Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Best Buy Geek Squad or Joke Squad?

I had a very bad customer service experience with Best Buy's Geek Squad (Best Buy's computer and electronic repairs department) for a simple data backup service. My experience in no way or form appears to be a one-off unlucky, fluke incident. It seems to be just the way Best Buy Geek Squad operates. I am writing this in the interest of other customers who may want to avoid a bad experience. Who knows, this may even be informative to some Best Buy manager who does not know what is happening in his stores and things might get a little better there. (If he already knows what is happening and is allowing it to happen, he is an idiot and should be fired!).

Following is the list of problems I encountered in my experience dealing with the Geek Squad:

  1. Did not get accurate, consistent, honest price quote for the service I needed. At the Best Buy store on Camelback Road in Phoenix, AZ, the Geek Squad guys behaved like a bunch of hustlers.

  2. Never got proper estimate of when my work would be completed. The people who answered my calls were vague and clueless. Often they were inconsistent and contradicted each other.

  3. In both the Best Buy stores I went to, they did not stick to the original date they had given me. The first store told me they would complete in 3-4 days, but at the end of the 4th day, they had not even started working on my computer. I took it from there to the second store, where they initial told me 1-2 days. When the work was finally done, it was on the sixth day!

  4. It was an olympian effort to get hold of the Geek Squad guys on the phone. I had to try several times, be transferred several times, wait for a really long time, and at the end of all that, there was the chance that I would not get anyone on the line and would hang up in disgust. This was a consistent experience in trying to call the Geek Squad.

  5. The Geek Squad guys did not give the impression that they placed value on my hardware, my data, my time. They seemed to have a lackadaisical attitude.

  6. The Geek Squad operation is not professional nor well-organized nor smoothly run. It is a joke!

I spoke to other smaller computer service guys in the city who seemed to have a much better operation and gave much better customer service. I spoke to one guy Rico (rico@palmtreepcs.com), who deserves special mention. I found him on the Phoenix Computer Services Craigslist page. Although I was a total stranger calling him out of the blue on a Saturday afternoon, he spent one hour on the phone talking to me about my problem, trying to diagnose it, trying to help me resolve it. He sent me emails with information (real information, not a sales pitch). He expressed interest in hearing back from me after my problem was resolved to know how it went. And most important, he was honest and forthright in advising me not to seek his service, although he offered it for lesser cost than the Best Buy price, because that would void my in-store warranty with Best Buy. He did that although it meant losing business. He voluntarily lost my business rather than have me lose my warranty, after having spent one hour on the phone with me, trying to help solve my problem. Thanks, Rico. I hope your business (Palmtreepcs.com) grows big and rich. With that kind of helpful attitude and honesty, I know you will do well in life, bro.

Update on Sept 2nd, 2005: Just found this link: Geek Squad Discussion on Gadgetopia.com. There are comments by other customers who have been screwed by Best Buy's Joke Squad, as well as comments from people who actually worked for the original Geek Squad before Best Buy bought them, and some comments from current Best Buy Joke Squad employees. I was right when I said that my bad experience is not an isolated one. Some of the stories there are worse than mine. Former Geek Squad agents have actually confessed to Best Buy forcing them to rip customers' money! End update.

If any of you are still interested in reading my full story, with all the boring details, continue reading below. For the rest, thanks for reading so far and beware of Best Buy's Joke Squad.

Background of the problem:

On the morning of Saturday, the 13th of August, Windows XP on my laptop crashed. I would need to reformat my hard drive and install Windows XP again, but before doing that I wanted to have the data on my hard disk backed up. Since my Windows system was not starting up, the only way to back up the data would be to open the laptop, remove the hard disk, connect it to some kind of a reader and back up the data. I had a three year warranty with Best Buy for my laptop, which was good for one more year. So, I could not have any non-Best Buy person open my laptop, as my warranty would lapse.

