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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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Not worth it
By morphologia on 1/5/2010 5:12:23 PM , Rating: 2
Seems to me it boils down to having people pay for the privilege of not having to know what they're doing to any responsible extent. Might as well hire someone to chew your food for you and save you the risk of biting your tongue.

I realize it's a service that some fraction of the market can benefit from, but it's a small fraction and the odds are in favor of it being an unjustifiable, superfluous expenditure. Any Johnny Sixpack can run Windows Update and highlight desktop icons and press Delete. In fact, most new desktops remind you of those 2 very things when first powered on ("Don't forget to set Windows Update to run automatic updates!") or periodically ("Do you want to use the Desktop Cleanup Wizard? It's been 30 days or so since the last time we reminded you..."). Anything beyond that (and we assume, but can't guarantee, that Best Buy et al do more than that pathetic bare minimum) comes with gradual familiarization with the machine.

There's all kinds of online resources, many from reputable enough sources (like MS themselves) that the average person can learn from. In all likelihood, the only way to get your money's worth is to educate yourself and eschew those ridiculous "optimization" offers. That old pitch comes across as sleazy on those late-night commercials and blatantly shady banner ads...why is it any better coming from a hard-selling wage-slave at Best Buy?

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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