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Monday, May 22, 2006

Best Buy My Bum

Earlier this evening Mrs. Fando, the Littlest Fando, and I stopped by the local Best Buy shop, where Mrs. Fando purchased her laptop computer almost two years ago. We were there because the AC power input on the laptop wasn't functioning correctly and needed repair.

First of all, let me begin by stating that I have the highest regard for members of Best Buy's "Geek Squad", the young people who handle technical support, questions, repair shipments, and biting the heads off of chickens in the backroom for tips (you'd be surprised at just how much of a market there is for that sort of thing at Best Buy). These poor chaps and lassies are forced to wear stereotypical computer geek wear - black and white unbreathable polyester, with a tie thinness not seen since Andrew McCarthy was a sex symbol; drive around in decorated VW Bugs that only Zimpter Fiforg would love, and identify themselves as "Agent So and So" which seems to embarrass them more than the clothes or cars. In fact, they very much appear like the help at the Disney parks: Dressed up in outlandish costumes to fulfill the warped fantasies of out-of-touch corporate executives. All that was missing was the obnoxiously loud giant trouserless duck, and only because the student with that job was on a post-graduation bender.

Nonetheless, our simple aim was to get the laptop shipped, get it repaired, and get it back in a reasonable amount of time for a price in the neighborhood of our monthly cable/internet payment.

Our own personal Geek, a nice lad by the name of Agent S. (Name removed to protect the terminally embarrassed) explained the process as follows:

  • Pay minimum repair deposit of $238 in advance for any possible repair.
  • Best Buy ships the laptop to the manufacturer
  • If it's a minor problem, they do the work and then refund the difference.
  • If it's more, they call and ask you if you want the work done.
  • If it's a motherboard related problem, you'll probably want to buy a whole new laptop.
  • If it's a motherboard problem, sue the crap out of the idiotic computer manufacturer who decided to solder the power input directly to the motherboard, with no protecting circuit between the two. There's got to be enough of you for a Class Action.
  • Sorry, that last one was mine. The actual final step was that they promise not to make copies of embarrassing personal photos from your machine or steal your identity in any way except to send prank e-mails to girls that won't date them.

Other than the possibility that the computer manufacturer was in some sort of motherboard/power source welding conspiracy to sell more computers, and the upfront deposit, this was all more or less unexpected. However, Agent S. took a quick look at his official Geek computer interface and reported to us the bad news.

"Unfortunately, we can't ship this model."

"Why not?" I asked.

"The minimum repair for this laptop is only $50."

"And that means?"

"They won't let us ship it because they don't make enough money on these repairs."

"Because of the $50 minimum?"


"Who sets the minimum?"

"The company (Best Buy), through one of the repair centers."

"So let me get this straight. Best Buy won't ship this computer for repair because they set a minimum that is too low for them to make any money off of the repair, even though they could raise the minimum on the model?"


"Why don't they just raise the minimum?"

"The system won't let them do it."

That's when I pulled out my phaser and disintegrated poor Agent S., leaving nothing but a small, reedy looking tie and the pronounced smell of singed polyester. I really felt bad about it, seeing as he was a nice lad only doing his crappy job and wasn't to blame for some corporate executive making a decision while simultaneously trying to break his crack addiction.

Actually, with the possible exception of the crack-smoking executive, all that really happened was that I weakly smiled and said something transparently defeated, which was:

"This system should be like the original Star Trek show, where there's a manual override."

If he hadn't been wearing an "I love Spock" button, I might have been seriously hurt.

I then asked for a phone number to call, so I can pathetically rant at an underpaid Customer Service "technician," safely out of range of my phaser - now permanently set to "kill," then slowly get transferred up the food chain to a series of Customer Service managers whose primary job is to accidentally lose your call while transferring you to their superior.

In any case, for those who are aware of my Subway boycott (I have not been back yet!) I am considering a Best Buy boycott now. I will of course make the phone call and see if I can politely berate someone into allowing me to ship our laptop via the shop, which is easier than the alternative of shipping it directly to the Japanese company that produced the thing.

If they resist, we will frequent Circuit City instead, which quite frankly needs the business. They give you such desperate, longing looks as you drive by these days. I rather feel like we're driving by a state penitentiary in a van with the words "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders" on it.


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