Someone At CNBC Has A Crush On Geek Squad

We get a lot of complaints here at Consumerist HQ about Best Buy and its Geek Squad group. Prolonged repairs, bizarre diagnoses, pre-optimized laptops, and banning people who successfully sue them. But you wouldn’t know any of this from a new, in-depth piece by the folks at CNBC.

“Geek Squad City is not just a repair facility,” writes CNBC’s Tyler Mathisen about his visit to the Squad’s massive repair facility in Kentucky. “It’s ground zero in the big box chain’s fight to whip rivals like and Walmart through expertise, service and end-to-end customer care.”

Mathisen then goes on to gush about Geek Squad’s purported claims of a 95% success rate. “They fix any computer, any make, and brand,” he writes, “whether you bought it there or not.”

Um… that’s what computer repair people are supposed to do, right?

And then there’s the whole part about how your stuff is safe once it reaches Geek Squad City:

There may be eight million stories in Geek Squad City, but when they’re found on customers’ hard drives, they remain top secret. Recording devices, including cell phones, are checked at the door. Hard drives are kept under lock and key, and when a drive can’t be fixed, it’s flattened.

Maybe that’s because Consumerist busted Geek Squad staffers for swiping anything that might contain boobs from customers’ hard drives. No mention of that behavior in the CNBC love letter.

Any hope for something even approaching a critical view of Geek Squad is tossed out the door when Mathisen brings up the topic of extended warranties. All the reasons for not being suckered into an extended warranty are summed up by saying that “consumer advocates say the plans are usually not a good deal.” Meanwhile, he gives over more than entire paragraph to allowing Best Buy to justify the pricey pieces of paper.

Now we’re not saying that Best Buy and Geek Squad are always deserving of scorn, but it’s disheartening to see a major, national news organization to dedicate more than 1,000 words (yes, we counted) and more than 2 minutes of air time to one of the nation’s largest retailers without even paying lip service to the very public criticism of that retailer.

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In Geek Squad City, dead PCs come back to life [CNBC]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Power Imbalance says:

    CNBC is trying hard to be the next CBS

  2. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    So CNBC pretended that their 2-minute commercial for Geek Squad was news, huh?

  3. Cat says:

    A 95% success rate is nothing to be proud of. Imagine if only 95% of the US mail made it to its destination.

    • nybiker says:

      That’s right. Just like 95% is no big deal in the concept of system availability. You want high availability, you want at least 5 9’s (as in 99.999%) of uptime.

    • farker22 says:

      not to mention it takes about 2 months to get anything done.

    • Difdi says:

      Imagine if you had a 95% chance of living through your work day? The human race could be extinct in a year or two.

    • scoutermac says:

      I work in IT and we are expected to keep a 98% success rate. Even then that never seems good enough.

    • SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

      I am glad the airlines don’t follow that guideline for plane takeoffs/landings.

    • zerogspacecow says:

      My question is what constitutes being “unsuccessful”? Is that when they just give up? Maybe they say “eh, this can’t be fixed, throw it in the trash!”

      When I worked in PC repair, we had basically a 100% success rate. Why? Because eventually, even if it took a lot of work (and cost the customer a lot of money), we could fix it.

      In my experience, there really isn’t anything “unfixable” in the IT world. It’s kind of like the parable of the ax and the ax head. Eventually, you would just end up replacing all of the parts until it’s not really the same computer anymore.

      • racermd says:

        Besides that, you have the old adage:

        Good. Cheap. Fast. Pick only two.

        That is to say, if it isn’t violating some sort of natural law, it can be done. Now, how much do you want to pay?

    • booboloo says:

      Success rate is not very informative. If you have a corrupt printer driver and they charge you to reinstall windows, perhaps buy a new harddrive, that is a successful ripoff.

      Like going in for an oil change and being sold a new engine as well, sure it was 100% successful, but total bullshit.

  4. Dragon Tiger says:

    Apparently, someone at CNBC loves the money from Best Buy’s CEO (aka Fat Bastard). Not that CNBC got any, but hey, two full minutes of advertising masquerading as news rarely comes free.

