Best Buy can suck it.

I've been shopping at Best Buy for at least a decade. I've purchased televisions, computers, 3 dvd players, monitors, digital cameras, 6 different iPods, wireless routers, computer software, and too many DVDs and CDs to count. Yesterday, I walked into the Wilton Best Buy store with an unopened Rolling Stones DVD box set that I received as a Christmas gift. All I wanted to do was switch it for a different DVD because my wife originally bought the wrong one, and pick up 100' of ethernet cable.

Simple, right?

I waited in line at the returns counter, and presented my return to the counter girl. She asked me for my name and phone number, which I gave her. She punched a few buttons, scanned the DVD, then said "I'm sorry. I can't take this back." I pointed out that it was unopened, and all I wanted to do was trade it for something else.

"Yes, but it's past our 30-day return period, so I can't take it back," she said.

"Even though it's not opened, and you can resell it?"


I politely asked her to make an exception. Talk to a manager if she had to. She told me to hold on a minute, and she went and spoke with her manager. I figured there would be no problem, since the manager at every retail establishment in existence makes exceptions like this all the time.

Incredibly, she comes back and gives me the same story again, saying that her manager refused to allow the return. For a second, I thought about tossing the DVD behind the counter and telling them to keep/shove it, but then I remember that it's worth 30 bucks so I took it and walked away. There's always e-Bay. I left, and on my way home I picked up some raw CAT5 cable at Radio Shack for 25 bucks and threw a couple of ends on it. Saved myself 30 bucks.

I guess it's lesson learned on my part. On their part, I hope not expending the effort to punch a few buttons on their cash register was worth losing me as a customer. And yes, I realize that there are store policies, and the policies are there for many good reasons, but I think in this particular case, it would have been to their benefit to suck it up and let me do the swap instead of just sucking, period.

You'd think that when their sales are in the shitter because of the economy, they'd be a little more accommodating to the good customers that they already have.

I'm sorry it had to end this way, Best Buy. It's not me, it's you.


  1. Where're you going to get your gear from now?

  2. I have had similar experiences with TERRIBLE return policies at Best Buy coupled with stubborn refusal to admit when they are actually wrong. I will NEVER shop there again.

  3. Ben, I figure I can mail order everything and wait three days for it. Instant gratification be damned.

  4. Unfortunately, it's only going to get worse since Circuit City went tits-up. I think Best Buy has the worst customer service (at least the one I went to did) and have always shopped at CC.

  5. What is their policy on no receipt? What if you would have walked in there with no receipt and wanted to exchange it?? I hate stores that pull shit like that with their return policies - it wasn't opened and you were going to purchase something else in exchange as well as something in addition. What a bunch of tools.

  6. I've found that many Target stores are this way, too. And their employees and managers don't really understand that beautiful concept we call "Customer Service."

    I've pretty much lost faith in all retail establishments.

  7. SM - it apparently doesn't matter. There is a barcode that tells them when you bought it.

    Mesh, see my other button, entitled "Target can suck it."

  8. Anonymous8:17 PM

    I had exactly this same experience with Best Buy a few years ago with a clock radio. I was indeed so pissed I left the damn thing in the clerk's hands and walked out. That'll teach 'em, I thought!


    Then, in 20/20 hindsight clarity, I thought the thing I SHOULD have done is pull out my unlimited credit American Express Card and buy EVERY COPY of their top 20 CDs in the store, then return the whole friggin' lot 28 days later and REALLY screw up their inventory managment system!

    But I am chicken!

    -- John in Houston

  9. Anonymous2:28 PM

    As a person who has to deal with type of thing all the time (not at best buy but still retail), how many times a day can I "make an exception"? My store is much, much smaller than a best buy and I get 2-3 would-be returns a day outside of return policy limits. I imagine a place like best buy has many more.
    You think it's frustrating for you? Try being the person at the counter that has deal with attitude all the time just because they're doing their job.

