Circuit City Denies Its In-Home TV Calibration Is A Total Scam

Speaking on behalf of Circuit City in regards to our post, “Circuit City’s In-Home TV Calibration Is A Total Scam”, Mike Vallebuona of New Media Strategies (a company that protects its clients from “online attacks, rumors and misinformation”) send us the following pulsating pile of drivel:

First, Firedog technicians should only perform services that they are properly trained in completing. Second, the employee’s testimonial is not accurate regarding the way in which Circuit City calibrates televisions. Firedog technicians follow procedures recommended by Sound & Vision, a professional authority on home theater, audio, video and multimedia products. When conducted properly, the test patterns improve television performance including contrast, brightness and power usage, among other aspects. Additionally, on an unrelated note, an e-mail appears to be circulating that claims Circuit City and other stores have filed for bankruptcy. If you receive this e-mail, please know that the information is completely false, as far as Circuit City is concerned.

That’s nice. But according to the employee, his boss made him perform the test he apparently hadn’t been trained at all to do, and was threatened with job termination if he didn’t go and do it. Does Circuit City have a similar policy against managers telling employees to “make believe like you’re changing settings” ? If you have fingers attached your hands, you can probably operate the contrast and brightness settings on your TV, and save yourself from Circuit City’s useless tv calibration “service.” Oh, and we’re glad to hear that Circuit City isn’t filing for bankruptcy, as that would totally throw our “who is Circuit City a takeover target for” betting pool totally out of whack.

PREVIOUSLY: Insiders: Circuit City’s In-Home TV Calibration Is A Total Scam


Edit Your Comment

  1. Wow, I wish i would have been the one to decide to start a business about defending internet rumors.

  2. mycroft2000 says:

    Far from this practise coming to an end any time soon, I’m wagering that Williams-Sonoma will soon be offering toaster calibrations for a bargain $79.99.

  3. FreeMarketGravy says:

    “Firedog technicians should only perform services that they are properly trained in completing.”

    Someone at CC HQ should tell all their stores then because I don’t think many know this.

    “Firedog technicians follow procedures … When conducted properly, the test patterns improve television performance including contrast, brightness and power usage, among other aspects.”

    Considering that this is completely subjective, I can’t actively dispute it, but I can say 99% of the CC installers and technicians I knew in my tenure there could barely tell an analog picture from a digital and a handful thought plasma TVs were “more expensive LCDs.”

    “If you receive this e-mail, please know that the information is completely false, as far as Circuit City is concerned.”

    Yes, the information contained in this posted e-mail is, in fact, completely false.

    • Anonymous says:


      While it doesn’t matter now because they are gone. The tiny (and I do mean tiny) Circuit City in Silverdale Washington was pretty damn honest in the PC department :).

      Mainly because we all hated getting swindled, although to be fair our manager was kind of on the fence since everytime he came back from those big ‘meetings’ he’d want to scam people :P.

      It was like dealing with a cult. I have to honestly say it’s a shame that particular store went under, it was an entire store full of friends that outsold the BB next door to it which was many times larger.

      ANYWHO out I go to read about the rest of the ripoffs on here. Some good stuff :)

  4. midwestkel says:

    @BrandonOBrien: Yeah me too!

  5. privateer says:

    So the supposedly-not-yet-bankrupt Circuit City spends what little money it does earn on “a company that protects its clients from ‘online attacks, rumors and misinformation’.” Maybe that money would be better spent improving its services. Then it wouldn’t have to defend itself. Classic.

  6. qwijybo says:

    As a professional broadcast tech for 11 years now, I have to ask how exactly does a test pattern improve my tv’s power usage. While I agree that properly used the test signals can be used to adjust the picture to give you a better image that comes near to SMPTE standards, I call BS on the power usage claims. Plus you can do these youself with any dvd movie that comes with the THX optimizer feature.

  7. nrich239 says:

    Adjusting the power usage? I’d like to call BULLS**T on that!

  8. IphtashuFitz says:

    So how can a consumer tell if a Firedog technician is “properly trained in completing” a service like an HDTV “calibration”? Do we just take the word of the tech who shows up? Do we take the word of the manager who may have told an untrained tech to pretend to do the calibration or he’ll be fired? Do they have some pretty certificate they can show me to prove that they’ve been properly trained?

