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Worst Buy

Feb 27, 2007

I just happened to stumble across this article at the Consumerist detailing what is a sadly common experience for people who go to the Geek Squad (owned by Best Buy) for computer repair. As someone who worked for the Geek Squad in 2005, I can tell you that the quality of workmanship there can be sadly lacking, but there are circumstances beyond tech experience that can lead to these stories. Unfortunately, it's not that everyone there is a moron or that no one tries. Like anywhere else, there are good people who do their best and there are also complete wastes who are just there to occupy space for a few hours. What doesn't help, at least in the stores I had contact with, was the lack of management support for the workers. They would have techs take in 20, 25 computers in a day with only three people working and then expect one of those people to always be available to talk to people. That means two techs who can do steady work, and even then the managers would pull one if people were waiting too long to pick something up or pay. Wait times of 2 weeks or longer were common, and while many customers wouldn't like to hear it this was almost never the fault of the techs. There's no excuse for sloppy work, but equally there should not have been tolerance for managers who wanted to see profits from the repair shop and encouraged techs to trump up cost. What's worse, if you got a customer who was angry at coming back to pick up a machine and learning that the repair cost was $200+ for virus / spyware removal, the manager would basically blame the tech. The techs, by the way, were at no time even consulted on pricing or exceptions so they had no ability to help the customer and were made to look bad when the managers threw the blame on them. The prices were set for maximum profitability, and the guidelines of the store made it impossible to bend these rules. This means if someone dropped off a machine and it had a Weatherbug program running (a minor piece of trash programming), then it was an automatic $59 to remove it. Yes, $59 to go to the Control Panel and do a standard Add / Remove. Sometimes we could try to tell the customer to do it themselves, but it was a risk as management would threaten firing if they overheard anything like that. Instead, a customer might come in, see the inflated price for minimal work and demand to speak to a manager. That manager would come out, after the tech has repeated that the prices are set and there's nothing that can be done, and drop the price. That makes the tech look like a liar and a fool, but for the manager it avoids conflict. Sure, a store doesn't want to alienate customers and that's fine, but backstabbing your workers is cowardly and only encourages lackluster performance and resentment. It's really sad on both ends: the customer loses and the tech is made to look incompetent, which is sometimes true but often is just the image portrayed by a manager trying to avoid a hassle. What's even worse is that the Best Buy juggernaut never showed any interest in our input concerning these issues, in most cases at our store there would just be a rotation of management.

Ah, corporate structure. How I love it.