    • nybiker says:

      Did you see Monday’s episode of Hawaii 5-0? I don’t know who paid how much, but damn somebody paid a lot of money for a product placement scene in the episode. There’s this sandwich shop that’s been around for a while and all of a sudden there is a scene with one of the supporting characters (he’s the large guy) and he’s got 5, yeah, 5 of their big sandwiches all wrapped with the logo’d paper and on and on he and McGarrett talk about ’em. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with the story, but I could not believe the blatant product placement. Usually the PP stuff is subtle; not this time. If I was eating, I would have puked.

      • gman863 says:

        You’re just now noticing product placement on Hawaii Five-0?

        * Hawaiian Airlines logo is in the opening title credits.

        * Danno’s bitchin’ Camaro is just the tip of the Chevy product placement iceberg.

        * The Five-0 squad parties at the Hilton at least once a week.

        * Their digital command room and cell phones feature not-so-subtle Microsoft screen shots.

        * Last year McGarrett and Danno raided a biker bar. I had no idea there were that many Ducatis on the entire island.

        • pythonspam says:

          The last episode I saw still had the major characters driving their Chevies, but for the first time, the bad guy was also driving a Suburban (with logos removed, but recognizable nonetheless.)
          Usually the bad guy would drive another make of car…
          Yes, we know its product placement, but when they are as subtle as that show is (hit-over-the-head subtleness), it doesn’t bother me as much.

        • jeffpiatt says:

          Ncis:la also has an Microsoft placement contract. both shows have Microsoft surface tables. along with windows phones. if you want to see one in real life they have them at the microsoft stores.

  5. Portlandia says:

    Did he utter expertise and customer service in the same sentence as Geek Squad? Clearly lives in some alternate reverse universe.

  6. Fast Eddie Eats Bagels says:

    pft! They refused to fix my Commodore 64.

  7. Jane_Gage says:

    /lobotomized acne-scarred community college kid making seven dollars an hour using diagnostics CD-ROM as a coffee coaster and struggling to put on clip-on tie
    “Durrhhr, what’s going on? We got a Keurig in the break room”?

    • Mit Long says:

      Let’s not throw all Geek Squad employees into the same bucket and light it on fire, as we tend to do here. For all we know someone here may have worked for them, and he may feel that he did a good job and helped a lot of people (albeit while charging ridiculous prices, which was out of his theoretical control).

      • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

        Exactly; I have friends who survived in the Best Buy trenches for several years before landing Grown Up Jobs. They were as mystified as we are by the … delusions of management and upper management.

    • wellfleet says:

      Oh hey super cool comment generalizing about literally thousands of employees. Good for you! It must be such a burden to be so clever. In my precinct of 20+ Agents, every single one had a college degree or was in the process of obtaining one (mostly in engineering) at a real 4-year university with a top-20 engineering program. But hey, you keep on making those really intelligent comments because it makes you look better than them. I was a GS supervisor for a year and worked with people who are smarter than you can ever hope to be.

      • smhatter says:

        In fairness, if all of your team had/was working on a degree, that is pretty atypical. When I worked there, I think it was slightly less than half. Also, in the entire hiring process (3 seperate interviews), the only computer related question I got from anyone was “What kind of computer do you own?”.

        This is not to say the people I worked with weren’t good at repairing computers (because most of them were very good at it), but it is kind of worrisome.

        All in all, it wasn’t a bad job, but i’m much happier in professional IT, where I don’t have to try and sell the service to anyone.

        • wellfleet says:

          I’m not denying your experience, but that’s due to shitty/lazy management. There is a pretty extensive Geek Squad agent assessment available that goes over software and hardware so there’s no excuse. I just hate the gross generalization that we were all some mouth-breathing idiots scamming grandmas out of their social security.

  8. SkokieGuy says:

    From the article’s “Author” bio:

    Tyler Mathisen co-anchors CNBC’s “Power Lunch” (1-2PM ET) and is Vice President for Strategic Editorial Initiatives working closely with CNBC’s Business Development and Marketing teams on strategic initiatives and alliances.