    Repressed emotions? You betcha. ;)

  10. Anon, see it's like this: I shouldn't have even had to ask. They have a record of everything I've ever purchased at that store. The length of the list and the amount of money I've spent there should have had some bearing on the store manager's decision, if he wasn't retarded. Also, there was no attitude on my part. No yelling, no screaming, just a request, then disbelief and an "OK. That's fine."

    I have a blog on which to vent. I don't have to do it in front of a store full of customers. I'm not one of those freaks that goes off in a raging rant so that they have to call store security.

    I also sent this same story to BB corporate and got a voice mail from a corporate customer service rep, saying that it is indeed up to the individual store manager as to whether he/she takes a return.

    So I guess they're entitled to not take my unopened DVD and I'm entitled to post about it and take my money elsewhere, right?

  11. If you work in Customer Service, which clearly no one really does any more, it is always the right thing to "make an exception" to a reasonable request made by a valuable customer.

    It does not mean you have to "make an exception" to every dickhead who yells at your sales clerk, but if a customer who buys things from you comes in all the time and requests to return an UNOPENED ITEM a few days past the return limit, it's probably a good idea to make him or her feel special and just do it.

    That way you don't have to worry about him or her going home and posting a blog about how your customer service is complete crap and he or she will never shop there again.

    And this concludes my customer service lesson for the day.

  12. Anonymous3:49 PM

    Welcome to the crowd. They've been banned by me for many years now for a number of offenses.

    Was it the "tossing the customer out of the stores for writing down prices"? No. How about having someone arrested for trying to use $2 bills? Nope, bad, but still not bad enough.

    About 4 years ago the monitor onthe computer I inhertied in my job went. I knew where they had bought it, got the appropriate pieces of apperwork, including the "extended warranty" and headed up the road.

    I need to say they were already banned by me in my personal life, but the company had bought from them and there was the "extended warranty", so...

    At any rate, the discussion with their geeks comes down to they'll check it out and let me kow in a few days, to which I respond "how am I supposed to run a business with no computer monitor?". Gee, don't say that, it voids the warranty if it was commercially used. The warranty, I might point out, which was written TO "ABC Company". Unbelievable.

    Got my new monitor wihtin 2 days, but never dealt with them again, especially after the manager couldn't explain how a warranty made out to a corporate entity could be voided by the use of said product by, you guessed it, a corporate entity.

    And Johnny, it's just planning. 5 computers at home now, plus my older ones who've moved out, and everything is bought online. Everything.


  13. Anonymous9:52 PM

    I found bestbuysux.org about 4 years ago with customer gripes going back at least ten years that had 100 pages or so. I resolved never to shop there, plus I like Fry's ok, although they had a rep for being deficient in customer service.

    If you go to the site now, it has favorable things to say. It appears best buy knew it would be cheaper to buy them out than deal with the bad publicity.


  14. The thing is, 30 days is just some arbitrary number that someone chose. Why not 20? Or 60? It's not like produce that goes bad after a couple of weeks.

    The real question shouldn't be the number of days, but whether or not Best Buy is going to be able to turn around and sell it the next day. Do they still carry the product? Has it been on sale? How long do they plan on keeping said product in stock? Etc.

    Season three of the A-Team (or whatever DVD you chose) is not going to expire in 30 days. In 30 days they will probably still be capable of selling it to some other schmuck who's feeling nostalgic about the 80's, or whatever.

    Return policies, and most other policies for that matter, were meant to guide us towards reasonable decisions and choices. It can be infuriating when people use them to justify unreasonable, mindless, thoughtless and stupid decisions.

  15. Anonymous4:52 PM

    I was in a Best Buy maybe six years ago and approached a young guy on the sales floor (late teens, early 20s). I asked him where the PDA's were. "The what?" PDA's; personal digital assistants; palm pilots; pocket PCs (when these products were still hot). He had no clue what I was talking about. I found a large display of them one aisle over from our location.

  16. Anonymous6:01 AM

    The reason she didn't return the DVD set was because Best Buy no longer carries that particular item. Once they have an item 'deleted' in the system (no stock in any store and no more awaiting shipping), then the returns system does not allow it to be returned.

