Normally, I tend to reserve my articles for game reviews, technical tutoring, or wild and baseless opinions about the games industry =). Today I am choosing to voice my concern as a consumer, and maybe give a little insight into why brick & mortar stores are feeling more behind the times each day.
To clue you into my grievance, the moral of this story is, “Don’t purchase Best Buy extended warranty plans.”
Having recently moved to Raleigh, I purchased a refrigerator from Best Buy because I had a few gift cards to cut down on the cost. After some back and forth, I’m convinced to get their precious warranty. Not one to normally splurge for superfluous warranty plans, I thought it was worth the investment this one time.
17 months later; practically minutes beyond the manufacture warranty, I’m happy to be holding a piece of paper that tells me not to fear. I do have an extended plan after all.
Phone call #1, my wife calls and they tell her, “There is no one in NC who can help you. It’s going to be 2 and half weeks out.”
Phone call #2, I call them back and tell them that I have a fridge full of food and some dude can wait to get the light in his fridge replaced. Surprisingly them find someone to come out in two days. That guy was useless and came with almost no equipment and zero parts. Unscrewing the back panel and kicking it around for 30 minutes, he finally settles on having to replace the fan… maybe. Of course he didn’t have the parts and that would take another week. After we just confirmed an appointment with him in 1 week, he rushes out of the house while telling me to call them when the parts get here. He left no phone number or contact information or invoice. Sooo, I guess I should call Geek Squad again?! The parts are coming to the house?! Maybe… Actually no, because they never showed up on my doorstep.
Phone call #3, a week later I come home to a message on my machine asking us to schedule an appointment. I thought we had an appointment. This time my wife calls again and is on the phone for 2 hours! By the end of that conversation they give us a date that is now 3 weeks away. Of course by this point the refrigerator is rotting from the inside. They give her the runaround, everything from “restructuring” to “busy season”, anything that sounds like an acceptable excuse.
Phone call #4, I walk into the local Best Buy and explain the situation… She then calls the same damn hotline that I’ve been talking to at home. What?! So Best Buy has no more control or power over their warranties than the consumer does. Again I stand at the costumer service desk for 2 more hours! I am eventually handed the phone and get some lady named Vicky whom I’d like to personally reach into the phone and strangle. She had a tone like Nina from Corporate Accounts Payable and her voice was salt on an already deep cut. This woman of course pushes our appointment to 1 week away instead of 3, but by this point I’ve already been dealing with Best Buy for 2 weeks.
At this point I talk to the service woman at the counter and tell her that if they can’t fix the refrigerator in a reasonable time that they need to ship a new one, per their own policy, and take away the iron brick in my kitchen. Despite what they told me when I purchased that plan, she tells me that the policy is a repair policy, not a replacement policy. To qualify for a replacement they have to attempt to repair it first. Now here’s the kicker; if they have no one to repair it then they can’t qualify it for replacement. So all they have to do is not try to fix it. Makes sense right? Easy money.
Digging through their policy, there is a noticeable lack of time frames. Of course, you as a consumer are limited to 30 days plus fees to return any sale item, but they have an undetermined period of time to service your requests. As long as they are processing your request to repair the device or appliance they are not legally obligated to take further action. In short, I could be waiting another 2+ months before I get my refrigerator in working condition again.
I am expecting a phone call today, but something tells me that I’m not going to hear the phone ringing anytime soon. The warranty plan was hundreds of dollars gifted to Best Buy and has been many working days of my own time dealing with their excuses. Their extended warranty plans work much like gym memberships or hotel reservations. They don’t actually expect you to show up and act surprised when you ask them to do their jobs.
The one service that brick & mortar has to offer is speed. Internet companies will always have a considerable delay in shipping products and sometimes responding to requests. Many internet companies are run with very low overhead and their only form of communication may be through email which can take days to respond to. Having a place to go into and a face to talk to is the whole point of having a physical store. If the staff inside the store does not have the power to make things right then they shouldn’t exist. If I can’t walk into a physical store and use it to get that instant feedback then it serves little purpose in my life. I am done with Best Buy.
UPDATE: After my blog post and a few tweets later, I got emails from several people who suffered the same ill fate. I even received emails from people who work(ed) for Best Buy and suggestions on how to break through the red tape. Thanks for your advice guys and things are definitely moving faster now. I wish it didn’t have to come to this; I wish it wasn’t the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, but that seems to be the way to get businesses to respond. I am told that new policies are being put in place to make this process more agreeable, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Nothing is more annoying than having spent many thousands of dollars in a place year after year, only to fall flat on the one thing that matters most in the physical world; customer service. =( I hope there is still a future for brick & mortar; my faith is not quite yet restored.