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  (Source: Engadget)
Consumer Reports/Consumerist investigation details Best Buy's worthless optimization service

With Circuit City now out of the way as its major competitor in the U.S. consumer electronics retailing business, Best Buy is plowing along with little resistance. The Richfield, Minnesota-based company employs over 150,000 people and has over 1,000 stores in 49 states.

However, Margins are notoriously slim in the consumer electronics retail business, and Best Buy has been using its Geek Squad services subsidiary to help bolster revenues.

In its latest investigation, The Consumerist tackled Best Buy's Geek Squad optimization services which retails for $39.95. During its investigation involving 18 Best Buy stores in 11 states, the publication looked to determine 1) What exactly is included in the optimization service, 2) How does Best Buy market the service, and 3) Is it worth it to the consumer to purchase the service.

The results were pretty much in line with what most tech heads would expect when it comes to services offered by Best Buy or similar big box retailers. The Consumerist found that one Best Buy rep promised that optimization would boost a new PC's performance by 200%. In actual Consumer Reports testing, however, it was found that at least one machine which had been optimized by Geek Squad performed 32% worse than a stock, non-altered system -- in fact, none of the optimized systems performed better than machines that were fresh out of the box.

So what exactly are these optimizations that are being performed? According to The Consumerist, Windows Updates were downloaded on machines, desktop icons had been cleaned up a bit, and some UI tweaks were done to make navigation "easier" for the consumer.

Even more telling were a few other issues that cropped up in the investigation. While Best Buy's Geek Squad removed desktop icons related to trialware that is notorious for cluttering and bogging down new systems, the offending programs were still left installed. A power cord for one of the systems had even been left out of the box after the "optimization" was performed.

In addition, at least one reader was told that she could not buy a new laptop at the advertised sale price because all of the machines in stock had already been pre-optimized -- and thus came with a price tag that was $39.95 higher -- and there were no un-optimized machines in stock.

Understandably, The Consumerist surmised that not only is the service not worth the $40 price tag, but it didn't even improve the performance of the new machines.

For its part, a Best Buy representative noted that the service "isn't for everybody" and that "I would get optimization for my parents."



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By therealnickdanger on 1/5/2010 9:55:15 AM , Rating: 5
While it's true that computer salesmen often make ignorantly false statements (very few intentionally lie), IT people are on the opposite end of the spectrum. They know too much to be practical salesmen.

When I (or likely anyone visiting this site) go to Best Buy to make a purchase, I have already done pricing research and read countless forums and reviews of the product I'm seeking. I just walk in and grab the box. No, I don't want your services. No, I don't want your Monster cable. Just give me the damned box.

Now assume for a moment that any customer that walks into Best Buy and needs to talk to a salesman before buying is probably a newbie - he is probably the uncle of the nephew who's "really good with all this computer stuff". He doesn't know RAM from ROM and doesn't need to know, he just wants to plug it in a send e-mail.

At a good location, your average Best Buy employee can probably sell 12 computers per day because he just sells the product without going into mind-boggling depth. He makes vague, reassuring comments to push the customer into buying a box that matches their perceived needs (along with some high margin cables and services). Often times the more ignorant salesmen are beneficial to this process.

Now you put an IT guy on the sales floor and you run into problems. The IT guy tells all the customers that the computers are overpriced for what you get, you could build it cheaper, don't buy Monster cable, etc... The IT guy enjoys talking about RAM timings, RAID backup, and can spend over an hour with a single customer talking about technology and probably lose the sale. Sales isn't about knowledge, it's about selling. For every one IT guy, there are 100 "computer illiterate" consumers that don't even want to know what the IT guy knows.

This is also why mechanics don't make good car salesmen. "Oh, these Pontiacs have transmission problems", "These Dodges tend to have low-quality tie rods", "If the turbo goes out on this, you're screwed!"

I'm not saying that's how it should be, it's just how it is.


By superkdogg on 1/5/2010 10:41:06 AM , Rating: 2
True. Same thing would happen with an engineer selling cars...

