Best Buy sucks and you shouldn’t shop there. This post starts out personal but gets to the interesting part very quickly, so please read on.
Today is my wife’s birthday. Being a good husband I decided to come up with a nice surprise. She was probably expecting something along the lines of a case/skin for her iPod Nano. In reality, I wanted to surprise her with a nice laptop. As you may remember from my previous posts, I bought a MacBook Pro for myself just a few weeks ago, so I wasn’t going to go crazy in terms of my budget. But I thought that an affordable laptop for browsing and writing would be an unexpected and very welcomed gift. What I didn’t know was that Best Buy was going to hijack my plans.
I bought an economical yet decently powerful Acer Aspire 5100 (15.4” CrystalBrite TFT LCD Display, AMD Turion 64 Mobile 2 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB 5400rpm) on Friday afternoon from the Best Buy at the Markville Mall in Markham, Ontario. I brought it home that night, checked that it was OK, booted it up, installed the OS and surfed for a while. Everything was all right, so I carefully stored it in a safe place for a couple of days. At this point my wife didn’t know anything about the laptop. Yesterday night while she was sleeping I started to set it up so that it would be ready for today’s birthday. I installed Firefox, Thunderbird, Open Office, etc… I started to use the laptop and it seemed all good, but after an hour or so I noticed that the light on the screen was uneven and it seemed a bit too flickery for my taste. I shut it down for 5 minutes, and then booted it up again. The problem appeared to be solved. Resolved or not, this left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I left it idle on my desk, while the screen saver was running and I started reading a research paper on Haskell.
I didn’t even finish the paper, and my eye met the new laptop’s screen. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The screen had developed a black patch, typical of when crystal liquid leaks, at the top of a huge internal V shaped crack and many colored lines all over the place. I think my heart stopped for a second. Needless to say the laptop was on my desk, untouched the whole time and it was treated like a newborn baby. The external glossy glass was perfectly intact and didn’t have a single scratch or impact point. It didn’t even have a fingerprint on it, as I was very careful not to touch it (I wanted to present it as a gift, and as such I didn’t want it to have any signs of usage). I moved the mouse pointer, hoping with all my being that this was some kind of joke cooked up by a screen saver programmer, but obviously such was not the case. The Acer CrystalBrite TFT had just crashed in front of me.
I googled the problem a little and found some other people who related similar problems, and in every case they reported being told that “it’s not covered under warranty” by Acer. OK, I told myself, let’s not freak out, I’m going to Best Buy tomorrow morning and I’ll ask them to exchange the defective unit. I thought to myself, I’ll give the new unit to my wife as a gift, and I’ll setup stuff later on for her.
What Best Buy wants you to believe is that they easily exchange defective merchandise -no questions asked – within 14 days (or 30 days in some cases). The reality however is very different and leads me to conclude that Best Buy does indeed suck.
I bought this laptop two business days ago, and yet despite this, they told me immediately that they were not going to exchange it or give me a refund. “It’s customer abuse”, a clerk named Mohammed told me and there is no way that Acer or Best Buy is going to replace it. I argued with them for at least an hour and spoke with a bunch of people including Alex and George (a manager) at the Markville Mall Best Buy. I got nowhere!
They didn’t care. Let me rephrase that, they don’t give a shit that you just spent almost a thousand dollars on something that is defective. They don’t care that it’s obvious that there is no abuse whatsoever but rather that it’s a defective LCD which overheated or leaked on its own. They basically blamed me – the customer – for the problem and when I told them that I’ve worked with computers for many years and I know what I am saying, challenging them technically, they told me “we are not saying that you broke it”, but that doesn’t matter because they still told me that they were not going to replace it or fix it. Then I asked them, what if the unit was like this out of the box? They would still not replace it in such instances. So at that point I got quite upset at them and told them politely but firmly that their customer service was horrible and that they are deceiving their customers (there was a civil action lawsuit against them in the States for similar practices and situations). I bought from Best Buy because the price was right and because I though that if I were to run into trouble, I would be able to easily replace or get the unit fixed.