Best Buy Store on Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ:

The Geek Squad guys I met at this store were more incompetent hustlers than geeks. One of them quoted me $149 to backup 10GB of data, although the store sign said $89 for data backup services and mentioned nothing about the amount of data. He gave me some b.s. about different rates for different amounts of data. Another guy quoted me $200 to backup my data, run a diagnostics on my laptop and reinstall Windows XP (using my own copy of the software). Finally they agreed to charge me $89 to backup under 10GB of data plus labor charge of $29. Nobody had mentioned anything about a labor charge before. I distinctly got the feeling that they just did not want to backup my data for the $89 as the sign said. Their efforts at hustling was so awkward and so obvious. I had expected a smooth, professional, honest, no non-sense experience. Not some cheap car salesman kinda approach. Anyway, I gave them my laptop because I was tied to them by the warranty and I thought the experience would be the same at other Best Buy stores, which were located farther away from me. They said my backup would be done in 3-4 days.

On the third day, I called them. They told me that they would do it soon and they would call me back. I called them on the afternoon of the fourth day. The guy who picked up the phone told me he would call me back in half an hour. I waited for two hours. He never called back. While I waited for his call, I called a couple of other Best Buy stores in the city and spoke to their Geek Squad guys. I was shocked to hear both of them tell me that they would back up the entire contents of my hard disk for $89, and there would be no labor charge.

My temper went up the roof. I did not trust myself to speak politely. So, I typed out a letter explaining the whole situation and asking them to give back my laptop because I did not want to do business with a bunch of hustlers. I took the letter to the Best Buy customer service manager at the Camelback Road store. This guy (named Ty something) read my letter, went in and brought back my laptop to me. When it comes to services of the Geek Squad, Best Buy's price match offer goes out the window. They won't even match the price of other Best Buy stores. This customer service manager did not so much as offer an apology for my experience, let alone offer to match the price of the other Best Buy stores. He just gave me a lame excuse of their rates being changed recently, and the store signs which quoted $89 for data backup being outdated. Did the idiot really think I would buy that excuse?

I realized the futility of having any further talks with him. I took my machine and went to a different Best Buy store.

This was day four of my system breakdown.

Best Buy Store on Thunderbird Rd, Phoenix, AZ:

The first experience in this store was quite different. The Geek Squad lady I spoke to was polite and straight forward. She charged me $89 to backup my entire hard disk and told me that it would be ready in a day or two. I felt relieved and happy. But my relief was too premature.

I called the Geek Squad at this store the next afternoon. The guy I talked to told me that my laptop was next in queue to be serviced and he would do my data backup as soon as he was finished with the system he was working on. He thought he would start on it within the next couple of hours and it would probably be done either that same evening or the next day, and that he would call me when it was ready. I did not get any calls that evening.

The next afternoon, I called them back. This time I spoke to a different guy who told me that they were very busy and there were some 5 or 6 systems which need to serviced before mine would be. He could not explain to me how my system slipped in the queue from the second position to the seventh position!

For the next three days, I called them daily. Everytime I called them, all they would tell me was that my system was out on their desk and it should be done either by that evening or the next morning. They gave me this spiel for three days! They could never tell me for sure when exactly it would be worked on.

By the way, it is not easy to get these VIP guys on the phone. Everytime I wanted to talk to them, I had to call the store about three times, be transferred to the Geek Squad about three times during each call (despite choosing the right numbers in the automated phone system to be directly transferred), and wait upto 20 minutes during each call before I could speak to someone. Many a time, the phone would just ring and ring and nobody would pick it up. I would disconnect with impatience and disgust. This was my experience trying to call the Geek Squad in both stores - on Camelback Rd and on Thunderbird Rd.

Finally, on the NINTH day since my laptop crashed, I called the store and was told that they had managed to copy all the data from my hard disk to another hard disk, and it was now only a matter of writing that data to the CDs. That would be done in a couple of hours they told me. I waited for almost 6 hours. Then I got really impatient and drove personally to the store. I found that they had just started to write my data to the CDs. They could only return my laptop that day, but the backup CDs would be ready only the next day, the TENTH day since my laptop crashed!

The last day, when I went to the store to pick up my backup disks, I found that they were all put in a plastic bag and left lying in a shelf in their work area. The bag or the disks were not labelled with my name or any other identifying info. The guy who was at the counter had to call another guy to ask him where my disks were and to confirm that they were indeed my backup disks. The attitude and the value they seemed to place on customer data was totally unacceptable.

