I’m not a huge Best Buy fan. But after years of buying nothing at Best Buy, I’ve become a semi-regular customer, because Best Buy got their pricing act together, and Amazon charges sales tax in my state. I just bought a phone at Best Buy that I didn’t even need to price match. But there’s something insidious brewing within Best Buy.
If you’ve gone to a Best Buy store within the past few years, you’ve probably noticed these stores-within-a-store for brands like Apple, Samsung, Google, and Microsoft. They vary in size and staff, but they just make things more complicated. Basically, Best Buy got rid of their massive CD/DVD/Bluray sections and used the extra room to create these mini-stores.
Let’s say, for example, you want to buy a tablet. You’re not sure whether you want an iPad, Android, or Windows tablet. So you say to yourself, “I’m going to Best Buy to check out some tablets.” You might think there would be one part of the store where you can find the tablets, lorded over by tablet specialist in a Best Buy polo who will bug you five times asking if you need any help when you just want to be left alone to play with the tablets, but completely disappears when you want to actually buy something and you need him to go get it from the back from you. But you’d be wrong!
The iPads are in the Apple Experience section of the store, the Surfaces are in the Microsoft Experience, the Galaxy Tabs are in the Samsung Experience, the Nexus 9 is in the Google Experience, and then the poor orphaned Android and Windows tablets whose manufacturers didn’t pay Best Buy to create an experience for them are all lumped together. Each of these experiences has its own different specialists, who wear their own branded polo shirts, unlike the Best Buy polo shirts that your generic Best Buy people are wearing.
(This guy is not wearing a branded Microsoft polo because he is apparently the CEO of Best Buy Canada, according to the article where I found his picture.)
Best Buy employees in branded polo shirts will burst into flames if they sell a product from a brand different from their polo shirt. Well, probably not, but they can’t sell you stuff from outside their brand’s mini-store.
If you go to the orphan tablet section, the Samsung guy might eyeball you from the Samsung Experience, saddle up next to you, start talking about how great Samsung tablets are, and try to get you to mosey on over to his section. But if you tell him you really want to buy this Lenovo tablet in the orphan tablet section, he can’t sell it to you, and then has to find someone with a generic Best Buy polo shirt instead of a Samsung polo shirt.
So now instead of one person hounding you when you want to be left alone and disappearing when you want to buy something, you have the Apple, Microsoft and Samsung polo shirt wearers hound you when you want to be left alone and disappear when you want to buy something. If you ask a generic Best Buy polo shirt guy where the Nexus 9 is they’ll dismissively point toward the lonely Google sign that doesn’t have its own dedicated guy in a polo shirt, just some random Chromebooks.
This is madness. But instead of trying to consolidate things, Best Buy is instead now going to add Verizon and AT&T experiences to their stores. Best Buy already has dedicated Best Buy Mobile mini-stores, but apparently that’s not enough mini-stores for them, so now if you want to compare cell phone carriers you will have to be chased by and/or chase down separate Best Buy Mobile, AT&T and Verizon polo shirt wearers.
For the life of me, I can’t think of a more inefficient way to operate an electronics store. Instead of having people who are assigned to a general product category, every time a new brand wants to have its own dedicated mini-store in Best Buy, that creates yet more people who are only allowed to sell that one thing, even though all of them work at Best Buy. Customers have to be bothered by way more sales people, and then if they want to buy something, are more likely to encounter a Best Buy employee who can’t sell them that thing.
Yet with all of this nonsense, I’ll still probably buy things at Best Buy, when I really want to get my grubby mitts on them immediately. As long as they price match Amazon. Heaven help me if I get the Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, AT&T and Verizon guys all chasing me at the same time.