Best Buy claims “Easy Returns” but it turns out that their actual policy is to try in any way to blame the customer for defected products, in order not to have to exchange or refund the defective units. While I was standing in there, there was a guy who was literally harassed by one of the clerks (Shane?) because he bought a defective GPS unit and the clerk was like (paraphrasing) “tell me the truth, you dropped it, didn’t you?”.
I was in shock over this scam operation. The guy was luckier than I was, probably because the cost of that GPS was rather minimal, so they eventually gave him a refund after a little bit of a struggle on his part.
So let me get this straight, if Best Buy is not able to prove or reasonably show any factor that would indicate that I did anything wrong, they will still condemn me for the manufacture’s defect, by not replacing a defective computer that cost me $800. It’s like the Patriot Act of consumer warranties.
After struggling for a long time while standing in their customer service area, I was finally able to convince one of the managers to have the notebook inspected at the Best Buy depot where they will evaluate whether or not the customer is guilty of misuse. Guess what, they already made it clear that my chances of getting it replaced or fixed for free, are extremely slim. And guess what else, they are going to give me a call about this in 3 weeks. Yes, the birthday was today, goodbye surprise.
In 3 or more weeks someone from Best Buy is going to give me a call and it’s pretty much guaranteed that they are going to tell me that it’s my fault and that I should suck it up. They will most likely tell me that I can get it fixed by them for hundreds of dollars or collect it in its still broken state from the store. So after a minimum of three weeks time and no further ahead that I am today, I will end up contacting Acer, who’ll probably take the laptop for another month or so before telling me that I’ve to pay X amount of dollars to get it fixed, because they don’t cover problems like this. I will get my laptop back in 2 to 3 months time if I’m lucky, it’ll still be broken and I’ll have to decide if a third party provider could replace the screen for me for a reasonable amount (around $400 according to a quick Google search).
If I don’t get a replacement after the initial three weeks, I’m going to forward a complaint to both Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau.
What Best Buy doesn’t understand is that Internet has a lot of power. Guess what Best Buy, you ruined my wife’s birthday and you’re most likely to going to end up ripping me off for $800, but this is going to cost you much more money than that in the end.
Because I bet many readers won’t consider buying their next laptop from you after reading this “horror story”. Best Buy sucks and they deceive their customers. Do yourself a favor and shop elsewhere (Dell may be a good alternative).
On a side note, it may be just a rare defective unit, so at this point I don’t feel like saying “Acer sucks”, but please be warned about their possible QA issues and the fact that they won’t fix the laptop for free, if something similar happens to you.
How can you help
If you feel that this is unfair and wish to do something about it, you can contribute in several ways. Firstly, you can leverage the power of the social Web by promoting this story on sites like Reddit and Digg. You can spread the word then with your family, friends and colleagues. Link to this page or send a link to your contacts, and feel free to contact Best Buy to let them know what you think about this.
Update (July 12, 2007)
I realized that the ‘emotional bolding’ was very annoying, I’ve removed it. Also, this post may appear a tad whiny, but put yourself in my shoes and realize why I’m pissed off.
I’ve inquired with my credit card company (in Europe). They told me very clearly that there is nothing they can or will do to help. Last time I had to dispute a charge on my Canadian credit card, they did it without thinking about it twice. So your experience in North America may not hold true for a European card.
Insulting comments (from trolls) have been and will be removed.
Some people suggested that I bring it to another store. This is a good idea I think, but unfortunately the laptop is already been held by Best Buy somewhere in Canada for the “three week evaluation” (that I described in the article). Funny, isn’t it, how three weeks is just enough time for them to tell me that it will be too late for a refund or replacement then.
We have been on the frontpage of Reddit almost all day long. If you can digg this story as well to help spread the word further.
You can (politely) express your disagreement with the way they handled this here. Just make sure to link to this story in your message.
