Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Worst Day at Best Buy

My radiation treatment was late this morning, as the radiation-emitting machine (?) was temporarily out of order. Since my afternoon appointment would be pushed back accordingly, I decided to go in to my office to get a few things done; in the main, I hoped to purchase and set up a new computer workstation for one of our account executives.

So I greeted everyone late this morning, took the company charge card and headed over to Best Buy; they usually offer good basic systems at (as the sign says) the lowest price. After a few trips up and down the aisles, I selected a package deal on an HP system, and flagged down a sales clerk.

To get the super-low price on the sticker, BB requires that you buy the three items (computer, monitor and printer) as a package, paying the list price; then send in no less than five mail-in rebates, totaling over two hundred dollars in this case. The sales clerk, a young woman who was keenly bored with her job, tried halfheartedly to interest me in a more expensive system, then meandered off to locate the items I asked for.

As it turned out, they were out of that particular system; so, seeing that there were plenty of boxes with the next higher-priced system, I asked for that package. In a cloud of ennui, the girl retrieved one of those boxes, then explained that they were out of the correct monitor, and she could substitute a similar model. Fine, I say. She then placed a printer on the cart, mustered her energy, and managed to sell me two cartridges and a cable.

We arrived at the sales counter and processed the card, and she handed me a form. I was supposed to fill this out; it was obviously a xeroxed form to get me on their mailing list. I balked, and she insisted, like it was a government regulation that I register this thing, like a deadly weapon. (Her complete boredom with the whole sales process began, at this time, to turn to thinly veiled hostility.) Then the receipts came chugging out of the register, and the all-important rebate forms; but only three of them. The ones for the printer were missing.

My antagonist stabbed at a few buttons on the register, frowned (rather, took her existing frown and deepened it) and paged the manager. A long time passed, during which we did not exchange pleasantries, nor did I burst into flame despite her smouldering, eye-shadow-caked glances.

Finally, after a second page, Sales Manager showed up, cordless phone in his ear. He expertly poked a few buttons on the register, and accused me of substituting the wrong printer. "I didn't even pick out the printer! She put it on the cart!" A lot of button-pushing ensues, and it emerges that they are out of the correct printer. Big surprise. Another printer will satisfy the rebate, but add twenty dollars to the total. "Can I just delete the printer? I don't really need it." No, that will disqualify the largest rebate. Best Buy, in its wisdom, will only refund me $150.00 if I also buy an obsolete $70.00 printer that the manufacturer will rebate me the entire cost of anyway.

On the ropes by now, I agree. Give me the other printer. Ennui Girl and Phone-In-Ear went off to find the correct printer, and I perched on the sales counter to relieve my back pain. They come back to announce that the only one available is a display model, but that I won't get a discount for it; in fact, I will have to pay the additional twenty. I decide that I don't want the display model, or any part of the deal any more, and ask that the sale be voided.

This requires the summoning of yet another middle manager, who arrives shortly (phone in her ear, too; the badge of office, apparently.) She asks me for my receipt. "Receipt? I haven't left the store!" Finally, it appears that she has voided the charge, and wanders off. So have Ennui Girl and Manager #1. None of them has acknowledged me further, or told me if my transaction was complete. So, 50 minutes later, I stalked out of Best Buy empty-handed.

Frustrating, innit?

I ended up buying a better system from Office Max for a few dollars more, but at least the clerk was polite, and carried the carton to my car for me. The system was on sale, with an actual discount at the register; no mail-in rebate nonsense.