This whole experience with Best Buy's Geek Squad has been unsavory and dissatisfactory. This is one of the worst customer service experiences I have had in the US. Best Buy should rechristen the Geek Squad as the Joke Squad.


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  4. i read your post on Phoenix Craig's List. Please don't take this as a slam but really, I wouldn't buy anything from Worst Buy, let alone let them touch my computer!!! You're lucky they didn't wipe your hard drive!

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  6. Wow sounds like you had a bad experience in Arizona. My brother works for Geek Squad in Texas, he told me $89 for every 4GB of data. There is no price sign in their store. But even I know you should just speak to the manager if you have a problem; taking it to another store just creates confusion and makes it take longer. As you said "ready only the next day, the TENTH day since my laptop crashed!"; well it probably could've been done sooner by getting a manager involved. Looks like the only manager you spoke to was to snatch your laptop from one store to take it to another. I work in retail and I know firsthand that people expect their problem to be the MOST IMPORTANT problem in the store. Come back to Earth. I know you got bad service, and of course they never answer the phones, but I'm sure speaking in a polite manner with Please and Thank You will get you very far with retail managers. I guess the lesson here is you should always backup your own stuff if you want to be sure about it.

  7. Yeah, The standard cost (as I am a NC Geeksquad Agent) is 89 per media backup (per dvd ie 4.7gb or cd ie 700mb). To back up an entire harddrive, rather than being 'haggled' they actually went against policy to your favor. In reguards to turn time, there is no way that anyone can guarentee this. With the number of responsibility given in a retail enviroment, you have to focus each minute of your time individually. So although burning cd's doesn't take a lot of effort or time if dedicated. If there are 8 to 10 other things to be done, and undoubtivly 30 other people complaining because they were not #1 priority, you have to do what you can.

  8. I am sure that customers constantly calling to find out about their computers doesn't help. The person answering the phone is probably the same person that could be working on your computer if you weren't calling every couple of hours to find out about your data. Also, I have a Best Buy warranty and nowhere in there does it say that your product can not be serviced anywhere else, that is a myth which you could have debunked by actually reading your warranty contract.

  9. Response to the last two anonymous comments: Please don't try to clarify the cost of data backup to me. Please clarify that to your own agents, tell them exactly how much what costs and train them to communicate that clearly to the customers. I am not asking anyone to go against policy or do me a favor or haggle over price with me. I am asking for a consistent, convincing quote. So far, nobody including this anonymous commentor have been able to give me a convincing, consistent quote.

    I have no doubts that the Geeksquad guys have a bunch of things to do per person, every hour. I am in IT services. I have had jobs where I needed to do a dozen things in an hour and answer half a dozen clients. So, I know how it goes. But there is something called process! Just to give a small example: If someone could have given me the right information and set the right expectations on the very first phone call, why would there be a need for me to call frequently? How would that someone be able to give me the right information and set the right expectations? If they had something called a process, which helped them to properly estimate and schedule work. Do you guys have a log book or software application in which you can plan and schedule the work for your entire team and each individual on your team? Are you guys able to consistently give dependable estimates to your customers? Are you guys able to consistently stick to your deadlines?

    FYI - I did not call every two hours. Each time I called, it was at exactly the time when I was told my work would be done.

    To All Geek Squad guys out there: Listen guys. Yes, really listen. Don't give me any more defensive statements. Listen to what I have said in my blog. See where the problem areas are and work to improve them. You can't achieve much by trying to convince me about something. But you can definitely achieve something for yourselves by learning what went wrong in my case and applying those lessons when dealing with your next customer.

    Thank you for discussing my blog on your forum. I appreciate it. Too bad I don't have access to actually know what is being discussed! :-)

  10. Please note Mam, your situation is being discussed very heavily in our forums in a way to better improve us. We promise next time you come it you will have a better computing experience. Also we are making it better for everyone. We are sorry this happened to you, but we are learning from it and improving from it. Thank you for voicing you opinion

  11. I feel your pain man. I am a Special Agent out of the california area. Almost all of the In store techs have some kind of down syndrome. I have to appologize for that. The managers at best buy push to hire "selling" techs. These techs no 3 things, a damn thing, nothing, and selling. Usually 3 out of the 10 working there actually know what they are doing. That is the reason why you deal with douche bags at the GeekSquad desk. Our integrity is falling through the crack when the CIA's still carry the geek squad name. They should go back to wearing black shirts.