    Sounds like you just reported on a strategic alliance for marketing purposes, not news.

    Essentially CNBC published a press release.

    • videoman says:

      Whenever I go into Best Buy they always try to get me to buy into Comcast’s services; Comcast owns NBC/CNBC so it looks to me like they were just performing a big “We Owed You!”

  9. StarKillerX says:

    NBC hasn’t been a “Major” news organization for many years now.

  10. sir_eccles says:

    Umm, you do know where most news shows get their stories from right?

    Yes, PR agencies produce and film these segments for news shows.

    Investigative journalism is essentially dead these days.

    • some.nerd says:

      As a journalist, +1 to this sentiment. All too true.

    • petermv says:

      Well, when they have to ask their readers if they should tell the truth, no wonder.

    • Don't Bother says:

      Just last night I was watching ABC news. Guess what one of the longest segments was? A story about Disney world trying to bring in my tourists.

      Not too subtle are we, ABC?

  11. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    This has been a paid advertisement for Best Buy Geek Squad… promotional consideration and kickbacks paid by…

  12. framitz says:

    Are we sure the idiot reporter wasn’t drugged or something?

  13. ronbo97 says:

    It’s a puff piece, most likely tied to a multi-million dollar advertising deal that one of their salespeople recently landed.

  14. DrMcFacekick says:

    Oh GeekSquad. I would wax poetic about the years of screw ups that got referred to the computer repair shop my husband worked at AND the years of screw ups that are now referred to the data recovery company he now works at, but I don’t think the comment box has a high enough character limit.

    • yurei avalon says:

      I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. I tried submitting a tip story for help and it cut me off at 4,000 characters. I doubt the comments are any better.

  15. yurei avalon says:

    It cuts to commercials only for folks to see,

    “This program sponsored by Best Buy”


  16. balderdashed says:

    Among the many oddities in CNBC’s story on the Geek Squad is the Best Buy exec’s quote that “we’ve built it (the Geek Squad)…” In fact, the Geek Squad wasn’t conceived or created by Best Buy, but by a college student who started it with $200 in 1994, and built it into a $3 million business. Back then, the Geek Squad actually had credibility. It was eight years later that Best Buy stepped in and bought the brand. It might be more accurate to say that Best Buy killed the Geek Squad — as a entity that any knowledgable consumer could take seriously. I suppose the original concept was intended to be humorous in some way, trading on the “Geek” stereotype and mythology. Now they’re simply a laughing stock — I’d sooner trust the Three Stooges to fix my Mac or PC.

  17. JustMe2011 says:

    The main (lame) stream media lapdogs are the same way towards leftists/Democrats/socialists/Obama. The way you see this guy acting towards Geek Squad is the same way those of us who can think for ourselves see the media acting towards the idiotic types I just mentioned. This type of propaganda piece is nothing new, especially for local “news” outlets more concerned with sports and fluff than actual facts.

    And for the record, no, I don’t watch Fox, listen to Rush or any of the other sources ‘progressives’ (ha!) list in a knee-jerk reaction to an unwelcome truth. I just read. And look at reality. Try it sometime.

    • nicless says:

      I think you may want to find an actual political blog, unless you have a story about Obama shipping something in a hilariously oversized box, that sort of thing doesn’t really much matter.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      That was an… interesting off-topic comment. I’m sure the puerile equivocations and asinine assumptions were merely sarcastic.

      • Darury says:

        Oh, but every story deserves a comment regarding Faux News and how Republicans are evil? Seriously, I’ve seen lefty political comments dragged into almost every commentary since I started reading this site, so please hold the whining on Obama getting a pass.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      So it’s not ok for news outlets to portray Democratic pols in a favorable light? Would you say the same about GOP pols? I’m guessing “no”, if you were to be honest.

      But you’ll just lie and say that you’d see the treatment as equitable to both sides of the aisle.

    • Kuri says:

      Ok, I get that you have a hate-on for anything that isn’t Republican, but what the hell does that have to do with this?

