Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Mortar and the Tubes

My transition from brick and mortar shopping to e-tailing (what a gross word) has been a long road. One of necessity and convenience rather than principle. It is not without some weight that I shed the local store. Be it chain or small business there has always been at least something worth visiting for. The pros and cons of both are well worn stones that I won't bother shining here.

I rejected comic book stores for cost, lack of customer service and the feeling that they could smell the newness of me. I left in-store computer parts ages ago for cost, variety and return policies. Book stores were easy to dump in the face of sky high mark ups and convenience. A fair amount of my clothing is purchased on the web these days and I merely smile as the scale tips. It is a rare thing that I black list a store or company entirely though. Comcast is was an "asshole" and I have happily had their service for going on 9 years now.

Best Buy is on that list now however. After years of less than stellar service, unsavory return policies and high prices I still occasionally stopped by for an impulse buy. Never for media, they shot themselves in the foot on that long ago. No returns what so ever on opened media. In that vein, it was odd that I found myself at Best Buy to purchase my first Kindle. A device created by the company I buy near 100% of my media from. Gift card in hand, it was too tempting to not get my new e-reader without a two day wait though.

After a week of bliss, disaster struck. I'll save the gory details and say that my Kindle had a run in with a car door at midnight. It was never the same and completely unusable. I called* Amazon to tell them my sob story and got a super friendly person on the phone. They told me about their 30 day return policy. Despite the fault being mine and mine alone, he told I would have to go to Best Buy, but could get a new one.

So off to the brick and mortar I went to get my new gadget replaced. Why I assumed it would be easy I don't know? The reassuring friendly Amazon rep helped, but I should have known better. On my lunch break I walked in past security and bee-lined it to the return desk. I was told it was broken and they couldn't do anything for me. I calmly explained my conversation I had with Amazon. They explained that had I purchased Best Buys replacement plan they would have happily given me a new Kindle. Lacking a time machine, growing frustrated and with no desire to cause a scene, I thanked them and began to walk away.

It was raining, so before I left the return desk the lady behind the counter offered to put my receipt in my Kindle box. It seemed like a nice enough offer so I accepted and turned heel to the door. Nearly out of the store the security guard stopped me to see my receipt. The same receipt that had just been buried deep in the box. I explained in a mildly frustrated tone, that what I had in my hands was mine and that I was just at the return desk.
Him: Still need to see the receipt.
Me: Fine.
Him: Next time get a sticker. (pointing to a roll of pink return stickers)
Me: From who? You were chatting with someone when I walked in the door.
Him: Next time get a sticker.
Me: Was there a sign to tell me that?
Him: Next time get a sticker.
Me: Was there a sign to tell me that?
Him: Next time get a sticker.
Me: Fuck You! (exit stage left)
It was not just a plain old "fuck you", it was layered. What it really meant was "Fuck you and don't worry about next time, there won't be a next time". I am done. No more standing in the rain at 5am on Black Friday. No more random trips just because or running out for something I don't want to wait for shipping on. Best Buy cost more, has shitty service and could give two shits about their customers. Sum up the future buying potential of a customer. Wait not "a customer", this customer, me. Tech-savvy, late 20's and disposable income. Is it worth $139 to lose me. I'd bet more than I have in this life on it.

Now lets take it down a notch. Breathe deep and know that this tale has a happy ending. Two days later I called Amazon again. I explained Best Buys refusal or ignorance in adhering to whatever agreement they had for returns. I told them about the replacement plan to salt the wound further and hoped for a better outcome. The second friendly Amazon representation I had spoken to that week seemed genuinely concerned. He put a replacement Kindle in the mail that day and sent me a prepaid label to send back the damaged one. Moments later I was off the phone, a weight lifted from my shoulders. Excellent customer service saved the day. I've since made 4 separate orders from Amazon and am near finished my first e-book. They already had a customer who liked them. Now they have one for life.

*So you don't call Amazon. You go to their website, put your number in and they call you with in 5 minutes. Why isn't everyone doing this? As a customer I avoid hold times, layered menus and frustration. For their hunt group or call center it is presumably the same experience as the traditional model.


Grant said...

Man, that is garbage. I imagine there aren't any Best Buy people scouring the internet for bad press (like your Comcast post).

It doesn't seem like brick-and-mortar stores have any kind of future in electronics. If everything is manufactured overseas (nothing to actually create in-house) and they're getting spanked on customer service (no concerned citizens employed in-house), then they haven't got anything left to stand on.

So does the Kindle feel like reading a computer screen? I know I can spend more time staring at paper without eye strain than I can staring at a computer.

Wreck said...

Where computer screens or otherwise (phones, etc) show pixels set back from a layer of glass or plastic. E-ink sits right up against it. Giving the Kindle the look of a paper back. There is no room to reflect or give the appearance of depth. It feels more 2D than 3D and ultimately is more pleasant to look at.

Next time we ride remind me and I'll bring it along.

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