Thursday, April 24, 2008

Service failure? Or am I just a whiner?

The following is a letter that I am writing to the management of a local Best Buy store explaining how I was treated during a recent enounter. Am I overreacting, is the letter too long, have you been treated similarly? Anyone have any comments?

April 22, 2008

Best Buy, Inc. – Seattle Store #470
330 NE Northgate Way
Seattle, WA 98125

To the Management Team – Seattle/Northgate Best Buy,

I would like to inform you of a recent customer service failure that I encountered in the Best Buy Seattle location and to acknowledge the efforts of an employee, Kevin, who was the company’s only saving grace in the transaction. My hope is that you will use it to reexamine some of your operating policies and that you will give a good employee the recognition he deserves.

I had purchased a new lap top computer, a Gateway M-1625 (transaction #: 0470 054 3293) on Monday, April 14, 2008 in the Seattle/Northgate store. Exactly a week later, the computer had a major system crash when I launched a program for taking exams at my grad school. The error led to a major file corruption that prevented Internet Explorer from operating and a host of other issues. The help desk at my University assured me that it was not operator error, that the program I had tried to launch was certified compatible with Vista OS, that there was nothing installed on my computer that would have caused a conflict, and that they believed that it was a defect in the machine. To be sure, we did a system restore to the manufacturer’s settings but the same failures occurred.

I returned the computer to the Seattle Store that evening in reliance of the statements in your return policy that “we accept … exchanges 14 days from original purchase on … notebook computers” and that “a restocking fee of 15% will be charged … unless defective.” See Store Return Policy. My intention was to simply exchange my defective machine for the same model.

During the exchange transaction, the customer service employee, Kevin, told me that the “Geek Squad” would have to look over the computer before we could effectuate an exchange. The “Geek Squad” employee powered on the computer but then stopped when he realized that I had not included the systems disk. At this point, I completely understood the refusal to conduct the exchange (it was my mistake) and told them that I would return shortly with the disk (I had simply forgotten it when I repacked the machine). Before leaving, however, I asked Kevin if I would be “hassled” when I returned. He said no, that they had reviewed the computer, and that Best Buy would honor their exchange policy. I took the laptop back and went home.

When I returned with the systems disk, fifteen to twenty minutes later, a new employee was working the customer service desk. The same “Geek Squad” employee, who had “inspected” my computer before, was still working in the return area. I informed the customer service employee of my discussion with Kevin, that the “Geek Squad” employee had reviewed my computer, and that I wanted to make the exchange. She consulted with the “Geek Squad” employee for a moment and then told me that Best Buy would make the exchange, but that they were going to charge me the 15% “restocking fee.” I refused and told her that I would not pay the “fee” nor would I accept a defective machine. She informed me that it was your policy that if the “Geek Squad” does certify the machine defective than you will not effectuate an exchange per your policy. I told her that, in my opinion, the “Geek Squad” employee had no basis to make a decision regarding the machine, he had simply powered it on, and that the defect was a major system error and not readily apparent from the mere act of pushing the “power” button. I then asked if we could take a moment and I could show them the defect.

It was at this point where I felt that the transaction fell apart. The minute that I had told your customer service employee “no” and that I did not accept the “expert” opinion of your “Geek Squad,” I felt that the employees took on the attitude that it was “them against me” and that it would be a battle of wills to determine who would win. After listening to my discussion with the customer service employee, the “Geek Squad” employee who had made the decision to refuse the exchange fled to somewhere else in the store (I do not know this employee’s name, he never actually spoke to me) and they handed me off to another member of the “Geek Squad.” Rather than simply allow me to show them the defect, he tried to insinuate that it was the program I had tried to launch, that it was something I had done, or any other excuse rather than to simply accept the machine was defective.

I persisted and he eventually agreed to try and run the program which had uncovered the defect. Unfortunately, he was called away and I was left alone at the counter to wait. I watched as he demonstrated the Apple Laptops to some prospective customers and hustled about the store helping people (he never did make a sell, by the way) while I waited. This wait-period lasted about twenty to thirty minutes. During this time, not one of the other employees, who had been working in the area and were aware that I was having a problem, offered to help.

During my wait, I realized that I had made a mistake purchasing from Best Buy. Had I made the purchase at Costco or even online at Newegg, I would not have had these exchange problems. Yet, I have been a loyal customer of Best Buy for years. During my patronage, I have bought countless CDs, DVDs, videogames, cables, a home theatre system, and software from your stores. I have recommended Best Buy to my friends and co-workers, I have given Best Buy gift cards as presents, and often get Best Buy gift cards in return as people know that I loved your stores. As a result of this experience, however, you have lost that loyalty.

Luckily, your employee Kevin returned to the Customer Service desk and I told him about the situation; had he not returned, I honestly have no idea how long your “Geek Squad” would have tried to put me off. He tracked down the “Geek Squad” employee who had been given my issue to find out why I hadn’t been helped. The “Geek Squad” employee told him that he was busy and that there was nothing wrong with my machine – this is despite the fact that he had not spent more then one or two minutes with it. Kevin then went to speak to a manager who approved making the exchange. When the “Geek Squad” employee saw that Kevin was making the exchange, he actually seemed disgusted that the store had given into the customer.

In the end, thanks to Kevin, I was able to make the exchange (transaction #: 0470 050 8267). The new computer, the exact same model, works fine and runs the all the programs I have loaded onto it, including the one that your “Geek Squad” tried to blame for the failure. There is now no doubt that the machine was defective and your employees, had I conceded to their cursory review and judgment, would have cheated me out of my rights as a consumer.

I realize the fine line between having effective loss prevention policies and the risk of upsetting customers. But, in this situation, I think your staff suffered from two major problems. One, your “Geek Squad” staff was presumptuous and arrogant to dismiss possibility of a defect just because they could not see it by powering on the computer. In the end, they made the wrong call and the quality of their decision was equal to the amount of time they put into making it. This is either a failure of training or hiring. Second, was the attitude your staff; upon encountering a recalcitrant customer they decided to take an “us versus him” posture. Instead of taking on the task of resolving my issue, they decided to simply wait me out.

Although I was able to complete the return, the cost to me was fair amount of time, well over an hour for a simple exchange, and stress. This is in addition to the original purchase price of the laptop. I have subsequently told more than ten people about my ordeal and have posted about the matter of several “blogs,” moreover; my attitude toward your brand has been completely eroded by the experience. I will no longer be a promoter of Best Buy. I hope that the management team reviews this transaction for whatever training purposes they can determine and that they recognize Kevin for his efforts at solving the problem.



Anonymous said...

You did them a favor by giving them valuable feedback.

Christopher Lawton said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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