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I think it’s time that we as consumers started demanding more of the companies that we support with our business.

Specifically, when they make a mistake that inconveniences us, I think that they should acknowledge that and make at least a small effort to be sympathetic to their mistakes. Is that too much to ask???

I wanted to write about this because I’ve kinda been fuming all evening after my interactions with Best Buy went increasingly sour regarding the new TV that I ordered from them on Black Friday. You see, it arrived via UPS yesterday – a day late – but more importantly, it was damaged in shipment and the screen had been shattered. It happens … stuff gets piled on top of stuff that it shouldn’t, contents shift during transport … I’ve driven a delivery truck before, so I know that sometimes these things happen, but it’s how the error was actually handled that really rubbed me the wrong way…

I called BestBuy.com last night almost immediately after I disappointingly found the broken screen. I spent a good 20 minutes on hold before I finally reached someone who milled about before finally asking why I hadn’t called the store instead. I explained that it was a BestBuy.com order, despite being placed in the store, and the store doesn’t even stock that item, so I called the number that was on my e-mail from the order.

He called someone at the store and transferred me to her anyways, who was actually really nice and told me to bring the TV in today and they would take care of it there. When I mentioned that her store wouldn’t have a replacement because stores don’t carry that model, she replied that maybe it could be exchanged for a similar model, or I could have a new one shipped there instead so that I didn’t have to worry about trusting UPS again.

So jump ahead to today … I took the broken TV in to the store and actually got the same Customer Service guy who had ordered it for me on Black Friday last week, and at first he seemed like he could take care of everything, even though he had to check with someone else for procedures. When he noted that they still didn’t have that model in-store, he suggested that I go over and look at the other models to see about a comparable, and in the meantime he would figure out what the other options were.

I did that and found a guy who helped me to locate the next model up in the same product line. I decided that I really wanted to stay with Samsung because right now we have two other TVs from them in the house and I’m fairly satisfied with them, so here’s what we came up with:

Pretty much the only difference was the refresh rate – everything else stayed the same … Smart TV Apps, size, brand, no 3D. It seemed like a decent option that wasn’t too much more expensive, and they had the replacement in store, so I hoped that would be the end of it.

Take it back to my new friend at customer service and he looks it up, disappears for a bit, then comes back and says, “No, it’s too much of a difference – we’re not allowed to go more than $200 over the sales price…” to which I reply, “Then this is actually perfect because it’s only $170 over that.”

But no, because apparently they’re going by the Black Friday price that I bought it for, not their current list price, even though that’s what the TV is actually worth and you’re not comparing apples to apples if you compare a sale price to a non-sale price. From their perspective, somehow it was actually a $350 difference, which from my perspective is just dumb.

The best that he could do was to give the new TV to me at the Black Friday price, which was a difference of $150. And there was no way in hell that I was going to get duped into buying even more TV when I’d brought in a damaged TV in the first place!!!

And then it got worse … my other option to have another one just like the first one shipped out … didn’t exist anymore … because the TV was now discontinued and they didn’t have anymore left.

This is where I started to get pissed.

Nevermind that I’ve been shopping at Best Buy for probably two decades, ever since my Dad started shopping there when I was a kid. Nevermind that I’ve bought pretty much every major appliance in my house there, and my old TV, and countless other video games and movies and accessories.

I’m told that the reason they can’t give me the upgraded TV is because of an agreement with Samsung that’s out of the store’s hands and that the store can’t just take a $180 loss and call it a day, so instead we screw the customer because the first TV that he tried to order got damaged in shipment and now we can’t get him another one unless he either picks something else or pays us even more money.

It was at this point where I was trying really hard not to be that asshole customer, and I knew that the customer service guy wasn’t directly at fault, but Best Buy didn’t exactly give him much to help keep me happy.

After another 30 minutes of waiting, he magically might’ve found another TV like mine (less the broken screen, that is) in another store on the other side of town, but he was waiting for them to call him back to confirm. While we waited, he explained that he could have it transferred up to his store, which would take another 3-5 business days … plus I would have to come back a third time to pick it up.

At that point I explained to him that I thought all of it was ridiculous and that I didn’t feel like my time was very valued to Best Buy, but I think I’d been written off as one of those customers by then. Really, the nerve of me being upset because they sold me a defective product, then wanting a replacement without having to go out of my way to get it!

