Customer Service & Best Buy

On May 3 of this year, my husband and I went to and purchased an e-Machine computer for our home office. Rather than paying for the computer to be shipped to our apartment, we requested to pick it up at our local store. They sent us an e-mail when it was ready to be picked up, and everything seemed to be going smoothly.

Today is May 27, so we’ve had the computer for exactly 24 days. Less than a month. I woke up this morning, poured myself a cup of coffee, turned on the morning news and booted my computer to check my e-mail. Standard wake-up procedure. I was still a little bleary-eyed, but I know I wasn’t seeing things when the computer failed to open my desktop. Instead, it rebooted on its own, and started the entire process over again.

After three tries, it finally went to the Check Disk screen, and I let it go through its motions. It rebooted again, and I received an error message. By that point, I was quite pissed because although I’d had my morning dose of caffeine, I’d yet to have a cigarette. So I went outside, furiously smoked a Kingsley, and came back inside to give it another try.

Seriously, sometimes that works.

Of course, it didn’t this time, and I couldn’t get the computer to behave. I pulled out my receipt, my PC recovery disk and all of the other paperwork that came with the macine. I looked everywhere for a phone number for Gateway Computers Technical Support, but all I could find was their website address.

If you’re having trouble with your computer, isn’t there a good chance that you are unable to connect to the Internet?

Thoroughly frustrated, I called the toll free number for 800-number directory assistance and obtained the phone number for Gateway computers. To make a long story short, the technical support agent walked me through every trick in the book, and we could not get my PC to boot.

I was told that, since my computer was under warranty, he would send me the “Manufacturer’s Recover Disk” since my own recovery disk would not work, which would take 3-5 business days. I explained to him that my business depends on my having a working computer, but he was thoroughly unsympathetic. In fact, if the new recovery disk would not work, I would have to ship the computer (at my expense) to Gateway to be repaired, which would take 3-6 weeks.

Next, I called Best Buy customer service, and explained the situation. The customer service representative was extremely rude, and told me in no-uncertain terms that my purchase was passed the 14-day period for exchanges, and that I was out of luck. I asked to speak to a supervisor, and she told me, “no”!

Furious, I demanded to speak with a supervisor and refused to get off the phone until she transferred me. Finally, she did, and I was told by the supervisor to take my machine to the Best Buy store where I’d picked it up.

So my husband and I loaded up the computer (after walking it down three flights of stairs from my third-floor apartment) and took it to the store. There, I was taken to the back so that a Geek Squad technician could look at it. He plugged it in, watched the error screen pop up, disconnected it, and told me he could fix it for $167. He refused to tell us what was wrong with it – only that he could fix it.

I don’t know about any of you, but what the hell happened to customer service? What happened to, “the customer is always right”? I wasn’t unreasonable or irrational during any of my conversations with various representatives, but I do think that my computer should have been exchanged. It was ten days passed the return period, and if I’d had a similar problem ten days ago, they would have given me a new computer.

This is only one (major) example of the decline I see in customer service every day. We ordered food from a fast food restaurant the other day, and when we returned home they had forgotten half the meal. When I called to make them aware of the situation, they didn’t apologize, and advised me that I should “check my food before leaving.” It’s things like this that make me question the direction in which society is heading. When a customer is unsatisfied with my performance – which never happens, of course! – I am more than happy to refund money or to correct the problem free of charge. If retail outlets and service providers cannot stand beyond the products and services they market, then what is the point of selling them at all?

I called my Grandad this afternoon – because that’s who I call when anything goes wrong – and he told me that twenty years ago, all you had to do was threaten to stop patronizing an establishment, and they would give you whatever you requested. He went on and on about how merchants of the past were more concerned about customer retention than about monetary loss. The technician with Geek Squad could have fixed my computer in five minutes, but he refused to say anything for less than $167.

I wish that more customers would file complaints and get in contact with consumer advocates like Tom Martino and the news stations’ investigators like Marvin Zindler. It’s time that merchants backed up their promises and cared more about customer service than about a few dollars.

If anyone else has had problems with merchants, log on to and file a complaint. This allows other consumers to see who has had problems with which vendors so that repeat performances can be successfully avoided. Contact Tom Martino and your local consumer advocate and stand up for the money that you put into your purchases. If consumers don’t take a stand against poor customer service, nothing will ever be done to rectify the situation.

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