Update 4/16/08: Ed over at Hot Air is having computer problems. I figured he might find some advice in my own situation, as they both deal with Best Buy. Here’s hoping his turns out better than mine did.
(via Sierra Faith) I, like many consumers, have had my own personal little tomb of horror stories when it comes to retailers. The absolute worst of the worst was Best Buy. As Glenn Reynolds explores the possibility of ordering larger items from the internet, specifically Amazon, I’m inclined to say go for it because you can’t get treated much worse than you would at a brick and mortar store. Plus no sales tax. Huzzah to that.
I had purchased a notebook computer at Best Buy a few years ago and got the super top of the line deluxe warranty on it (which is where they make a lot of their profit). Things were fine for two years, but then the computer started having problems. DVDs wouldn’t read, batteries wouldn’t charge properly. It would overheat. I’m fairly tech savvy, so I tried a wide variety of solutions to these problems on my own before bothering with the Geek Squad. Reformats, reinstalls, driver rollbacks, battery replacement… nothing worked.
For the sake of brevity, I’m condensing the process that I went through. What follows actually took over eight months and during this time I was unable to use the computer for more than a day or two between returns to the Geek Squad service center. So I was basically without the notebook for this time period.
Best Buy took the notebook and sent it off with the list of original problems. It came back with a note saying it was fine because the DVD drive would read CDs. They didn’t bother to check if it could read DVDs. Then they sent it off again, and the DVD drive was replaced. This didn’t solve the problem but when it was sent back again, they suggested that I pay for an operating system optimization. Never mind that I had already used the original restore CDs to bring the computer back to the state that it was in on day one. That empty sales trick was just a little foreshadowing as to the care that Best Buy shows for its customers’ products and concerns.
So the notebook comes back again with the DVD issue unresolved. Best Buy has lost the power adapter for the computer somewhere along the way, but they assure me that they will order a new one. Instead they give me an all purpose universal laptop power adapter (one of those with the interchangeable heads so that it fits many brands). The charger has clearly seen better days, but what am I to do? Apparently it would have come out of the store budget to replace the part they lost with a new one, and since I was under warranty I had no say in what type of replacement I received.
It turns out that the new charger doesn’t work right, doesn’t fit the slot properly, and it ends up damaging the power connection on the motherboard. The voltage is also possibly off, but I barely used the machine in the short time I had it, all the while following the instructions for use from the Geek Squad. So I return the unit again and Best Buy protests that the motherboard connection is fine, which it clearly isn’t because the unit flickers from wall power to battery power when you tap where the adapter’s cord connects to the notebook. Eventually it stops charging altogether. As I said, the Geek Squad diagnoses the problem to be the secondhand replacement adapter they gave me and I have to wait for them to order a new one.
The new one arrives and (surprise) it doesn’t work. The Geek Squad now properly diagnoses the problem as being the power connection on the motherboard and ships the unit off for repair. When it comes back, another month or so later, that problem has been fixed, but now there are large cracks along the top of the notebook- dangerously close to where the hinges are that connect the screen to the body. I am accused by the Geek Squad of bringing the item in with these “cosmetic” damages and told they won’t repair them because it can’t be proven that the damage was done in the store. When I closer inspect the computer at the store during this exchange, one of the small speaker covers promptly falls off, apparently not having been attached to the unit with anything more than physical force. Best Buy changes their mind after that and sends the unit off once more to be repaired.
The notebook comes back again, this time with a new screen casing but a damaged keyboard. In replacing the screen cover, the service center didn’t correctly put the computer back together, and instead of realigning the keyboard to properly sit in its slot, they just closed the lid on it. This has created more cracks in the notebook and bent the corner of the keyboard. I refuse to take it once more given the fresh damage and the unit is shipped off again.
If you’re feeling tired reading this, imagine what it was like to live it. Now, seven months after I originally began having the computer serviced, the computer again arrives back at the store and I go to pick it up. The last time the computer came in with the cracks, after it was proven that the power issue was resolved, I specifically asked Best Buy if I needed to bring in the power cord and battery with the computer, explaining my hesitance at bringing the former because it had been lost before by Best Buy- an event that created a whole string of new issues.
I was told by Best Buy that I didn’t need to bring any of the power supplies to the pick-up, so I didn’t. The cosmetic problems seemed to finally have been fixed. The speakers were screwed in, the top cover had been replaced without further incident, the keyboard had been properly seated in the notebook, and everything seemed fine. I was unable to check the computer itself because Best Buy had told me to leave my accessories at home. I signed off on the computer, thankful to finally be done with the whole mess, and took it home.
The screen no longer worked.
The computer would boot, I could connect it to an external monitor and use it, but the LCD screen was simply dead. I brought the computer back in one final time to Best Buy and explained that after all of this, after seven months of constant problems with the Geek Squad and with the repair work (I had all the paperwork to prove the events), it was no longer acceptable for them to just send the computer off again. They told me that was all they could do, ignoring my questions as to how further shipping would solve the problem since the only thing that sending the unit off before had really accomplished was creating new problems. Not only did sending the unit off to be repaired cause more problems, it caused more severe problems it seemed. As you probably know, the LCD screen is usually one of the most expensive parts of a notebook to repair/replace, quite an escalation from a cracked computer case or a faulty DVD drive.