    • Anonymous says:


      Not that it matters but yes indeed there was training stuff people could do and have certification for.

      Problem was that after a while they stopped requiring it. I pretty much refused to do anything I couldn’t get done. Luckily the CC I worked at had all but 1 honest managers.

      Man though…Dan…the ONE guy who was a priest (or pastor I forget the terminology) was the sleazy salesmen. Irony much?

  9. If I ever have the cash to wad up and throw out a window, I’m going to get this service done…but refuse to let the technition touch my television. he just has to tell me what to do and when.

  10. Truvill says:

    Anyway to launch a counterattack on that site without resorting to doubling the data force?

  11. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @IphtashuFitz: The theory at play is that you can’t be a tech until you complete the certification quizzes CC asks you to pass.

    I knew 4 computer techs and 3 home install techs in my tenure. 5 of them got multiple attempts at the quiz (when you weren’t supposed to have more than 2) and 1 never completed his and was still allowed to go to customers’ homes, etc.

  12. Bye says:

    Now does the NOTYETBANKRUPT Circuit City have a deal with Sound & Vision magazine? If Sound & Vision is letting them use their name on a suspicious “calibration” system, I’d love to learn more.

  13. cheviot says:

    Actually, it can affect power usage, but only on a CRT display.

    You see, televisions ship from the factory with the brightness turned way too far up. This is so the picture still looks okay under those bright lights in the showroom.

    This causes several problems on a CRT display. Firstly, the bright parts of an image expand outward, masking detail. Secondly, the too bright image burns the phosphors that make up the inside of the picture tube, shortening it’s life and creating a burned in image and thirdly, more power is required to display an image when it’s being displayed much more brightly than it’s supposed to be.

    Now, is that extra power usage going to break the bank? No. But it is a real effect.

    The power usage trick is also true of rear projection tvs. Some have the option to turn down bulb brightness, which not only saves power, it prolongs bulb life.

  14. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @valarmorghulis: The thing that boggles my mind is how willing people are to let Firedog techs into their homes and not know what they’re doing there. If this calibration was some shady thing they “did” in the warehouse, then that’d be one thing, but would anyone with half a brain let someone they don’t know into THEIR house to touch THEIR television without at least trying to find out what they were doing?

  15. Ausoleil says:


    Just get the Avia or the Digital Video Essentials DVD and do it yourself.

    It’s not exactly rocket science to complete.

  16. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @Rey: I don’t know if they do, but I do recall Sound & Vision’s name and logo being on the old Protection Plan kits that got passed out to every buyer of a protection plan (and thus allowed them to “calibrate” their own TV).

    Still, this is a third party PR e-mail. I could post here on this site that I have the backing of Rolling Stone magazine to say that Phil Collins can drum circles around Lars Ulrich. That doesn’t mean I actually have their backing.

  17. nick_r says:

    I think all Flacky McFlackerson means is that Circuit City technicians use the standard Sound & Vision calibration disc, which is generally considered inferior to both the Digital Video Essentials and Avia versions, thus proving even further that Circuit City doesn’t know it’s shit.

  18. qwijybo says:

    @ Cheviot, good point I had assumed that this was being done for plasma and lcd displays only since no one is buying CRT’s anymore.

    I’d also like to add to my earlier comment that most people wouldn’t see a huge improvement unless the image was extremly out of adjustment, and most people never adjust their tv’s to begin with. The only people I ever met in my career that could see it were people who worked in film and image processing or colour timing.

  19. Tzepish says:

    @BrandonOBrien: Why would you want this guy’s job? The entire world now knows that Mike Vallebuona is a liar.

  20. avenger339 says:

    I think that someone in Circuit City should be sacked for even having the idea of doing business with “New Media Strageties”.

    Seriously, it looks like a 10-year old kid formulated the idea behind that “rebuttal” (if you can even call it that). Bringing up unsubstantiated rumors in an e-mail where you don’t even address the problem at hand? Bush league.

  21. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Plasma works MUCH the same as a CRT in this regard. It use electricity to excite a gas. The gas emits UV photons that then cause phosphor to glow.

    A CRT bombards the phosphor directly with electrons, but either way there is a direct correlation between brightness and power consumed.

