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March 15, 2009

Office Depot, Best Buy, and My Insufficient Cynicism

Insufficient Cynicism is generally not a description of myself. This week I read a story that made be feel like a naive noob.

Boing Boing reports that Office Depot personnel may tell you that a computer you want to buy is "not in stock" if you're not buying the "buyer protection plan". Also, see this story.

As RS taught me, the best part of the story is always in the comment section. In both those links, you'll see Office Depot and Best Buy employees admitting to doing this. It's not that the staff are miscreants, it's the corporate incentive policy that drives behavior.

I am that customer. When I buy a laptop I usually have specs in mind, I plan the purchase, I know which one I want. I'd go in, find a clerk, show them the website printout of what I wanted. They'd make conversation and ask, Should I explain our buyer protection plan to you? And I'd quickly say, I never buy them, Consumer Reports advises against it. Now I realize that they were asking me a screening question, and I was cheerfully disqualifying myself. Inevitably the computer's not in stock, the website is wrong, sorry.

I've walked into Best Buy so many times to buy a laptop, with money in my pocket, and walked back out again without a laptop that I've sworn off buying computers at BestBuy, it never works.

Also, Best Buy has recently confessed to deploying a misleading intranet within their stores. The customer says "I saw a lower price on the internet", the employee takes them to a kiosk, the screen looks just like the website but the sale is no longer there, the customer accepts the higher price.

Now I've relearned something I already knew: when behavior seems inexplicable, it's usually not through stupidity, it's because of a motive that you haven't discerned yet.

I really, really hate being naive.


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