The Big Story Blog

Readers reveal three challenges facing Best Buy

Posted at 1:15 PM on January 6, 2012 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Economy

Investors are snapping up Best Buy shares today following news this morning that the company's December sales, while not great, were better than many analysts expected.

But while the stock price is up more than four percent today, that doesn't mean everything's great. Best Buy's been dogged in recent weeks by stories and essays critical of its overall performance (the stock value fell by nearly a third during 2011) and speculation that the Richfield-based retail electronics giant's days are numbered.

We got that strong sense, too, reaching out to Minnesotans in the MPR News Public Insight Network. While it's not scientific at all, the responses we got from readers about how they buy electronics indicates three big challenges for the company going forward.

Browse the bricks and mortar, buy online. Several readers told us that Best Buy is good for trying out new products but that they go somewhere else to make the purchase.

I"n my opinion the only value they offer is to go touch something you want to buy. I have done this many times and bought what I wanted else where," wrote David Holmes of Chanhassen.

Websites like Fatwallet, techbargains, slickdeals can all help the average consumer find good deals. Also manufacturer websites commonly sell refurbished and end of year close outs.

Additionally big box stores like Costco offer superior deals and customer service on certain items. Locally I am actually a fan of MicroCenter they have competitive pricing on some things and good sales people.

Employees count. We heard a lot from readers about their experiences with Best Buy staff. Tim O'Neill of Rochester spoke of the "very helpful" saleswoman he worked with when he bought a computer last month. Ditto for Colleen Peterson of Circle Pines, who wrote that she preferred going to a store "where I know I can go back and talk to a person if I have questions."

Others told us of struggles and frustrations. "They are not putting themselves out of business because of the internet, or their lack of cutting edge offerings. They are putting themselves out of business by providing sub par customer service," said Damon Moss of Minneapolis.

... it is quite clear upon any interaction, that the sale is the bottom line, and if you so much as hint that you are done paying, they vanish. I could've been a repeat customer. I could've told the thousands of people I encounter in my own job a better story about my experience. But if I'm the average sale, the average experience, for Best Buy customers, then it's clear to me why they won't be around very much longer.
"Best Buy has forgotten what far too many retailers have, selling is a people business and if you de-value your employees your customers WILL leave," wrote Jeremiah Myer of Waseca.

"During the holidays, it seemed to me that the managers were very anxious and stressed and the employees were unhappy," he said. "The store was busy but not crazy. As a lifelong retail worker I pick up on the store 'vibe' pretty easy... the vibe at the store was fear and unhappiness."

Feeling good about the deal? Many readers who responded didn't think they were getting the best possible deal at the Best Buy store. That's a serious problem for any retailer. No matter the store, everyone wants to walk out feeling like they saved a few bucks and didn't buy more than they needed.

"My son works with computers and electronics and he consistently tells me that I can find a better deal than Best Buy," Peter Blewett of Apple Valley wrote.

Frank Allen of Grand Rapids recalled a Best Buy store trying to "add on grossly over priced cables to my mothers order. They really tried to take advantage of an elderly person who was not too sophisticated in the latest electronics Best Buy's training is lax. some people are aware of customers and ready to offer assistance while others talk to each other and you feel like they dont appreciate customers."

Again, responses from our Network aren't scientific or necessarily representative of the state as a whole. Their sentiments, though, are not unusual. It's the same criticism leveled earlier this week in the Forbes story .

Click on the icons below to read what Minnesotans told us about buying electronics and the pros and cons of Best Buy.

View What's Best Buy's future? in a full screen map


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.