Posts Tagged ‘ retail shopping ’

CompUSA Closes. Is Anyone Really Surprised?

After months of liquidation, CompUSA’s operations will cease this Friday. Analysts are debating the cause of the company’s demise, but there’s really no mystery here. CompUSA failed for two main reasons:

(1) Their customer service sucked. I can’t tell you how many times I wrote to or spoke with CompUSA’s unapologetic management about the poor customer service in their stores. Staff were often unavailable, uninformed, and unhelpful. Advertised specials were often unavailable. Clerks were clearly more interested in selling computers than helping customers with the bulk of the store’s merchandise.

(2) They lost their focus by trying to sell home video electronics. Most CompUSA stores reconfigured their space to sell TVs, DVD players, DVRs, and other home electronics. Put aside the question of why they believed they could attract TV-buying consumers. Or maybe you shouldn’t. In fact, because they couldn’t move this merchandise, most of their home video inventory was woefully outdated.

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Solicited Feedback for Best Buy

I went to my local Tenleytown Best Buy in Washington, D.C. for one thing yesterday: a Vista-compatible digital audio sound card. After selecting a Sound Blaster card, I went to the counter in the computers section to find out if the card I’d chosen would work with Vista.

The first person I asked directed me to another person named Chris, who was currently helping a customer with a seemingly complex and extensive transaction. I waited for ten minutes without even an acknowledgment from Chris that I was waiting.

Another associate was focused on helping a business customer. Even though I was clearly waiting without assistance yet and he was also waiting for access to the same computer that Chris was currently using, he made no attempt whatsoever to help me.

Disgusted, I walked away and looked for a computer with Internet access, hoping I could just find out for myself if Creative had released Vista drivers for this sound card. No luck – all of the computers I tried were locked down and could not access the Internet.

Next I went back out onto the floor, looking for someone else working in the computer section who might be able to help me out. When I found someone, I explained my situation. He suggested I check at the counter in the…; I cut him off, since I’d already tried that approach. I volunteered that I was perfectly willing to find the answer myself if he could point me toward a computer with Internet access, so he whisked me away toward a PC where he quickly found that the proxy prevented him from accessing the outside world. Interestingly, it was as if this was the first time he’d ever faced this realization.

He and I then went back to the counter in the computers section, where Chris was now nowhere to be found, and nobody was around to help us. At this point, the guy helping me tells me that he can’t provide any further assistance. Can’t! When I ask to see a department manager, he doesn’t flinch or give his conclusion of failure a second thought; he just gets on the phone and calls for “any available manager for customer assistance.”

Five more minutes pass; no available manager shows. I leave, box in hand, chip on shoulder, concluding that it would be easier to just buy the item, check for drivers when I get home, and then return the item if the necessary drivers are unavailable.

My Best Buy experience ended at a register where the POS signature unit had been broken off the counter and sat loosely atop its base. The device rocked as I attempted to provide my signature, but it didn’t really matter, because (of course) it wasn’t properly calibrated.

The only redeeming point of my entire experience was that – despite my obvious chip – the cashier pleasantly reminded me (for the first time in as many years as I’ve shopped at Best Buy) to keep my receipt available for the attendant at the door.

So here is my parting thought: At 3 in the afternoon on any given weekday, shopping at Best Buy shouldn’t suck so much.

RIP Marshall Field’s

This weekend, Federated Department Stores celebrates as it blankets the country with its Macy’s brand, leaving a trail of now-defunct local retailers in its wake. Federated’s acquisition of May Department Stores’ holdings resulted in a sell-off of about 100 store locations like discarded scrap. Furthermore, their Macy’s expansion has decimated time-honored and respected family brands like Strawbridge’s, Hecht’s, Kaufmann’s, Filene’s, and (most horrifically) Marshall Field’s. The arrogance of this move just astounds me, as it disrespects local communities’ rich retail heritage, while damaging the economies of shopping outlets where large storefronts now sit shuttered.

How is this good for anyone but Federated and its shareholders? Though not officially deemed a monopoly, Federated’s recent moves leave consumers with far less choice when shopping mid-range retail department stores. It would be one thing if a new Macy’s in town was something that people could value, but Macy’s just isn’t the store it was years ago. The Macy’s brand continues to decline as it becomes further diluted. It lacks the quality, diversity, and character that were once part of its heralded trademark. Consumers are now left with Macy’s sign of mediocrity hanging where communities once shopped their familiar local department stores.

Luckily, consumers still have some choices. Here are some of the choices that I’ll be making:

  • When visiting Chicago, I will pointedly go to Carson Pirie Scott.
  • I will purchase clothes at retail outlets like Eddie Bauer, Orvis, and other independent companies.
  • I will purchase housewares at Bed Bath & Beyond, Linens ’n Things, and Crate & Barrel.
  • I will shop more online (it’s amazing what you can get through amazon.com).
  • I will no longer shop at Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s.
  • I will let the world know why I’ve made these changes to my shopping habits (you’re reading it).
  • I will let Federated know that I’ve let the world know why I’ve made these changes to my shopping habits.

A message to Home Depot

The shelves are a mess

The aisles are a mess

From the day it opened, I’ve been disappointed in the Washington, D.C. Home Depot. The problem is, it hasn’t improved at all. At all times when I shop there, the parking lot is cluttered (not littered…cluttered) with trash; aisles are often blocked with baskets of random crap; shelves look like they haven’t been reorganized in months; store personnel are generally unable to provide ANY assistance; and check-out clerks make it painfully obvious that they’d rather be home drinking. Can you blame them?

I’ve posted some pictures I took the last time I visited the lighting section of my neighborhood Home Depot. You (and the rest of the world) can view these pictures on my blog. Welcome to Home Depot. It’s kind of sad, isn’t it?

I don’t want a phone call, I don’t want a reply message. I want someone to do something about this shameful store. Fire people if you have to–you clearly need to make significant changes. In the meantime, I’ll be driving to Maryland from now on to shop at Lowe’s.