The Geek Squad manager wasn’t interested in helping me. The first words out of his mouth, before I could even explain my problem fully, were that I wasn’t getting a new computer, something that I hadn’t even brought up. I was just trying to find another avenue to process the repairs through since the service center they kept shipping the unit off to was only damaging it further. I was treated incredibly poorly, stonewalled, and told that the only option I had was to send the computer off again. I was again reminded, without any prompting on the subject, that there was no way I was ever getting a new computer because mine was too old. Beyond that, when I renewed my top of the line super-warranty for hundreds of dollars, I had forfeited my right to Best Buy’s lemon policy.
I was told that I had to either let them send the unit off again to the same place or I could leave with my unusable notebook and not come back. There was no explanation offered as to why this time, again seven months since the process started, would be any different or how the service center would repair the problems fully without causing further damage. I realized that even my renewed warranty only had another five months or so on it, and given how long Best Buy had kept the computer before, it wouldn’t be inconceivable for them to continue breaking new things on it right up until the day the warranty ran out completely. It would be a good way for them to shrug off their responsibility and I would be left with a broken notebook that I couldn’t use.
Naturally, I again told the Geek Squad supervisor that this was unacceptable, and that I wanted to speak with someone higher in management about it since he swore that there was nothing else he could do for me. I was rudely offered a store phone and a business card with the 1-800 Best Buy number on it and told to call corporate customer support. I requested to speak with the store’s general manager instead and was told he was unavailable. I requested to speak with the district manager and after a long (and tiresome) back and forth, the Geek Squad supervisor went off to supposedly call him.
He returned a few minutes later saying that the district manager wasn’t answering. I requested to have his contact information for myself, and I was told that I couldn’t have his cell phone number. I told the Geek Squad manager I didn’t want his cell phone number, any business line or office number would be fine. He ignored me and reiterated that they don’t give out personal information. Then I was accused of being unruly and he sent over someone who claimed to be the customer experience supervisor (or assistant supervisor, the title was never expressed clearly), who scooted me out of the Geek Squad area in order to deal with me.
He didn’t want to hear the specifics of the problem, he professed to have less power than the Geek Squad supervisor, and he was incredibly sarcastic. He explained again that the only thing Best Buy was required to do was send the unit off again, and if I didn’t like that then I could take it and leave- but if I left they might not be able to “help me” with the screen damage again because then it would be back in my hands and it wouldn’t be certain that whatever had happened to it wasn’t my fault.
He then began to play a game where I would begin to respond to a question he had asked (such as Well, what would you like us to do about this?), then cut me off and accuse me of interrupting him, stating that we couldn’t have a conversation if I wasn’t going to act respectfully. This went on for about three rounds before, in my bewildered state, I realized that he was purposefully doing this. Trying to change the subject back to something productive, I requested to get in touch with the district manager again, and this time was told that if I was unwilling to leave the unit or leave with it, they might have to call the police because I was becoming rude.
Yes, Best Buy threatened to call the police on me. Subsequently I’ve looked around the internet and found references to this happening to a number of other people as well, it appears to be a favorite policy of the more aggressive Best Buy staffers, but I was stunned at the time. After the threat was repeated when I requested the information again, I had no choice but to leave with the notebook.
I’ve heard of horrible experiences in stores before, but I always assumed they were exaggerated or that the storyteller was being very loose with their side of things. I now find any poor customer service experience I hear about quite a bit easier to believe since I was personally threatened by Best Buy.
I went home. The afternoon was spent getting in touch with Best Buy corporate investor relations (something I would highly recommend when dealing with a big company instead of bothering with the 1-800 number if an issue has really, really escalated) and calls were made to someone in the area above the two managers I had to deal with earlier that day. I was told that it wasn’t Best Buy policy to threaten customers, that everyone was very sorry about the misunderstanding (this apology supposedly included the Geek Squad manager and the customer service manager), and that if I would come in the next day, I would be given a new computer.
Less than twenty-four hours after I had been threatened, I was back in the same store with the same customer service manager who had threatened me, exchanging my useless notebook for a new one. He never apologized to my face and wore the same smile he had the day before, but at least my issue was resolved. Best Buy corporate also threw in a new warranty on the new computer, but I hope that I’ll never need it.
As I said, despite what I was told by corporate representatives about Best Buy policy not endorsing police involvement, I’ve read more than a few stories of other Best Buy customers being threatened with the police. You can probably find a few of them with google if you have any spare time left after reading this post, which ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would. I hope you got something out of it; I did.
Even though my issue was FINALLY resolved satisfactorily after eight months, resolution that probably occurred only because an employee had the poor judgment to threaten me, I’ll never buy another big item that might need a warranty from Best Buy again, and I avoid that store like the plague. Here’s hoping that your local Best Buy store is better, should you choose to shop there.