Bottom line is ^^^ Thank God we know what we're doing, the strong will prey on the weak, and companies will try to make money. It's never about the best product in retail-it's always about the best marketing and sales. Sometimes those match up, but if you have to pick one-pick S&M.


By brshoemak on 1/5/2010 11:53:06 AM , Rating: 2
That hits REALLY close to home. I used to work at Best Buy and was told I would be hired as a Geek Squad person (won't say 'agent' because it's ridiculous) but ended up on the sales floor instead. I was a horrible salesperson to say the least. I'm not going to tell people that a $30 gold plated USB cable is better than a $6 one or that you always HAVE to buy the service plan because every computer will break down in 2 years or that Sonys are better machines that's why they cost more (they sure as hell aren't any better than anything else out there). I was better at talking them OUT of a sale on a certain machine than into one in a lot of cases. They ended up with a better deal and got what they wanted while I got berated by douchebag managers more concerned with numbers than the customers driving those numbers.

I had a good time when a grandmother on a fixed income came in to buy a computer so she could talk to her grandson in the military. I sold her a bottom of the line eMachine for $199 and was reamed out by my manager for not getting a $300 service plan on it. Sickening.

Thankfully I'm out of that hellhole and back to IT related interests.


By tallcool1 on 1/5/2010 12:33:59 PM , Rating: 2
That was a well thought out written post and 100% right on the money. +6


By atlmann10 on 1/5/2010 1:32:54 PM , Rating: 2
This brings a specific lifetime period to mind for me. I remember when I first started working in computer hardware. My first job was actually at a computer city after I became interested in computers for anything but a user. I became manager for the refurbished open box department and eventually performed most tasks in multiple departments of the store except for direct management. However; I could never do very well in sales. I just could not direct people to junk machines the company was trying to clear, nor could I sell the extended warranty junk which is where sales at that time made the largest amount of there money. I left when they were about to sell out to Compusa, and went into contract work in many different areas within the industry. Specifically I remember when I interviewed for a position at AMI after leaving the (Computer City), I did not get the job. I spoke with the manager after I was told I did not get it. He told me point blank that I was over detailed when explaining things to a customer. This directly reflects what you are saying here. Following that I realized exactly what "therealnickdanger" is pointing out here. The customer does not want to know the details. They want you to advise or make there machinery work. They don't want to know how they just want it done fast and efficiently, a very small amount are more interested than that and want more knowledge on it. Those clients/customers/end users will ask specifically.


By ZachDontScare on 1/5/2010 2:08:14 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
While it's true that computer salesmen often make ignorantly false statements (very few intentionally lie), IT people are on the opposite end of the spectrum. They know too much to be practical salesmen.


Untrue. I'm as technical as technical gets (programmer and own a software company), and have no problem being a salesman. I just dont lie, and make good products. And I'm hardly the only one in such a position.

Sales, like anything else, is a skill. If you plop your typical IT person on the floor of Best Buy, no he wont be a great salesman at first... but in a few months once he gets some skills, he might be the best salesman on the floor. You just dont typically see people like that on the floor because they're too valuable - they can get much better paying jobs.

Basically, you can teach an IT person to sell, but you cant necessarily teach a salesperson IT. There's a great misconception that people can be one or the other, but not both, and thats simply untrue.


By mindless1 on 1/6/2010 7:36:58 AM , Rating: 2
That is generally false. The truth is, salespeople are an additional overhead that has to come out of the profits. They're directed to selectively ignore the cons and deceitfully mention only the positives which goes against a proper scientific mind needed for any competent level of IT work.

So if you have no problem being a salesperson you are either:

1) Losing sales these low level floor people can't lose because of management pressure, or,

2) Deceiving customers that your product is always what they need instead of oh, say a competitor's product instead.

I'll assume you take the high road and go with #1, but how long would a Best Buy employee work there if they were found to be recommending customers go to a competitor to best suit their needs or just avoid the purchase altogether particularly when it is some service plan, a Geek Squad optimization service, etc?

Remember, they don't necessarily believe in the value of what they are selling themselves, but that is their job. Would an IT guy be true to his IT roots if he suggested something he knew was not suitable, did not apply technology towards the goal?


"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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