  12. Hi, sorry to hear about your Geeksquad experience. Yes, they suck, and they and similar operations like Circuit City's Firedog overcharge for shitty service. These should be avoided.

    I once applied for a job at one of them, and they told me 20% or less of it would be computer repair, and the other 80% of my job would be trying to get people to buy stuff, but that I shouldn't tell the customer this if hired. This turned me off, and so I don't have the job. These places ought to be investigated by consumer protection agencies and punished for ripping people off. They especially victimize elderly people.

    Actually, the hard drive didn't need to be removed physically from the machine just because Windows wouldn't boot. If it happens again don't take it to Geek Squad. Instead, either download a Knoppix iso from Knopper.net and then burn the ISO to a cd, or buy a cheap Knoppix CD from someone on eBay for 2 or 3 dollars.

    Even if Windows won't boot, Knoppix will if your hard drive still has some life in it. Usually the hard disk isn't dead. Just leave your hard disk in your machine (don't even open the machine), pop the CD into your drive and boot Knoppix, a live Linux system that runs entirely from the CD without messing with your hard drive. When the KDE Desktop environment appears (complete with icons, wallpaper, etc) just click on the icon for your hard drive and find your Windows files that you need to save. Then launch the CD/DVD burning program k3b from the K menu (in the same place where the Start menu is found in Windows). Then drag and drop the stuff you want to save into k3b and burn it all to blank CDs and/or DVDs.

    If the people at Geek Squad told you the only way to back anything up was to remove the drive physically and hook it up to another machine, and if they told you that you'd have to pay them hundreds of dollars for them to do this crappy job, then they are idiots who should be working at McDonald's instead.

    Unfortunately, in today's America, businesses don't care about customers. They care only about making money, even if through deception and incompetence.

  13. Anonymous - THANK YOU for your excellent comment. I had never heard about this Knoppix system. I wish I knew about this when my Windows crashed.

    Anyway, better to learn late than never. Once again, thanks for your very useful comment. Agree with your opinions 100%.


  14. Hey dude, I work at Geeksquad and I thought I'd tell you that anyone that wanted to charge you a labor charge should be fired instantly, we are not to charge labor on anything thats why are services seem so high. This is both a good and bad thing as in some instances we end up working for 4-5 days on tings that we have only charge 29 dollars for diagnostics or whatever. I will appologize for my "fellow" Geeks, I thinkit is important to note, there is no test to become a geeksquad agent. So don't assume they know what the hell is going on. Its kinda like a hair salon, you just get to gues who actually knows whats going on, and now with vista assume they're full of shit. The other thing that pisses me off about your story is if you were truly under a service plan, and your hard drive failed they should have done data backup for free....well you already payed what 300 dollars for the psp so not realy free but you know. Don't hate the geeks just understand they are unskilled labor like everyone else at bestbuy.

  15. Dear Anonymous-from-the-Geek-Squad,

    Thanks for that very interesting and informative comment. I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment here. I don't really hate members of the Geek Squad. I understand that they are for the most part struggling people, working on low wages. But I hate the corporate policies of Best Buy that allow/cause these things to happen.

    Thanks again.


  16. In addition to Knoppix (which is also good), check out Trinity Rescue Kit.

    Basically...boot CD in "broken" machine, mount and share all partitions over the network...all automated.

    Then from a wokring windows PC, go to Start, Run, \\IPADDRESSOFDOWNEDPC, all partitions will show up over the network :)

    You can also do RAM tests and Antivirus scans, and some other cool stuff.


  17. Geek Squad really doesn't look out for the customer's best interests, it looks out for itself. You can tell when things are going to take a LONG time when you have multiple people in line complain about Geek Squad's poor customer service.
    I recently had an interesting experience with Geek Squad when I sent in my laptop. Only after 2.5 months and turning blue in the face, did I get the store refund.


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