    Most larger LCD televisions have adjustable back lights, and that can affect power consumption. Once the backlight is set though, a black screen uses MORE power than a white screen.

  22. CaptZ says:

    “Bush League”

    After GW Bush, that term seems so much more inferior.

    Anyway…..CC and Firedog are proving themselves as bad a BB and Geek Squad. Hell, maybe CC hired all those Geeks that BB let go after their “interrogations”

  23. mantari says:

    Improved “contrast” and “brightness”. Wow. Oh, wait… improved “power usage”. I’d like to know more about that one. (The screen is less bright, so it uses less power?)

    And “other aspects”. What are these aspects? This is worthy of a followup in and of itself.

    What, no gamma? No red push? No RGB gain or bias controls? Convergence? Linearity? Color temperature? What kind of a “calibration” is this?!!

    Excessive used of “quotes” used for sarcastic purposes.

  24. vallebuona says:

    Hey, thanks for the shout out, Ben. :)

    Listen, I work with Circuit City very closely, and I know firsthand that they would not want their technicians doing something they aren’t trained to do. That just wouldn’t make sense.

    Of course, you are the Consumerist, there is a natural bias for consumers here, and a lot of what you post is spot on. That said, we all know that not every allegation about every company is true, however juicy they may be. I even tried to provide you with some specifics about the calibration process (I’m sorry was that drivel?) to back it up so it wasn’t just flackery. You can believe it or choose not to, that’s fine.

    But bottom line, Circuit City really does care about their customers, they are definitely listening, and when they are wrong they try to be quick to fix it. And isn’t that what engagement is all about.

  25. JiminyChristmas says:

    This TV calibration bit reminds me of nothing more than car salesmen trying to get you to buy the ‘enhanced rust protection coating.’

  26. Traveshamockery says:

    @nrich239: “Adjusting the power usage? I’d like to call BULLS**T on that!”

    Actually, if you had any idea what you’re talking about, you’d know that TVs typically come out of the box in “torch mode” with brightness and contrast settings cranked through the roof. Proper calibration generally decreases these levels, resulting in less power consumption on plasma and CRT sets.

    Do research next time.

  27. Traveshamockery says:

    BTW, I’m not defending this BS calibration, I’m talking about REAL calibration.

  28. nick_r says:

    @avenger339: “And by the way, that rumor you might have heard about the CEO of Circuit City keeping a secret harem of Romanian teenagers? Barely half-true.”

  29. Tank says:

    @mycroft2000: it’s only $59.95, and my toaster has never worked better. A nice even brown on either side, and it never burns.

  30. Landru says:

    However, rumor regarding the weird merger between Circuit City and Blockbuster is true.


  31. TheNewDecider says:

    “See, they install that TruCoat at the factory, there’s nothin’ we can do”

    It’s not fun to watch the CC death spiral. Years ago they had great service and I bought a LOT of electronics from them. Now they are just a bunch of jokers.

    I won’t be shocked when they go BK and liquidate.

  32. WingZero987 says:


    Proper calibration does reduce power consumption of a set. Also, to properly calibrate using the test patterns, the blue filter lens will only work if your colors are running at the proper temperature.

    Calibration is real and legitimate. I can’t believe people spend 2k-5k on a TV to cheap out on a $300-$500 service.

  33. axiomatic says:

    it’s a scam all the way around. They are charging about 1/2 of what a certified ISF calibrator costs to do something ANYONE could do with a $14.99 Avia DVD.

  34. mycroft2000 says:

    @WingZero987: You forgot the quotation marks around “service.”

  35. EricaKane says:

    Sound and Vision appproval = THX “approval” of certain crappy DVDs. Its a marketing game and means absolutely less than zero.

  36. nick_r says:

    @WingZero987: That’s the subject of an entirely different discussion, but the short answer is that most people who pay $2-5,000 for a TV don’t actually care about the picture quality.

  37. Lambasted says:

    @FreeMarketGravy: I am not sure I follow your logic. When my plumbing needs fixing, I call a plumber. When my electricity went haywire, I called an electrician. When my TV was acting up I called a TV repairman. I let these people into my home and I don’t know what they do either. Just like auto mechanics, these people could tell me anything and how would I know the difference?

