Monday, August 20, 2007

Thousands of Possibilities? I Got Mine (part one)

People ask me, "Dave, why do you blog?" and I can look to this past Friday night and say "For nights such as this. Some stories need to be told."

We've been looking for a laptop for the lovely Steph Leann for a few weeks now... she came back from Minneapolis, having been at Showcase. Showcase is the national convention for Creative Memories, and Steph Leann being a Creative Memories consultant, she was there. Was that a run-on sentence?

Like I did with the camera, I did my research, shopped around, and had discovered that its harder to get discounts on computers. Best Buy, Circuit City and others barely make any money, sometimes losing money, on sales of computers... its all the accessories that pull the money in. Sometimes the markups are big, other times they aren't. So it wasn't about "how much can I get off?" it was "how good of a deal can I get for the money I have".

Our needs include a laptop, a router, a laptop case and an external hard drive. Our wants include a wireless keyboard and mouse. Well, let's be honest, its all wants, right? We don't need any of it... but with new CM Software coming out, Steph Leann honestly needs more than our pile o'crap computer, with like, 8 bits of memory.

I go to Best Buy first, and meet up with my friend J-Taylor. JT is a pretty good computer geek, so he and I walk through the accessories and he helps me make some important decisions... the main one being to buy a $699 laptop, with 200 GB of memory and 1 GB of hard drive space instead of a $999 laptop with 250 GM of memory and 2 GB of hard drive space. They are both Toshiba's, they are both practically the same model, just different specs.

So what do we decide to do? Buy a couple of 1 GB cards, pay for the installation (to keep the manufacturer's warranty), and suddenly, we've doubled our hard drive space and save at least $200 bucks. However, I'm not satisfied... so I decide to bear in mind all the prices and deals, and I'll go price match at Circuit City.

Understand... I hate Circuit City. To explain it, know that since I work at Starbucks, I'm big big big on customer service. I don't expect you to hound me, I don't expect you to stalk me, but I do expect that if you are on the floor, your job is to ask customers like me if I need assistance. If I don't, I'll say so, and then you can leave me alone... but if I do, then yes, you can help me. That's what you are paid for, and that's why I give you my hard earned money for your products, many of which you've marked up ridiculously.

I've bought an iPod last year and a camera a few months ago, spending almost a thousand bucks, and both times I went shopping at Circuit City, and both times I was practically ignored while shopping. Heck, I even went there last week, while making decisions on the laptop, and when I walked--slowly--down the laptop aisle, there were two CC guys there, chatting, laughing, having a good time... neither one paid me any mind.

Well, tonight, we're talking big money. A thousand bucks or more I'm going to drop on what we want. So into the computer aisle I go, and some kid walks up... he's probably 16 or 17, he's got what we'd call in 1987 to be a mullet, but nowadays, its more of a shaggy in-style mop on his head. He's tall, lanky, pale, a few pimples, and he mumbles "Can I help you find something?"

I answer "Sure", and I explain to him that I'm looking for a certain computer, a router, an external hard drive, a keyboard and mouse and a case. I told him since I'm paying cash (and I flashed him my 13 benjamins) I would love to get a bargain on some accessories. He told me that he's heard of managers doing stuff like that before, and he'd have to talk to his manager

So Lanky Pimple Face Mumbler Boy disappears, and I look around at the backpacks and messenger bags, none of which are as nice as the one I like at Best Buy (our thinking is that she'll use this one until she gets the bag she wants, on the Dell website, and I'll get it for my laptop I'm going to buy in the Spring) and after a few minutes, Lanky Pimple Face Mumbler Boy comes back.

"So, like, uh, my manager said he can't do any of that, but what we can offer you is our great Cityplan, which is our warranty, and, like, if you get this with the computer you're going to buy, you'll get this great coupon book, some of them you can even use like, right now."

Bewildered at this sale, I took the coupon book. You have to understand that even though salespeople at retail stores like this don't work on commission per se, they do get credit for every warranty they sell--and I'm guessing this guy hasn't sold very many.

Flipping through the book, I see all sorts of great deals like saving 10% off of UPS services! Yeah! And there's some savings for monster cables! Wow! And I can save 10% off of computer services! Holy cow!

"Dude," I looked up at Lanky Pimple Face Mumbler, "I can't use any of these coupons. Like, none of them. Is this all you can do?"

"Well, if you wanna talk to the manager, he's over there," pointing to a tall black man and a short, light blond girl. "Which one?" I ask. "Either one," he responds.

Saying thanks, I head over to the odd pair standing together. The girl looks up at the big black man, almost looking intimidated. It's my guess that she's training, and she'll get her customer service lesson tonight. Introduce myself, and he says his name is "Siad", which I spell because I saw it on his nametag. Little Blond says nothing.

I tell Siad about my conversation I had just had with Lanky Pimple Face Mumbler, and how he told me that that Siad had told him to sell me the warranty with the fabulous coupons. Siad looked a little confused, then said "That ain't what I told him at all".

I talk to Siad for a minute, and we talk about discounts and such, and he tells me that although he can't discount accessories, if I gather up everything, we'll price match it all, and that Circuit City does offer another 10% discount off price matched stuff. So, off I go.

First, I find the external hard drive. Its on the shelf for $189.99, which at Best Buy, its $169.99, so I'm excited because finally, Circuit City might just earn my business! I mean, doing the quick math in my head, price matching, minus 10%, thats at least a few bucks. And the computer I want is more here ($824) than Best Buy ($699) so, you know, cha-ching.

Walking around with the big external hard drive box, I set off to find gigs of memory for laptops. Well, I can't find them, naturally. So, let me ask for help. Another dude and a Strawberry Blond girl are in the aisle, both with the CC red shirts on.

