The Buyer Protection Experience at Best Buy

You know the drill, you buy a device and at checkout the clerk asks you if you want to purchase an above-and-beyond warranty or “buyer protection” plan. The smartass answer is generally, “Why? Is it going to break and is the basic warranty no good?” I usually take a pass, but last year, when buying my first Android phone on the occasion of my liberation from a corporate Blackberry, I decided to pay the extra fee given my predilection for being tough on my phones.

The phone broke well within the one year anniversary of the purchase (the charger plug adapter flaked out, a common occurrence on HTC EVOs according to the clerk), so I blithe-fully drove to the Best Buy to get it fixed. Not having a copy of the receipt and original agreement, I went in imagining their customer relationship management software would know who I was and confirm I was covered. I also went in with very different expectations of what a buyer protection plan should do, perhaps one born from the extraordinary experiences I’ve had at Sears with broken Craftsmen tools and L.L. Bean with broken fishing reels and aged Bean boots. In both of those cases I was given the legendary “NQA” – No Questions Asked” experience where a new product was pressed into my hands and I was on my way in minutes, more devoted to the brands than ever before.

No so at Best Buy. The very nice clerk at the mobile department found me in the store computer, confirmed I was cool, and then delivered the bad news.

  1. My broken phone would be mailed off. A “refurbished” one would replace it. Ugh. I don’t want someone else’s hand-me-downs. That sucks.
  2. I would be given a loaner — not the same model — but I would need to place a $150 refundable deposit.
  3. I would need to go to another department — The Geek Squad — to  perform some bureaucratic function and then return to the mobile desk to get my contacts transferred and my loaner set up.

I suffered this news in silence. It was 10:10 am. I walked to the Geek Squad desk and stood stolidly for 30 minutes while the lone service person explained the fine points of expanding RAM to one customer, then virus removal to another. When it was my turn I had to repeat all of the information previously shared with the mobile desk to what was in effect a “human modem” who had to read back my address and spell my name and do all the other Soviet Union triplicate work. A sticker was slapped on the broken phone and by 11 am I was back at the mobile desk.

And then the fun began. Other customers had taken the clerk’s attention so I again waited for them to be served before it was my turn. Then came all sorts of contortions to get my loaner activated.  By 11:30 I was out the door, facing the prospect of a return in three or four days to get the refurbished phone back and reactivated, the loaner returned, and the $150 deposit refunded.

I paid extra money for this process. Someone at Best Buy needs to get on the floor and do some customer experience study, for I won’t buy a phone from them again, nor will I ever take their underwhelming buyer projection plan on any device ever again. The entire process should have been automated, made self-service, and focused on expediting me out the door with a new replacement the instant I walked in. Making me trudge from desk to under-staffed desk only made me grumpy and resentful.

Best Buy sucks.

update 6.5.11: Oh, and they forgot to give me back my 16 gb SD card which is doubtlessly stuck inside the Samsung loaner in some other poor soul’s pocket. Thanks.

update 6.9.11: Card retrieved with no hassle from the Hyannis Best Buy. Staff there is extraordinarily nice and helpful and remembered me as the guy who had to wait a long time on first visit. They even marked down a returned charging cable for me and turned me around in less than ten minutes. Friends urging me to tweet this to get Best Buy’s customer relations team attention. Not worth it. Will post in future on retail customer user experience design and how Best Buy could capture loyalty through the buyer protection plan, increase upsell of those plans, and make all parties very happy.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

5 thoughts on “The Buyer Protection Experience at Best Buy”

  1. I have been told that extended/enhanced warranties are the greatest profit generators in durable goods marketing and, logically, the generators of the largest commissions to salespeople. As a result, I have tended to avoid them. Nevertheless, I bought my wife a digital camera not so long ago to replace one she had dropped or drowned or somehow permanently debilitated. Since she has had a checkered history with such devices I took the extended warranty offered by the same Best Buy. My bad. Your experience shows I should have followed my instincts.

  2. David:

    Hope you don’t mind but I tweeted about this and called out Brian Dunn, CEO of Best Buy. (@bbyceo). I did it mostly to see if he’s true to his word about being a connected CEO but also in support of you. Many years ago my wife and I bought our first cell phone at The Wiz (which, by the grace of God, is now out of business). When the buyer protection plan discussion came up I said no and spend 30 minutes fending off pitches from folks. Each time I refused a page went out and a more senior person came up to tell me why I should pay this and all the horrid things that would happen if we dropped the phone in the toilet. It was then that I realized what a scam the whole damn thing is.


  3. The shame is they could get a much higher take rate if they marketed the fact that buyers of the protection plan will get white-glove service. Instead they will probably invoke the fine print, claim margin pressure, and play the game. Make it painless, market that fact, and the loyalty retention effects would pay off handsomely.

    Also, when you make a customer wait in a store full of new gadgets, give him a number so he can browse and play with crap while you explain to the nice lady that viruses don’t get into computers from dirty hands.

    There is so much potential in the return/redemption experience. I’d have thought Best Buy would be crawling over their aisles with secret shoppers and stopwatches to debug what has to be a super profitable source of cash.

  4. Until about six months ago Verizon did in-store exchanges for phones under warranty or under their insurance plan but….

    Two weeks ago my Verizon phone malfunctioned mid-conversation just as I was leaving work. Since it was under warranty I went to the Verizon store for a replacement but they changed their policy a few months ago so that they will send you a replacement (overnight is a slight fee). I called the “Executive Relations – ER” complaining that I always needed my phone and that if they had told me this change in policy I would have purchased a “backup phone.” Well, the person in ER very nicely arranged for me to get the replacement in-store. But I went to ebay to buy a back-up phone.

    Still, I strongly recommend going with Verizon directly for the same reason that I buy Lenovo. Hassel is way, way too expensive.

    My two cents…

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