As I’ve stated before: I like video games. I don’t buy many new releases, but there are a few game franchises that I’m fond of and do make a point to purchase with every new release. Two of them are the Fallout and Fable franchises. A few months back when both titles were released I decided, as I had many times before, to give Best Buy my money. I use the term “give them my money” because like many of you, I work hard for my money. When I go to an establishment to spend it I do so knowing that I’m parting ways with my hard earned dollar and helping a company thrive because of it. It is important to me, as it is to you, that giving my money to a business is respected by that business. The amount I spend isn’t always much, but consistently over time the dollars add up and helps to build the wealth of the company who receives it.
I once heard that a person over their lifetime (Lifetime defined as 25 years) can spend $60,000 at the same grocer. If you’re a fan of Safeway or Albertsons, that’s a lot of money for them. Especially if they have thousands of customers that are lifetime customers. I would imagine that Safeway and Albertsons probably want to keep all their customers, right? Repeat business is certainly the fuel that propels any business. My point: If Safeway or Albertsons pissed off one of their customers, especially early in that customer’s spending lifetime, they can kiss $60,000 away. That’s a lot of money. The more they piss off, the more lifetime customers they lose, the more their bottom line shrinks. In this economy, no one can afford to lose any customers. Have you ever heard someone say at a retailer or grocer when complaining, “I’m a loyal customer…I spend my hard earned money here…” They are basically saying: I could have gone anywhere to spend my money. I chose you. I’m hoping that because of that you’ll care about my frustration and help me with a resolution.
In going to Best Buy to purchase the Limited Edition of Fallout: New Vegas and pre-order the Limited Edition of Fable III I wondered if I should be giving them my business. I had dealings with them before that turned out sour. One was an Ad misprint where a price wasn’t honored, the other 3 were consistent out of stock issues on Xbox games. They weren’t the worst thing ever, but I had walked out of a Best Buy on four occasions in the last few months unsatisfied and without a resolution (The locations I had poor dealings with were the Everett, WA location and the Lynwood, WA location).
While driving toward Best Buy, I felt it necessary to call ahead and make sure they had copies of the Limited Edition of Fallout: New Vegas. I was giving the Everett, WA location a second try. The associate I spoke to on the phone said they did indeed have copies ready for purchase and they were the Limited Edition. I was pretty excited. I liked getting Limited Editions of the game franchises I enjoyed since they always came with additional content and sometimes artwork.
“Knowing the routine, I asked a sales associate to please grab me a copy.”
When I arrived at the store I went straight to the game section. On the shelf was Fallout: New Vegas the regular edition. Next to it was an empty spot for the Limited Edition. I had dealt with this before. I once purchased the Limited Edition of Gears of War 2 and it was locked behind a metal cage for protection. It required a sales associate to retrieve it. Knowing the routine, I asked a sales associate to please grab me a copy. He said, “Certainly!” and proceeded to go through a door at the back of the department. Less than a minute later the sales associate returned and said, “I’m sorry. I just asked my manager and he said the Limited Editions are for online pre-orders only.”
“Sorry. We can’t do that either.”
I looked at the Best Buy sales associate puzzled. I thought I called in advance and asked if they had copies of the Limited Edition available? I thought they said yes and that they were ready for purchase? Well, it didn’t matter. Suddenly things had changed. I wasn’t ready to give up, so I had an idea. I asked the sales associate, “What if I purchased a copy of the Limited Edition right now, in the store, online, and showed you my receipt and then you can give me one of the copies? Can you ask your manager if that would be OK?”
The sales associate smiled. It’s as if he shared in my excitement for the game and felt the gratification of knowing he would sell me a copy that day. He went back through the door at the back of the department. A few minutes later he returned and said, “Sorry. We can’t do that either. You needed to purchase it before today.”
“I’ve been informed of your issue sir. I understand your frustration. Unfortunately we have a strict policy and there’s nothing I can do to change that.”
