Op-Ed

Op-Ed
Best Buy?

Jon Hayter | 4 Jan 2006 10:53
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What follows is a roughly chronological retelling of events that may or may not have occured to someone that... exists. Since many of you I'm sure shop at Best Buy - and this is our big retail issue - I feel it's my duty to inform.

Day 1
The individual we're discussing (Let's call him Larry) - Larry decides it's time to buy himself a Christmas (Larry celebrates Christmas) gift. One he's wanted for awhile. It will be a television. A big television. A big, high definition television, aglow with a sexy aura of 'Rock On'. Larry thinks about this all day, and goes to bed dreaming of widescreen movies. Little does he know that fate thinks she's a funny girl.

Day 2
Larry gets up. He has decided that he will purchase his new television from the nearby Best Buy. They have a wide selection, helpful employees and he's never had an issue there before (This is important to Larry). So Larry goes, he goes the 4 miles to the local Best Buy and shops. He asks questions of the floor salesmen, he inquires about technical specifications and the merits of S-Video versus Component Video, and slowly but surely his gaze begins to rest on a single unit. A 30" Samsung SlimFit Widescreen HDTV. So many descriptors, he wonders if the Best Buy salesmen train like Starbucks employees to get the order right. He finds a salesman and expresses his desire to own such a television.

At this moment, a turning point is reached. The best intentions can sometimes lead to the worst experiences. Unfortunately for Larry, this is the case.

The salesman is knowledgeable and relates to Larry that there's a Special Deal Larry could qualify for if he purchased this television. If Larry were to order this over Bestbuy.com, he would qualify for a FREE DVD R-RW Player. Hot damn! Larry agrees, thanking the salesman profusely. He then obtains access to a nearby web-enabled machine, and places his order (Being diligent to protect his CC information). He finds the special offer easily - it is the front page of the television section. He clicks it, clicks next, chooses his television (The aforementioned Samsung) and notices a bright green checkmark just under his shopping cart, which says "Free DVD offer!". Pleased, he places the order. Approximately 10 minutes later the helpful Best Buy staff (And Larry assures me, none of the following trials are in any way attributed to the store staff, they rocked) had Larry's order ready at the pickup counter. Wonderful!

As his new television is being loaded into the car, Larry mentions that he'll also need the DVD player sitting on the counter (His salesman had helpfully retrieved it from the back). The cashier checks Larry's online order, and proceeds to ring up the DVD player, indicating that it'll be $145.33 (ballpark) please. Larry pauses.

At this point, many things within Larry realign. Larry realises the mistake, the physical error must have been his. Yet Larry also understands that he's placed hundreds of online orders before, some of which have included free item offers just like this one. Not once - ever - has it not been dominantly displayed in a shopping cart. Not once has he never gotten one he signed up for. Larry realises he's technically at fault, but concludes that that doesn't matter one lick. If Best Buy is going to offer a free DVD player on televisions over $699.00, and doesn't automatically add it to carts (instead, they create a second shopping cart, below the first - which is impossible to see at the in-store resolution of 800x600), then he's going to get it. Period.

After some time of confusion and conversation, Larry and the Best Buy staff conclude what must have occured, but insist that his only option is to contact Bestbuy.com customer support. Larry agrees, and leaves - contenting himself with a late night DVD and the anticipation of a new DDV player on the morrow.

Day 3
On this day, Larry calls Bestbuy.com customer support. Since it's the holidays and lots of people must be shopping at Best Buy, Larry balances his checkbook, concludes the true meaning of Life and writes and epic film script - all while on hold. Eventually he is put through to the inoffensively named Bob. Larry reflects that - unless Bob's parents are completely ashamed of their cultural heritage - his name is not actually Bob. After much discussion and complaining, Larry requests to speak with Bob's supervisor. Unfortunately the supervisor is sick with the rare, but terminal I'm not here, don't bug me virus, and can't come to the phone right now. After a rather strong (and in retrospect, inpolite) exclamation, Bob relents and explains that even though it's totally Larry's fault, and he should be ashamed (paraphrased), he will be a saint and forward Larry's issue to the enigmatic Research Team. Larry agrees to these terms, even though he's informed it will take 24 to 48 hours to get a response. Two days? Not horrible. Larry hangs up, tired but triumphant.

Day 8
Larry ruminates that time must pass slower in whatever underground bunker the Research Team calls home. Despite burgeoning ire, Larry is cooled by the email floating in his inbox. Apparently the Research Team has concluded that Larry should get his DVD player, and that all he has to do is call the helpful 1-800 number included in the email, and everything will be swell.

The only problem with this plan is that the number is wrong.

Apparently the Research Team is somewhat of a misnomer. It isn't like the number is for the wrong department at Best Buy. Or even the wrong company. It's just not registered, doesn't exist, leads only to that ubiquitous, androgenous voice that explains there's no phone at the other end of this number. Anger and stark disbelief reign. Larry reads a book and goes to sleep.

Day 9
Larry picks up his phone, and calls Bestbuy.com customer support. Soon, Larry is on the line with Heather - who must be another child of Bob's Americentric family. After a lot of yelling and textbook deflections, Larry finally convinces Heather that forwarding him to the number in his email is not a good solution. Larry knows how to use telephone buttons and has no interest in being forwarded to a dead line. With dawning comprehension (which was neither swift, nor painless), Heather agrees to phone that number with Larry still on the line. Larry listens to eleven agonizingly slow touchtones and smirks triumphantly as the same message is repeated to her as was to him: This number is not in service, go away. Like Rommel - unwilling to accept defeat - she dials again, and again. Finally, she relates to Larry that the number doesn't appear to be correct. Larry wisely holds his tongue, asking what can be done instead. An agreement (a poor one) is reached. Heather will forward his original problem, along with the phone number error along to the Research Team - despite Larry's complaints that the Research Team was the group that sent him the wrong number to begin with. Another 24 - 48 hours to go Larry is told.

Day 13
Larry ponders temporal inconsistencies as he reads the new email from Bestbuy.com customer support. There's an identical email waiting for him, but with a slightly different number (two digits have been reversed). Hopeful - he dials. Darcy answers - bearing a striking vocal resemblance to the confusing androgeny of the telephone operator voice. Nevertheless, he/she/it is quite helpful. Darcy takes down Larry's CC info to verify his identity, asks him whether he'd like to get the DVD player delivered or would he like to pick it up (Larry chooses pickup) and finishes the call with a happy farewell. Larry waits the five minutes he was told it would take for the confirmation email to arrive. Fifteen pass before he gets a call from Darcy. Apologizing profusely, Darcy explains he forgot to get Larry's CID number from his CC. With that, Larry hangs up, as the email arrives.

Of course, the store listed on the pickup order is nowhere near the one Larry chose that Darcy insistedwas in stock. Onward.

***

As you can see, Larry's had a rough couple of weeks with Best Buy, and he's sworn never to use Bestbuy.com ever again. He'll go to the store (they were very nice, and helpful), but never online. He eventually did get his DVD player. From what I hear, it sits silently on a shelf in his apartment, dusty and unopened - a symbol of triumph over a hard, and well fought battle.

What's your worst customer service story (within games/tech/internet)?

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