Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Best Buy: No Longer That
When I was younger, Best Buy was my addiction. If I needed music, electronics, computers, software, or even sometimes small appliances, it was my go to place. I once joked that the only way I should be allowed in one of those stores was by taking a set amount of cash and leaving the plastic and the rest of the cash back in the car. I loved Best Buy.
Yet just a couple days ago, Best Buy announced that it was closing down 50 of its stores across the nation and I found that I wasn't really shocked. In fact, I didn't really even care other than to read about a store that fueled a past addiction. Why? Because I had to think awhile to remember the last time I have been in a Best Buy store. It gradually became obsolete to me in a number of ways and I found replacement ways to fuel my addiction. Let me point out some examples.
Back in the day, you used to go to Best Buy and it didn't matter if you didn't know exactly what you needed. An employee well versed in electronics would help guide you to the right selection. This used to be the same for many of the large box stores that you find out there these days. But gradually they all got away from that mentality for hiring people and I gave up asking people questions there because A) they didn't know anymore than I did and B) they often showed that they didn't care that they didn't know and that always rubbed me the wrong way when I was the person with cash on hand and looking to spend it.
Back in the day, I went to Best Buy to get a choice. These days, like so many others, they are focused solely on providing cheap products to the masses. They focus on cutting the overall price but bring down the quality as well. This also limits choice since they seem to limit suppliers to companies that can meet Best Buy's call for cheapness. The last time I bought a computer in Best Buy probably well over a decade ago, they only had two choices, Compaq or HP, this compared to the six or eight brands I had to choose from when buying my first computer out of college. On that particular day, I bought an HP, which was known for their quality only to discover that they had sold out to the cheapsters too. It was the last computer I bought from HP or Best Buy. Good thing, because that computer that I bought for my parents lasted only a few years before it failed and I replaced it with a quality computer bought online and still works almost a decade later.
Like modern day libraries, Best Buy focused more and more of their retail space to music and movies. The problem with that is that people found that there were much more reasonably prices places to obtain those things without going to Best Buy. Libraries are a case in point as they provide music and movies for free these days. This also further helps to limit the choices offered by Best Buy because of the lack of space to deploy products.
The last time I was in a Best Buy over three years ago, I stopped in on a business trip because a co-worker's camera had shot craps and he needed to pick out a replacement. As we looked over the selection of digital cameras, each one had a tag with two or three facts about the camera, none really pertinent to making an informed decision. When queried, the person manning the display didn't know anymore than we did and was visibly disturbed when my friend proceeded to have him bring boxes out from the locked area underneath the display so he could read the boxes to determine if the feature he needed was part of the software. In the end, he took a gamble, bought it, opened it up in the car outside the store and read the instructions to determine that information, prepared to return it if necessary. I bought a digital camera shortly afterwards but I bought my online where I could easily compare multiple models and brands for all the features I wanted, I could read reviews of people who had bought the same model and were displeased or pleased, and I could read forums where people who knew about the camera where able to answer any questions I might have. My camera still runs and my coworkers camera quit last year and had to be replaced.
So Best Buy is closing a bunch of stores and joining the ranks of Circuit City who only made the same mistakes much earlier. Why am I not surprised.