Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Another company I'll never patronize again

The electronics outlet Circuit City has joined that ever-growing list of companies who can kiss my backside. They will never directly get another dollar out of me. My list of personally boycotted companies can run pretty long at times, changes frequently depending on how the business behaves and they are on the list for various reasons. Company business practices and questionable ethics are some of the criteria for adding or removing a company from boycott.

Circuit City is now on the list because of poor customer service. Now, I don't add a company because some clerk is having a bad day, is clueless or falters a bit. That happens, things happen that can vary quality from day to day. Having been on the other side of the counter on occasion I understand how customers can often be jerks, unreasonable and treat store employees like their personal servants. I understand both parts of the equation and can do the math. For me to add a company to my boycott list means there is something going on that I feel is reflective of the business model either at the store or company level.

The retail business lives or dies based on customer service. This is especially true as brick and mortar stores crumble from the onslaught of the ability of customers to purchase their goods online. The often unknown truth about all retail stores, be they grocery, retail or whatever is that ALL STORES ARE THE SAME. It is the customer experience that gets repeat business. A clever salesperson could rip a buyer off so hard in a deal that their great, great grandfather would retroactively go bankrupt, but if the buyer felt special and enjoyed the experience they would come back for more (Consider how much cash people repeatedly drop on extended warranties, Ponzi schemes and psychics even though common sense tells even the dimmest consumer to run the opposite direction). Receiving poor customer service motivates me to go elsewhere for my goods.

Yesterday I went in to the local Circuit City to purchase a Universal Remote Control to replace the current unit that was failing (probably due to slobber from a dog chewing it). When I located one I liked I had to ask the price, since it was not labeled. All the high-end ones where dutifully labeled but not what I presumed was the cheapest though perfectly functional model. So I hunted down and asked the Home Entertainment rep for a price check, who said he was too busy to find out and I'd have to go to a register. Since there where 6 people in line for the two open registers up front and neither line had moved since I entered the store I thought that was not the best solution. I went to several other departments and none of the reps working there would or could check on the POS system what the price of the remote was.

Resigned, I waited in line for 5 more minutes before someone from out back came forth to open another register (In all this time, the lines did not move as the cashiers talked about extended service plans to their customers). When I mentioned I didn't think it was the best service to force a customer to wander the store looking for someone who wasn't too busy working or chatting to check a price, the cashier said I should have come to her department for help and she would have done it right away.

No offense, but that's stupid. The Home Entertainment rep assigned and working that area should have helped, but he was far too occupied with the highly skilled and demanding task of putting up price signs on televisions and referred me elsewhere. Besides, the relatively helpful cashier I was talking to wasn't in her department at the time but was viewable sitting in the back along with about 5 other people. To be fair those people were probably off the clock, on break or at lunch, but it still looks bad when there are long lines and customers wandering around looking for help. The general rule at my company is that if you don't remove your name tag or cover your uniform with a jacket or shirt, then you are prepared to help a customer with resolving any questions or problems even off the clock.

I don't expect anyone to slavishly genuflect and polish my shoes with their tongue when I walk into a store but if a business wants my money then they shouldn't treat me like crap.

When a customer complains what that really means is the customer is giving the business an opportunity to keep them as a customer. Circuit City failed.



  1. I avoid C.C. like the plague. Perhaps they think they can outfox Best Buy by doing the exact opposite of 'aggressive and complete customer service' ...

  2. Sleestak,

    CC recently solved the problem of longterm employees getting higher hourly wages by firing said employees--or "eliminating" the positions--and then immediately opening an equal number of new positions at minimum wage, encouraging the former employees to apply for those positions, because God knows you don't want inexperienced help. If I ever enter another Circuit City it will be to shoplift.

    Your pal,

    Tex LeBeauf

  3. Tex: A familiar scenario. After putting into motion their 'money-saving' plan company profits took a nose-dive. But they don't really care, because the VP who thought it up got his bonus. It's the onus of the managers to ensure profitability and if they don't it is their fault for under-performing, not the business crippling actions of corporate.

  4. I boycotted The Good Guys beginning in 1999 when I was looking to buy my first DVD player. Having done my research and seen it work first-hand, I asked for the Pioneer XX-575 (I don't remember the model number). The sales monkey said, and I quote, "What? You must have rocks in your head if you want THAT model...! Now over here we hav..."

    I stopped him and said (with projected volume sufficient to make others in the area stop and watch), "'Rocks in my head?' Did you really just accuse a customer of having 'rocks in their head?' Dude, you just blew a $400 sale. I assume DOW across the parking lot is your most-hated competitor? See ya."

    The look on the guy's face was priceless. Like saying to a woman with a large, protruding belly, "Oh, when are you due?" and she replies "I'm a man."

    The Good Guys are kaput as of 2004/2005. I hope Circuit City is next.

  5. Best Buy is getting worse as well. I don't remember if you blogged about that or not, Sleestak, but I've read stuff on the Internet (on the Internet, so it's true) about their declining customer service and similar demands of profitablity from the managers. Geek Squad also went from a small, nerdy-cool team of computer super experts to an overblown group of guys who can steal your music and pics, then wipe your drive.

  6. The Consumerist has a continuing expose on the Geek Squad and their decline from uber-teks into a rip-off profitability engine that will ultimately, and is well on its way to doing so, fail due to mismanagement.

  7. I think CC isn't doing too well. One just closed near us. Meanwhile the Best Buy next door is going great guns. I like Best Buy. I think it's mostly the bright colors.

  8. I've avoided them since I fould out they were rasing money for Guilani's little fire fighter charity which is actually a PAC that gives only money to Rudy.

  9. Ug, frankly I'm amazed that CC is still in business after the DIVX debacle lo, so many years ago. Really, it's funny that you can get better customer service from on-line retailers than from bricks n' mortar companies that exist soley because people like dealing with their stores face-to-face.

    In reality, the only CC I've been to in the last few months/years has had nothing but kind and helpful employees, but I think that's because I'm usually the only customer there and they may think I'm some type of visiting deity.

  10. I agree that CC has abysmal customer service, but the reason I won't go back there are the grinding waves of depression that wash over me as I enter the store.

    The experience verges on the supernatural -- the store literally gives off bad vibes.

  11. About 8 or 9 months ago, Circuit City made big news because they deliberately laid off their most experienced salespeople! This was a decision based on the assumption that 1. the most experienced salespeople were making the most money and costing the company the most money. 2. That the average consumer was going to go buy the cheapest thing anyway.

    Of course this did not consider that the average consumer would like the salesperson selling them something to know a car stereo from a hole in the ground. It's one of those historically amazing bad decisions. The New York Times had a huge article on page one of their business section about it when it happened, and implicitly predicted that it signalled the death knell for the company.

  12. I'm pretty sure that my salary after working at Borders for almost nine years was a big part of why I was forced out of that job.

    Blogger Bill Harris has a good story about CC cluelessness here:



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