My Recent Experience at Best Buy

  • December 29, 2004
  • James Skemp
  • article

So I had seen the 10th Anniversary DVD Edition of Myst before the holiday rush, and was planning on making a purchase when I thought things would settle down a little bit. I also wanted to pick up a couple of copies of The Beatles, but I wasn’t sure which CDs (until I heard Norwegian Wood on the radio on the way – more about this and my interest in The Beatles in another article). However, this most recent experience was absolutely horrid (as I said in my online survey, perhaps a harsh word, but it may just be necessary), and required that I write some general thoughts I had regarding Best Buy, and similar stores/experiences at such stores. Note that while I specifically reference Best Buy, many of these comments can be applied to stores of a similar nature and should be construed as such.

When you first enter Best Buy, the greeter says hello. This is the same individual, or individuals, that act as ‘security’, slowly walking up to the person who’s packages caused the alarm to go off to verify that the cashier didn’t forget some thing, that the security devices didn’t work too well, or that the person is actually stealing.

If you’re like me, you try to make this greeter think that you belong to the group that is coming in right before you. Usually this means that you try to walk just a few steps behind the people in front of you and look straight ahead, or at whichever person is talking in the above-mentioned group. Unfortunately, Best Buy’s entrance is fairly narrow, or you would be able to perform the more difficult group line entrance.

Greeters are not necessarily, or by nature, individuals to ignore. The Wal-Mart greeters are acceptable, since they actually perform some function, even if it is to merely help with getting a cart. Greeters at furniture stores, and the like, are acceptable since they pretty much have to grab you when you first walk in, since they work on commission. Greeters at some office stores (Office Depot stores, especially the one on East Wash in Madison WI, come to mind) are acceptable since the registers are right by the entrance/exit.

Best Buy greeters, however, appear to perform just a few tasks. As mentioned above, they are exit ‘security’. They also point out the returns area for those who have a Best Buy bag in their hands when they enter the store. Their last task is to talk to their fellow co-workers, and typically not regarding work related things. This last task usually gets in the way of their primary task of greeting people (being greeters, we assume that their primary task is to greet) – not that they don’t ‘try’…

It’s truly unfortunate that the greeters are so absorbed in non-greeting tasks that they cannot perform their primary job correctly. Of course, one could argue that their primary task is not to greet customers. If you argue this, then I urge you join with those of us who care and tell Best Buy that they should not allow any of their personnel to greet customers, or if they are going to greet customers, to do so in a somewhat friendly/caring way. If the greeter isn’t going to make eye contact, or even glance in my general vicinity, when they say hello, they shouldn’t even bother.

Enough about the greeter. The rest of my Best Buy experience was good enough until it was time to check out. I was able to find Myst and two Beatles CDs that I did not have, and which had songs that I wanted to listen to. Since the holiday season was still fairly close, they still had their waiting line setup, which is the line you stand in before some employee tells you which line to stand in. I’m sure that this employee would have more of a benefit behind a register (I’m sure we all know how to wait in a pre-register pre-line – those of us who read, or pretend to read, or purchase books for those who read or pretend to read, are well acquainted with pre-lines at Borders and Barnes & Noble. However, Best Buy would rather some other individual tell us to stand in a line, which they determine will be the next available line.

Today, my ‘holder of the pre-line’ decided to throw me in a line that had two people at the register – one making a purchase and another waiting to make a purchase – instead of the standard one person that they usually tell you to stand behind. I wanted to switch to a faster line, but I’m sure I would have been yelled at and all the other customers would have had a reason to release some holiday cheer on me. So I stood in my line.

When I finally got to the register I started our conversation, as I usually do, with eye contact, a smile, and a ‘hello’. Unfortunately, if my register employee was responsive, I didn’t hear her. In fact, I didn’t make out anything that she said, because she was mumbling under her breath (double whammy). I don’t mind greeting employees first with eye contact and a smile, but the least they can do is return an audible ‘hello’. Heck, not even a smile is necessary, as this at least allows the growth of a discussion about how busy the day has been, or some such. I know what it’s like to work with customers, after a number of years at Culvers, and am more than willing to try to be a pleasant customer.

One could always mention the Entertainment Weekly offers that they try to sell you, but after a while you just get used to smiling, shaking your head no, and saying ‘no thanks J’. So, since she didn’t keep going after I made myself known, I have nothing to say about this.

Sometimes the greeter says good-bye, but thankfully, I was able to exit Best Buy in relative peace. And with that, the worst experience at Best Buy I’ve had in a long time, ended.

To conclude, while the holidays are indeed a nightmare for many employees in the typical store, keep in mind that everyone is a customer at some point, and all but the rich work for their money in a job that involves some customer contact…