I could see his embarrassment. I’m sure he felt bad to tell a customer no. He was just a young kid who I’m sure wasn’t trained to deal with customer conflict. However, I wasn’t satisfied with the answer. I had called earlier. I was told copies were in stock and available. I was led to believe I could purchase one. This didn’t feel right. I asked for the manager on duty. The young man left, head hanging down a bit, and returned with a manager. As the manager approached I thought about what I was going to say. The spark didn’t come until the last second. The manager began with his spiel, “I’ve been informed of your issue sir. I understand your frustration. Unfortunately we have a strict policy and there’s nothing I can do to change that.”
I listened patiently. I waited until he was done. By the look on his face I could tell he might have thought he closed the door so tight on me that I had nothing to reply with, but I replied none-the-less. “You don’t understand my frustration. If you did you would have a solution. I work hard for my money, and when I get paid I decide where to spend it, and I have decided to spend it at Best Buy. I want to give you my business. The problem is, you don’t want to take it. I understand your policy, but you have failed your customers by not informing your associates of your policies on Limited Edition games. Before I arrived, I called and asked if they were in-stock. I was told yes. I wouldn’t be standing here wasting your time had I been told that the Limited Edition was available for online pre-orders only. The biggest problem I have with your company in general is that you are not in the business of solving these issues for your customers. It’s too easy for all of you to dismiss the customer’s complaint and do nothing about it. You are all trained to say no, and not one of your are trained to find a solution. None of you are empowered to be problem solvers. You’re just a bunch of well trained managers taught the art of disappointment. I don’t want a discount or anything like that. I just want someone to help me find a way to get a Limited Edition Copy of Fallout: New Vegas. Heck, I’ll even wait a week for it if I have too.”
“I’m sorry sir. There’s nothing I can do.”
The manager stood there. He looked around. I thought he might be trying to see if anyone had observed my speech. He then looked at me and said, “I’m sorry sir. There’s nothing I can do.”
And that is my frustration with Best Buy. It isn’t being out of stock, or poor level of engagement of customers from sales associates. It isn’t the guy in the yellow shirt at the front door who says “Hello” to everyone that walks in instead of “Is there anything I can help you find?” It isn’t even the prices. It’s the fact that when someone has an issue and they need help you can expect that no one is there to solve it. They aren’t problem solvers. They aren’t empowered to find solutions. So, Best Buy lost my business that day, and every day since.
Since I left Best Buy that day I’ve taken my hard earned money elsewhere. I’ve purchased a couple of memory cards, three Xbox 360 games, the Xbox Kinect, a pair of headphones, an inkjet cartridge, batteries, and a couple of Blu-ray movies. In the last 5 years I’ve spent on average about $1500 a year at Best Buy. $1500 a year times 25 years comes to $37,500. Best Buy has lost $37,500 and possibly more. As my income grows, so would my purchasing power. Who knows what I could have purchased? At some point I want a new LED HD Television with 3D. I may want another Blu-ray player, or a new computer. Guess what? I won’t be getting those things at Best Buy.
“Wouldn’t you rather shop at a place that solves your problems and empowers its associates to come up with resolutions if a problem comes up?”
To be honest, if I were you, I’d spend my money elsewhere too. Wouldn’t you rather your money go to a business that respects that fact you spend it there? Wouldn’t you rather shop at a place that solves your problems and empowers its associates to come up with resolutions if a problem comes up? I would, I do, and I will continue to shop somewhere else.
Best Buy, I’m firing you for poor customer service.
I posted my blog on Best Buy’s Facebook Fan Page. While perusing, I found this article posted by another Facebook user on the same page. It’s very telling:
This is another example of consumers taking a stand. Remember, every time you make a purchase at a place that unsatisfies you, you’re voting “Yes” for their policies, practices, and customer service. Stop shopping at places that don’t take care of their customers and you will be voting “No”.