Best Buy "is awful and deserves to die," Slate writes

Best Buy's Richfield headquarters.
Best Buy's Richfield headquarters.

The news has been pretty good for Best Buy since Hubert Joly took over as CEO last year. Though the company is still laying off people, its stock has been one of the best performing on the S&P 500 so far this year, and Time recently proclaimed the company "back from the dead."

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So it's a bummer to read Slate write that "the store is awful and deserves to die." But that's the conclusion writer Matthew Yglesias reached after he and and an intern headed to two Best Buys for a premeditated shopping spree.

Yglesias went to a Best Buy in D.C. and his intern headed to one in New York City. Neither of them could find any of the products they sought at either store for a price that beat Amazon, and most were more expensive. But that's just the beginning.

From the Slate piece:

But where the store truly fails is as a store. Not everything in life is about bargains. It could make perfect sense to pay a premium in exchange for a useful customer service experience. To put this to the test, I wandered over to the home theater section and told a sales rep that I needed to pick up an HDMI cable. These connector cables are the locus of notorious markups and sales scams. To make a long story short, all HDMI cables are good enough, but many brands gouge customers with premium prices and bogus claims of quality. Best Buy's guy was very much part of the con. He offered me three levels of cable quality for a 6-foot HDMI. The "cheap" $19.99 cable (Amazon has one for about $6), a superior $39.99 cable, and high-end "high-speed" cable from Monster for $59.99. Just to be clear, I asked the salesman if the more expensive cable was really better. He assured me that it was, that if you really want to make sure you're getting the best from your Blu-ray player, for example, you need that high-end cable. To his credit, he didn't push me when I declined. But this is malpractice verging on fraud.

Amazon, to its discredit, also sells this crap. But the big question for brick-and-mortar retail is how it can deploy the physical presence of human beings to generate value. For Best Buy the answer seems to be scams. Eavesdropping on other customers, salesman after salesman was trying to upsell people on service plans or warranties or reminding them that they might want to buy screen-cleaning wipes.

Yglesias argues that instead of taking the advice of experts who suggested that Best Buy, after the Brian Dunn debacle, should try to revitalize itself by stocking fewer products and turning its store employees into curatorial experts, the company's impressive 2013 has actually been the result of nothing more than cost-cutting and upselling customers without bringing them any value in return.

"A year ago, Best Buy looked to be headed for a well-deserved death. Today, it seems to have escaped that fate without doing anything to deserve its good fortune," Yglesias concludes.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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