    If I knew enough to know that they were screwing me, I would know enough to fix the shit myself.

  38. rellog says:

    @qwijybo: By reducing the brightness level, on could argue that there is an energy savings. Minimal, but detectable…

  39. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @BrandonOBrien: Same here — especially since it’s damn near impossible to stop a rumor on the internet. I could collect fat paychecks for doing absolutely nothing all day long, and I’d probably get better results than the people who send these laughable emails.

  40. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @nick_r: Sure they do! Big is a quality, right?

  41. JiminyChristmas says:

    @TheNewDecider: Props for the Fargo reference. You just have to love that Jerry Lundegaard.

  42. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @Lambasted: A Circuit City technician is not a repairman. There’s a world of difference between a guy you call who you never meet before something breaks and a guy who is selling you the item to begin with and is selling you an additional service on top of it.

    Some who charges a “basically” flat fee for repairs can be trusted to do their job far more than someone who’s just tried to sell you gold-plated nickel oxide diode cables, a flat panel installation, a surround sound system, etc.

    I’m sorry, but I cannot muster sympathy for those who get victimized by their lack of knowledge over televisions. They aren’t like plumbing or electrical wiring. They don’t run all over the house and aren’t dependent on a plethora of varying factors. They are self-contained machines that come with 90% of what you need to know and the other 10% is available online or from friends. You wouldn’t buy a $60,000 car unless you knew why you paying that much and what you were paying for. Why should a TV be different just because the instruction manual’s so thick?

  43. WingZero987 says:

    @rellog: It’s more than contrast. It’s color temperature in a plasma TV.

    Of course, the original feature details how the person is not ISF certified and was asked to defraud customers. REAL calibration is completely legitimate and worth every penny if you’re paying 2k+ for a TV.

  44. Tansis says:

    I use to work as a Field Copier Repair Technician. I was given an order to go repair a copier. Upon arrival I was made aware that I was not trained nor did I have the experience to repair this model. I called my dispatch and told them the mix up. I was then ordered to try anyway. I actually tried and after wasting an hour I gave up. I explained to the customer the issue and told her to call a different company that specialized with that individual model. I did not charge her for the effort even though I was expected to. I just returned back to the office and made it known to my manager if they ever did that again I wouldn’t charge the customer. I wasn’t fired or reprimanded. That customer eventually upgrade their copier with our company and bought the service contract. Integrity is the key to customer service.

  45. freejazz38 says:

    Please. Fireslog is a joke, and EVERYONE knows it. As is Circuit Shity

  46. mike says:

    As a side question, is it cheaper to have crappy service and then hire a PR firm?

    It’s a serious question. I’m wondering if companies actually do this to save money.

  47. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @sohmc: I often see this line of thinking and I don’t really get it. Are there a lot of people who think that the way a company spends/saves their cash and the service their staff provides are in any way directly correlated?

    I’ll agree that, at least in principle, happy workers are better workers and in that regard, money does buy happiness.

    But that’s all in theory. If a guy’s getting paid $8/hour and is asked to take an online training course that no one checks to see that he completed, does that automatically mean a guy getting paid $20/hour and who is required to sit in on a live training meeting is going to be a font of knowledge about (product x)? No. You can lead a horse to water and all that.

    The ideal way to fix the problem of poor customer service is to hire the best, make sure they are the best, pay them well and fire those who don’t make the grade or who damage the reputation of the store.

    Now find me a store that can survive on that business plan when none of their competitors adopt it or find me a plan that creates these conditions that stores like CC and BB will all agree to.

    It’s easier, cheaper and more profitable to hire teenagers and college students, pay them minimum wage or “competitive” wage, fire them when they really screw up and replace them with the human equivalent of an umbrella stand that can display a product. That’s how retail stays profitable.

  48. mike says:

    @FreeMarketGravy: I understand your point. I think the problem is two-fold: people who don’t care to do the research themselves assume that the people in the store can help them make a fair decision and the employees who get paid very little to bring in money for the company.

    I worked for CC for a few months to pay bills while I was looking for a real tech job. Everyone agreed I was incredibly over-qualified and underpaid. But at the same time, I was incredibly honest with the customers. If they didn’t need the high-end, gold plated cables, I said so. I offered web sites where they could get things cheaper. Got in trouble a few times because of it.

