Bad Buy

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Some businesses follow very strict operating policies, while others follow philosophies. Which is better? in the case study to follow I’ll show you how one ruined a customer’s loyalty at Best Buy.

I needed to purchase a Surface Pro 3 and wasn’t in the States to do so. But luckily a cousin was coming to visit a friend and said she could pick it up for me.

So I went online and rather effortlessly purchased the products at, listed the purchase as customer pick up, and paid for them. I received an email showing the purchase order number, and product descriptions. the location of pick up, and the estimated time of availability — they stressed for me to wait for a follow-up email before coming to pick it up.

At the time of purchase, there was an option for Store Pickup, however, there were no warnings of the stringent rules that applied. But in the email notifying me that the order was ready, for the first time it said:

To make sure everything gets to its rightful owner, we’ll need to see:
1. Your state-issued photo ID
2. The credit card you used when you placed this order: Visa *************666
3. The order number listed below or a copy of this e-mail

*Important: For your protection, only the person named on the credit card used to make this order can pick it up.

So being out of the country and 13 hours ahead, I immediately emailed customer service explaining that I bought it in California because I had a friend there planning to pick up my order for me. Emails went back and forth until ‘Farah’ wrote that she understood the situation and would see what she could do, then … nothing.

Three days later with my friend’s flight time quickly approaching I called Best Buy — from India –, and was told that without exception that they could not modify the order: the only option, it seemed, was to cancel the order, re-order it with a rep and list my friend as the pickup person when the order was placed. So we did that.

The immediate email I received again showed all the pertinent info, however, showed the estimated date as July 13th. I called back again and got a new rep. I went through the whole story, explained what transpired, that the product was actually ordered six days earlier and I had gotten a confirmation that it was at the store.

The new order I explained was solely so that my friend could pick it up, and that my last order — for which the products were on hand waiting — had been canceled when the new order was created.

“Sir, I understand that but it hasn’t been recycled back into inventory, so it is now showing as NOT available. I only have minutes to modify this order before it is locked, and I see that both items are available at the Citrus Heights store only 6 miles away, so if I reroute it where she can get it later today. “Let me re-route the order now.” she urged. I agreed. It was Tuesday.

best buy chart

With only 48 hours before my friend was flying out of California, she drove 26 miles to the Citrus Heights store late Tuesday night. Best Buy had the order in the system, they had it in inventory, they showed her as the authorized pickup, and she had all her ID … but they couldn’t give it to her because the order was in processing status.

She called me from the store and when I spoke to the agent there, they couldn’t explain why the product wasn’t available for release, just that it wasn’t. By the time I hung up and called customer care and got a rep and went through the entire story up to date, and as polite as he was — they’ve always been very polite –, in the end, he couldn’t do anything because the store was now closed. “Call us in the morning” he insisted ” and we can get the store on the line and sort it out.”

Wednesday, 24 hours till she flew, I called again and went through the entire story again. And again no one could explain why the product was still stuck in processing. “Check back in a few hours and it should be cleared,” he said.

Three hours later I called again and again I went through the entire story, with far less patience than I had the previous times. “I will call my supervisor and work it out” I was told, “please hold.” Quite a while later, she returned being told to reauthorize the order.

She did. “Now let me just refresh it a few times and it should be clear.” It wasn’t, and again no one could determine why. “Give it some time and it should update, the system must be running slow,” she said.

I asked how long I should wait. “”An hour or two” I was told.

Fast forward two hours, and again I called. Same routine right to the part where she said “please hold and let me check further” Except this time after 30 minutes I was thrown back into the phone loop and a new rep came on, and we started over; going through the entire story once more. Another 50 minutes later she came back on and said “I don’t understand why it won’t clear.”

visor customer

“Isn’t there ANYONE with the authority to override the system and allow my friend to take the products (which are there on hand, which I paid for, twice?” I asked.

I was told — very politely, “no.”

“What I can do is cancel this order and reorder it,” she said. “But there is no certainty of how long the new process will take.

I felt completely exhausted, disillusioned emotionally spent, and totally uninterested in pursuing this any further.

They had completely destroyed any loyalty I had for Best Buy, which had been built up over the years — they had always been my go-to store for electronics.

“Cancel the order, I’ll make arrangements to get it elsewhere,” I told her, and my friend went and bought the product at Fry’s without any delay.

This is a case study of a company allowing the system process to override the customer experience, which in the end lost them a long-time customer that they’ll likely never recover. in their own company stats (see Visor image above) Best Buy acknowledges that 80% of their sales are generated by 20% of their customers. So how does a company as large as this one allow 1 of that 20% to be serviced — or rather NOT serviced — so poorly?

What occurred in this engagement is an example of a company losing sight of the principles and philosophy by which they so strongly advocate, and by which any good service company should hold above all else when serving their clients, by allowing a computer system devoid of reason to dictate the outcome.

When you have employees dedicated to serving the customer, but fail to provide them the flexibility to react and adjust to malfunctions in the system, you’ve wasted a valued resource and set the stage for disasters like this one just waiting to happen. And it did.

 p.s. Update. In the months that have passed since this experience, the only communication I received from Best Buy was a customer satisfaction survey, which I directed to this article. But they’ve never responded since.

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