    Policies at any store are made because a customer, in the past, took advantage of a situation. Standards had to be made. The 'counter girl' does not make up the policy as you walk up to the counter. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule. Yes, it can be up to a manager's discretion on whether or not something can be returned. BUT ultimately, it's up to the computer return system on whether or not something can be done.

    I don't know what exactly went down during the conversation you had at a Best Buy store. But, you can't let one incident stop you from shopping at a particular store.

    I work customer service. I work at Best Buy. I've seen and heard every story, every compliment/complaint there is in the book, and every happy or upset customer. You treat everyone differently, depending on what the issue is. If there is no manager override for an 'exception', then there is nothing a manager can do. The return system is a complicated system. Like I said, there is an exception to every rule, but it all comes down to what we are able to do with our computer systems.
    I don't mean to stand up for Best Buy in any way. I DO mean to stand up for my fellow peers who do work in customer service, especially returns. We are human beings. We hope that we get treated with the same respect we would give you. Most of the people I work with are hardworking, college students trying to get by.
    (I apologize for the length of my comment.)

  17. Hey Anon,

    No need to apologize for the length of the comment. So you're saying I bought the last copy of Four Flicks in every Best Buy store everywhere? I find that hard to believe. Also, my wife walked up to the counter a few days later and returned the item with no issues. So I'm not sure what the problem was. I wasn't rude in any way, and at no time did the counter girl tell me that the item was discontinued, out of print, no longer carried by the store, etc. Any one of those reasons I would have understood. In fact, that DVD *is* discontinued -- I just checked. That's a good reason to not accept a return. That doesn't sound arbitrary, and doesn't seem vindictive. That's something that makes sense, and I respond to logic. It's too bad they didn't mention it.

    Anyway, just thought I'd mention that I wasn't disrespectful. I worked retail throughout college, and my wife works retail now and I know how rude and pigheaded customers can be.

  18. working customer service sucks. really. you can't please every one, and in your attempt you always piss off someone. the other day i had a customer get downright irate because i wanted to check his id with credit card. it's company policy with my company, check every id with credit card, no matter if it's signed or not. better safe than sorry, right? he had his id, i could see it from where i stood, he just didn't want to show it with me. when i told him i couldn't finish processing the transaction until he showed it to me we literally got in a tug of war match over the item.

    i need a new job.

  19. Anonymous9:05 PM

    Well, it's obvious to me that common sense is just no longer common... at the very least, the manager should have conveyed the bad news--not the Tier 1 level. Personally, I avoid most of the unpleasantness and shop online. But, how about on the plus side? Any favorite customer service providers? Or perhaps that could be a future topic.
    PS - loved the catalog critique.

  20. Anonymous11:30 PM

    To Cristina - if it makes you feel any better - I make it a point to say thank you when the cashier asks to see id with my credit card. I wish more stores would make it policy.

  21. Anonymous2:35 PM

    Sounds like this is a pattern on the part of Best Buy. What a bunch of goons.

  22. BB is pretty much the worst store, EVER. I have over a dozen stories of friends getting ripped off there. I've always shopped at CC (gone now, wah!) or online, guess now it'll be always online - newegg.com is pretty awesome! I had a friend that bought a $150 digital camera at BB, and within the first 30 days she went to turn it on, and the lens got stuck on itself, turned sideways and cracked as it was trying to come out of it's housing/casing. Apparently this is a well-known problem with this make/model camera. To make a long story short, the clerk at the store, BB customer support line, BB corporate, and even the digital camera brand help support line - all said, "well, you must have put your finger over it and held it in as it was turned on and trying to open." WTF?! Who does that?! Well three months and lots of angry phones calls later, she finally gets the camera company to take the camera back (couldn't get ANYWHERE w/BB to get them to honor their warranties and policies, hah, forget it), for free (they wanted to charge S&H AND a $100 repair fee - on a $150 camera!), fix it, and send it back. What has happened to customer service these days? I have much better luck with small local shops, yeah I pay more, but I get the customer service, and better luck with online retailers. Ugh.

  23. You make a good point JV because every store should just take the crap back, no questions, and ESPECIALLY with such small ticket items. Really, most stores have deals with their suppliers (whether direct from the manufacturer or a middleman) to take crap they can't sell back. Whatever costs are involved are just part of doing business.

