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Why Best Buy Isn’t

Posted on December 31, 2013

One of America’s most distinguished copywriters spells it out.

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I now can tell you what is wrong with America, because I saw it
last week at Best Buy.

A few nights ago, my wife and I went to Best Buy to buy a
microwave oven; we had moved to a new home a few weeks ago, and
the new house didn’t have one.

Although the store was well staffed, we were ignored as we stood
in the microwave oven aisle. So I went to a young woman sitting
at a help desk and told her we wanted to buy a microwave. “No
problem” she said. “I will send someone right over.”

Ten minutes later – no one came. Irritated, I marched back to
the young woman sitting at the help desk and, to my amazement,
saw 3 blue-shirted Best Buy salesmen standing around, next to
her desk, shooting the breeze.

Americans have developed, in the words of writer Harlan Ellison,
a “slacker mentality.”

In my observation, not everyone, but certainly a significant
majority of workers, just don’t seem to give a crap about their
job, their business, or their customers.

The incident at Best Buy reminded me of a business rule of thumb
told to me years ago: When someone is trying to give you money,
don’t make it difficult for them to do so. We were ready to make
a $246 purchase (including a 4-year service plan), and no one
seemed particularly interested in taking our cash.

After Best Buy, we stopped at a Chinese buffet restaurant for
dinner – new to us because as I said we just moved here.

Here, we experienced the opposite of Best Buy: great customer
service. My son took a hard-shell crab from the buffet and then
couldn’t open it. (I once lived in Baltimore where, when you ate
hard-shell crabs, you did so with a wooden mallet in your hand.
I never liked it.)

Our nice waitress showed him how to open it with a fork and
spoon, patiently waiting until the task was done and then
showing him what parts were safe to eat and which were not.

Here’s another attitude adjustment you may need to make:
increasingly, small business owners who work at home answer
their phones in a tone that is wary (instead of open and
friendly) at best and downright hostile at worst.

JH, a graphic designer, did this when I called her the other day
to see if she could design a direct mail package for one of my
clients. She answers in a flat, cold “hello?” She did not even
give her name. When I asked her about doing the job, she
answered in clipped monosyllables, as if I were annoying her.

The next day, I received this e-mail from her: “Bob, I want to
apologize for my unwelcoming answer to your phone call the other
day. I usually don’t answer a call when I don’t know who is calling,
but I recognized your name, so I did answer this time. The phone
rings a lot these days and most of the time it’s an 800 number
selling something.”

I thanked JH, but told her: too little, too late. She has lots
of competition, and I have more than enough graphic designers
who will happily take on my client’s projects with an attitude
of enthusiasm. Her disdain for telemarketers is simply not my
problem, nor should it be.

It’s ironic. Business is more competitive than ever. The
recession has made consumer and business customers alike tighter
with a dollar. Your customers have more choices for the services
and products they want to buy than at any time in recorded
history. Yet when customers walk in the door or pick up the
phone, so many entrepreneurs send them running, blowing the sale
on the spot.

I am reminded of something billionaire insurance entrepreneur
A.L. Williams once said: “You beat 90% of the competition just
by showing up. The other 10% you must defeat in a vicious

With their counter-productive, anti-customer attitude and
behavior, so many businesspeople I encounter today are losing
right out of the gate. I hope you are not one of them.


Bob Bly

P.S. For more guidance and advice on how to give great customer
service, check out a used copy of my 272-page, hardcover,
out-of-print book “Keeping Clients Satisfied,” published by
Prentice Hall and available on Amazon for – and this pains me –
just a penny:


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31 thoughts on “Why Best Buy Isn’t

  1. "She answers in a flat, cold 'hello?' She did not even give her name. When I asked her about doing the job, she answered in clipped monosyllables, as if I were annoying her."

    I can speak for nobody else, but personally I find when I'm deep in a job and somebody calls, it IS and interruption (for me) but for the caller it is an important inquiry and deserves my immediate 100% attention.

    If that's a conflict, then don't answer calls simply because the phone rings. Let your phone take a message and call them back when you are at a break point. This obviously makes it possible also to just delete the annoying calls. Using a cell phone tends to avoid that nuisance, as well. There is no excuse for being short or otherwise impolite to people who call. And it's entirely avoidable.

    People not answering incoming calls by giving their name are simply rude, whether it's a business call or not.