  18. Guppy06 says:

    Anybody looking for honest, in-depth and informative reporting from CNBC after 2008 deserves what they get.

  19. CurrentGeekSquadEmployee says:

    Because here at the Consumerist, we specialize in taking a honest, non-bias approach to stories, rather than trash companies because we were too lazy to look into a story.

    • Olivia Neutron-Bomb says:

      Too lazy? Looks like they watched the whole thing to me.

      How shocking that a Geek Squad employee has such a poor grip on English that he can’t conjure up the word “unbiased” and doesn’t even seem to understand past tense vs. present tense. Not.

      • Mit Long says:

        You’re more correct than you know! Once I quit the Geek Squad I started talking in complete sentences, stopped peeping on naked women, and I’m proud to say I no longer punch old people in the face for my own amusement.

        Unfortunately I then I got a job at McDonalds and suddenly lost my college degree…

        Go stereotypes!

      • wellfleet says:

        With much love to Consumerist. but I’ve been reading it for about five years and I’ve found so much 100% lazy-ass reporting in here that as a journalism major, I cried and threw up at the same time. Stories, especially about BBY, were purposely misleading, were given outrageous and false headlines, and could have often been put to bed by looking up such hard-to-find information as Consumerist writers and editors, all nice people, are not responsive to constructive criticism about the quality control of this site and are more concerned with hits and page views. They refuse to correct blatant false information. This is sad because as a reader, I’d love to see more objective, well-researched muckraking and less reader trolling.

  20. Sarek says:

    This is what Jon Stewart busted CNBC for – they are paid industry shills hiding behind the imprimatur of the parent network. “What do you mean you don’t believe our reporting? Look at the corner. See the peacock? That means we’re hand in hand with Brian Williams! So you can trust everything we say, even Jim Cramer “

  21. zandar says:

    This seems like a throwback to the early days of television, when it was hard to distinguish actual news items from advertising. The anchor would cut smoothly from a news story right into gushing about “his favorite” brand of cigarette.

    Considering the panic advertisers seem to be in about timeshifted TV and watching programs on the internet, maybe this is the future of advertising. Maybe the next story you see like this will be about the painstaking efforts Folgers coffee makes to ensure only the finest coffee makes it into the can you buy at the store.

  22. No Fat Chicks says:

    CNBC has been so far from the rest of the world it shouldn’t be a surprise what advertising money can do there.

  23. u1itn0w2day says:

    3 Billion dollars in high margin revenue about sums up the Geek squad to Best Buy. How many satisfied customers though.

    And a computer repair as little as 50$, wtf

    • smhatter says:

      $50 is fairly low as computer repair goes. Of course $50 isn’t going to repair much at GS either (When I worked there, the lowest cost SKU I was aware of was “30 minute labor”, used when you fixed anything minor, even if it was a 2 minute fix. That was $29.99 as I recall).

  24. gman863 says:

    First Suzie Orman’s debit card and now this.

    At this rate, CNBC is turning into Shill Central. I can’t wait until they fire one of their news anchors and replace him with Vince Offer.

    “Hi, Vince Offer here for CNBC. In the next 20 minutes (because, remember we can’t be doin’ this all day), we’ll cover how to take care of that shedding pussy and have an expose’ about unruly hookers in Miami…

  25. clydesplace says:

    Have you seen CNBC’s one hour McDonald’s and Wal-mart documentaries they run on occasion? It’s the same thing. All praise, very little criticism, if any. Not even close to decent journalism, and I’m not even sure they weren’t hour long paid infomercials. Surprised The consumerist missed those.

    • Extended-Warranty says:

      Decent journalism is when a customer disregards all polices and rules, and knows they did something wrong. So an article goes out ignoring all facts, is heavily biased, and seeks compensation. Right?

    • scoosdad says:

      On occasion? They have a regular nightly time slot for these programs, and I swear there’s only about six different ones in constant rotation. Don’t forget the ones about Coca-Cola and Home Depot. That slot tonight contains the one hour salute to Best Buy, repeated immediately by, you guessed it, the one hour salute to Best Buy (in case you missed it the first time.)