    What both Target and Best Buy have done is guarantee no repeat business from you. And over $30. I see many people mentioning customers who abuse the policy. Heck, why not just refuse THAT customer instead of making a blanket policy that effs everyone. Not hard to track that kind of thing these days!

    The sad thing is that Target used to be one of those stores that would take ANYTHING back, even if you didn't have a receipt, because... and here is the punchline... chances were close to 100% that you'd take that money and spend it in the store within a few minutes... and probably, you'd spend even more.

    Silly silly silly policies are what kill a retailer. In this day and age, why?

    Interestingly enough, I have returned stuff at Wal-Mart and every time what I get right off the bat is "do you want cash back or if you'd like I can exchange it for you." They usually do question why the item is being returned, but I have never gotten hassled by them. They know I will turn right around and blow that money on some other crap in the store. Smart.

  24. JV, I totally understand. I've had similar issues with the now-defunct circuit city + office depot. I'm surprised that if it was an Xmas gift that they weren't more lenient.

    Love your blog, esp. the 1977 JC Penney catalog.

  25. I am very surprised that they did not take it back. My father in law once had a camera that he purchased. For us we were on vacation. This camera was over $599. He never opened it and didn't use it. When he went to return it, they told him that he has to take it back to the original store where it was purchased. That's not going to happen. Managers assistance and calling the original store where it was purchased confirming the purchase date on the receipt and pushing and pushing them, they finally took it back.

  26. The Wave Crashes9:15 AM

    OK, I know this is WAY late, but here's an idea for the Best Buy gnomes (no offense to butt gnomes):

    Every time an employee punches in your name and address or other super-secret information, maybe the database could somehow, maybe, if it's possible, IDENTIFY YOU, show (with a little computer adding of previous purchases if computers can do that today) what a DAMN GOOD customer you are, and provide you the level of service they should accord you. You know, like in the HUMAN world, a restaurant goer who is a GOOD customer and GOOD tipper, is incredibly recognized whenever he/she walks in the door, gets a good table, great service, maybe a little extra whipped cream on that pumpkin pie, you know?

    Wait. That would be called... CUSTOMER SERVICE.

    You're right: SCREW 'EM!

  27. Anonymous11:46 AM

    Best buy is horrible !!! My Friend just purchased a new laptop from them and paid for data installation and extra $100.00 the whole thing crashed 2 weeks after her purchase. She went to return or exchange it 15 days after her purchase not only did they say no but they told her it would be another $100.00 to reinstall the operating system. Is that a joke ?? Yes, another lost customer and I too will not purchase from them

  28. i use amazon for everything.. they once replaced a laptop before i sent the bad one back.. 18 hours after i complained, i did not even ask yet..

    free shipping, in 2 days on all stuff..

    prices cant be beat..

    they send thank you notes too..

    (i do not work for amazon, i am a biker/preacher)

  29. Johnny, I know this a quite old post, but yeesh this is such a common problem here in Australia as well. The larger the store the worse the problem. Nowadays I buy nearly all my needs other than groceries, online. So much less hassle.

  30. another former retailer checking in. I have to say that one of the problems with exceptions is that it can lead to the appearance of bias. It may seem to you that the employees should look at your history, see what a good customer you are, you even floss your teeth,and then do whatever you are suggesting. But then the next person comes in, and they do not have the same skin color as you do, and they are treated differently. Now they have a much bigger problem on their hands.

    I can also tell you, having worked for the Gap in NYC, that you have NO IDEA how many ways there are to scam a retailer. I saw people every day who basically had this as their job. Just like I got up to go to work and fold jeans, they got up in the morning and their job was to steal them. I can almost guarantee you that every ridiculous policy you come across has its roots in some scam.

    With that said, I remember reading several years ago that Best Buy was originally a regional retailer known for its shady ways (best comparison I have in Michigan is ABC Warehouse, or if you're from NY, Crazy Eddie). The article was about how they turned their reputation around . . . but I guess you can never shake your roots, huh?