PermaLink How to fail in business without really trying, Act II06/13/2008 03:41 PM
I had a nice go-round with Best Buy last night.  I really have no idea why big companies seem to work so hard to drive customers away.

I have a task at home. We have hundreds of images from the wedding (some of them are located here on Flickr), and some of them need some editing and in some cases, retouching. No, I do not intend to Photoshop Nora out and replace her with Carmen Electra... but in a couple of them there are some rather pesky flash shadows that make the pictures rather garish. There's also some color-correction I need to do on images taken by a couple of people with older point-and-shoot cameras.

Cranking up my copy of Photoshop the other night, I realized that with the update to 10.5.3 and everything I commonly keep running on the MacBook Pro, like the Notes 8.5b1 client, Thunderbird, Firefox, Adium, my Twitter client, and the sync for the Blackberry, one gig of RAM may not be enough if I want to have Photoshop respond in something under a lifetime.

I tend to want to buy some components in real time... you know, go to the store, hand someone money and walk out with something I can use immediately. Sure, that ends up costing more, but the immediacy has a certain value. So I checked Best Buy's website for PC2-5300 SODIMMs, and found they had a Kingston made-for-Apple 1-gig piece for $99. And it was in stock at their store near us, in Frederick, Maryland. I also tried talking Nora into upgrading the nearly-full 80-gig drive in her MacBook to a really nice Hitachi 7200rpm 200-gig unit, but after the horror that was her Visa bill after the wedding and Max's eye surgery in the last six weeks, she declined to spend any money she didn't actually have to.

I still wanted the RAM, so off we went.

Since the last time I was in that store, they rearranged a lot of stuff. Apparently that store, like many other Best Buys, now has an Apple area. Previously, if I wanted Apple stuff, I had to go to the late and unlamented CompUSA or down to MicroCenter near DC. What I wanted wasn't all that Mac-specific, so I went over to where they used to have a counter specifically for little parts that were expensive and liable to walk away, like CPUs and RAM modules. It was gone, replaced by a rack of laptop backpacks and LCD monitors.

Turns out, all the RAM was now "safely" behind the Geek Squad counter. That meant that to get one simple little retail-boxed item hanging on a hook, I had to wait in a line behind all the mouth-breathers bringing their dead cheap no-name tower PCs and crappy throwaway printers in to be "looked at." No transaction at the Geek Squad counter ever goes fast, so I waited and waited, and finally got to the head of my line. I was just about to ask the guy "can you just grab me one of those and I'll be on my way," when he asked the fatal question: "uhhhhh... who's next?"

Man, if you don't already know, give it up.

In the line next to mine, which had formed when I was still waiting behind a big guy with a dead and apparently badly-abused clone tower PC, some enormous woman and her son insisted, "hey, we're next!" The woman immediately started babbling her problem about her son's Linksys wireless router and how they "wanted to see if it still worked."

Woman, if you don't already know, throw it away and buy a new one.

I told the guy at the counter, "look, I just need one thing and I'll be out of your way. No questions."

He went and talked to the enormous loud lady with the busted router.

Nora and I walked away.

We went across the street and had dinner at Ruby Tuesday's, and while I was having pasta with shrimp, I pulled out the BlackBerry. Turns out, the exact same module, from Kingston's online store, with overnight FedEx shipping, was still less than half the price at Best Buy. As I finished dinner, I ordered the part. $48, not $99 plus tax. From the manufacturer. Delivered.

Probably you can say that Best Buy decided their target audience is not people like me who just want to buy a component and install it. Their target audience is mouth-breathers who also don't change their own oil or clean their own house, people who wouldn't know a SODIMM from a scotch-and-soda. People who would pay double the manufacturer's own list price for a part and then beg Geek Squad for the privilege of having them come out to their house and charge another $159 to install it while stealing all their porn.

Well, I ain't that audience.

There's a lot more of "me" out there all the time. We want what we want, we know how to install it, and we want it now. Or at least not have to wait in a completely unrelated line just to have some guy in a white shirt reach over and grab something off a hook.

See also, "what happened to CompUSA." And Computer City. And Erol's. And Egghead. And Entre Computer Centers.

See what happens when you decide, wrongly, what customers "want" and then force it on them.

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1. Wild Bill06/15/2008 04:44:00 PM

Hey. Its been Walmartized/Supersized. Its what bean counters and C-Level MBA-By-Post idiots understand.

Service? Ho ho ho.

--- Bill

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