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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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RE: Its a Service
By gcouriel on 1/5/2010 10:23:37 AM , Rating: 1
the problem is that it isn't an "optional" service. i've been reading the entire Consumerist thread. this isn't the first time they've brought it up.

the real problem with the BB situation, and what will get them into trouble, is that they don't offer an unoptimized version. they lure the consumer in with a $599 laptop, but when they get to the store, the laptop is actually $639 or higher, because of the "optimization".

whether the optimization works or not, if you offer a customer a new computer, but sell them a used one, that's a big issue. BB will probably get itself into big trouble for doing this. i hope they saved some of those revenues for the lawyers who they'll be paying.

RE: Its a Service
By superkdogg on 1/5/2010 11:04:34 AM , Rating: 2
Now that you mention it, it does seem entirely too common that they 'run out' of the unoptimized machines.

Am I late to the party wondering if BB intentionally works on most of their machines to artificially bump up profits by paying a HS nerd $10 an hour to add $200 an hour worth of margin by 'optimizing' these things?

In my limited experience, it has been the case that the machine representing the best value is the machine that there were no 'unoptimized' boxes in stock. Seems that maybe this is a way to artificially bump profits for items that otherwise are good deals. Like Best Buy giving rebates to themselves lol.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007
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