The longer I waited, the angrier I got as I counted down the time lost between UPS’s delay in delivery and the time on hold the night before and now the time wasted in the store.

Once the store finally called back and confirmed that they did have it in stock, despite all odds, I told him that I’d just drive down and get it myself because at least it could be done that evening and otherwise it was going to require another trip on my part anyways. He cut me a gift card for the exact amount of my purchase and that was about the end of our interaction … no further apology or sympathy after working with me for over an hour.

Of course, when I got down to the other store, the first girl I talked to had no idea what I was talking about and cited that she’d been working the phone all night and hadn’t talked to anyone from the other store, so we waited some more – this time with my wife in tow – until finally a manager came by who had been talking to the guy from the other store and knew exactly what was up, and then went and got the TV and helped get us rang up.

He mentioned that the only reason they had them in stock was because they had been ordered for a customer and never picked up, not because they have a bigger show floor like the first guy had proposed.

And despite his ability to help give me a TV that wasn’t broken, he wasn’t particularly sympathetic either … I retold him parts of the story, thinking that maybe he would step up and help make things right after my wife suggested in the car that I should’ve asked to speak to the manager at the first store rather than just taking his comments in relay, but the most I got out of him was, “Yeah, that’s a long drive from XYZ Store…”

Yeah, no shit, and I just did it because YOUR COMPANY fucked up.

I guess my point in retelling this story here tonight that already has me riled up again is that even now that I have the new TV home and it’s all hooked up and it looks great, I’ve still got a bitter taste in my mouth from Best Buy because between last night and tonight, they wasted about 5 hours of my time and even as just a customer, my time is valuable to me.

Sure, you can say, “Sorry for the inconvenience – I understand that you’re frustrated…” but why should it stop at that?

What’s it worth to keep the customer happy so that he actually wants to go back and shop at Best Buy again???

It certainly wasn’t $170, which would’ve been the difference to just give me a slightly better TV right there in the store.

It wasn’t even a $50 gift card to say, “Hey, pick out a couple of movies to watch on your new TV on us because we’re sorry that you had to run all over town for this.”

After 5 hours of wasted time, 60 miles of driving round trip, and loads of frustration with a company that said that it wanted to help me, but only if it could do so without it being inconvenienced any way in the slightest, I’ve technically got the TV that I ordered from Best Buy a week ago, but I’m not a happy customer and I probably won’t buy my next one from them, either.

Why should I if my time isn’t valued to them just as much as my money is???

To be honest, it’s always really bothered me when I’ve had to deal with customer service departments for issues caused by the company where they didn’t come back and offer something proactively simply to say, “Hey, sorry man – our bad.”

My local HoneyBaked Ham store does it – if they screw up my sandwich and I have to wait while they remake it, or even if I mention that they did something wrong with my last one, they’ll throw me a coupon to get my next one for free because they see me in there all the time and they genuinely want my business.

CreateSpace, the vendor that I use to print my books, did it, too – sending me entire cases of books when I found bad ones in the mix because the loss was worth it to them to keep me happy. That was with the very first order that I had with them, and even though subsequent orders for other books also experienced some issues, I stuck with them just the same because I knew that they’d make things right no matter the cost.

And I know that most companies don’t do things like this because a random customer lost here or there might not be that big of a deal to them, but if more of us collectively started to demand it, then maybe they would be forced to start to care and they’d strive to do better. I know when I threatened this evening that I’d never buy from Best Buy again if I had to go with a refund, one of the responses I got was, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but that’s fine.” Maybe he didn’t mean it like that when the words slipped out of his mouth, but the entire interaction as a whole sure made me feel like it didn’t really matter whether I shopped at Best Buy in the future or not.

Which I suppose is good because next time, I won’t. 

Next time I have a TV or something for my home theater to buy, I’ll order it online from Amazon, and even if it costs me $40-50 more, and even if UPS screws up again and smashes it in shipment, I know that Amazon will stand behind its sales 100% and will do whatever they have to do to make things right if they make a mistake.

Best Buy proved to me this evening that they’re not willing to do whatever it takes. They technically fixed the problem, but they didn’t to anything to fix the customer relationship. That’s something that can’t be broken simply by dropping it off the back of a truck, but it’s also a lot harder to fix once it’s broken, too.

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