Best Buy, Worst Service Part I

Look at that guy at the top of this post. A young Hugh Grant, taking your call and happy to help! Yeah, that’s not who you’re actually going to get when you have to call any business.

Like most guys, I love my gadgets. For many of us I think it all stems from the Boy Scouts and Swiss Army knives. I was never in the Boy Scouts nor did I ever have a Swiss Army knife, but I’ve had enough exposure to both to appreciate their allure and their effects. You never know when you’ll need a serrated blade to cut through a seatbelt, a Philips screwdriver for the obvious and a bottle opener for playing scratch-and-win lottery tickets. Having all of those functions and more on one device is pure whizz-bang gizmo goodness that any and every guy loves. I suppose whatever they teach you in the Boy Scouts is useful too. Their indoctrination is certainly in line with societal pressures that dictate every male should be prepared for any situation. Or at least most situations.

Then you also have James Bond. That guy had gadgets for everything. Surprisingly, Q never outfitted him with anything useless. Or maybe he did and Bond just went out of his way to find a use for the gadget. Instead of easily hopping a fence, let’s say, Bond would jimmy the lock of the gate just to try out his new novelty cocktail umbrella/lock picking tool – “Great for Mai Tais and breaking and entering!” My point is that every guy wants to be James Bond; if for no other reason than the guiltless promiscuity with amazingly hot women.

The hot women part never worked out for me, but I did try to be prepared for all occasions. In high school, I used to lug around an entire alternate outfit in my school bag every day – just in case. In four years that extra set of clothes only came in handy twice. The first was during an AP test when my newly developed allergies suddenly bloomed and my handkerchief was so soaked in mucus that I had to resort to blowing my nose into the spare shirt I brought. The second time was on the first day of my Senior year. I had shown up to class in ripped jeans, because I was feeling rebellious and one of the Vice Principals stopped me to send me home to change. Oh, was she surprised when I pulled out an extra pair of jeans from my bag! I also mused about the idea of sewing extra pockets and straps into the lining of my duster – a long black coat – for different useful implements like a flashlight and…other stuff, I’m sure. It was going to be like the Steiner Coat from Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. Remember that show?

Side Note: The actor who played Parker Lewis, Corin Nemec, was/is doing a Web series called Star-ving with David Faustino who played Bud Bundy. It’s basically a funny and self-deprecating account of Faustino’s and Nemec’s post-FOX lives. I’m not sure if that series is still running. I only discovered it with StumbleUpon the other day and didn’t bother to do much research beyond that.

Anyway. The cell phone is the modern day Swiss Army knife – it takes pictures, records video, connects to the Internet, allows text messages and sometimes connects calls. For someone like me who’s on the go a lot the cell phone has to be robust and versatile. So now that my two-year contract with Verizon is up, it’s time to upgrade. I was planning on getting the HTC Incredible. It’s an Android phone and I was leery about getting it since I need to sync to MS Outlook, but the hardware was too good to pass up. Unfortunately, the reviews for this phone have been too good and the phone is basically sold out everywhere. Couple the popularity with manufacturer parts shortages and you get a pretty nasty and disappointing backorder situation.

Still, I was hopeful and I figured it couldn’t hurt to call around the local stores to see if they had one lying around. My mother had good luck finding her current HTC Touch Pro 2 at the local Best Buy so I gave them a call. If I can avoid doing business with Best Buy I will, but in this case I’m so sick of my phone I’m willing to endure a bit of hassle to have the new phone now instead of waiting weeks.

In this day and age, it’s generally accepted that first-level customer service – first-response tech support, fast food, non-commission retail, etc. – is going to be poor. There are two main reasons for this phenomenon. First, these jobs are not meant for the skilled or the smart. When you call tech support for anything the first person you talk to is not a technician. This person does not have technical knowledge. He or she is reading from a script. Ever have a problem with your Internet connection? Without fail, what is the first thing tech support tells you to do? Power cycle the modem! The result of this situation is that you typically get inexperienced young people who have just joined the work force or older people who don’t have the skills or aptitude for a better job. Second, companies want first-level customer service to be poor to qualify business and reduce cost. When customer service is garbage, customers are less likely to engage a know-nothing salesman for “help” meaning less employees to hire and train. Customers are in and out, keeping commerce flowing smoothly. The logical reaction from the customer, of course, is to take their business elsewhere. BUT, crappy service can be trumped by low prices which is where all the savings from having crappy service goes. Furthermore, since all companies understand this concept, there really isn’t anywhere else to take your business to.

So while I understand and accept that first-level customer service is going to suck, Best Buy’s customer service is aggressively poor.

Let’s pick this up again in Part II.