    I guess I just miss the days of the mom-and-pop shops who knew the trade and was there if you needed them.

  49. WingZero987 says:

    @sohmc: While you should be honest with the customer, you are not paid to direct customer business elsewhere. I would’ve fired you on the spot and given you a kick in the rear for good measure.

  50. lotsotech says:

    @WingZero987: It would be ridiculous to pay that much for a calibration for a normal TV. You can buy Video Essientials or Avia for something like $40 and it walks you through the entire process. Unless your free time is worth more than $300/half hour then you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you’re using a CRT projector then spending the money on an ISF certified tech is worth it otherwise you’re throwing money away.

  51. SVCTech says:

    Circuit City does not ISF calibrate their TVs

    First off, anyone who states that a TV calibration is not worth it or that you can simply buy a DVD to do it is a uninformed idiot. Do the research before you say anything. I am a service tech for best buy and used to do installations. Now the only certified way to get a proper and LEGIT calibration is to have an ISF calibration by a certified installer(Imaging Science Foundation)which Best Buy uses. They have 1-2 people who are certified per teritory(60 stores). Now in order to have this calibration you need to have used your TV for 90-200 viewing hours for optimal results. This allow your TV to break in. The equipment for this is quite expensive so it would not be worth purchasing unless you plan on calibration 100 plus TVs. With this calibration you have to access the service menu and adjust different levels which you cannot do in a standard end user menu. There is a software you purchase and it gives you the best possible levels for your TV and you hook up a suction cup that has an electronic device that reads different levels. In the end it is worth the money you spend because it increase the lifespan of your panel roughly 5 years. Now I am going to elaborate on what some people have stated about TV’s running on “tourch mode”. In the TV industry it is refered to as “running hot” and when your TV runs hot it is producing whites with more of a blue tint and it also affects your black levels. What the calibration does is makes the whites truly white as well as the black really black. It takes your blakc levels and spreads them out more so there is more of a grey to black scale which in turn adds more detail. It also does the same for the colors but instead of detail it adds for a broader color range for better color reproduction. There is a noticable difference when this is done, even more so when you put the same MFG out of box TV next to a calibrated tv. If anyone has specific questions about this calibration I would be more than happy to answer your questions. Last thing i want to add is if you are thinking about getting and HDTV and/or a calibration go to Best Buy and get a consultation because they can help you pick out the best size tv as well as inform you on the calibration further. you pay $100 for it and you ask them all the questions you want and at the end the give you a $100 coupon to spend on your purchase. Worth it in my opinion.

    Unfourtuantly I cannot give my best buy email account out publicly but you can reach me at my personal email


  52. mdovell says:

    when I got a hdtv I first went to circuit city but heard the greatest bs in my life.

    First off they made a claim that the only way to get hd programming was satellite and cable…dispite the fact they had antennas in the corner…then I mensioned how I have a old voom box and get hdtv over the air so the claim isn’t true.

    He looked like someone sucker punched him.

    OK so we find a set and then he rambles on about “calibrating the colors” for just $200. That someone would stay there to adjust the set…WTF? This makes no sense…I grew up in the 80’s I watching analog OTA tv…I THINK I should know about adjusting the colors on a tv. He claimed there was no commission but yet there was a white board with “Sales target” written on it…

    Calibration? I mean come on now we don’t have people selling that for computers…

    I walked right out of there and to a competitor that actually had staff that wasn’t kids and causally took the time to explain it.

    A dvd for under $20 can easily replace this $200 bs.

    As for cc going under remember they are going to get bought out by blockbuster…which itself is nearly under.

  53. djmattymac says:

    to touch on what svctech just said, the calibration is worth it if certified. our cc in our district got the sypder 3 software and suction camera 2 months ago, and our tech, who had to go to a training for a week in cleveland to learn how to do it from a group of professional in-home installers that are the newly contracted 3rd party installers in our area, has since calibrated about 5-7 tvs in our main display area. if you cant tell the difference, your blind. i had my sam ln46a650 and my pan th50pz80u done within the last week and the difference is astronomical. no, its not for everyone, but if picture quality matters then its worth it