  2. I spent many years in technical sales. When anyone took the trouble to dial my number, and many had my home number, they got a friendly greeting and the best answer I could give to their problem. Yes, sometimes it was inconvenient. And, yes, sometimes people took advantage. And, yes again, more than once I was awakened in the middle of the night. But I chose my career. No one forced me. So I just handled the obligation I accepted. See my blog at http://cranky-conservative.blogspot.com

  3. This story is a great demonstration of why smart employers hire older workers: As a rule they show up, commit to their jobs, and have been around long enough to understand the straight-line relationship between a customer, his money, outstanding service, and the employer's revenue.

  4. Most "big box" outfits these days hire abysmal help (pardon the loose use of that term). There are always some of them about, but beinb abuot their own self-pleasing business, not that of their company.

    Next time you want a microwave, head to Costco, if not a member spend fifty bucks and buy one. Then go into their microwave/appliance section, get one of the Panasonic "Invertor" technology units, a hundred bucks. Best unit out there. Total spent, $150. And it will take you less time than it did at Best Buy.. unless there is a long ilne as member services cunter. SERVICE is lacking, then the buisness will not last long. Too many others understand the link between happy customers and money in their pockets.

    By the bye, your book is no longer available for a penny….. I guess this post created a surge in interest. Cheapest one is $13, next is $17, then lot 20s on up.

  5. Best Buy is the WORST BUY!!

    I thought it was a grate place to go to till I realized the prices were, like, DOUBLE Amazon prices. Went there a couple times then quit going.

    Proud “avoider” for over 8 years!!!!

    As for your story I had a couple like that over the years. Usually young smart-alek jerks. Incredibly dumb. It’s like they DON’T WANT your business and do the VERY best to get it that way.

    Then I realize why there are LOSERS and why there are WINNERS! Some people just don’t know how to do it. Don’t know about giving.

    I must say BH2 an RLOwen get it!!!

  6. What I find rude and take objection to is when the clerk who is waiting on me converses with another clerk on unrelated matters. I don't consider my self an egoist, but if I am doing business with another person and giving my precious money to them, I would like their full attention on me and the transaction

  7. I am the owner of a small, high-tech business. I do my very best to keep the clients happy. I eat better that way.

    As far as Best Buy: I got tired of the uninterested sales staff and now I go elsewhere or find an adult saleperson if the BB price is especially good.

  8. Oh this has been going on for years. It's very bad nowadays. I could walk around with a lost look at a Home Depot or Lowes and not one of the gormless employees that actually look at me asks if they can be of assistance. I like to find things on my own but it's the principle of the thing. I guess it depends on what part of the country you're in. Even what part of a State.

  9. HolyShirt says:

    My pet peeve is restaurant servers who tender the check at the table n a payment folder. Whether the bill was $8 or $18, the server will say quite loudly, DO YOU WANT CHANGE? Any server saying anything like that in the 60's, 70's or 80's would have been summarily fired. And they wonder why the good-paying jobs have fled America? Modern American DUMBTH is alarming!

  10. pigfarmer says:

    I went to Best Buy three times in the last two weeks and had perfect service. Because of that I left about $1000.00 in the store.

  11. Irritated Consumer says:

    I have just experianced the wait and watch thingy……

  12. An American Patriot says:

    They seem to have forgotton that the customer standing in front of them iS THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE STORE!

  13. My pet peeve is store clerks who answer the phone and address that customer while six people are awaiting service. Why do phone customers get preference to those actually there?

  14. Fred Campbell says:

    This reminds me of the fable about the group of blind men each describing an elephant.
    My own experience with Best Buy is limited to their Santa Maria, CA store. This experience has been generally very positive.
    If I look lost, I am often approached by a clerk asking if I need help. I have found the staff to be on the young side. Their technical knowledge of their products is generally excellent. What they might lack in sales sophistication, they make up for in their desire to please.
    Yes, I can (and often do) beat their price online when time is not a consideration. This is not a criticism. Brick and mortar is expensive and so is personal.,service.
    Now, my experience with Home Depot runs the gamut. Many years ago HD had an astoundingly immature, untrained and even surly staff. This dramatically changed about 6 years ago when new management came in. There was a complete revolution in their staffing. Service became excellent.
    Now, over the subsequent years, I have observed some "back-sliding" in HD relative to customer service. Their wages are such that "great" staff tend to find better remuneration elsewhere. The trades necessary in the management of a business such as HD do not support a "Fifth Avenue" class of service or staff.
    The beauty of capitalism is that it allows us choices. Use them instead of bellyaching.