"Hey man," I asked in a friendly voice, "can you point me in the direction of the memory for upgrading laptops?"

"Yeah, on that endcap down there," Another Guy points to the end of the aisle. I say thanks, and walk to the endcap. There are four rows of small packages, some with 512 mb of memory, some with 1 gig and some with 2. I need two of the 1 gigs, but they are charging $70 per. And they are some brand I've never heard of, so I can't price match them with the Best Buy deal, which were $39.99 per. Another Guy and Strawberry Blond come down the aisle, with Another Guy carrying a clipboard, perhaps taking inventory.

"Excuse me," I asked, squatting in front of the low endcap, "is this it? Are there any more anywhere?" Strawberry Blond looks at me, turns to Another Guy, asks him the question, gets the answer then relays the answer to me: "That's it".

I'm about fifteen feet away from the Firedog counter, Firedog being the computer service answer to Best Buy's more well known Geek Squad, and there's an older woman standing there, with no assistance. Strawberry Blond sees her, steps right past me, and says "Is someone helping you?" The lady replied, "Well, someone was, but he walked away and ain't been back, so I guess I ain't as important as what he was doing"

"Awww," Strawberry Blond smiles fakely, "of course you're important!" I look up at Another Guy, who looks at me, looks at his clipboard and walks away. I hang up the gig that I was holding. Standing up, I see Lanky Pimple Face Mumbler helping someone else. Once again, I'm David Lee Rothin' it... I-I-I-I-I ain't got nobooooody.... nobody cares for me, nobody wants my money...

I wander back to the computers, and over to the wireless keyboard and mouse aisle. There stands a Jewish Gentleman and a guy from Puerto Rico. How did I know he was from Puerto Rico? Well...

"Are you having trouble findin' a'someone to help you too?" asked the Jewish Gentleman.

"Well, I did have someone helping me, but he found someone else to help, so yeah, I'm having trouble too," I replied.

"You know, my son is from Puerto Rico," he points at the Puerto Rican next to him, "and he says that inna his country, all customer service is a bad. You never no get no help. I feel like that is what we are like here. We have a economy collapse, and we will be just like'a that" I smile and agree and we make small talk for a few minutes. I tell him I always have customer service problems at Circuit City, and he tells me he never likes coming in because he feels so computer illiterate, and he needs people to help him understand what he's buying, but never gets help.

The Lovely Steph Leann calls a few minutes later, and I relay some of my frustrations to her about whats going on. She wonders why I even came in ("I know you hate that place") and I tell her that I've decided I'm just going to get the external hard drive, get my price match, then head to Best Buy and buy what we want.

While I'm on the phone, a large CC employee passes by me, and calls to the Jewish Gentleman and Puerto Rico "Can I help you?" Graciously, the Jewish Gentleman points to me and says "This gentleman has been waiting much longer than we have, so please help him first." I'm still on the phone, but I tell Steph to hold on, as I start to speak the guy looks at me, apparently sees the phone and heads down the aisle for the Jewish Gentleman and Puerto Rico. I'm done.

I start walking towards the check out, and passing me, in a hurry, is Siad. Right behind him is Little Blond, who sees me. I motion to her, and she walks over to me. "Can I help you?" she asks.

"Yeah, I work at Starbucks, and customer service is really big with me," I said. "and I would want to know if my employees were not doing their jobs correctly. That being said, I have to be honest with you and tell you your customer service is terrible."

Little Blond looked like I had just broken up with her.

"I'm so sorry," she started. I continued, respectfully and professionally, by the way, to tell her of my experiences tonight. How Strawberry Blond and Another Guy had passed me by with very little assistance. How Lanky Pimply Face Mumbler tried to push a warranty on me, and then didn't offer to assist me when I came back to the area, how the Jewish Gentleman and Puerto Rico had been waiting forever for assistance, when I had seen several people just wandering around. I told her they had lost my $500 with the iPod and accessories, they had lost my $435 with my digital camera, and they were about to lose my $1300 with the computer, all because of their shoddy way they dealt with their customers.

Little Blond looked like I had not only broken up with her, but had cheated on her with her best friend, Strawberry Blond (who was cute, by the way. I'm just sayin). "I'm soooo sorry," she said. "I promise you, this will be dealt with." Looking around, it appeared as if they were having more customer service issues than just me.

I headed to the counter, where the Jewish Gentleman and Puerto Rico stood, talking to none other than Siad. I overheard the Jewish Gentleman saying, "And we wait and wait and finally someone come to us but they skip over another man who waited longer than we did and..." he turns around and sees me behind him "...this gentleman here. He waited for a long time too, and no one helped him either."

Siad saw me, stepped to me and asked if I had found everything I needed. I held only the external hard drive. I half-smiled and said, "Well, I just talked to your other manager [pointing to Little Blond] and kinda gave her the story. I told her that as a manager, I am big on customer service..."

I recounted what I told Little Blond, and Siad stood firmly, arms crossed and listened. His face tightened a little, and as I continued about how most of the time I, along with others, were ignored, and passed by and offered little help, he had a look of what I can only describe as "professional fury". He was a little miffed. Especially when I told him that I was about to spend all 13 of my $100 bills at Best Buy, mostly based on service, because some of the items here were in fact cheaper.

Siad spoke slowly, apologizing first for my experience, then telling me that he'd been there 2 months, and that 75% of the staff had turned over for good reason. And it was a work in progress. I told him I understood that completely, but it didn't help either one of us now. Siad said that I wasn't the first one to say anything about it, indicating the Jewish Gentleman and Puerto Rico (though Puerto Rico never actually said anything) and that the problem would be addressed immediately. He strode off in a way that looked professional, yet looked as if had he a mallet, it would be The Shining in Circuit City. "Heeere's Siad!"


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