: When a new virus hits the internet, many times, there will be some lone programmer that will write a simple program that will fix the virus in a click or two. Many times, there are multiple programmers with multiple versions of fixes. These programs are released for free under licenses that restrict corporations from touching them. This means that the hobo with a thumb drive may be able to fix your problem for $20 in 15 minutes, while a Geek Squad agent, with no legal ability to use the efficient program, may charge you $80 or more, take days to work on it, and in the end, might be forced to offer the “only solution” as a reformat… which you will also pay for.
Again, if you do not believe me, or feel I am exaggerating in this or anything else I have said… feel free to test my claims. Infect a computer with a virus that has a simple one-click fix tool, bring it to a Geek Squad, and ask them how much to fix it. Maybe offer them the program and say you think it may help?
Remember Those Photos You Thought You Deleted? – New Computers are like Easter Egg Hunts.
If there were a competition between a Playboy editor, a photo lab technician, and a voyeur for the person who has seen the most random pictures of naked people… the only way any of them would win is if the Geek Squad agent was late to the contest.
Again, this must all go back to the psychological game that is played with customers, but it astonishes me how trusting people are with their computers. If I walked into your house right now and asked to use your computer, you would probably be, at the least, a bit curious… if not screaming. But put me in my Geek Squad uniform, give me my badge, and put me in my VW Beetle, and you are anxious to give up your seat. Too add to it, every Geek Squad agent is equipped with a USB thumb drive, which is basically a tool used for storage of our tools… or any other data an agent might like.
Are you aware that you can locate every image and movie located on your hard drive by just using the windows search function? Did you know that, especially if you use Internet Explorer, Windows keeps an easily retrievable record of many of your usernames and passwords to almost any website (including banking websites), whether or not you save your password manually? I understand that if you need your computer fixed, there are not many options, but at least if someone is fixing your computer in front of your eyes, you can make sure they don’t go for a scavenger hunt in your hard drive.
Let me make it clear again: if you have any interesting pictures of yourself or others on your computer, then they–will–be–found. Some geeks are like bloodhounds when it comes to pornography.
Moral of the Story – Pencils Down.
The point of me writing this, again, was not to try to scare you away from using Geek Squad, and because of that, I will not dive into more sinister stories of stealing money, parts, and other heinous acts committed at the store I called home. Why? Because Best Buy and Geek Squad are not a single entity… they are made up of individuals who are entrusted with the company brand, as well as providing its services. Very sadly, some of those individuals acted in ways that ended up destroying a company that my fellow agents, and I, sorely miss.
Some rumors you may hear are true, others, however, may just be the act of a single employee, not of Geek Squad as a whole. The main aspect I hope I have conveyed to any readers is that, if you must use Geek Squad, you must not allow yourself to be tricked by the game. Ignore the costumes, ignore the cute stickers, and ignore the smiles and the jokes. Read what you sign, and ask questions. Don’t feel pressured by salesmen “not on commission”. And always remember that there are still many Geek Squad agents who know what they are doing, and who are honest, however, sadly, they might not be allowed to speak to customers due to the low returns on sincerity.
And finally, the current structure of many Geek Squads today is an insult to so many agents, including myself. While there will of course be many that will stand by Geek Squad no matter what, I can not blame them… its hard to want to realize that, due to circumstances outside of your control, your pride, your ethics, your morality, and your integrity all have a price… which happens to be that of the company’s stock.