    • gman863 says:

      Maybe they should examine themselves in an episode of American Greed.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I think there’s little criticism because it gives them more access to these companies and management for future interviews and shows to be hyped. They failed to go after the mortgage backs securities industry, the realtors, the banks,hedgefunds etc so I don’t expect much different other than they’re not as openly cheerleading.

  26. gman863 says:

    This thought just in:

    CNBC is part of NBC.

    NBC is now owned by Comcast.

    In many markets, Comcast services are for sale at Best Buy.

    Coincidence? Me thinks not.

  27. msky says:

    It was probably a thin news day…. nothing else to report about in the world…..

  28. tmc131414 says:

    Even though 99% of CNBC’s “news” report on Best Buy made the company look great and that they would be the best company around if it wasn’t for the evil internet, I found there were a couple of tidbits that got in that exposed there are serious issues with the company that should have been looked at more closely (if CNBC actually cared to do that). For instance, there was a moment in the beginning where they cover Black Friday at a store in Long Island and the manager confronts his employees and threatens that “you have to push financing, all of you will be held accountable after this for how you did tonight on financing (not an exact quote)”. Instead of probing into this and asking why the store pressures its associates to the point of firing/disciplinary action on financing (like so many other retail stores do) and how that might not be the best business practice, the anchor continues to gloat about how fascinating it is to go to Best Buy on Black Friday and see people wait in line for days for “great” deals.

    Later on, they visit Geek Squad City and show how supposedly efficient and well trained the “geeks” who work there are. They gloat about how they can fix any computer issue in minutes and go out of there way to secure the data of users. However, they do show a short clip of a pair of twins who work at Geek Squad who mention that they had no experience at all with working on computers before they started working there (who knows how that got past the editing room). Instead of asking the Geek Squad executives about why they would hire people with no experience or even what kind of training they might offer, they continue to go on raving about all the great services they offer and how it supposedly costs as little as $50 for them to repair a laptop or how they almost always do all repairs that are under warranty in house instead of sending them to the manufacturer.

    On the other hand, the brief criticism of Best Buy that gets into the hour long special deals almost entirely with the threat they face from companies like Amazon and from people who use the store merely as a showroom. It doesn’t go into all the idea that Best Buy might be doomed because they have a track record (along with Geek Squad) of providing terrible service, pressuring customers into service plans/credit cards that they don’t need (or that don’t provide the coverage they claim to ) and also because they simply aren’t the best deal the vast majority of the time even when you compare their prices to other brick and mortar stores. Because of this, you would think after watching the CNBC report that Best Buy is an innovative company that loves it customers and that they might be doing not as well as they should because the internet is undercutting them on prices (which is only half true). You would probably also think that with a few tweaks, the company will remain highly successful for years to come no matter how much they gouge prices or treat their customers like garbage.

  29. maruawe says:

    Paid reporter by best buy to write a positive article for a screwed up management team

  30. booboloo says:

    The more incompetent a tech, the more they can charge you, new windows, new parts for everything, new computer, its all fixed yo! Basically like a car mechanics whos every solution is drop in a new engine. You can fix anything that way.

  31. skakh says:

    I saw the show and couldn’t stop from laughing and laughing and laughing and wondering how much the portly CEO of Best Buy paid CNBC. That rotund fellow reminded me of Nero, fiddling away while his empire disintegrates. On a personal note, a relative worked for Best Buy for several years. One day he was an expert on computers, the next day an expert on TVs. the next day an expert on appliances. It amazes me how Best Buy got all this knowledge for minimum wage.

  32. Ihateyourhighhorse says:

    All these people hating on Geek Squad….And yet I’ve been there many a time and never had a problem.

    The problem with everyone who comes here thinking that it is completely terrible is because they are only reading one side of the story. I maintain that this site, and many of the people who visit it, are biased.

    Much like how you think it is ghastly that they didn’t say anything bad about Best Buy, I find it ghastly that this site never says anything good either. (And yes, there are many many good things)