Arguing that it’s my fault for not buying my wife a $2500 Mac, or for shopping at Best Buy is just pointless and stupid. Please refrain from using the comment section for things like this. That’s not the point of this post. The point is to raise awareness about how Best Buy deals with defective units and, possibly, to make them realize that saving a few hundred dollars on their part, while obtaining a lot of bad publicity from this post, is just not worth it.
I wrote an email to the CEO of Geek Squad (thanks Consumerist for the tip).
Update (July 13, 2007)
More than 13,000 21,000 people have read this article so far.
I’ve not heard back from Best Buy or Geek Squad yet, so I emailed several Best Buy executives including the CEO and the Founder, thereby giving them the opportunity to make things right.
Update (July 16, 2007)
This article has become very popular on StumbleUpon, welcome guys, and thanks for showing your solidarity.
To date, this article has now been read by more than 30,000 people.
I’m in contact with a few people from the media who are considering running my story if a positive outcome is not reached. In this way my story will be heard outside through the mainstream media.
Today for the first time I’ve been contacted by email and phone by the Best Buy headquarters in Canada. Here is the email that I received a couple of hours ago.
First Email from Best Buy:
I am writing to you to advise that we have received a copy of your recent blog regarding your Acer laptop. We are currently investigating your case and have asked that the diagnosis be expedited.If you could reply to this email with a contact phone number I will phone you once the diagnosis is completed. If you prefer email communication my direct email is [omitted].
I’ll keep you posted in regards to any updates about this situation.
Update (July 19, 2007)
At this point, the laptop has been evaluated by Best Buy technicians and I will be informed about the outcome of their findings tomorrow, by their Senior Customer Support Consultant (for Canada). Incidentally, tomorrow will be precisely 14 days since I purchased the laptop.
Update (July 22, 2007)
On Friday I received a phone call from Best Buy, informing me about their decision. I asked them to put it down in writing in order to help me decide what to do. I believe it is an unsatisfactory answer and I’ve neither accepted nor refused their terms yet. What I know is that I spent way too much time on this issue, and I’m going to make my decision very soon.
Here is the text of their email:
The total cost of the repair, is $525.56 which includes the part, labor and taxes. The portion you are being asked to cover is $262.50. Out of customer service Best Buy will cover the remaining $263.06. If you agree to the repair, we can expedite the repair and have the unit shipped back to you within a week, dependant on the arrival of the part.
As I mentioned in our conversation, the laptop engineer from Acer advised that out of the 70, 000 units they have shipped throughout Canada they have not received any reports of an LCD screen cracking on its own. If the LCD screen fails due to a defect, the screen would be covered for 90 days, however if the screen cracked and was deemed physical damage you would be responsible for the cost of the repair.
Should you have any further questions please do not hesitate to ask.
Senior Customer Support Consultant
Best Buy Canada CHQ
Thus far I’ve remained largely neutral about Acer. But from Best Buy’s answer it is clear that Acer is just as guilty of not backing up their own products. At this point, not only should you avoid Best Buy altogether, but I strongly recommend that you do not purchase Acer laptops either.
A commenter pointed out how, for Canadian readers, shopping at Future Shop is not a solution. in fact Best Buy owns Future Shop.
It looks like we are about to hit the front page of Digg. Please digg this in order to spread the word further.
Updated (July 24, 2007)
This article has been on the front page of Digg and it currently has 2440 diggs. My sincere thanks to those who dugg this story. If you are curious, the article has now been read by more than 100,000 people all over the world.
Best Buy has finally decided to pay for the cost of the repairs.
I’ve written a follow up article called “The end of my Best Buy saga” and I invite you to read it and if you care to digg it and reddit it. In fact, I believe it is fair for the outcome of this story to be heard like the initial consumer warning was.
Updated (September 1, 2007)
The laptop is finally back, with a brand new screen:
Antonio Cangiano is a Software Developer and AI Evangelist at IBM. He authored Ruby on Rails for Microsoft Developers (Wrox, 2009) and Technical Blogging ( The Pragmatic Bookshelf, 2012, 2019). He is also the Marketing Lead for Cognitive Class, an educational initiative which he helped grow from zero to over 1 Million students. You can follow him on Twitter.