Off the Cuff

My Best Buy story – customer disservice

By July 22, 2012 February 4th, 2019 7 Comments

If you read just one article from me this year, this should be it. This is my story of how a simple task of buying a new computer turned into a customer service nightmare that has forever changed my view of two companies – Best Buy and Apple.

Best Buy drops the ball

Not too long ago, my very pregnant wife purchased a new Apple MacBook Pro computer online using her company’s reward program website. Basically, she gets points for doing good stuff at work that she can “cash in” to buy stuff. It’s a great program. The order went through and she received an email 30 minutes later saying that her new computer was ready for pick-up at our local Best Buy. So far, so good.

Being the great husband that I am, I volunteered to pick up the MackBook Pro so that my very pregnant wife could stay home and rest. I grabbed her wallet and ID (just in case) and trekked to Best Buy.

When I got there, I stood in line and waited for the ONE girl working at the Customer Service desk. When it was finally my turn, I stepped up to the counter. She didn’t smile or say hello. I told her that I was there to pick up my wife’s computer. She said that I couldn’t. I told her that my very pregnant wife was home resting and that I’d be happy to call her to verify whatever information she needed. She told me to call 1-888-BEST-BUY. I asked to talk with a store manager. She told me to call 1-888-BEST-BUY. Fun times.

Maybe a manager can help

I walked to the back of the store and found four Best Buy guys standing around the computer aisle. I asked one of them, who was probably 16 years old, if I could talk with a manager. He said that he was a manager. Really? I explained the situation to him. He said to have my very pregnant wife call 1-888-BEST-BUY to have my name added to the pick-up list – a process that takes 1.5 hours. The time was 6:00PM. The store closes at 7:00PM. Do the math. Obviously that wouldn’t work.

So, I called my very pregnant wife and told her that I was out of options. So, she had no choice but to drive out to Best Buy. I waited in the parking lot since I had her wallet and ID.

30 minutes later, she pulled into the parking lot and we went back into the store to revisit the Customer Service desk. Once agin, the ONE girl working the counter didn’t even say hello. She grabbed our MacBook Pro from the shelf behind her, printed a receipt and said “sign here.” We finally had our computer – although I did notice that the box was dented on one corner.

Bruised and battered

Once we got home, we unboxed our pretty new MacBook Pro and got it set up. However, the laptop was bent. The dented box was obviously dropped – most likely at Best Buy. We had to return it.

Here’s where the story changes… (cue dramatic lighting)

Apple to the rescue

I called our local Apple Store and explained the situation. They booked me for a 6:30PM appointment that day.

After work, I drove out to Apple and was greeted with a smile as soon as I walked into the very busy store (is it ever NOT busy?!). The Apple guy found my name on his iPad and checked me in. A few minutes later, my designated Apple Genius walked over, greeted me, and pulled out a seat for me at the counter. I told him about my less-than-ideal experience at Best Buy and that my brand new laptop was obviously dropped. He looked at the box, examined the laptop and agreed that it was not right. In fact, he was shocked that Best Buy even gave me the box in the first place.

Unfortunately, he said that their policy is to have me return the computer at Best Buy since their inventory systems are different. Oh no.

However, before I had a chance to say anything, he told me to sit tight while he checked with his manager. Three minutes later, he came back with a brand new MacBook Pro in a pristine box. He said that their policy hadn’t changed, but they didn’t want to send me “all the way back to Best Buy” (located just across the street) – especially given my experience there the night before. He asked for my ZIP Code, handed me our replacement laptop and shook my hand goodbye – all with a smile.

That’s how it SHOULD be done!

What’s the difference?

Apple employees are empowered to do the right thing. They’re allowed to factor in common sense. They get paid to make decisions – the right decisions.

Apple also understands that EXCEEDING expectations is what GREAT customer service is all about. People leave their stores wow’d. Really. They do.

The bottom line (and my takeaway)

What are you doing to EXCEED expectations at your company? What makes you DIFFERENT?

Author Jeff Teschke

More posts by Jeff Teschke

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • My family has been barred from shopping at Best Buy since 2000 or so. My experience? I took a car there to get a cassette player in for like $50. They dropped a $300 stereo in because the cheaper one was out of stock (without asking me). They wouldn't take it out unless I paid another $100 or something. They almost had to haul me out of there in cuffs. Apple, on the other hand, has replaced 2 or 3 computers for me over the years, no prob.

  • Jeff, you are so right. The people that "get" customer service understand that it's about, as you said perfectly, empowering their employees to make decisions based on common sense. Circumstances are very often unique to the customer standing in front of them – that's life – so why all the rigid rules? What is management afraid of, not trusting the intelligence of their employees? Shouldn't that be a big part of a manager's job, hiring good employees? (That's a rhetorical question, you would think.)

  • Kevin Lang says:

    The American work ethic has declined hugely during my lifetime. I think it's partly bad (or no) training, and greed. Most Americans still have a good work ethic, but often it's not appreciated by the employers. It's a shame, and it doesn't help the "Buy American" concept.

  • Seems so simple, doesn't it? Yet so many companies screw it up. On the plus side, it means that there's an opportunity for good companies that "get it" to really stand out!

  • Mike Hineline says:

    Don't forget that you, the consumer, are paying for the better experience. Best Buy's cutbacks on personnel and supply chain logistics are what allow you to get things incredibly cheap there. Apple’s spend on staffing and COPQ adjustments is part of why you pay $2,000 for a $1,000 piece of hardware. For many folks, such as yourself and most Apple customers, the additional cost of a better experience is worth the money. For others, it is not. So the real question for retailers isn’t whether they should or should not try to make customers happy via customer service, it’s how to make your TARGET customer happy: experience, product pricing, or somewhere in between.

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