Shame on You, Best Buy!


Here at Business Pundit, we read a number of stories about companies acting nasty. For example, credit card companies canceling accounts without prior notice. Or broadband companies slowing customer connections when they use more bandwidth than the company wants.

The business world can be a mean place–especially when it comes to consumers. That’s why we’ve decided to start a new series called “Shame on You!” Every time a company does something sneaky, we want as many people as possible to know about it. We hope, with your help, that we can make it harder for companies to get away with deviant practices.

If you’ve had a company scam you, take your money, or cheat you in some other way, please write to us through this contact form. Tell us your story. If appropriate, we will publish it on our site anonymously, bringing it to the attention of thousands of readers.


Our first Shame on You! cheater is Best Buy.
A reader named Rick wrote in with his story:

I bought a new laptop to deal with a server emergency while on a business trip. I picked one out that I thought my wife would like since she needed a new laptop anyway.

The Best Buy salesman went back to look and came back to tell me “the only one we have left is optimized. It will cost you an extra $40. Is that OK?”

I told him that I didnt like being forced to by a service I didn’t really want. So he came back and said “we can lower it to $20. Is that OK?”

“What does it include?” I asked.

“We did all your windows updates and removed all the junk from your computer that gets pre-installed,” he said.

I figured that for $20, if they really did all that stuff, it was worth my time.

After buying the laptop, I went back to my hotel room. I turned on the laptop. It told me it needed to go through 11 Windows updates. There were still half a dozen bloatware offers from companies like AOL and Norton.

And maybe worst of all, the computer had been de-Googlized in favor of Bing. It was like Microsoft had paid
them off.

In other words, i was paying best buy an optimization fee so they could justify turning the computer on to get a kickback from Microsoft. It was disgusting.


Upon investigating the case above, we discovered a couple of things:

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1) This isn’t the first time Best Buy has acted sleazy around customers. In 2004, the state of Ohio sued the company for selling used products as new.

In 2007, it was accused of bait-and-switch tactics by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

More recently, there’s word of Microsoft training Best Buy employees to discredit the Linux operating system.

2) Best Buy knows about this. There have been many complaints on Best Buy’s official forum.

Recommendations for Best Buy:

1) Offer the service, but don’t shove it down people’s throats. It is not necessary.

2) Be clear about what exactly you’re doing. Give the details. Don’t say you’re doing something, then let customers be surprised when they find that you haven’t done what they thought you promised.

If you feel scammed by Best Buy–or you have a good defense for their practices–please comment below.

Do you have a Shame on You! story to share? Email us here, and we’ll consider it for publication.

  • Nate

    I used to work for Best Buy and have seen these mistakes occur. It was never deliberate, just young kids usually making a mistake. I think it is rather irresponsible of your blog to not follow this up and see if he went back and asked for his money back or for the service to actually be performed. Everyone makes mistakes, they should have a right to correct them. If this mistake was not taking care of then yes, scorn should follow but not giving the company, regardless of who it is, the chance to make right is very unscrupulous of you.

    I am certain that there are some unscrupulous employees and managers at Best Buy’s around the country but I assure that was never the company policy. I never experienced the knocking of Linux, but that could have occurred. Large companies often had trainings for us to explain the benefits of the products over other products, we were never to bad mouth the products though. Again, some employees don’t know how to do that, that is what you get when you may minimum or a shade better though.

    I appreciate your blog and I am all for this type of shame on you’s but let’s choose situations where the problem was asked to be resolved and wasn’t.

  • Drea

    Nate, thanks for your comment. The problem with the Best Buy incident was that it was far from isolated. If you follow the article’s link to the Best Buy forum, and read posts there, you will see that the issue appears to be systemic–or there are a heckuva lot of young kids making the same mistake. When a problem spreads to the degree that this one has, the onus is on the company to up its education or revise the policy.

  • Nate

    I may read the forum, I may not, complaint forums like that sometimes are hard to read through the hate and make me mad. I will agree that education and revising of the policy is part of the problem. The main problem is Best Buy’s system of reward for it’s top employees and branches and this reward/failure system in tough job/economic times only get’s amplified. Best Buy rewards/acknowledges/let’s managers keep their jobs by incenting(sp) them to sell all those extra’s because that is where the profit turns. In a vacuum, it makes sense, take that approach and trickle it down to the lowest employee and it can turn into that low wage kid thinking that if I don’t sell this “insert extra here” I may lose my job, they will do whatever it takes. This is why I ran the warehouse/security side of things, I didn’t like the pushing of those things to everyone when it wasn’t necessary.

    It has always been a problem in this type of reward/numbers like environment in any business. It becomes a disaster when employees turn to do anything measures. I don’t know the answer on how Best Buy would turn that around as a company, because in the end, they answer to the numbers too. The main problem lies in the skill set of the workers, lets be honest, with the number of employees they have you aren’t getting the highest common denominator all the time.

    Best Buy’s policy has always been to be sure to offer the customer all the options and let them decide. You are never coached by corporate to trick or deceive anyone, but every hour when a manager comes by and shows you your numbers and tells you to get them up, no matter how good they are, well, some people will do bad things.

    I am rambling and I am sorry, but I think that at the corporate level none of the bad behavior is accepted or encouraged directly, what they have a hard time controlling is the indirect response of driving towards numbers. Common in all businesses.

    If you have further questions let me know.

  • John

    Methinks if one is looking at an “optimized” laptop, one has the right to ask the employee to boot the machine and show how it is optimized (the employee already admitted it is open-box). When it turns out to not be so, call the manager over, offer less than retail and complain the employee tried to gouge you for an open-box system that has not been “optimized.”