  15. Tom Harlander says:

    I ordered a TV online and it was delivered by two of the nicest young men any one could hire. But when I tried to get information about a problem I had with the TV from Best Buy, I waited over a week for an answer and asked for help three times. I resorted to flaming them on their Facebook page in order to get their attention, they replied right away that they would get back to me, but ignored me when I spelled out the problem three times. Customer service there can't compare with Walmart or HSN, the latter took five minutes to help me when I needed it. Too bad Best Buy doesn't care, because I don't intend to shop there again.

  16. contrarian says:

    Home depot only serves perverts.
    Costco only wants liberals and they lie about it.
    Best buy – ask a white person for help.

  17. Don Jensen says:

    you morons must be from the east coast where everybody is rude. Any thing east of the Mississippi river and north of Tennessee are by far the most rude and least courteous people in our Country . Maybe that explains why Best Buy treats you like a looser. Every where else in the Country Best Buy customers are treated like they are customers!

  18. Bill Hartman says:

    I tried to shop at Best Buy in Jacksonville Florida. It is located in a very confusing and sprawling series of shopping malls. When I couldn't find it, I phoned them up, gave them my exact location in terms of the store I was next to. The woman answering the phone could not tell me how to get there. She asked if I had a GPS, with a sarcastic tone that implied that I was too stupid to turn it on. When I told her I didn't, with disdain in her voice (presumably at my being some kind of lower life form who doesn't have a GPS), she told me that she couldn't help me, and hung up.

  19. With caller ID, I seldom answer the phone during the day. i can relate to that. However, in her email apology to him, she said she answered because she recognized his name. If she knew who she was, her responses to his questions should NOT have been clipped and monosylabic, especially when he was looking to employ her. She just shot herself in the foot.

    And sorry, gotta disagree w/ you on answering my home phone. Saying hello isn't rude. Answering "yeah?", now THAT's rude. . . . .

  20. The Author's experience at Best Buy mirrors my experience. Best Buy in my opinion is allergic to money.

  21. Guest-
    I do not shop at Best Buy because of attitude. Having run a business for 35 years, I have found that the problem is always with management,and that tends to start at the top.

  22. unfortunately, the prevailing mentality, thanks to the likes of countless labor union influences, all symptoms of hard work, diligence and accountability have become a casualty of the new work ethic, "do as damn little as you possibly can, and scream your head off if the boss refuses o to over compensate your half-assed efforts"… sadly true work ethic is hard to find outside those professions, like commissionable sales, where reward is inextricably tied to effort… death to all labor unions…

  23. RedMeatState says:

    Seen it plenty of times at Best Buy!! Blue Shirts standing around with each other, ignoring the customers! Those guys make an hourly wage regardless of whether they sell or not!!! Hmmmm…. something to be said of the commissioned salesman!! They HAVE to give you great service!!!

  24. 1baronrichsnot1 says:

    A nation of schlubs! Hardcore, mismanagment of their social participation with the rest of the world as they lounge in comfort of a netherland of narcisstic self import. Yep! We raised em! Then elected em!

  25. R. MIller says:

    Had the EXACT experience at WalMart in Canton, Michigan. Was trying to buy ammunition but it was locked in a cabinet. I circled the store twice and could not find someone to help. Finally went to customer service, who paged for someone to go to sporting goods. After a ten minute wait, we had them announce again customer needed assistance in sporting goods. Another long wait and we finally left the store without the ammunition. Thoroughly disgusted and will make sure not to frequent that one again.

  26. I have to agree that 'Hello' is not a rude answer, at least when answering my PERSONAL phone. If you are dialing that number, it should NOT be a business call and you should KNOW who I am. That is for my cell. If you are calling my home land-line, which I have to remember to cancel, I don't need caller ID to know you are a telemarketer, a politician, or a survey taker.

  27. How about this: Wanted to buy my wife a new car ( Cash customer) Went into the Brandon Fl. Cadillac dealership and perhaps because I was dressed poorly was basically insulted by the salesman. He lost a good fast commission.

  28. Another Best Buy customer service horror story that has cost BB in lost business.

  29. Cliffystones says:

    And if they are an employee (as opposed to owner) why does the owner/management allow it to happen?

  30. I went to Best Buy last week and experienced horrible customer service. Waited five mins at cell phone counter before sales rep told me to see another rep who would take my name. I walked up to the other rep, and he told me he would take my name in a minute. Five mins later, another sales rep walks up, asks me if my name is on the list. I replied very loudly, and pointing to the other rep, told him that the other rep wouldn't take my name. I left.

  31. my son -in law worked there for about 5 years until even he saw that it wasnt a good environment and moved to another retail chain , he is now a manager at that store and actually has good people working for him