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Questionable customer service

by Diane Miller | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Editorial | July 25th, 2013

Our opinion/ Let’s keep big retailers honest

If a business tries to tell you your damaged product is unfixable or that “It would just be much cheaper to buy a new one,” remember to be skeptical. It is one of many popular dealings that companies use to increase their revenues.

Is this wrong or is this okay?

First of all, whether it’s wrong or not, it most certainly is something we as consumers have every right to know – because it can be extremely valuable information.

For example, two or three different times I’ve (or someone I know) brought a malfunctioned computer to Best Buy only to be told: “Your best option would be to buy a new machine because it would cost more to get it fixed.” Unable to afford a new one, I take my damaged computer to a smaller shop (in my case, The Computer Place) to get a second opinion and they fix it, every time – and at a mere fraction of the price Best Buy estimates it would cost. How much was saved on my last trip? About 1,000 bucks.

I’ve been told that most “big box” stores, not just Best Buy, adheres to this non-transparent and highly profitable standard.

So, for these stores, this isn’t a question of right and wrong. It’s a matter of “join the club or get destroyed.” Practically every big retailer that sells electronics does it partly in order to stay level with their competition.

Here are some other big retailer motives many of us are blatantly aware of: (1) signing customers up for credit cards that may encourage them to spend more money than they actually have in the bank; (2) selling extended warranties or additional services that people more than likely never need to use.

What a salesperson will not tell you is that add-ons like extended warranties are almost never worth buying.

According to Consumer Reports, “Extended warranties are notoriously bad deals … Stores keep 50 percent or more of what they charge for warranties. That's much more than they can make selling actual products.”

Of course, it wouldn’t make any sense to stop trusting these businesses entirely otherwise we’d run out of places to shop. Businesses – restaurants, clothing and electronic stores, insurance companies, recording companies – want your money. That is obviously never going to change, nor should it.

Remember, money hungry isn’t always a negative thing. If it were, a number of stores would go out of business and we’d generalize anyone who’s somewhat wealthy to be greedy, which is obviously not the case. Businesses that go out of their way to make customer satisfaction a tip-top priority are technically money hungry because they always, always, always, always, always get paid off for it – as they should.

A bartender once charmed me into buy a $12 glass of wine. It was an unnecessary purchase, but I did it because I felt exceedingly welcomed and inspired because of it. Also, when I went car shopping, I visited Corwin Honda first, but I planned to check out a Ford dealer as well. My salesman at Corwin was very aware of this so before I even knew it I was shaking someone’s hand and I had myself a car because I was so overwhelmed by how well I was treated.

It’s also important to note that nonprofits and small businesses are filled with some of the most genuine, trustworthy, generous folks out there as well.

We bring all this up because it’s not easy to say whether these highly profitable, big-box practices are wrong or not.

Honestly, Best Buy is mostly a fantastic store with great products and decent customer service. And buying locally at Best Buy surely beats buying online. However, we never recommend taking any damaged product that’s not under a manufacturer's warranty to The Geek Squad -- or any big retailer for that matter.

Our best advice would be to pay attention to how you are treated anytime you enter a businesses. We should never expect salespeople or technicians to solve all our problems, though we should at very least expect to be welcomed and understood.

Anytime you are consistently treated as an incompetent and ignorable second-class citizen in any establishment, run the heck out of there. 

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