  • Isn’t the point that one shouldn’t have to boot the system or have to go back and ask for a refund? The hassle in that (even if handled perfectly from that point forward) is still unnecessary and still a terrible experience. If you’ve done take out from a restaurant and gotten back home to find they messed up the order, nine times out of ten you’re just going to eat it because the hassle of going back is immense. The problem for Best Buy is they lose customers like this daily without a peep.

  • Eric

    I witnessed something similar the other day. I watched an older couple basically get scammed into over $400 of upsells on a laptop that they didn’t need, including $75 to basically use a program that was already installed. It is clear that they are trained to do this, and is also why I recommend nobody EVER use their Geek Squad “service”. Luckily the “salesperson” went into the back room and I informed the target that he was getting ripped off.

  • Thomas

    @Nate: Hardly seems like a mistake when Bing is preloaded and Google products are removed, if it originally came sans Bing. In any event, Drea is right – this is not an isolated problem.

    In any event, the mere fact that Best Buy will remove all the “junk” from brand new computers should lead to greater concern for hardware manufacturers. There is a reason that the software comes pre-installed and there is a contract between the hardware and software companies governing it. Likely, the hardware company is receiving a handsome sum for installing those applications.

    The software companies whose programs are being removed by one of the largest electronics retailers are the ones who should be most upset. (I don’t like having that junk, either, but I respect the software/hardware companies’ rights to pre-install it and if I don’t like it, I can delete it.)

  • tech_shopper

    Okay. Best Buy is not doing anything illegal or scandalous by offering and/or performing said services. Customers still have free will, and the reason many customers are “pressured” into buying an optimized computer is because many customers DO want the service, therefore the stores will save time by optimizing a small percentage of their inventory in advance. If that optimized computer is the only one left, obviously the company is going to try to explain the benefits of it to the customer, but no customer is ever forced to pay for an optimization if they just want the computer.

    It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people forget that companies need to make a profit in order to stay in business. Stores actually lose money when they sell computers, so any business hoping to stay afloat will offer services and accessories so they can continue to open their doors to customers.

    It’s funny that Best Buy earns such a bad rep when there is a reoccurence of a bad experience. I don’t care how bad your personal experience was, no company is perfect and no company is currently offering what Best Buy offers in terms of the selection, price, and service combination.

    Consumers need to do their research, realize that human beings are imperfect and therefore make mistakes (yes, even when working at major corporations), and quit complaining or else our options for electronics retailers will be few and far between and completely lacking knowledgeable employees. Yes, we’ve all had bad experiences at one store or another. Get over it, life goes on.

  • George

    As a current supervisor of a computer department for Best Buy I have some points I would like to make.
    1. The biggest reason that I coach my team on selling optimized computers is to save the customer time. A pc sold could need several updates needed.
    2. When you get an optimized pc it should have all critical updates run on it. It will still need non critical updates.
    3. In the issue stated above, the customer ran into a common problem. In order to not have customer have to wait 2-4 hour for a new computer to be ready, we pre-setup some of them. They are NOT open box, or returned items. If we only have that one left, we do try to offer the service at a discount. The discount could change from store to store depending on how the management team has decided to deal with it.

    We also offer other services that we also pre-setup like creating the recovery disks. But like already stated, customers should NEVER be forced to buy these services.

  • Melanie Baluyot

    Today, on October 28 2009, I had called Best Buy in Aiea to place the new 27″ IMAC on hold for me. I let the sales associate know that I would be right over and that I would take a look around first. I spent 2 hours in the store looking at external drives, color printers, and the imac itself. No one, I repeat, no one came over to help me. After the first hour there, the same sales associate I spoke to called me to see if I was coming to complete the purchase-I responded that I was in the store and I would be there when I was finished. This is where the anger starts to set in. I was shopping with my 2 year old son whom was in a stroller. Upon approaching the customer service desk, I asked the boy at the counter if I had to pay at the desk for a hold and he responded yes. I told him that I would need help to my car since I had a printer in one hand and a stroller in the other and I was about to purchase a pretty heavy computer. He responded by telling me I had to go get a cart. How the hell was I supposed to get a cart when I had just told him that I needed help. I bit my tongue, walked half way across the store and pulled a cart backwards in one hand while pushing my son in the other. When I got back to the counter the boy was gone and standing in front of me now was the sales associate I spoke to on the phone to ring me up. She placed all my items on my cart, rang me up, gave me my receipt and walked off without saying anything to help someone else. Meanwhile one of the managers stood there to the side working on one of the registers. I waited to get her attention since she was standing right in front of me, facing me, but she did not respond- she was in somewhat of a zone. I stood there angry, not sure if I should ask someone else to help me to my car. I just spent $2000 at this store and did not receive the service that I assumed would come with it. As the sales associate returned to the register with her new customer, she did not even ask me if I needed something else. The manager looked up at me then looked back down. And all this took place at the CUSTOMER SERVICE COUNTER. In front of the two women, I took my son out of the stroller, placed him in the cart, folded up my stroller and placed it on the computer box. I could barely maneuver the cart a couple of feet and still no one ran to my aid. At the entrance, where the man checked my receipt, my stroller ended up falling off the cart. At which time he never asked me if I needed help is I folded up my stroller and ended up walking out the store with one hand pushing the cart with my son in it and the other hand carrying my folded up stroller. I feel so exploited and humiliated. I should have took my business elsewhere. I have never been treated so unworthy in any of my shopping experiences before. To add to that I am a military dependent which the sales associate and the manager were well aware of since I asked if there was a military discount. My husband defends the country that they live in so that they may enjoy the reaping benefits of daily life- I highly doubt they even took that into consideration, of course they didn’t.